The first Colorado Indulgence Festival was held this past weekend at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center.
Check out this slideshow of the event, if photos of chocolate and the like melt your marshmallow. (Yup, just made that phrase up, to my own embarrassment.)
The event was organized so that guests were able to try at least one food sample from each vendor (some allowed more, especially toward the end of the night) and to vote for their favorite items.
To some extent, it felt more like a pre-holiday-shopping tasting, a little like Coaltrain's Infamous Christmas Sale Tasting, in that guests could try different chocolates, for example, before committing to purchase a small box as a gift or treat.
The crowd was a bit overwhelming in the early hours, as people politely guarded their elbows through the FAC's narrow glass corridor, braving a few lengthy lines for such samples as a scoop of gelato, portion of a truffle, cake pop, fudge hunk or mini cookie.
Beyond the sweets, there were wine and spirits pours to be savored and a few retail booths peddling spa packages and the like.
VIP guests could retreat to a small room with basic provisions sans lines, and could attend four special food and drink demos: one on cheesemaking, one on wine tasting methods, one on chocolate's healthy aspects, and one on how to make chocolate martinis.
Before sharing some of my impressions below, here are this year's winners:
Colorado Indulgence Festival Best of Show-Food/Confections
The Chocolate Bordello
Colorado Indulgence Festival Best of Show- Beverage
The Wine Seller
Most Indulgent Display
Most Notable Artisans
Black Star Chocolates, Chocolatiers Jennifer Spielman/Andrew Starr
Garden of the Gods Club, Executive Chef Steve Weber
Most Indulgent Sweet
Gold Mya Bella Cupcakes
Silver Faerie Tales Bakehouse and Catering
Bronze Chef Sugar's Cakes and Confections
Most Indulgent Savory
Gold The House Chef
Silver Blue Sage Catering and Cafe
Bronze Rich's Cheese
Most Indulgent Service
Gold A Ride in Luxury
Silver Mateos Salon and Day Spa
Bronze Renewal by Anderson
Most Indulgent Product
Gold SoapMe with Nature
Silver Island Orchids
Bronze Arbonne International
Non-alcoholic Beverage Serrano's Coffee
Alcoholic Beverage Dulce Vida Tequila
Food High-T Snacks
Paying it Forward Award Klassy Toffee (For each box sold, a box is sent to American servicemembers overseas)
And to a few of my passing impressions, in no particular order:
• The stand-up-and-mingle-roam-sip-and-graze style of the Indulgence Fest keeps the atmosphere lively and active — it's certainly no snoozer with everyone's blood-sugar levels spiked.
• There was an impressive showing of chocolatiers and sweets artisans from all over the state, rather than just Colorado Springs, which was refreshing and exciting to those of us who've already sampled from the majority of the locals. Simply put: New flavors = fun.
• And chocolate in its many forms is awesome, so it's nice to have an event that largely spotlights it, since it's one of the first items to come to mind when one hears the word "indulgence." On that note, I'm rather intrigued by Xocai Healthy Chocolate, which claims a number of benefits related to fighting free radicals via super-high antioxidant properties in its chocolates, which are delicious.
I am, however, skeptical of the majority of multi-level marketing businesses where reliance on a local distributor (versus easy access through retailers) is necessary. Though the Xocai representative in attendance was a retired doctor who cited reputable scientific studies, I couldn't help but approach cautiously.
That said, if the chocolate does everything they say it does, it's certainly a delightful way to intake the nutrition.
While on the skeptical tone, and speaking as an homeowner who made the environmentally friendly investment of Renewal by Anderson windows years ago, I'm honestly not sure where they fit into the theme of indulgence, beyond their hefty price tag. It was a strange booth to see wedged between all the sweets stops.
The Art of Chocolate's balsamic strawberry truffles are just stupid yummy, with a tangy, fruity brightness.
And Black Star's basil lemon truffle and rosemary caramels are simply genius in the way they seamlessly infuse the unexpected garden herbs into the dessert treats.
Those are just the ones I was able to try at the festival — I'm excited for further samplings from both in the future.
If you don't have time to peruse the other vendors' websites — a list of participants can be found at indulgencefestival.com — then consider truffles from these two companies as a very safe and sure-to-be-enjoyed gift this or any season.
And if you're looking for a chocolate treat with a little more edge to it: The Chocolate Bordello has built a fun truffle line around women of ill repute. The Fairplay-based business has named and designed each chocolate after prostitutes from both Colorado history and the Bible. Scandalously delicious.