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Chocolate for Congo event dazzles with delectable delicacies

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Last Saturday, January 25, I spent a rare, sunny winter day grazing through a chocolaty hunk of heaven at downtown Portland’s Little Bird Bistro. I was doing my part for a special fundraiser for the Eastern Congo Initiative: Chocolate for the Congo. The event raised $3,600 for the organization, which gives grants to local, community-based organizations in the eastern Congo.

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Little Bird Pastry Chef Lauren Fortgang, co-chair of the Never Again Coalition, marshaled her colleagues from the Rose City’s top restaurants and bakeries to create sweet masterworks for the fundraiser, and to boost awareness about the genocide in Darfur and the ongoing violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“We had a lot of like-minded people donating their time and talents to make this event a success,” Fortgang said. “Amelia Lane, at Portland Pastry Chefs Association, and I worked to recruit the chefs and, once we learned that Theo Chocolate was excited, we knew it was going forward. The money we raised goes to build clinics, schools and small entrepreneurial projects.”

All participating chefs used fair-trade chocolate from the Congo, provided by Theo Chocolate, and diners washed down the assorted chocolate creations with flavorful Congolese coffee from Equal Exchange. Jessie Myszka, director and co-owner of Equal Exchange, said that her store has been working for some time on the Congo Coffee Project to help women afflicted by rape and violence.

Having dined at Little Bird, I knew we were in for a treat. Walking in and seeing 12 different stations with succulent samples didn’t disappoint. It ended up being a terrific way to learn more about both established and new eateries, and to enjoy some serious confectionary wizardry.

Participating chefs included:

Sarah Hart – Alma – chocolate bread pudding, warm habanero caramel sauce and fresh, whipped cream

Emily Kohlhepp – Grüner – coconut joconde, milk chocolate passionfruit mousse and cocoa nib crunchity

Helena Root Irving Street Kitchen – chocolate and blood orange tartlettes with honecomb candy

Nora Antene Le Pigeon – cocoa-braised lamb shoulder and orange mint gremolata on a chocolate and black sesame brioche bun

Lauren Fortgang Little Bird Bistro – bonbons au chocolat

Jessica Woods Pie Spot, chocolate honey crunch pie

Alissa Frice St. Jack – milk chocolate mousse with apricot gelée and hazelnut praline

Kir Jensen Sugar Cube – hazel-nibby financiers: dark milk chocolate ganache and candied orange zest

Mindy L. Keith – Xico, Champurrado with tejate fluff

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