‘Chocoholics’ find what they like best in Homewood
By Ginger Brashinger Correspondent February 15, 2014 7:42PM
"Bake Off" entrant Carolyn Smith, of Hazel Crest, serves attendee Suzie Goldberg some of her chocolate beet cake Feb. 15 at Chocolate Fest in Homewood. | Ginger Brashinger~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 19, 2014 5:54PM
Both the lure of chocolate and the need to beat cabin fever contributed to the popularity of Homewood’s 12th annual Chocolate Fest.
About 800 people packed the H-F Park District Auditorium throughout the three-hour event, often standing shoulder to shoulder or forming long lines for The Cottage on Dixie’s chocolate chili, Empanadus’ Argentinian fare and Mitchell’s Candies and Ice Cream flavor of the moment.
“Let’s face it, this was one of the first weekends we could get out without the threat of a snowstorm or a deep chill,” Homewood’s village marketing manager Rachael Jones said. “Families are desperate for things to do.”
Jones said there were several other reasons people chose the Chocolate Fest as one of their first weekend outings in weeks.
“It’s just our reputation of putting together great events,” Jones said. “There’s something for every member of the family, and it’s all free.”
Nancy Girdwain, of Hickory Hills, said she and her granddaughter Courtney Heckenast, 7, came because Girdwain saw an ad for the fest in “Family Time” magazine and to take advantage of the cooperating weather.
“It’s fun to get out of the house,” Girdwain said.
Describing the chocolate chili as “fantastic — spicy with a kick,” Girdwain admitted the main draw was chocolate and more chocolate.
“I’m a chocoholic,” Girdwain said. “If it’s chocolate, I’m there.”
Pleased with what the fest had to offer her and her granddaughter, Girdwain said she’d be back.
“They have a little bit of everything here,” she said.
Baking demonstrations onstage, tables of activities for kids and live music were among the free events for all ages packed into the three-hour event.
Tony Purchas, of Homewood, brought his daughters — Shelby, 15, Toni, 7, and Taylor, 4 — on a sweet outing. While Shelby said she tried and liked the chocolate caramels and toffee, Toni didn’t want anyone to forget the gummy bears.
“The candy was good and so was the atmosphere,” Tony Purchas said.
If attendees weren’t purchasing from about a dozen vendors, they could fill up at the annual amateur “Bake Off,” sampling the homemade goodies of the 10 contestants.
Sweet entries ranged from the decadent chocolate chip cookie dough pretzel bites by Homewood resident Lisa Purcell to a “healthy” chocolate beet cake by Carolyn Smith, of Hazel Crest.
“It has all those wonderful antioxidants in the beets and about half the sugar,” Smith said.
Everyone who attended the Chocolate Fest came away a winner, but Elaine Egdorf, representing the Homewood Heritage Committee, was declared “Home Sweet Homewood’s Master Pastry Chef” by judges Yvonne Chenault, regional director of Homewood’s Family Video and Mario’s Pizza; Andrew Goodman, of GMX Real Estate Group, of Northbrook; and Steve Phillipos, of Chevrolet of Homewood.
Homewood resident Christina Nichols came in second place, and Anna DeVries, representing Village Finance, took third place.
The Open Tasting of the Bake Off raised $340 for the Homewood Veterans Committee, this year’s Chocolate Fest nonprofit beneficiary.