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Chocolate Festival, Hunter Valley Gardens, Pokolbin

I’m not sure what it is about this winter, but nearly every weekend for the past three months has been gorgeous and blue. With the sun shining down it was the perfect opportunity for a day trip to the Hunter Valley to visit a few of my favourite wineries and check out the annual Chocolate Festival, held at the Hunter Valley Gardens.

A slight miscommunication in times meant that at 8am friend P buzzed at my door with me still tucked safely in bed! 20 minutes later we left and practically flew towards Hunter making the trip in just under 2 hours, a great run. Hunter Valley is absolutely doable as a day trip and I would recommend making a relatively early start of it as you’ll avoid the worst of the traffic.

Breakfast from The German Kitchen

After 2 hours of driving we found ourselves in the Hunter Valley and at the Gardens, being past 10am at this point and despite all the white pavilions in the distance we had to stop somewhere for breakfast first. It just isn’t a Sunday morning without a German sausage and sauerkraut! With our bellies taken care of we wandered into the pavilion where a number of chocolate and sweet related store were set up.

Wedding Cake from The Sweetest Things

Piggy Cupcake Cake from The Sweetest Things

At first glance I thought the piggies had been slightly damaged in transit with half of them smeared with chocolate, then realised they were simply playing in the icing! I didn’t get a shot of the rest of the cake, but it was a series of chocolate cupcakes all topped with an individual pig!

Strawberry Chocolate Cup

Given the choice between a chocolate shot, a strawberry dipped in chocolate, or a cup filled with chocolates it was a pretty easy decision! With P distracted by the bon bon stand just next door I found myself popping piece after piece after piece…

Truffles from C'est Si Bon Pastisserie

Chocolate Eclaire from C'est Si Bon Patisserie

There are friends who I inevitably call on if I’m interested in eating, however P is one of those friends I call on when I want something sweet. Between the two of us there have been occasions where our dessert selctions have outnumbered the rest of the group we’ve been eating with. So when we spotted a stand full of pastries P powers onto an eclaire. I end up almost begging for a bite from P as my stomach can’t take much more after all those chocolate strawberries. Did I mention we’d been at the festival for about 20 minutes at this point?

Dark Chocolate with Strawberry and Sichuan Pepper from The Curious Chocolatier

I made the mistake of taking this into work where it was promptly devoured by the girls. The ladies at The Curious Chocolatier tell me that the strawberries are frozen and incorporated into the chocolate whole, resulting in lovely whole strawberry chunks all throughout the bar. The pepper adds an interesting kick which works lovely with the strawberry.

Chocolate Assortment from Chocolate Mint

Fudge Selection from Personalised Chocolates

Junior Mints from American Chocolate

Don’t judge me, for some reason I can’t walk away from American chocolate and peanut butter. I ended up with a packet of Peanut Butter M&Ms and only just managed to stop myself from buying a pack of Reeses.

Cupcake Pops from S Cakes

Hot Chocolate with Chilli and Cinnamon from Mayan Coffee and Xocolate

Leaving the pavilion we noticed a Coffee and Hot Chocolate stand, despite only just proclaiming I couldn’t fit in another bite, the sight of the sign ‘Organic Hot Chocolate Mayan Style with Chilli and Cinnamon’ stopped me in my tracks. I’ve often thought of chilli chocolate as a bit of a fad but call me a convert. The Xocolate team were not shy when adding in the chilli and it added a welcome kick and was a perfect drink for a chilli Winter morning.

Following a tweet from Adriano Zumbo we wandered over towards the judging grounds for the Callebaut Chocolate Festival where he was competing. We arrive just in time to catch the tail end of his interview, but upon realising that a few of the entries are available for viewing on the sidelines I quickly swoop in with the camera. In the midst of my photography haze I find myself side by side with Zumbo himself and can only say, ‘Do you want to swap sides? ‘. Haha epic fail on my behalf.

Later on I think of various introduction lines such as, ‘I saw your tweet and came over,’ but ultimately reject all these lines deeming them as rather stalkerish.

Unfortunately while the majority of the entries had a quick description of their componenets, none listed who had created each one. The standard of these entries was astounding and I couldn’t help but wish they were available for consumer taste testing! Each of the entries was assembled at the competition grounds, the chefs responsible would plate up 4 dishes of each dessert, 3 for the judges and 1 for display.

Thank you to Amy from Wasmedia for providing me with the winners of the competition:

  • Winner, Jodie Van Der Velden from ‘Josophans’ at Leura.
  • Second place; Brendon Dewar from ‘Bacco patisserie’ at Chiffley Plaza.
  • Third place; Brian Pescud from ‘Manna From Heaven’.
  • Best apprentice; Immanuel Arena from ‘The Beresford’.

