Cuckoo for a cocoa feast: Chocolate Fest returns

All photos Anne Larkin/Catalyst

Triumphant cries of “You can do it Brucey!” edging on one boy’s quest to finish an enormous chocolate cake echoed in the resounding chamber at College Hall on May 1 as sugar-crazed chocolate enthusiasts piled desserts high onto their plates with the same sense of righteous vigor. Matilda’s champion cake-eater, Bruce Bogtrotter, became the inspiration for posters strung around campus announcing this year’s Chocolate Fest and represented the ultimate victor of chocolate indulgence. Socking it to Ms. Trunchbull, New College students whipped up an extensive menu of chocolaty cuisine rivaling that of Iron Chef — a show where cooks create full-course meals featuring one “theme” ingredient.

“Five more minutes!” hailed third-year organizer Megan Lyons, counting down the time the doors to College Hall would open to public. Bakers dashed away from their desserts, hurrying to try each other’s creations before the flood gates of hungry college students were released. Tables figuratively bent under the plates of fantasy fudge, muffins, chocolate-covered hotdogs, mint and peanut butter Oreo cream cheese balls, chocolate raspberry cheesecake, chocolate chili, and much more.

Unlike most Chocolate Fests, the event took place alongside a Bay Day celebration down at College Hall. “I wanted it to be a lot more classy this year,” shared Chocolate Fest organizer and third-year Crystal Miller. “The TA was booked this year [but] I didn’t mind at all because I really don’t like sitting in a dark room when my stomach is full of all this chocolate and sugar.”

The location was not the only difference of this year’s fest. Stringed instruments played whilst attendees widened their palates, diffusing a slight air of sophistication as student gourmands wolfed down their desserts. Once the chocolate was exhausted, students gathered into College Hall’s sun room for a performance by New College’s AcapellaGo! to round off the event and provide some entertainment as the digestion process began.

The SAC-funded event backed New College students’ passion for chocolate and allowed bakers to make interesting recipes unburdened by the prices and gathering of ingredients.

“Students are encouraged to make the chocolate recipe of their dreams and share it with fellow students,” explained Miller. “Like, for instance, maybe their grandma who has passed away used to make these Perugian truffles or something and you’ve never had the opportunity to share it with others and/or you can’t get the ingredients yourself and justify it.”

This year’s participants covered a large spectrum of dishes. From the delicate cake served in a chocolate shell with mousse and cherry topping, to a simple vegan chocolate-chip cookie, a vast variety of recipes graced the fest.

“Ketchup’s the real base to the sauce but the Dr. Pepper is what really brings out the flavors,” began first-year James Eveland in describing his chocolate-infused creation. Though perhaps raising a few eyebrows, Eveland’s Chocolate Spice Pulled Pork with Dr. Pepper BBQ sauce was just one of the several savory dishes students cooked up for Chocolate Fest.

“I think that on the forum there was a general trend towards discussing chocolate savory [recipes] because it’s just more interesting and bizarre and awful,” said Miller.

Some savory dishes included, two chocolate chilies (one vegan), a mole sauce, both hotdogs and soydogs with chocolate sauce and of course, Eveland’s pulled pork served on top of Ritz crackers.

First-year Juliana Deere attested to the legitimacy of the savory foods while describing one of her favorite dishes: “There was this vegan chocolate chili, which wasn’t necessarily that chocolaty but …was just good chili with a good cocoa aftertaste, which I thought had a high level of skill because making non-desert foods without chocolate being completely overpowering is very tricky.”

“I didn’t get to try James’ pork thing because I don’t eat pork but I heard fantastic things about that,” said Sherman. “Everybody that I knew who was eating it went back for so much more.”

In its most commonly mass-produced form, chocolate is known to contain dairy products. With just a glance at the candies at any grocery store’s counter, one might rule out a vegan’s chance at dining in a festival of chocolaty morsels. But New College’s solid vegan population proved chocolate can be just as good or better in a non-dairy fashion. All the butter and cream cheese products the organizers supplied were vegan. The SAC even shelled out for the more expensive Ghirardelli semi-chocolate chips containing cocoa butter instead of milk fat, tasting the same but without the animal by-products. Nearly half of the entrees were vegan and the event was organized so the tables designated on one side of the room held all the vegan desserts.

“It’s actually easier to make decisions because I’m vegan, so I only have to go to like half of the room,” said third-year Kaija Goodman.

“I mean at this point, if you’re baking for chocolate fest it can be a choice to be [vegan] because you can afford to supply all the vegan things and we can even tell you ways to make things vegan,” said Miller.

The Ancient Maya would be proud as the practice of combining zesty spices like chili peppers with chocolate — a custom originating from Mesoamerican culture — was not amiss in the hodgepodge of chocolaty foods. Tasty samples of chocolate chili icecream, spicy Mexican chocolate tart and a standard Mexican dish of mole sauce tingled the tongues of the fest’s attendees.

Third-year Katie Scussel prepared the paradoxical mesh of hot and cold that was the chocolate chili icecream: “I had some in Berlin last summer and I just thought it was really delicious so I found a recipe” Among the rich custardy chocolate lay ground chili peppers, used to enhance the flavor and leave a playful spiciness in its aftertaste.

From the indulgently sweet, to the savory or spicy, Chocolate Fest was a celebration of creation where students shared their favorite guilty pleasures.

“Sometimes I just think [about it] and am like, ‘Wow, my school pays for me to eat eight hundred delicious things made of chocolate,’” said Deere. “It was famazing, as in fucking amazing.”

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