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Chocolate lovers unite at MOSI's Festival of Chocolate

TAMPA — Chocolate flowed from fountains, topped cupcakes and coated the hands of children.

Its aroma filled the air.

Its history lined exhibit walls.

The sweet ingredient took over the Museum of Science and Industry over the weekend as the museum hosted its first Festival of Chocolate, which continues today.

"So many people know about wine and coffee but everybody loves chocolate," said Aileen Mand, producer of the festival. "And now they can get the chance to know it, too."

With more than 20 vendors, many of which are Tampa Bay businesses, the options can feel overwhelming.

Joshua Comb, 11, started his education with a chocolate brownie Sunday before moving on to the chocolate pizza-making station. He covered a chocolate crust with chocolate shavings that resembled shredded cheese and added toppings that included gummy bears, pretzels and marshmallows.

"I don't know what he's learning, but he's certainly having fun," his mother, Catriona Comb of New Tampa, said.

Forgoing the sugar-laden pizza, Comb indulged in a crepe from La Creperia Café in Ybor City, which she said tasted just like one she had during a ski trip in Italy.

But tasting the chocolate is only half of the event.

Demonstrations allow visitors to study chocolate's history, learn how it transforms from a bean to a bar, and pick up tips on how to create with it at home.

Adults can participate in a wine and chocolate pairing class.

"It's a very interactive and educational event," Mand, the producer, said.

Flaurie Martin, a teacher at MOSI Partnership Elementary, said she was impressed.

"You hear a lot of people saying they didn't know this or they didn't know that," said Martin, who came to the event with husband Doug and daughter Jade.

As Jade, 10, tackled a chocolate-covered apple almost as big as her face, her parents said they had their eyes on a chocolate martini that one company offered.

For Lori and Steve Mallardi of Carrollwood, it was the lure of chocolate that pulled them into the museum Sunday.

A Swiss citizen, Lori knows chocolate. She said the items she sampled Sunday were different but good.

"I would come back again," she added.

And that lure of chocolate was strong. Sunday afternoon, the line to get inside stretched down the sidewalk outside.

Carl and Heather Herbert, MOSI members, said they had never seen the museum so packed.

"So far it's awesome," Carl said. They had made it only to the chocolate lollipop decorating station when their children's attention was stolen.

As his two sons worked eagerly on their lollipops, Herbert said he looked forward to learning more about the chocolate-making process so he could try it at home.

The event also offered the opportunity for businesses to showcase their products.

Archie Bourne, who bought Tampa's Schakolad Chocolate Factory in January, said he was impressed with the turnout.

Making the event even sweeter for the former soldier and new chocolatier: winning first place in the truffles competition.

Shelley Rossetter can be reached at srossetter@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3374.

>> if you go

Festival of Chocolate

Where: Museum of Science and Industry, 4801 E Fowler Ave. in Tampa.

When: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. today.

Cost: General admission is $20.95 for adults, $18.95 for seniors and $16.95 for children ages 2 to 12.

Tip: While some free samples are available, bring money to purchase sweets.

Chocolate lovers unite at MOSI's Festival of Chocolate 01/16/11 [Last modified: Monday, January 17, 2011 7:39am]
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