The Art of Chocolate

‘This event literally fell into our laps," says Stephanie Morgano, president of the Trenton Museum Society, which hosts the second annual "It’s All About Chocolate" fundraiser at the Trenton City Museum on Friday, February 11. The museu exhibits contemporary art, mostly by New Jersey artists, Trenton pottery, and memorabilia Last year Joanne Reilly of the Trenton bakery Sweety Peety’s approached the Society’s former president, Carolyn Stetson, and expressed an interest in hosting a chocolate fundraiser. "We look for offbeat events to attract few visitors to the museum and this did it," says Morgano, adding that

the chocolate fundraiser last year attracted "quite a few regular patrons, board members, and a large influx of locals who had never really attended an event at the museum before."

Last year’s event featured tasting stations where attendees could pair chocolate with wine and cheese, mix hot chocolate with different flavors, and indulge in a chocolate and coffee bar. "This year, we will have those stations plus Sweety Peety’s going ‘Emeril style,’" says Morgano, a Food Network junkie whose favorite show is "Unwrapped," a behind-the-factory-walls look at how our favorite childhood treats like Twinkies, Hostess cupcakes, and candy bars are

made. Reilly will kick it up a notch with a demonstration of how to prepare chocolate liqueur truffles, and participants will have the opportunity to make their own truffles.

Morgano, who believes the best aspect of the event is the ability to mingle and meet new people, says the buzz at last year’s fundraiser was apparent at the end of the evening at the museum gift shop, which offers an abundance of Sweety Peety gifts, like a hand-decorated galvanized tin filled with handmade chocolate. "People really talk. Joanne and I had this great conversation about the medicinal elements of dark chocolate – and how it makes you feel good." She sets Sweety Peety chocolate apart from other chocolate. "It’s the first time I’ve had chocolate in abundance and didn’t feel sick."

It’s All About Chocolate fundraiser, Friday, February 11, 7 to 9 p.m., Trenton City Museum at the Ellarslie Mansion, Cadwalader Park, Trenton. $20. 609-989-1191, www.ellarslie.org.

Vineyard Heaven

For 18 years, Joseph Maxian has been hosting a two-day Sweetheart Festival at his Sand Castle Winery, situated high above the Delaware River in Erwinna, Pennsylvania, just 12 miles north of New Hope. "We match dry wines with chocolate and come out with a third flavor. For example, an oak chardonnay, which has a slightly tart flavor, and a bitter chocolate results in smooth, soft, almost creamy flavor. You put both the wine and chocolate in your mouth simultaneously. Pinot noir and white chocolate taste like strawberries and raspberries. Cabernet sauvignon and milk chocolate taste like chocolate-covered

cherries. Late harvest reisling dessert wine and milk chocolate taste like hazelnut mocha torte, but the same wine and white chocolate taste like vanilla cheesecake."

In addition to the free tastings, held throughout the day, Maxian offers three tours. The basic tour is $5. The barrel tour, $10, lets you walk down into the winery’s 30-foot-deep cellar for a "vertical" tasting. "We start with the recent vintage of 2004, tasted right from the barrel, and go back to 1996, tasting from bottles. You can see the development of the wine," says Maxian. The VIP tour, $15, offers two hours of wine education. "We take every wine apart and talk about how to read the label, how to purchase wine, how to transport it, open and decant it, which foods pair well with wine. Then we go down into the cellar and taste wine. It’s very complex – people have told us they have taken wine courses and never learned as much as we give them in two hours."

With all that wine and chocolate, romance is bound to blossom. "Once, when a tour was leaving, one gentleman asked me if he could have five or ten minutes alone with his girlfriend in the cellar," says Maxian. "He proposed to her. And she said yes."

Maxian came to the United States in 1969 from Czechoslovakia, where he and his two older brothers worked in the vineyards of his uncle, a winemaker. "I guess some of that rubbed off. He says the tastings pair "two powerful antioxidants – wine and chocolate. The only danger? You can become so young they’ll send you back to school."

Sweetheart Festival, Saturday and Sunday, February 12 and 13, Sand Castle Winery, 755 River Road, Erwinna, Pennsylvania. 1-800-722-9463. www.sandcastlewinery.com.

Country Wedding

If your idea of the perfect wedding is a ceremony under an arbor bedecked with cabbage roses with grass underfoot and a ceremony in a country barn or an 18th-century mill, and you think it would be cool to have a chef on-site roasting a whole pig, you might want to check out the fifth annual wedding showcase of the Catering Company.

