Eat, sample, love 

The xocolatl (Spanish, from Nahuatl Aztec xocolatl, meaning “bitter water”) was first reserved for priests, nobility and warriors before the popularity spread to the Spaniards and beyond.

The world’s infatuation with chocolate continues in Norman at the annual Firehouse Art Center’s Chocolate Festival 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Feb. 1 at the National Center for Employee Development, 2801 E. State Highway 9. Ranked third among food festivals in the U.S. by TV’s Food Network, this festival is truly a treat.

“This is our 32nd year for the festival, and the proceeds support children and adult art education, scholarships and art programming in Norman,” said Douglas Shaw Elder, Firehouse’s executive director.

With timed tickets scheduled every half hour, festival attendees sample a wide variety of chocolate offerings from 30 restaurants.

“You will be given a box, and as you walk through, you see what you desire and put your samples in your box,” Elder said.

Flash back to the movie Chocolat (2000), when candymaker Vianne Rocher (Juliette Binoche) transforms and uplifts an entire rural French town when opening a sweet shop. This arts and chocolate festival in Norman also is transformed into a wonderland and brings people together.

“Longtime festival-goers usually won’t leave without the popular chocolate mice or the chocolate amaretto cream cake,” said Alexis Rodgers, festival coordinator.

Wait. Chocolate mice, not mousse?

La Baguette Bakery & Cafe, 2100 W. Main St. in Norman, offers the adorable confections. These “mice” are made of rich, dense chocolate cake and rum and are glazed with chocolate icing and shaped into a mouse form, complete with chocolate ears and tail. (Did we mention chocolate?) They are delectable.

Legends Restaurant, 1313 W.

Lindsey St. in Norman, supplies the sought-after chocolate amaretto cream cake.

“This devil’s food cake has a whipped cream custard layer in the middle, chocolate buttercream icing and chocolate sauce drizzled on top,” said owner Joe Sparks.

Legends is a longtime contributor for the festival, and it shows in the length of the lines to sample the cake.

However, the festival is not all about sweet concoctions. Local, 2262 W. Main St. in Norman, will serve up a savory surprise.

This year, Local will present an Oklahoma grass-fed beef tenderloin with a cocoa rub served with a chocolatebased barbecue sauce, and it’s glutenfree.

Enjoy your cocoa-laden treats in the seating area while listening to local music from trio John the Franklin.

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Angela Botzer

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