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Fairfax Welcomes Choclate Lovers

City celebrates everything chocolate Feb. 4-5.

The Chocolate Lovers Festival will once again indulge the City of Fairfax's sweet tooth. Visitors can admire chocolate creations, sing karaoke songs and taste from dozens of candy vendors at the festival Saturday, Feb. 4 and Sunday, Feb. 5.

The festival has a rock-and-roll theme this year, said Beverly Myers of Friends of Fairfax, a local group sponsoring the event.

"I always find it so amazing that people will stand in line, and stand in line, and stand in line, to wait to get into the building to see and buy chocolate," she said.

The Taste of Chocolate event, which takes place Saturday, from 10 a.m.–5 p.m., and Sunday, from 12–4 p.m., in Old Town Hall, should draw a crowd at least as large as last year, she said, when 34,000 people attended the event.

At Taste of Chocolate, visitors bring pre-purchased pogs and trade them for samples offered by the 16 vendors on hand. Chocolate and chocolate-themed wares available for taste at the event go from tried-and-true favorites to brand-new experiments, said Myers, and this year Taste of Chocolate also has several new vendors.

Laura Graves of Arlington-based Sonrisa Chocolates is looking forward to debuting "Cacao Nibbles," a healthy chocolate snack she developed. Graves makes the snack from cacao, a raw form of chocolate that is high in antioxidants, and adds fruits, nuts and cocoa butter. The resulting candy is dairy-free and low in sugar, she said.

"They’re different than anything else out there," said Graves. She is a new face in the Taste of Chocolate event, having just started Sonrisa Chocolates last fall. After working in marketing for a time, Graves caught "the entrepreneurial bug" and began making high-end chocolate truffles to sell at local farmers’ markets. Graves kept hearing requests for dairy-free, low-sugar candies, and so Cacao Nibbles, which come in walnut-date and coconut flavors, came about.

Victoria’s Cakery, on the other hand, has been a part of Taste of Chocolate from the beginning, in 1992. Owner Michael Hensley will bring the annual favorite, a white chocolate-raspberry cake called "Heaven," as well as new offerings such as a peanut butter pound cake.

"We are known for ‘Heaven,’" he said. "But each year, people want different things."

Other cakes for sample at the Victoria’s Cakery table include a Devil’s Food cake made with chocolate truffle, brownie and chocolate ganache and a carrot cake that, according to Hensley, sells out every year.

"The best part of [Chocolate Lovers Festival] is that you get to see all the people and all the vendors you haven’t seen all year," said Hensley.

David Anderson of Dave’s Candy Kitchen will join the other Taste of Chocolate vendors for the fourth time, bringing along candy treats such as chocolate-covered pretzels, graham crackers, and peanut brittle.

"It’s been a good experience," said Anderson. "It’s a day and a half and it’s just loaded with people that love candy and chocolate." Anderson, who worked at a candy shop in New Jersey as a child, will also have his signature item on hand: butter toffee crunch.

BUTTER TOFFEE CRUNCH, a mixture of toffee, milk chocolate, and toasted almonds, is a "great combination," said Anderson. A variation of the candy, made the same but rolled in coconut, will also be available for sample, he said.

Dorine Stevens of Lanham, Md. is looking forward to seeing the creativity of other vendors at this year’s Taste of Chocolate. Like Graves, Stevens is a new vendor this year, but hopes to make an impression with her chocolate-scented car air fresheners.

"Women got sick of the trees," said Stevens, referring to the pine tree-shaped car air fresheners sold at auto parts stores and gas stations. "So I made chocolate-scented air fresheners in the shapes of shoes and boots … decorated with beads, snakeskins, fur, diamonds. You know, lady stuff."

Stevens has owned her business, Heaven Scent Creations, for 10 years. In that time, she said, she has seen a lot of interesting things at vendor fairs.

"I enjoy going out there and seeing the different creations myself," said Stevens. "I can only imagine what they are doing with chocolate."

Three-quarters of the proceeds from the Taste of Chocolate sales go to the vendors, said Myers. Twenty-five percent goes through Friends of Fairfax to various non-profit organizations throughout the city, such as the Lanier Middle School PTA, the Main Street Child Development Center, the Fairfax Volunteer Fire Department, Historic Fairfax City, Inc., and the Fairfax Foundation on the Arts, she said.

— Lea Mae Rice