Chocolate Festival Returns to Ashland

By Ashley Johnson

The tenth annual Oregon Chocolate Festival will run March 7 through 9 at the Ashland Springs Hotel and promises to be as sweet as ever.  The weekend will feature over 40 Oregon chocolatiers and their creations, including Dagoba and Lillie Belle Farms, both of which are nationally recognized companies that originated in the Rogue Valley.

Branson’s Chocolates, Sipping Dreams, and Stirs the Soul Organic Raw Chocolate are a few of the others participating.  Be prepared to taste decadent truffles, chocolate drinks, toffees, chewy cookies, chocolate flavored cheeses, delicious sauces and syrups, and much more. Typically bringing in over 1500 visitors, this is an event is not to be missed!

The weekend kicks off with a chocolate makers dinner on Friday, March 7.  Executive Chef Damon Jones from Larks Restaurant is preparing a four-course meal with chocolate in every dish.  Reservations are required and tickets are $64 per person.  Those looking for cheaper ways to enjoy the festival, have no fear; the Ashland Springs Hotel lobby will hold chef demonstrations starting Friday at 5:30 p.m. and 6 p.m., and will continue through the weekend.  These educational demos are free to the public.

Also on March 7 is the First-Friday art walk, which is organized monthly by the Ashland Gallery Association.  Stop by the galleries from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. to enjoy art, local wines, and chocolate! Make sure to visit the hotel during the day to see a rare form of art; award-winning chocolatier Jeff Shepherd of Lillie Belle Farms is creating a life-sized sculpture of an electric guitar.  In celebration of 10 years of business success and the 60th anniversary of the Fender Stratocastor, it will surely be a sight to see.

Looking to be pampered?  Learn how to do a chocolate facial from the estheticians from Waterstone Spa.  Lithia Springs Resort will be hosting a Chocolate Facial and Martini spa party on Saturday, March 8, at 4 p.m.  Enjoy a cleanse, exfoliation, treatment with a mask, and moisturizing.  Tickets are $30 and include one martini.

Awards for the best chocolate product will be given by guest judges at the end of the festival. Categories include best traditional use of chocolate, best truffle, best drinking chocolate, best use in baked goods, best candy, best raw product, and best in show.  People’s choice awards will also be available for ticket holders.

For more information visit http://www.ashlandspringshotel.com/oregon-chocolate-festival/.  Tickets are $20/day and can be purchased at Ashland Springs Hotel or by calling 541-488-1700 ext. 0.

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