Let's 'Choco' bout it: The Chocolate Expo Returns

Everyone has a golden Wonka ticket

The chocolate fountain is a popular treat.
The chocolate fountain is a popular treat.
Courtsey of Chuck Fishman

For the love of chocolate, there’s a sweet treat awaiting everyone at this year’s Chocolate Expo.

The popular event — proclaimed as one of the largest chocolate showcases in the United States — is back, ready to tantalize all on April 14.

Chocoholics will delight in the day-long food paradise. An array of 90-plus vendors — including those representing Long Island, New England and even international purveyors — will share their sweet and savory wares with the public during this unique food-centric festival at the David S. Mack Sports & Exhibition Complex at Hofstra University.

“We have a wide variety of interesting products,” says Marvin Baum, the Chocolate Expo’s founder and creator. “It’s like going to a wine tasting. You’re trying something different and exploring. That’s really what it is, for people to come and explore all kinds of culinary delights. In this case, it’s with chocolates, baked goods, specialty foods, wines, cheeses and other products as well.”

Celebrate and indulge in delicious gourmet goodies — even treats for your beloved pooch. Of course, tasting is very much a part of the event, starting from the moment you enter.

The scrumptious combination of savory and sweet includes chocolate-covered pretzels, artisanal chocolates, bonbons, fudge, rum cakes, hot chocolate, and even chocolate-covered bacon.

And, certainly, no chocolate event would be complete without big chocolate fountains. Guests are greeted by fountains overflowing with dark, white and milk chocolates, which can deliciously drench a selection of fresh fruit, marshmallows pretzels and Rice Krispies Treats.

Visitors will surely enjoy another special treat: An appearance by actors from the original 1971 film “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.” Julie Dawn Cole (Veruca Salt), Paris Themmen (Mike Teevee), and Rusty Goffe (who in addition to playing an Oompa Loompa, has also been in five of the Harry Potter movies and in Star Wars ), are the festival’s special guests. Baum proudly proclaims this is the first Wonka cast reunion at a chocolate event.

“We found that there was a true emotional connection for a lot of people, between the movie and their own lives — whether it be with good memories with the family or as being part of an escape,” he says. “And so, for that reason, we think that a lot of people on Long Island are going to respond to and be really excited to see this get-together of the Wonka characters.”

If your palate reaches sensory overload, take a break to check out some of the many activities that round out the day. Shows and demonstrations include chocolate smashing, where participants can break a part of high-quality chocolate molds with hammers. There’s also a demonstration with DJ Chef, the first winner of Food Network’s “Cuthroat Kitchen,” known for spinning tunes while cooking.

The youngest “fun-sized” visitors will enjoy Kidz Zone, enticing them with face painting, balloon twisting and crafts.

The festival, according to Baum, has now taken on a life of its own.

“I said, ‘We need to do something where New York businesses can actually make some money. Instead of just doing tastings, let’s do something where we’re tasting and have sales.’ And basically, that became the first New York Chocolate Expo.”

Participating chocolatiers, bakers and related purveyors offer a mind-boggling collection of goodies.

Among the enthusiastic local returnees, Wantagh-based Uncle Jeff’s Pecan Pies is not to be missed. Owner Jeff Church participated for the first time last year, and enthusiastically reports the response to his offerings was “beyond belief.” He’ll offer both his all-natural chocolate and regular pecan pies again this year.

“As soon as they opened the doors, people swarmed the tables saying ‘one of these,’ ‘one of those,’” he says. “It was insane.”

Another bakery, Valley Stream’s Chez Hedwige, caters to folks with dietary restrictions. All products are gluten-free and soy-free, with vegan options available. Edwige Oriol — who owns the business with her husband — has been involved with the Chocolate Expo for more than five years.

“Those who have these (dietary) challenges, they deserve a good treat,” she says.

Among the items Oriol will bring is her gluten-free chocolate tart, which won third place in a Culinary Federation of Long Island competition.

Whether you’re looking to grab your local faves or find a new delicious obsession, the expo is the place to indulge in some chocolatey fun.

“Everybody is welcome,” Baum says. “All the noise of day-to-day life, all that’s pushed to the side. We want to get together, have a good time, share memories, share some good food, and support local businesses.”