CHOCOLATE IN THE TROPICS

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KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAThe Miami Fine Chocolate & Food Show debuted at Pinecrest Gardens on the weekend of March 9 & 10.  Amid the towering banyan trees, natural streams and panoramic views of the gardens, the event brought chocolate lovers and foodies to the tropical paradise for live music, tasting experiences and much more.

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Chef Paul Joachim creates a life-size chocolate sculpture of Miami Heat’s “King James” NBA MVP.

Miami resident and show founder Mario Pi created the distinctive culinary event to showcase the gourmet talents of world-class chocolatiers and top award-winning local chefs while presenting a selection of fine food products and beverages, with a special focus on the niche world of chocolate.  With a background in the trade show business for over twenty years he launched the Chicago Fine Chocolate Show at the Navy Pier in November 2012. Miami was to be his first outdoor event in his career, and he wanted an exceptional venue in the tropics.

“We wanted to create a multi-experiential offering for our guests at an affordable price,” Pi says. “Miami has long been a food and wine destination, but an expanded audience of emerging foodies can afford this culinary experience while recognizing the added value of the extra offerings that the show and Pinecrest Gardens has to offer.”

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Paula Teiles of Sweet Treats Brigadeiro Gourmet presenting her chocolates.

The inaugural event charity partner was Neighbors 4 Neighbors and culinary education partner, the Miami Culinary Institute at Miami Dade College.

As Mario Pi noted, “It was important for us to give back with our partnership with Neighbors 4 Neighbors, but also showcase the gourmet talents of chefs and chocolatiers in our South Florida restaurants, gourmet shops, and more. The Miami Culinary Institute is the birthplace for the future generation of these talents so we were thrilled that their esteemed chef instructors presented the demonstrations.”

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Chicken Parmagiana Sliders from Spartico at the Mayfair and (below) Tiramesu chocolate waffle cones.

Guests tasted samples from artisan chocolatiers and food purveyors, as well as top area restaurants. There were guided sessions on pairing fine chocolates and food with wine, beer, and spirits. Under the direction of Chef John Richards, the MCI presented five live cooking demonstrations each day in the Banyan Bowl, and award-winning local chefs such as Norman Van Aken, Allen Susser, Paul Joachim and Norman Love presented engaging demonstrations and seminars.  Guests also had the opportunity to explore the natural, scenic habitat of the gardens to enjoy live music from local emerging artists.

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