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Chocolate, barbecue festivals on tap this weekend

13 Apr

The seventh annual Alabama Chocolate Festival in Rainbow City on Saturday and the fourth annual Smoke on the Falls Barbeque Festival start this weekend.This definitely will not be a good weekend to start a diet, with the seventh annual Alabama Chocolate Festival in Rainbow City on Saturday and the fourth annual Smoke on the Falls Barbeque Festival Friday and Saturday at Noccalula Falls Park.

Organizers of the festivals said the events will help each other and they expect some people to attend both.

The Chocolate Festival will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday at Rainbow Plaza and will have music and contests throughout the day. It will end with a performance at 6:30 p.m. by the Bellamy Brothers.

In addition to free chocolate from more than 100 vendors, Rainbow City, which is sponsoring the festival, will be giving away 3,000 chocolate bars and there will be a 6-foot chocolate fountain for dipping. Festival goers also can sample the entries from the Chocolate Cookoff in categories that include cakes, pies, candy and “everything else.”

Smoke on the Falls is sponsored by the city of Gadsden. Gates will open at 5 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. Saturday.

Parks and Recreation Director Kerry Payne said 45 professional teams and 28 “backyard” teams will competing on Saturday, with winners to be announced at 4 p.m.

The festival will have music both Friday and Saturday.

The barbecue contest is sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbeque Society, which provides judges. Fifty-three judges will be in town, the most the festival ever has had.

The professional division includes competition in ribs, Boston butt, chicken and brisket. An overall grand champion and a reserve champion will be named. Backyard cooks will compete in chicken and ribs.

More than $10,000 in prize money will be awarded.

Source: Gadsden Times


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Clarice Lam of The Chocolate Room starts her online pastry business The Baking Bean

21 Mar

What does the executive chef of a Brooklyn dessert hotspot do with her free time?

Bake, of course.

Clarice Lam, who runs the kitchen at The Chocolate Room, is starting a new side venture, The Baking Bean, an online pastry business bringing custom cakes and monthly desserts straight to your door.

She’ll also be competing in the second season of wedding cake guru Ron Ben-Israel’s Food Network show “Sweet Genius,” working with — no surprise here — chocolate.

Titled “Dancing Genius,” one of the segments on the March 22 episode has chefs creating cocoa confections with cookies and cheese after watching a live ballet performance.

“I wanted to challenge myself in a new way and that’s exactly what I got,” says Lam. “It was definitely a lot harder than I had anticipated. Every single element is unexpected and timed, and of course, there are the cameras.”

Not that Lam is one to do things slowly.

In the two years since she completed the pastry arts program at the French Culinary Institute, the former model has risen from intern at Locande Verde to pastry assistant at Spice Market and most recently, head chef at The Chocolate Room’s Court St. and Fifth Ave. locations.

Even on her day off, Lam is busy ordering ingredients and consulting with her baking staff.

Now, she’ll also be taking orders for one-of-a-kind desserts.

The Baking Bean — a nickname that comes from her likeness to English children’s book character Clarice Bean — gives Lam the opportunity to work with

the sweets that inspired her to pursue a culinary degree in the first place.

“When I lived in Paris, I noticed patisseries all over the place and I was so enchanted by the delicious pastries.”

“Although chocolate is very beautiful, there are only so many shades that you can color chocolate. I like playing around with other mediums. I love things that pop and I want things to look like little pieces of art.”

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Using her background in art and fashion, Lam’s latest creation, a blueberry and cream cheese gateau St. Honore, fuses the customary French cake with modern design: a pastel purple crocodile print.

“I’m taking an old French tradition, but making it whimsical. I really like making cakes and putting little twists on everything and using different flavors that I’ve acquired throughout my travels.”

Seasonal flavors are also the focus of her monthly dessert club. Currently priced at $100 for its inaugural month, members will get sweets delivered once a week starting in mid-April.

Each of the four categories — baked items (such as cookies, brownies and biscuits), cakes and tarts, ice cream and chocolate confections — will have three options for members to choose from.

“Being able to taste everything from all over the place really inspires how I cook and how I bake,” says Lam. “It comes fairly natural to me to put certain flavors together.”

Although she’s used to bouncing from place to place — her modeling career has taken the Toronto native to over 280 cities — Lam is happy to call the Big Apple home.

And with the little time off she has, Lam is slowly tasting her way through some of the city’s top dessert destinations, including La Maison du Chocolat and Wylie Dufresne’s molecular gastronomy eatery WD-50.

“I’m going on my third year in New York and it’s the longest time I’ve stayed anywhere besides my hometown. Maybe New York is a magical city. It’s brought me luck so far.”

Source: New York Daily News

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Pacific Northwest Cherry Company Releases Cherry Blossom Collection

8 Mar

This month Washington, D.C. will commence the celebration of 100 years of cherry blossoms in the nation’s capitol. On the opposite coast, Northwest specialty food company Chukar Cherries is celebrating with an expanded line of blossom-themed gifts. The gifts feature dried cherries covered in artisan chocolate, all natural cherry sauces, and green tea.

The National Cherry Blossom Festival celebrates the gift in 1912 of 3,000 cherry trees from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo. The trees and festival commemorate the friendship between the two countries. Chukar Cherries celebrates blossom time every year with cherry blossom chocolates and gifts. However, in recognition of festival’s 100th anniversary, Chukar Cherries has broadened their offerings.

Pam Montgomery, founder and CEO of Chukar Cherries, explains the inspiration behind the gifts this way, “The first blush of cherry blossoms is a special time and holds the promise of the spring to come. Chukar’s cherry blossom gifts are a salute to this magical season.”

Chukar’s Cherry Blossom Collection started with the release of milk chocolate Cherry Blossoms which feature a dried cherry covered in a swath of milk chocolate and a thin layer of berry flavored white chocolate. The success of this gift led to the release of the Cherry Blossom Assortment Gift Box with milk chocolate Cherry Blossoms and Cherry Bings alongside Dark Chocolate Classic Cherries. This gift box is adorned with a hand illustrated cherry blossom drawn by Washington artist Jim Hays.

This year Chukar’s blossom collection features several new gift baskets including the Cherry Tea Time Gift Basket and the Cherry Jubilation Gift Box. Chukar also offers Cherry Blossom Green Tea flavored with hibiscus, rose hips, and cherry in gift boxes adorned with cherry blossoms.

All Chukar’s products including dried cherries, chocolate-covered cherries, cherry sauces, and fruit and nut mixes are 100% natural. Chukar makes nearly everything they sell at their manufacturing headquarters in Prosser—Washington’s wine and cherry growing capitol. Their locally grown cherry sweets and treats can also be found in Seattle’s Pike Place Market and online at

Source and Photo: Food and Drink Digital


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