The winning dessert: ‘Palet d’Or et Noisettes’ loosely translated as pillows of gold and hazelnuts. Palet d’Or is often used to name a dark chocolate disc/pillow of chocolate which is coated in dark chocolate with a little gold leaf on top. The winner received the prize of an international trip for a 3 day training course at a Callebaut Chocolate Academy, valued at $5000. Congratulations to Jodie Van Der Velden, Laura is situated in the Blue Mountains, I may just have to make time for another day trip I think…

Tempus Two

We spent around 3 hours at the festival, and upon driving out were grateful that we’d come early as the cars were parked outside the gates on the main road! With our chocolate craving curbed we moved onto some wine tasting! Tempus Two and McGuigans are two of my favourite wineries, every time I go to Hunter I always end up walking away with a bottle of Late Picked Tramminer from McGuigans.

After reading the reviews from Karen and Billy I can’t help but make a stopover at Enzo. Depisite knowing that P and I are already booked for dinner we make the decision to stop over at Enzo for a mini tea break and a taste of their raved about scones. The fact that Enzo is less than a 5 minute drive away doesn’t hurt either.

Arriving at Enzo we are promptly seated in the courtyard and I take a moment to enjoy the sunshine. Glancing at the menu I’m slightly tempted to order a Muggacino which comes complete with a warning in red, ‘this is a warning!! our infamous muggacino’s are very large!) but manage to resist and and order a glass of white wine instead. With my mind set on afternoon tea we settle at our table and wait for our waitress.

Puff pastry tart with confit of lamb rump, young leaves, marinated feta, spanish onion and asparagus with a roast macadamia nut and bacon dessing $26.50

Unfortunately all of our resolves turns to dust as plate after plate of amazing food goes to the tables around us and I immediately beg P to share a puff pastry tart with me. We are not disappointed when the tart comes out with wonderfully flaky pastry and a perfectly seasoned combo of sundried tomatoes, lamb and feta in a serving size that is more than generous enough for us to share.

Devonshire tea 2 scones served with king island cream and strawberry jam $13

A slight miscommunication with the waitress actually sees TWO plates of scones come out to our table. Of course being who we are P and I simply look at each other before digging into our respective plates. One bite into the scone I’m infinitely grateful for the mixup as I don’t think I could have given up my second scone without a fight! Fluffy interior and a crust just lightly toasted with thick cream that begs to be spread over the scone topped with strawberry jam and fresh strawberries. The couple sitting to our right takes one look at the scones and immediately adds them to their order.

I’ll definitely be returning to Enzo on my next trip to Hunter Valley, if their other mains and desserts are even remotely on the same level as the two dishes I was able to try I’ll definitely be in for a treat!

Cafe Enzo
Broke Road Pokolbim
Hunter Valley
Ph: (02) 4998 7233

The Hunter Valley Chocolate Festival is held annually at the Hunter Valley Gardens, entry is $19.90 for adults and $15.50 for concessions.

Hunter Valley Gardens
Broke Road
Pokolbin NSW 2320 Australia
Ph: (02) 4998 4000
Fax: (02) 4998 4001
Web: http://www.hvg.com.au/

20 Comments

  1. Oh cool I had no idea there was a chocolate festival on in the Hunter Valley! Sounds like you had a great time :)

    I agree with Helen – the photo in the top right of the competition entries looks like a Zumbo creation… I think I spy a coke can looking thing on that plate as well!
    .-= Jacq´s last blog ..Potato and Leek Soup =-.

  2. As I’m not the world’s biggest fan of wine, I love that the Hunter Valley compensates with my two favourite foods – chocolate and cheese! It wouldn’t take much to find me happily tucked away in the Hunter for a day or a weekend. This looked like a fabulous weekend, thanks for sharing!
    .-= Sydneysider´s last blog ..New home =-.

  3. Y

    Well I missed out on going to this, so am very glad that you documented your trip. Feel like I’m getting a chocolate fix even without tasting anything…heh heh.

  4. FFichiban: The scones were amazing! I’d go back just for them lol

    Karen: I actually called Howie and got him to check your blog to find enzo, so happy it lived up to the hype

    Steph: The chocolate festival wasn’t really well advertised, I only knew because a friend told me about it!

    Shez: I didn’t hang around too long at the competition but it didn’t seem like they were on a time limit for the construction

    Helen: haha you’re the 2nd person to tell me that entry was Zumbo’s!

    Forager: I really was tempted to try sneak one off… lol

    Jacq: Hehe 3rd!

    Fiona: It was a great day out

    Arwen: The strawberrries were great, I just can’t seem to look away from chocolate and strawberries

    Sydneysider: I didn’t use to be a big wine fan but am slowly converting. Definitely hit the jackpot for cheeses and chocolate tho!

    Simon: It was really impressive, I thought that stuff was only on tv

    Y: Shame you couldn’t make it, the weather was amazing that day! There’s always next year :)

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