Though Saturday at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre represented the second Barbados Chocolate & Pastry Festival, it was my first taste. Margaret King, the festival creator and CEO of I’m Impressed Events, was pleased with the large crowd of chocoholics and healthy number of vendors, including one chocolatier from St Lucia and United States-based chef Michael Poole.
King also told Barbados TODAY: “I am so proud of my little chocolate festival which has grown and grown! And my vision is to add a little bit more . . . something different each year.”
King said: “The response is really good. The crowd is wonderful and ticket sales are better than last year.”
Chef Poole, proprietor of Hot Chocolat Artisan Firehouse Chocolates in Seattle, United States, was thronged as he showcased his wares. I could not resist sampling fillings for Poole’s selection of handmade chocolates which were sold out: white chocolate with subtle notes of mango; his featured (and my favourite) Mojito Chocolate, a delectable dark chocolate ganache with mint, rum and lime. So good!
Chef Michael Poole, who was visiting the island for the first time, shared exclusively with Barbados TODAY: “I do have an inspiration for a new flavour since coming here to Barbados, and that’s going to be a Coconut Ginger.”
Dinner with Ocean Hotel’s executive chef Michael Harrison at Azul in Maxwell, Christ Church, was the catalyst for his new flavour. Poole also was on hand to offer specialized training
with chocolate to its staff.
Upon entering the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre hall, as is becoming customary with foodie events in Barbados, patrons were met with refreshing welcome drinks by award-winning mixologist Phillip Antoine –– obviously this time inspired by chocolate. His Stoli Chocolate Coconut Martini was made with Stoli Chocolate Vodka, De Kruper Crème De Cacao and Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup and refreshing splashes of coconut water.
Wandering around the packed hall, there was a central stage where demonstrations by vendors like Italian eatery Mama Mia shared techniques. It was surrounded by several booths like Splurge Bakery, Teri’s Pastries and Cheat Day Delights which beckoned with sugar artistry, tempting cupcakes, alcoholic beverages, tiered cakes and, of course, chocolate treats.
Sweet and savoury came together at the Ocean Hotel’s booth where a friendly team, led by group executive chef Michael Harrison, offered samples, the highlight being curried breadfruit and white chocolate soup –– hot and really delicious. The soup alone enticed me to a chocolate-enfused dinner featuring both chef Michael and visiting headliner chef Michael Poole at The Taste Restaurant at Ocean Two.
It wasn’t only pairings with drinks and chocolate; the Barbados Tourism Product Authority (BTPA) was eager to join with I’m Impressed Events to support innovative entrepreneurs and expose visitors to new and exciting products like the Chocolate & Pastry Festival.
Creator King made some smart moves. Chocolate festivals are celebrated around the world and make an obvious tie-in for culinary tourism. For the last few months leading up, the festival’s website and Facebook pages presented tantalizing moving and still images from the prior year, certain to engage foodies. King also timed it well; just before Valentine’s Day. Keeping the admission fee at a reasonable rate ($15 for adults) is certain to attract numbers.
The last-minute change in venue may have affected the numbers, but a decent crowd was still on hand. Some targeted hands-on workshops in a separate space nearby, maybe another way to expand the festival, attract sponsors and keep patrons around longer.
You can bet I’ll be back for more chocolate next year.
(Sandra Sealy is a freelance writer, copywriter, communications consultant and award-winning literary artist, with a passion for culture
and the arts.