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Tuesday, March 24, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Running Tab: Everything is fine with chocolate, food and wine

UPDATED: Tue., Feb. 11, 2020

At the Sweet Frostings Blissful Bakeshop booth, chocolate decadence cupcakes await sampling during the Decadence Chocolate Festival on Friday, Feb. 7, 2020, at the Davenport Grand. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
At the Sweet Frostings Blissful Bakeshop booth, chocolate decadence cupcakes await sampling during the Decadence Chocolate Festival on Friday, Feb. 7, 2020, at the Davenport Grand. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

There is little to complain about in life when your job takes you to the fourth annual Decadence Chocolate Festival at the Davenport Grand on a Friday night and the third annual Coeur d’Alene Resort Food & Wine Festival in Coeur d’Alene the following afternoon and evening.

While it can be argued that both annual culinary festivals are still in their fledgling stages, each has already found success based on attendance, quality and enjoyment. The general-admission and VIP tickets for Decadence were sold out last Friday, and many of the events in Coeur d’Alene were at capacity, as well, from Friday through Sunday.

Vendors and attendees packed the main Decadence ballroom in downtown Spokane, and favorites included the Melting Pot’s chocolate fountain, Sweet Frosting’s salted caramel cupcakes, Nothing Bundt Cakes’ … well, bundt cakes … and Azteca’s chicken mole, which ran out a few hours before closing time at 9 p.m.

Spokane’s Ricky Webster, who won Hallmark Drama’s “Christmas Cookie Matchup” in December, offered one of the more creative delicacies at Decadence, two versions of chocolate “salami” that were sweet instead of savory. Wine vendors, including Arbor Crest and Craftsman, were popular, as well, with attendees.

“It was an honor to host such an exciting and unique event,” said Cally King, corporate media manager for the Davenport Hotel Collection. “The event brought in attendees of all ages and backgrounds – we found that everybody sure has a sweet spot for chocolate!”

I had the tough job of being one of three judges for the Decadence Chocolate Martini Competition. The four mixologists were Post Street Ale House’s Alona Lohman and her Chocolate Brandied Cherry; Safari Room Fresh Grill and Bar’s Richard Yakesh and his Godiva Bramble; Peacock Lounge and Palm Court’s Tyson Nell and his Coco Loco; and Table 13 Whiskey Bar’s Zac Fullerton and his Terry’s Orange Respite.

It was a very close contest, but two of the three judges, including yours truly, chose Nell, whose Coco Loco was decadent and creamy, and he was by far the most entertaining. Runner-up Lohman’s Chocolate Brandied Cherry, however, was a stunner in presentation, and she was focused and precise in her expert creation of the dessert cocktail.

The Spokesman-Review was a sponsor of Decadence for the first time, and Stacey Cowles, the newspaper’s publisher, was on-site checking out the chocolate festival and presented certificates to the top two chocolate martini mixologists.

“The Chocolate Martini Competition was a crowd favorite,” said Evan Tewel, general manager of the Davenport Grand restaurants. “As with all first-time events, we have great opportunity to expand on the concept, invite more mixologists and grow this event into a highly anticipated treat for the few lucky enough to grab tickets before they sell out.”

CdA Food & Wine Festival

A media colleague described the Coeur d’Alene Food & Wine Festival as the culinary event of the year in CdA, and the Beverly’s wine-paired lunch featuring Barrister Winery and lakeside dinner experience at Hagadone Event Center on Saturday afternoon and evening didn’t disappoint.

Tyler Walters of Barrister was seated at my table with three couples who all appreciated fine food and wine, and he discussed the excellent pairings: steelhead trout pastrami with sauvignon blanc; charred Spanish Octopus with sangiovese; duck confit and duck cracklins with cabernet franc; a North Idaho elk burger “tower” with cabernet sauvignon; and chocolate obsidian cake with syrah.

The preparation, presentation and pairings were elevated and sophisticated, and my tablemates revealed their favorite restaurants in the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene area. The top three are a trio I have yet to visit, so I now have new additions to my must-dine list.

The lakeside dinner experience was similar to Whiskey Barrel Weekend’s in October in that it was exceptional with top-quality offerings of seafood skewers (lobster, prawns and scallops); a Hawaiian ahi tuna poke and sushi ice bar; 64-ounce tomahawk chop station; Cedars Floating Restaurant’s salad bar; Dockside Restaurant’s clam chowder and smoked salmon bar; elk osso bucco and smoked mushrooms from Tito’s Italian Grill; and warm apple tart and chocolate cherry molten cake from executive pastry chef Debbie Himes to end the evening.

Sunday was recovery day. Until next year, cheers to fabulous chocolate, food and wine!

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