Chocolate and Wine Fest returns to NT for sixth year
By Jill Keppeler
The 90-degree weather lately is expected to cool to a more moderate 70-something by this weekend ... just in time to avoid chocolate soup.
Sept. 12 will mark the sixth annual Chocolate and Wine Festival at Gateway Harbor in North Tonawanda, and fortunately, the recent heat wave is expected to cooperate.
"It is getting popular," Patty Brosius, North Tonawanda director of parks and recreation, said of the event. "We do it rain or shine. The weather looks a little iffy Saturday ... but the temperature looks perfect for chocolate."
The festival will take place from noon to 6 p.m. at the park on Sweeney Street between Webster and Main streets. Several local businesses also offer themed specials at certain times during the day, including Lou's Restaurant on Webster Street, which features chocolate-cream-stuffed French toast and Black Forest waffles from 7 a.m. to noon; happy hour specials at Webster's Bistro from 4 to 6 p.m. and others at Dockside Bar & Grill, Dwyer's Irish Pub and Crazy Jake's at various times, Brosius said.
"It's like a nice mixture of things," she said. "It's growing every year. We're hoping we're going to have enough space for all these people we have. We have lots of vendors this year, a lot of new places."
Vendors will include NT's Platter's Chocolates, Oliver Street Bakery, Edible Arrangements, D'Avolio (olive oils and vinegars), Burning Asphalt Sauces, House of Olives vinegars and oils and more. Crafters will include David McKenna, who makes birdhouses with wine corks, as well as vendors with painted wine glasses and jewelry. The Knights of Columbus will provide refreshments - and their traditional chocolate-dipped strawberries.
UnCorked Café, which will be opening in October on Webster Street, will feature chocolate crepes and cannolis, chocolates and frozen hot chocolate and iced mocha coffee at the festival, said owner Michelle Szynkowski of North Tonawanda. She had hoped to feature sponge candy from an old family recipe, but the temperature and the humidity didn't cooperate.
Szynkowski said she will have order forms available at the festival for UnCorked, which she described as a restaurant/wine bar offering paninis, crepes, gourmet coffees, handmade desserts, chocolates and other items. She plans to feature local ingredients and New York wines at the restaurant.
"People are just knocking on the locked door to find out what we're doing. We've seen a terrific response," she said. "We're really excited. We're looking forward to it."
Three wineries will bring the grape part of the equation: Schulze Vineyards & Winery of Burt, Midnight Run Wine Cellars of Ransomville and Willow Creek Winery of Silver Creek. Falkowski and Senek farms will bring fresh produce for sale. New this year, Niagara County Community College will present chocolate-themed culinary demonstrations at 2 p.m.
NT Youth Coordinator Alex Domaradzki said children's activities will include make-your-own chocolate play dough, chocolate finger-painting, an edible face plate station, chocolate story time at 12:30 and 4 p.m. and a chocolate word search. Some activities are free; others require tickets.
Other activities for those of all ages will include a "Candyman" game show at 1 and 4:30 p.m., a chocolate-ice-cream speed-eating contest at 3:30 p.m. (registration between noon and 3 p.m.), a chocolate-bar cross-section quiz board, cookie-stacking competitions, an M&M fling game, homemade chocolate lip balm tutorials and Kit-Kat-Toe games.
For more information, visit www.ntfestivals.com.