Gusto re-fashioned itself and re-launched as Central Oregon magazine last night. Have you seen it yet? Thoughts? Opinions?

Yours truly has a little story in it featuring one of my favorite subjects: chocolate. Covering the popular Bend event, Tour du Chocolate (Friday, April 2), this article celebrates the four basic food groups: milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate and chocolate truffles.

Events Details:
Tour du Chocolate
Friday, April 2, 5-8 pm
Tower Theatre, Bend, Oregon

"After eating chocolate you feel godlike, as though you can conquer enemies, lead armies, entice lovers."
- Emily Luchetti

Chocolate has been reckoned through the ages as a love potion, an obsession, the key to success, and the one great passion of women. Ah, chocolate! It comes in dark, milk and white assortments, and embraces the flavors of orange, raspberry, cherry, and bananas as happily as it absorbs sweet liquors. And a piece of dark chocolate cake with a cup of Oregon pinot noir has been touted by some as one of the most divine and delectable dessert combinations on earth.

In celebration of this wonderful food group, The Tower Theatre presents the Tour de Chocolate, Friday April 2, during Art Hop in downtown Bend. Ray Solley, executive director of the Tower Theatre Foundation, says they expect over 1,000 people this year and that the event committee has developed a great evening for chocolate lovers. “We’ll be showcasing a larger selection of desserts from professional and amateur entrants this year,” says Solley. “And people can drop in between 5pm and 8pm, any time and as often as they like.”

Celebrity and amateur chefs will bring their most exquisite chocolate creations to The Tower Theatre for sampling and judging. Visitors pay $5 for five tastes of chocolate and a glass of wine. Enjoy as many tastings as you like, says Solley, and head to the cheese, fruit, bread and wine stations to cleanse your palate in between.

Professional chefs also bring cake creations, one each to be judged, and another to be raffled off and taken home by lucky winners. An expert panel of judges rate the professional entries on various elements, such as: best use of ingredients, overall appearance, taste, and creativity, as well as Best of Show. The amateur entries are judged by the crowd and receive People’s Choice awards.

Julia Gray, host of the popular radio show, Cooking with Gusto on Newstalk 1110 KBND, is one of the celebrity judges. “The Tour de Chocolat is not just a luscious event, it's organized to be very interactive and exciting,” says Gray. “I love that there are plenty of chocolatiers submitting entries, and that many locals enter their chocolate delights.”

Last year’s winner in the amateur ranks was Lidia Vasquez, who entered lemon, coconut and pomegranate truffles and mint bites. And won. Bolstered by her success, Vasquez started Lidia’s Chocolates. “The best reward for me is when people are happy about the product I'm offering, because that makes me happy, and gives me that spark to keep doing it.” Vasquez says she will definitely be returning to the Tour this year as a professional. “It will be fun and exciting, she says. “It gives me an excuse to create a new flavor for people to try.”

Other happenings at the Tour de Chocolat this year include premium wine offerings with a commemorative glass from sponsor, Country Financial, as well as raffles for wine, gifts, and restaurant certificates. And, as part of a special exhibit, Eastmont School children will create three-dimensional works of chocolate art using clay and paints, based loosely on the delectable paintings of artist Wayne Thiebaud.

The Tour de Chocolat celebrates the immortal words of Lucy Van Pelt (Charles M. Schulz): “All I really need is love, but a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt!”

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