Nestled deep in the southern hills of W.Va., America’s Coolest Small Town of  2011 starts to wake up from its long winter. People from all over swarm to the historic downtown area while the smell of chocolate wafts on the breeze. The 8th Annual Chocolate Festival is underway in Lewisburg. Each year in early April, locals, tourists and chocolate enthusiasts alike gather for the event. Event goers purchase tasting tickets for $1 per ticket and each item is available in exchange for one ticket. Stores in historic Lewisburg, or Tasting Locations as they’re known for the day, are encouraged to provide a chocolate based  item to patrons of the event.

Creativity is at its culinary peak during the weekend. Bacon Brittle, White Chocolate Lavender Truffles, White Chocolate and Leek Soup and Blood Orange Pots de Creme are only a few of the samplings offered from the over 30 Tasting Locations.

Triple Chocolate Verrine and Dark Chocolate Pot de Creme are lined up for sampling at Harmony Ridge Gallery. The gallery creates a theme each year and coordinates their tasting samples to match.

Triple Chocolate Verrine and Dark Chocolate Pot de Creme are lined up for sampling at Harmony Ridge Gallery. The gallery creates a theme each year and coordinates their tasting samples to match.

Boasting some of the coolest handmade goods and artwork from Appalachia and beyond, Harmony Ridge Gallery teams up with the Greenbrier Sporting Club to provide some of the most sought after treats at the festival. Within the first 20 minutes of opening, the wait to get in can quickly extend over an hour. This year the Greenbrier Sporting Club provided Harmony Ridge with Dark Chocolate Pot de Creme with Yuzu Citrus Sauce and Triple Chocolate Verrine. All expertly plated and displayed, the desserts almost took a back seat to the underwater themed display created completely out of chocolate taking center stage at the gallery.

Another popular shopping spot and Tasting Location is Wolf Creek, a shop specializing in women’s clothing and all things unique. Everything from tobacco cologne, handmade jewelry from the heart of Appalachia to the popular Alex and Ani is available here.

Children’s toys have their own dedicated corner at Harmony Ridge Gallery. All items in the store are handcrafted with extreme attention to detail.

Children’s toys have their own dedicated corner at Harmony Ridge Gallery. All items in the store are handcrafted with extreme attention to detail.

When the sweet tooth starts to ache, Lewisburg has many other attractions in the historic area from gourmet restaurants to plentiful antique stores. Lewisburg’s historic roots lend themselves well to antiquing. Robert’s Antiques – one of the coolest antique shops around – boasts a bar, fine wine and beer selection and gourmet cheeses. Of course, they have plenty of antiques to browse through as well. At the bar they serve Moscato D’Asti in chocolate cups – arrive early – they sell out fast.

A lively atmosphere is always on tap at The Irish Pub. Beer memorabilia, Irish souvenirs and a traditional Irish musician are present to set the mood

A lively atmosphere is always on tap at The Irish Pub. Beer memorabilia, Irish souvenirs and a traditional Irish musician are present to set the mood

However, should they sell out of chocolate cups, an authentic Irish pub can be found just a few doors down. Serving several types of beer and bar food, the pub is a perfect resting spot. Irish street signs, bar memorabilia and a traditional Irish musician are on hand to provide the perfect amount of authenticity.

The festival has something for everyone – excellent food, fine drinks, wonderful hospitality and even adoptable puppies on hand from the Greenbrier Humane Society. The dogs they bring are friendly and looking for their new homes, and are also usually up for a cuddle.

The festival winds down fast with most shops closing around 5 p.m. and the hotels book quickly. The General Lewis is the starting Tasting Location and a great place to stay the night for the festival. They even serve a fantastic breakfast the morning of the Chocolate Festival to counteract all the sugar.  Try to book this hotel several months in advance for a two-night reservation.

For tickets and information about next year’s chocolate festival, visit their website!

X