"Our weddings can best be described as definitely country but sophisticated. Most of our brides are not young and know what they want, it’s often a second wedding, and paid for by the bride and groom," says Jenny Hartshorne, who opened the Catering Company in 1985 in an 18th-century building steeped in history – it has been a post office with a wood stove, an antique store, a dog grooming shop, and a penny candy store. "As a kid, I used to come here in the 1960s. This was a farmer’s community. I used to ride my horse down the road to my friend’s house. When I renovated the building, I felt the beams calling out to me, `Thank you.’" Two years ago she added the Blawenburg Market, a "hometown village market" serving fresh-baked goods, soups, sandwiches and salads, and daily dinner specials.

In tandem with her wedding coordinator, Zsuzsi, Hartshorne masterfully creates stylish country weddings and special events. A Tuscan garden party wedding she did at Digging Dog Farm in Princeton was photographed for the September 2001 issue of Country Living magazine and she gets plenty of traffic from her link on www.njwedding.com. Hartshorne also orchestrates lots of weddings for duo-culture couples – Asian-German, Indian-French, you name it.

Jeffrey Bartlett, a 1981 graduate of Johnson & Wales who has donned his chef’s hat for the Colligan’s Stockton Inn and the Urban Word Cafe in Trenton and consults all over the East coast, says wedding food today is seeing an "advent of fusion world cuisine." Especially for culture-clash weddings, Bartlett has created menus that pair dumplings and sushi with pulled pork, served Russian borscht in shot glasses as an hors d’oeuvre, and staged a rehearsal dinner with paper-covered tables and crack-your-own Maryland crabs. Hartshorne calls him "the best-tempered chef I’ve ever worked with."

At the wedding showcase, brides-to-be can taste wedding menu items and wine, hear live music by classical guitarist Gianni Donati, peruse flowers by Dahlia’s, wedding cake treats by Annie B’s Confections, photos by Frank Jacobs, invitations, and locations information.

Catering Company Wedding Showcase, Sunday, February 13, 1 to 5 p.m., Blawenburg Market, corner of the Great Road (Route 601) and Route 518. Free admission and parking. 609-466-4022, www.cateringcompany.biz.

Last-Minute Ideas

OK, you had the whole week to think about what to get your sweetheart, but you’ve been saving the world from aliens on your X-box or trolling the Internet for pictures of Paris Hilton. Now you can’t get a reservation anywhere. What a loser. Cheer up. Try these five ideas, all of which you can pick up on your lunch hour on Monday, February 14:

Pink iced mini-cupcakes, $1 each; chocolate X and O mini-cakes with chocolate glaze, $3/pair (one hug, one kiss); or bring your sweetheart in after work for passion mango sorbet or habenero hot chocolate with two kinds of cinnamon and a little bit of heat from heirloom peppers. Bent Spoon, 35 Palmer Square, open February 14, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. 609-924-BENT.

"Pink Ribbon" necklaces, bracelets, and key chains by She-Beads, with hand-rolled clay beads decorated with the breast cancer pink ribbon, $20 to $200 (26 percent of sale price goes to the Pink Ribbon Girls, a support network for young women with breast cancer), Charmed by Claire, 60 North Main Street, Cranbury, open February 14, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 609-409-6077. www.shebeadsonline.com.

Gift certificate for "Learn to Give a Great Massage," $36, Saturday, February 26, 2 to 4 p.m., Princeton Center for Yoga & Health, 50 Vreeland Drive (off Route 518), Skillman, open February 14, 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 5 to 8 p.m. 609-924-PCYH, www.princetonyoga.com.

Tickets to one of three divas coming to McCarter: Nnenna Freelon, known for her smooth, smoky vocals, performing with the Count Basie Orchestra, Saturday, March 5, $39 and $42; Karen Akers, who the New York Times calls "the quintessential cabaret art singer of the moment," Saturday, March 19, $35; and the hot, hot, hot Angelique Kidjo, May 13, $32 and $35. 91 University Place, box office open February 14, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. 609-258-2787, www.mccarter.org.

Incredible Edibles Valentine’s fruit basket (fruit cut to look like a bouquet of flowers with chocolate-covered strawberries, candy hearts, and paper roses). Various styles, $40 to $75. Order by midnight Saturday, February 12. Incredible Edibles in Carver’s Cafe, 421 Wall Street, 609-252-9533. Pick up February 14 (7 a.m. to 9 p.m.). Delivery available for an extra charge.

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