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International Chocolate Festival in picture-perfect garden this weekend in Miami

Charles McDonald of Peterbrooke Chocolaties in Coral Gables featured $40 chocolate shoes and more at the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden  8th annual International Chocolate Festival Jan. 24-26.
Charles McDonald of Peterbrooke Chocolaties in Coral Gables featured $40 chocolate shoes and more at the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden 8th annual International Chocolate Festival Jan. 24-26.
Jill Zima Borski

Hot cocoa beverages may be popular at today’s International Chocolate Festival as chocolate lovers wander the plush grounds of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. With temperatures hovering in the low 70s, it’s perfect chocolate indulgence weather.

Numerous chocolatiers including Oliver Kita displayed their fine chocolates at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden's Chocolate Festival Jan. 24-26.
Jill Zima Borski

The three-day 8th Annual International Chocolate Festival began Friday, Jan. 24 and runs through Sunday, Jan.26, from 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. The festival celebrates the history and taste of products made from beloved cacao plant. Visitors can enjoy an assortment of chocolate treats from international vendors, cooking demos by prominent chefs, lectures from chocolatiers and restaurateurs, learning opportunities for kids, and much more. Saturday and Sunday especially offer a full schedule of events.

In the Garden House, shoppers and tasters will delight in numerous chocolatiers’ displays, and enjoy the sweet options of key lime or dulce de leche cheesecake from Wendy’s Chocolates and Gift Baskets of Kendall, “Krispie Creations” made from rice crispy cereal in flavors such as Irish cream, peanut butter cup, pumpkin and bacon maple; Cao Chocolates featuring gourmet chocolates; Peterbrooke Chocolate’s $40 chocolate shoes which are works of art, Romanico's artisan chocolate, Cocoa Art, doughnuts, a chocolate fountain and more.

Charles McDonald of Peterbrooke Chocolatier in Coral Gables, Fla. demonstrated the making of caramel corn with a dark chocolate drizzle Friday to an audience in the outdoor Whole Foods Market Culinary Tent in which every seat was filled. Over a gas stove, McDonald created the caramel from butter, organic corn syrup and brown sugar donated by Whole Foods and in the course of stirring for five minutes made it sizzle and foam. His recipe can be found on the Fairchild Garden website as well as his chocolate pizza recipe, which he demonstrated last year and is child-friendly.

Visitors may journey through the world of cacao and get their Choco-Passport stamped at the Choco-Walk stops throughout Fairchild. A children’s chocolate booklet complements the passport concept. Don’t miss a stroll through the Tropical Fruit Pavilion’s collection of cacao trees to learn the process that turns their seeds into chocolate consumed worldwide. For an even closer look, the USDA is showcasing a cacao collection featuring the different varieties of cacao beans. And, American Heritage Chocolate – from Mars Chocolate North America, makers of brands like M&Ms® and Snickers® – will be dishing out samples of their authentic hot chocolate drink which has a less sweet, dark chocolate flavor, paired with an interactive chocolate history demonstration.

Visitors wanting to grow their own chocolate can browse the plant sale area for a cacao tree, chocolate pudding fruit tree or chocolate-scented orchid. For those in search of relaxation in a beautiful tropical setting, outdoor yoga classes are offered on Sunday by Rina Yoga. Bring the whole family to the KidWay area, which offers hands-on learning opportunities for children and their families and, on Saturday, will feature a reading of poems inspired by chocolate written by W.R. Thomas Middle School students.

There’s something at Fairchild for every chocolate enthusiast. A beer tent this weekend highlights seasonal brews with hints of chocolate or that pair well with chocolate, thanks to five vendors.

This year’s festival is sponsored by AeroMéxico, Barceló Maya Beach Resort, the Mexico Tourism Board, South Miami Hospital, Tabasco, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Whole Foods Market.

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is located at 10901 Old Cutler Road, Coral Gables, FL 33156. Admission to the International Chocolate Festival is $25 for adults, $18 for seniors 65 and up, and $12 for children 6-17. Those who walk, bike, or take public transportation receive $5 off adult admission and $2 off child admission. Those with a Military ID have free admission, with $20 for their spouses and $10 for their children.
For more information and a complete schedule, please call 305-667-1651 or visit http://www.fairchildgarden.org/PressReleases/id/895/read/Fairchilds-International-Chocolate-Festival/.

Established in 1938 and comprising 83 acres in Miami, Fla., Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to exploring, explaining and conserving the world of tropical plants. The world-renowned plant collections feature palms, cycads, orchids, tropical fruit trees and more. Fairchild has the largest education program of any metropolitan area, reaching more than 200,000 schoolchildren each year with environmental programs like The Fairchild Challenge. It aims to inspire a greater knowledge and love for plants and gardening so that all can enjoy the beauty and bounty of the tropical world. Special events include Chocolate, Mango, Orchid and Edible Garden Festivals in addition to an annual art exhibition, concerts, plant sales and more. . For more info, call 305-667-1651 or visit www.fairchildgarden.org or follow on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.