I was super excited to learn about the Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival happening this weekend at through an ad while I was riding on BART last week. Armando had the day off and got us two tickets for chocolate and wine tasting. I am a big fan of chocolate and will rarely say no to a sample of sweets, but I also love using Ghirardelli cocoa powder and chocolate chips when I bake.
The festival took place today, but will also be in full swing Sunday, September 14th. Tickets for both Chocolate & Wine Pavilion are $50, but were $40 if you bought them online before the event. The regular Chocolate Tasting ticket is $25 at the door, but buying early online could have saved you $5. We opted to go with the Chocolate & Wine Tickets since it came with a ticket for 15 chocolate samples AND a ticket for 12 samples of Wine and Chocolate. (Side note: 12 samples were for either chocolate/dessert or a wine at the Pavilion.)
Armando and I experienced an array of chocolaty confections within the first hour of the festival. Among our favorite treats were the chocolate covered s'mores bars, chocolate cookies sandwiched with peanut butter whipped filling, Ghirardelli Hot Fudge Sundaes, chocolate milkshakes, raspberry chocolate tart, and Ghirardelli liquid chocolate to name a few.
The festival features a silent auction, chef demonstrations and the new Chocolate Market Place where a chocolatier was making chocolates and had some more decadent samples. I will admit, the biggest attraction to me was the Ghirardelli Ice Cream Eating contest held at 2:30. There were three sets of contests, one for 5-8 year olds where they ate 2 scoop sundaes, one for 9 - 12 year olds that ate 3 scoop ice creams, and the 13+ group where they took on The Earthquake sundae - an eight scoop ice cream sundae with 8 dollops of whipped cream served on top of a pie tin. Of course, the sundae also came with bananas, strawberries and Ghirardelli signature Hot Fudge and Caramel sauce. In each contest, 6 participants were selected from the crowd and.....I was one of the participants for the Earthquake Sundae eating contest!
I was super excited and a little bit nervous. I had won a pie eating contest before, but ice cream was going to be a challenge. I had ordered one of these before, but had split it with 4 other people, so I was skeptical about eating it and finishing it on my own!
It was a close race, but in the end I did not win. I may have tied for 2nd place, but I had trouble stomaching the bananas (not a fan.) The winners walked away with big baskets of Ghirardelli Squares, but as a consolation prize I took home a big Ghirardelli chocolate bar. I gave it my best and I was stoked to be able to participate, although I had a moment where I questioned whether this was a good decision! I had to wash my face afterwards, so I was glad I had not put on any powder foundation this morning. I appreciate that towels and a water bottle were brought out to all the participants too, but now all I can think about is how I need to do some Zumba or swim tomorrow to work off this sundae. At least I got a few servings of fruit today.
After the contest, we still had to visit the wine pavilion, and it was hard finding that appetizing after consuming enough dairy for the week. But we made our way there and I liked that throughout our tastings we received items that were packaged so we could save them for later. If you are going to the festival, I would recommend splurging and getting the Chocolate & Wine Pavilion tickets. Although 15 samples actually turn out to be a lot, the 12 extra allowed for us to try cupcakes by Frost Cupcake Factory (winners from Cupcake Wars), macarons, wines, Negro Modelo paired with Salsa and Chips and trying even more decadent chocolates. It is also important to note that all the profits of the ticket sales benefited the charity Project Open Hand, an organization that provides healthy, nourishing meals with love. We bid on a chocolate gift basket during the Silent Auction since the proceeds would also go to Project Open Hand, but we were outbid! It was a little bittersweet, but in the end I am glad more money went to this good cause.
Some tips if you attend the Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival:
1.) Have your ticket ready (and I.D. out for Wine Pavilion tickets) and stand at the appropriate line before the festival starts. If you don't have a ticket, stand at the Purchase Ticket Line.
2.) Buy or take a tote/small backpack. I got a cute Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival tote ($15) at the event and filled it up with lots of samples that I didn't have to eat right away as well as filled it with other prizes I won.
3.) Take a small food container. 15 samples does not sound like a lot, but trust me, you will start to feel full about halfway in. We stayed until the end of the festival and some vendors were giving away lots of samples (hello chocolate dipped brownies.) We had a makeshift container, but it might be good to have something small so you can take advantage of those freebies to enjoy later.
4.) Check out the Silent Auction booth! There are so many great prizes and you might get a great deal on something that is normally out of your budget. Make sure to check back when it is scheduled to be over to see if you were the winning bidder too!
Hope you have a chance to make your way over to the festival. If not, make sure to add it to your bucket list and attend it next year!
Side note: for fun, we also had a chance to guess how many mini Ghirardelli Squares were in a jar for a chance to win a $200 Ghirardelli gift card at the festival. How many squares do you think are in the jar? (I guessed 2014, but I don't think I am even close!) Would love to hear your estimate even though there is no prize.
For more info on the festival you can visit their website here.