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Homewood festival: For the love of chocolate

Cheryl Vargo feeds her daughter Lydisome homemade ice cream from Mitchell's SodShop during chocolate fest Homewood Park District Auditorium along

Cheryl Vargo feeds her daughter Lydia some homemade ice cream from Mitchell's Soda Shop during the chocolate fest at the Homewood Park District Auditorium along Chestnut Road in Homewood, IL on Saturday February 19, 2011 | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 15, 2013 11:17AM



The Homewood Chocolate Fest has satisfied many a sweet tooth and inspired many a confectioner in the past 10 years.

When the 11th annual sugarcoated event is held Feb. 16 at the Homewood-Flossmoor Park District auditorium, that tradition is expected to continue.

Laurie Norris, of Munster, is excited to be among the many vendors this year. Last year, Norris was named the winner of the fest’s 2012 Chocolate Bake-Off Contest, which motivated her to launch her own candy business — Tiddleywink Toffee.

“It was a recipe my mother made ever since I was little,” she said.

Norris usually made it for gifts, but friends kept telling her she needed to sell it. They also encouraged her to enter the Homewood Chocolate Fest contest.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect,” she said. “Winning was pretty cool.”

It also gave her the confidence to launch her business.

“I had been in a job for 18 years, telling myself, ‘I need to find another job.’ Winning the contest got things rolling,” she said. “I took a leap of faith and moved forward.”

She now works full time at making, packaging, selling and promoting her toffees. They are sold at a dozen stores, including Bizios Fresh Market, 3446 Vollmer Road, Olympia Fields; Walt’s Food Center, 1111 Dixie Highway, Beecher; and Evilena’s Red Dresser, 59 W. Bankview Drive, Frankfort. Online orders can be placed by visiting www.tiddleywinktoffee.com.

Her leap of faith also landed her in California at the Grammy Awards, where Tiddleywink Toffee was to be featured in Grammy Award gift bags.

Her toffees are her own creations, but if a customer wants to order something special, “it’s no problem,” Norris said.

In the Chocolate Fest contest, amateur bakers and confectioners compete for recognition as Home Sweet Homewood’s Master Pastry Chef. A panel of judges samples each entry and selects three winners. Once the winners are recognized, the public samples each entry in exchange for a small donation to benefit student programs at Homewood-Flossmoor High School.

In addition to the contest, there will be several baking demonstrations, including creative fondant uses by local cake designer Karen Scobbie. Wilton School of Confectionery Art instructor Michelle Boyd will demonstrate fun and creative cake pops. Demonstrations will be at 11:30 a.m., and 12:30 and 1:30 p.m.

The chocolate fest also includes music, children’s activities, and a variety of sweets, desserts and gourmet baked goods. Admission is free.

Joining Tiddleywink Toffee as vendors will be Cake Play, Cold Stone Creamery, Dove Chocolate, Enjoi Bakery, Karen Scobbie Cake Designs, Mitchell’s Candies and Ice Cream, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and others.

The fest, sponsored by the village, runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the auditorium, 2010 Chestnut Road.

For more information, visit www.homesweethomewood.com.



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