Sweet Surrender, One Bite at a Time

Above, Hasmik Kassabian, left, and Jeff Polyakov prepare to dip treats into one of the three glistening chocolate fountains at the Chocolate Lovers Festival yesterday. At left, Amber Oliver, 3, gets a hand from her father catching a drip. The annual two-day event was held in Fairfax City.
Above, Hasmik Kassabian, left, and Jeff Polyakov prepare to dip treats into one of the three glistening chocolate fountains at the Chocolate Lovers Festival yesterday. At left, Amber Oliver, 3, gets a hand from her father catching a drip. The annual two-day event was held in Fairfax City. (Photos By Marvin Joseph -- The Washington Post)

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By Susan Levine
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 6, 2006

A single Hershey's Kiss contains nearly 26 calories, and a miniature peanut butter cup tops 40. A small square of fudge can sneak in several dozen grams of fat. So do the math. Multiply numbers like those by thousands of chocolate balls and bars, and what you get is what filled two floors of Fairfax City's Old Town Hall yesterday:

Enough rich, dense confection to overload even the most addicted chocoholic.

"We eat our way through," laughed Jeannette Halbrooks as she finished a chocolate toffee and her husband bit into the nutty mystery core of a dark-chocolate candy.

The aroma of cocoa wafted through the crowded building. Outside, despite the chill, waited a long line of hopefuls. By now, this Chocolate Lovers Festival enjoys a passionate following.

"We come every year," Halbrooks said.

Organizers expected the 14th annual festival to raise more than $7,000 over the weekend. Beneficiaries were a host of causes, from the Fairfax County Volunteer Fire Department to several school PTAs to Central Fairfax Services Inc., a nonprofit agency that provides vocational and developmental services to more than 200 residents.

"It's all about giving back to the community," said Beverly Myers of Friends of Fairfax, which sponsors the yearly Taste of Chocolate event.

Seventeen restaurants, cakeries and sweet shops offered their most delectable temptations. There were truffles of endless variety, chocolate ice cream, chocolate-covered potato chips and apples with chocolate. There were chocolate pretzels, marshmallows with chocolate, chocolate-covered graham crackers and chocolate-dipped strawberries.

There were chocolate-filled cream puffs, shaved chocolate slices, chocolate lollipops and chocolate rockets. Even a trio of chocolate fountains (flowing milk, dark and white chocolate) and "Paint Your Body With Chocolate" chocolate.

"It's a little overwhelming," Tamara Harvey said as she looked around. At knee-level stood her not-quite-chocolate-sated 3-year-old son, Daniel. "He's flying on it," Harvey said.

The weekend's other big draw was the Chocolate Challenge several blocks over at City Hall. On the upper floor, tagged with blue best-in-show ribbons and set back several critical feet, were culinary creations ranging from clever to cultured.

One entry took as its theme the extraterrestial invaders of 1950s sci-fi movies; it featured a bug-eyed alien with cocoa-butter colors applied by airbrush. Another presented an underwater world, replete with a white-chocolate octopus.

Decorated with chocolate leaves and columns, festooned with chocolate ribbons and curls, the chocolate works of art elicited appreciative responses again and again.

"Whoa," said 7-year-old Courtney English as she eyed an avant garde winner.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa," said her friend, 8-year-old Julia Parkinson.

Which, in a word, said it all.


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