Chocolate Fans Unite!

As I perused the selection of chocolate at D.C. Specialty Foods in Ephraim, one label in particular caught my eye: Ethereal Confections’ Single Origin Chocolate Bar from Ecuador, boasting a robust 80 percent cacao with “notes of walnut, banana and toffee.”

I was instantly transported back to an evening in May 2011 when, on a three-week travel study to Ecuador with a group of students from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, we were tasked with making the chocolate sauce we would later enjoy over vanilla ice cream.

It was in a lodge in the Amazon Rainforest by candlelight that we did this, de-shelling the pile of roasted cacao beans at the center of the wooden table and later grinding them into a pulp using a manual cacao bean grinder. It was an incredibly labor intensive process that took us much longer than anticipated (we were feeding 30 people, after all). Our arms grew tired as we ground the beans in the grinder for what felt like hours, but the manual labor was well worth the taste of the dark chocolate syrup on our dessert later that evening.

Ever since then, I have come to appreciate the process that goes into making chocolate, along with the range of cacao flavors that are achieved in different climates. Incidentally, my taste in chocolate has changed from sweet milk chocolate to the more robust and bitter dark.

That’s why it was a treat to hear that D.C. Specialty Foods will host a weeklong dedication to the “food of the gods” with Chocolate Fest 2015, July 26 through Aug. 1.

Specialty chocolate from more than 10 countries will be available for sample and sale, along with chocolate-covered treats. Owner David Emery-Janzen has spent the past two years refining his chocolate selection at the shop, going from a 50-50 split of milk chocolate and dark chocolate to offering more dark and just a handful of milk chocolate.

He attributes that to changing preferences, which he himself has experienced as an adult.

“I always ate milk chocolate and I think that’s because it’s what you grow up on,” Emery-Janzen said. “That was what my mom bought … I don’t think there was that selection, at least not that I remember. But now you can try all these different darks.”

He points to an 85 percent dark chocolate bar and indicates that to enjoy the intense bitterness of the bar, “you have to be an aficionado of dark chocolate.” He states that 70 percent seems to be most people’s tolerance level.

He points out a few highlights of the festival: inclusions (chocolate bars that include herbs, spices, dried fruits, nuts and fillings), hot chocolate, allergen-free, sugar-free and single origins (chocolate made from one variety of cacao harvested in one region).

“Each one is going to have a little bit different flavor to it,” Emery-Janzen said of single origin chocolate. “And there’s no flavoring to it – it’s just how the beans are grown and the climate they come from.

“It’s just a lot of different things to try that maybe you’ve never had before in chocolate,” he added.

As always, Chocolate Fest goers can take part in D.C. Specialty Foods’ year-round Chocolate Club, where purchase of five bars of chocolate gets you a sixth for free.

For Emery-Janzen, Chocolate Fest is about showing people that there is much more to chocolate than Hershey has to offer.

“That’s really what it’s about – an awareness of chocolate. It will be like the microbeers are. That’s what I see it being – each little company has their little something they do a little different and that’s what’s kind of neat about them.”

Coinciding with the festival will be ceramic Candy Bowl Demonstrations by Artzy Studio owner Cynthia Koshalek from 1 – 3 pm on July 29, 30, 31 and Aug. 1. The demonstrations will be held in the butterfly garden outside Artzy Studio and D.C. Specialty Foods.

The festival will conclude with a free performance by Door County indie folk band Small Forest on Aug. 1 from 5:30 – 7:30 pm.

Chocolate Fest at D.C. Specialty Foods will be held Sunday, July 26 through Saturday, Aug. 1. The store is open daily from 10am – 5:30pm. For more information, call 920.854.0113 or visit