Chocolate bacon, chocolate doughnuts, chocolate drinks, even chocolate ribs.
You'll find them — and more — at the "Official" Tampa Bay Chocolate Festival II on Jan. 28 at the event organized by Generation Entertainment. The festival features about 40 vendors in food trucks and booths selling various creations using chocolate.
"If you can put chocolate in it, we've got it," said Jeremy Gomez, who owns the event production company with his wife, Candy. "If you can think it up, it's there."
Karen and Gary Amundson, owners of the food truck business Crustacean Station, came up with a Chocolate Lobstah Roll for the festival. It features hot buttered lobster on a traditional roll with melted cheese and spinach leaves, then it's topped with a chocolate balsamic vinaigrette.
"We just researched different recipes using chocolate and took parts we liked," Karen Amundson said.
This is the second year for the festival, which was in the Centro Asturiano parking lot near Ybor City last year, and drew about 20,000 visitors.
"People tended to like the entrees — chocolate pizzas, chocolate chicken," Gomez said. "Everyone seemed to really like the chocolate ribs with the vendor selling 50 orders in 41 minutes."
GoGo Penguin Shack, owned by Maria Colon and Jason Rosario, will have chocolate shaved ice at the event. It will be the owners first time in the festival.
They offer 30 flavors of toppings and recommend mixing the chocolate flavoring with strawberry and/or banana flavorings.
Colon said they are participating "because I knew it was a big hit last year and we are bringing a new offering (the shaved ice) to it. The event was such a "big hit" last year, that Gomez admits that some attendees said they wish the vendors had brought more food and the lines were shorter.
This year's event is the same day as the Gasparilla Pirate Invasion in downtown Tampa. He said the school chose the date.
"I kind of look at it as a different demographic than Gasparilla," Gomez said. "While we have no alcohol at the event, there are bars and restaurants nearby for those who want to go afterwards and celebrate Gasparilla."
Admission to the festival is free with chocolate items mainly in the $7 to $9 range. Onsite parking is $5, which will benefit the Gaither Band Program for a trip to Carnegie Hall. Gaither also will have a beverage booth at the festival.
Contact Lenora Lake at [email protected]