World of Chocolate Fundraiser: Maximum Indulgence for a Great Cause – World AIDS Day

Seasonal nutcrackers guarded the chocolate hazelnut praline cake served by LondonHouse Chicago at the World of Chocolate fundraiser for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. Photo: Bob Benenson If you have ever fantasized about being the title protagonist in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, then the World of Chocolate fundraiser presented by the AIDS Foundation of Chicago on December 5 would have been your golden ticket. The event, held at the Revel event space in the Fulton Market District, featured chocolatiers, bakers and chefs at more than a dozen tables, most piled high with rich truffles, candies and bars, specialty treats, beverages, and even some savories that included chocolate in the recipes. (There was a tart combining dark chocolate and chicken liver pate, from prasino, that may be the best way to disguise organ meat ever.) Believe it or not, these dark chocolate tarts from prasino were made with chicken liver pate. Photo: Bob Benenson This immersive experience does raise a question almost no one has asked ever: Is there such a thing as too much chocolate? We'll get back to that, though, because when the cause is as good as the AIDS Foundation, they could serve a buffet of breakfast cereals and people should be happy to be there. All of that chocolate, to mix metaphors slightly, was just icing on the cake.

According to the foundation, nearly 1,000 people attended the gala, which raised approximately $200,000 to further support the foundation's work to end new cases of HIV in Chicago and beyond. This money will fund efforts such as:

  • Supporting efforts to house more than 1,000 Chicagoans each year.
  • Providing more than 5,000 clients with case management services.
  • Training hundreds of medical professionals about PrEP.
  • Empowering AFC to provide policy leadership in state and federal health equity matters.
  • Collaborating with partners across the state to achieve Getting to Zero Illinois, a state-wide initiative to end new HIV transmissions in Illinois by 2030.
Not everything at the World of Chocolate fundraiser was super-sweet. The Gwen Hotel chefs presented a smoked short rib with a Mexican-style bitter chocolate mole sauce. Photo: Bob Benenson Now back to the "too much chocolate" question. It depends on how big your sweet tooth and cravings are. I love dark chocolate — but in small doses. Yes, I'm that guy who will buy a bar of dark chocolate and make it last for a week. So while I did indeed try at least one delicacy from each table, I'd reached my level of chocolate exhaustion by the time I finished my rounds. So what's a non-chocoholic chocolate lover to do? I went back for seconds of the Smoked Short Rib prepared by the Gwen Hotel on Chicago's Magnificent Mile, and presented with a Mexican-style mole sauce using chocolate from Barry-Callebaut, a sponsor of the World of Chocolate event. Barry-Callebaut, one of the world's biggest chocolate manufacturers, had its own table featuring its ruby chocolate, the pink-hued product of ruby cocoa beans, which is described as the first new category of chocolate since white chocolate was introduced more than 80 years ago. As the name might imply, ruby chocolate has a light berry flavor and is very mild, likely to have more appeal for milk or white chocolate aficionados than dark chocolate fans. Ruby chocolate, made from ruby cocoa beans, was introduced in 2017 by the Barry-Callebaut company, and is the first new category of chocolate since white chocolate was introduced more than 80 years ago. Photo: Bob Benenson While it may be rude to say anything negative about the event, I'm going to be that "Old Man Shakes Fist at Cloud" guy: Why do so many events have to be so darn loud? Although the theme of the event was a 1940s cruise ship, the DJ-driven soundtrack was thumping, high-decibel dance music, which of course required those hundreds of attendees to talk even louder to be heard in conversation, and created the auditory ambiance of an airport runway or a football stadium when the Jumbotron is urging the crowd to Make Noise. Just a quibble, though. Would I attend World of Chocolate again next year? Of course. Testing that "too much chocolate" proposition is one of my stretch goals for 2020. A chocolate martini sample from the Cocoa Exchange. Why, thank you, I will. Photo : Bob Benenson
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Bob Benenson

Bob Benenson is publisher/writer/photographer of Local Food Forum, a new newsletter that covers the broad sweep of the Chicago region’s food community. He is a longtime advocate for a better, healthier, more sustainable food system and is an avid home cook who gets most of his delicious ingredients from local farmers.