A festival of flavours: chocolate style!

Calling all chocoholics! Ciao! Winnipeg is currently holding their eighth annual ChocolateFest which runs throughout the month of April. The event is sponsored by Mordens, Winnipeg’s family-owned chocolate-making business.

This year marks a new record for the number of participating restaurants. Thirty-three restaurants and bakeries across Winnipeg will be concocting sinful sweets and cocoa creations. For only seven dollars, these dishes will be yours to indulge in. As an extra treat, chocoholics will receive a miniature chocolate bison from Mordens of Winnipeg with their purchase, while supplies last.

Not a fan of desserts? No problem. This year the theme is “sweet, savoury, and sippable,” and participants are stepping outside the box, with cocoa creations in beverages and appetizers, too. Previously, the event has solely featured sweets and now Winnipeg chefs are going one step further by demonstrating just how versatile chocolate can be.

Maxime’s Restaurant will be dishing up Tempura Pickerel Cheeks. The pickerel has a cornmeal crust, is fried, and will be served with sweet chocolate almond butter. Nicolino’s Restaurant will be serving Ricotta Cheese and Pear Ravioli with  Callebaut Chocolate Cream.

In Ferno’s Bistro, a first-time participant in ChocolateFest, is sure to delight with a Chocolate Raspberry Torte. Currently, their top-selling chocolate desserts are the Chocolate Fantasy Torte and the Chocolate Cappuccino Cream Cheese Cake.

The participating restaurants and their menus are listed on the festival’s website. Those with special dietary needs will find plenty of options, and are encouraged to contact the restaurants beforehand for more information.

There are even some lighter options for the health-conscious among us. The Smoothie Bar at The Forks will be blending up a chocolate protein smoothie, with banana and vanilla yogurt.

The Melting Pot has invented a fondue for adults who are young at heart. The classic flavour combination of peanut butter and chocolate makes up the fondue, with a spike of coconut rum. If you’re new to fondue, now’s the time to try it. Fondue, a dish with a history in Switzerland and France, is what the Melting Pot does best. Fresh fruit, banana bread, and marshmallows are dipped into creamy, warm chocolate.

Also part of ChocolateFest is the Tour de Chocolat at The Forks, from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m. on Apr. 20 and 21. With a five-dollar passport purchased at Centre Court, you can visit restaurants all over the Forks to sample free chocolate creations.

Ciao! Winnipeg is well-known for their dine-about event earlier in the year – but why a festival of chocolate?

“Chocolate is a universal agreed-upon indulgence. Everyone loves chocolate,” says Jen Zoratti, an editor of Ciao! Winnipeg. “This year chefs are creating flavour profiles that many people haven’t seen before.”

Chefs in North America have recently been incorporating Latin American flavours into their desserts, such as chili pepper. Corrientes Argentine Pizzeria is well aware of chocolate’s endless possibilities. The pizzeria is another first-time participant in ChocolateFest. The restaurant will be serving six sweet dishes to indulge in.

One dish on the menu is a Chili Chocolate Torte. The torte is gluten-free and flourless, with hints of cinnamon and chili throughout.  If that weren’t enough to tempt you, it will be served alongside a scoop of dulce de leche ice cream. Dulce de leche, a smooth Argentinian caramel, is quite unlike a traditional North American caramel sauce and is worth giving a try.

“They’re less sweet as desserts here, there’s a lot of chilies and cinnamon and more earthy spices in their chocolate,” says Dallas Black, head chef of Correntines.

This is a time for Winnipeg chefs to show off their skills and for Winnipeggers to be indulgent and mix up their taste buds.

Joanne Harris described it perfectly in her book, Chocolat: “Happiness. Simple as a glass of chocolate or tortuous as the heart. Bitter. Sweet. Alive.”

For the listing of participating restaurants and their menus, go to www.ciaowinnipeg.com.