The first time I entered one of those mammoth grocery stores we’ve all grown accustomed to, I reacted as if I’d spent my life in an Eastern European bread line or possibly running with wolves. The options, the scale, both overwhelmed me.
Later, my years in LA felt like a sentence served inside Baz Luhrmann’s mind; the garish corner of Sunset and La Cienega enough to make me sob. I guess lurid excess just isn’t my thing.
Still, as I mentioned last week, I was eager to attend the For the Love of Chocolate gala, (or as I like to refer to it: Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate, Ack!) FTLOC benefits The French Pastry School’s Scholarship Foundation, and draws hundreds of local candy shop pros and restaurant chefs, from Chris Kadow-Dougherty of Whimsical Candy to Kai Lermen, Executive Chef at the Peninsula Hotel.
Inside the Merchandise Mart it was like Willy Wonka meets Midsummer Night’s Dream meets Top Chef: a DJ blasted artful mixes, an elfin man on a sort of elevated bicycle turned a crank to produce wine by the glass and a woman essentially wearing a table served chocolate from her “skirt.” (She refused to come home with me; for the best, she wouldn’t have fit in the car.)
In corridors branching from the main area guests, like well-coiffed ants, surrounded long tables heaped with chocolate concoctions (sorbets, puddings, cookies, tiramisu, cupcakes, mousse). In one area, a candy maker used a blowtorch to construct a two-foot high candy flower. Elsewhere, celebrity chef Rick Bayless attracted a throng of devotees as he threw together some sort of cubed beef, cilantro, tortilla situation (Hey, I’m not a food writer!).
Though I likely bypassed dozens of amazing displays, I was most taken with Bleeding Heart Bakery’s “Tribute to Sid Vicious in Whiskey and Chocolate,” an edgy conglomeration of whiskey infused offerings including a chocolate handgun I slipped into my purse.
Eventually I found my way to the “real food” section, where guests queued up for ceviche, chick pea soup, and soft hunks of meat girded by pureed root vegetables, which I also slipped into my purse. I’m guessing chocolate was involved in each, but at that point I was too overwhelmed to inquire.
The event, which ran from seven to eleven, was still in full swing when I hit a wall. And I mean that literally; I have no idea how to walk in heels. Okay, I didn’t actually hit a wall, but I’m a notorious klutz. I could be in a 300-acre field of clover with one small folding chair in the middle and I’d find the chair and trip over it. For me, the night’s mishaps included: stumbling over the DJ’s cords (though they were neatly demarcated by glow tape, this was apparently enough of an issue that an employee was stationed to catch gawking guests), crushing what I thought was a plastic cup, but was actually a fragile chocolate construction containing tiny chocolate pellets which erupted and scattered at my touch, and being nearly thrown from my feet by a woman hell-bent on the chocolate fountain. I’m pretty sure I saw her on TV the next day playing for Green Bay.
Truly, the event embodied excess at its most alluring, but by that point, I’d had my fill of belly dancers, massage chairs, dry ice, booming music, and chocolate-drunk throngs. On my way out, I realized I’d felt too inundated to savor much more than a chocolate strawberry. Next year I’m coming back with a game plan. Also, flats.
All photos by Patty Michels
A freelance writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum, when not writing, supports herself as a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago's Story Studio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She’s kind of looking forward to it actually. Follow Our Town on Facebook and Sarah on Twitter: @SarahTerez