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For the Love of Chocolate: Dancing the night away with desserts

Chefs, candy and pastry makers come together to create another sweet time at the For the Love of Chocolate event.

The fashion show featured models floating down the runway in dresses literally good enough to eat. The tables were lined with gourmet foods available for the taking — from coconut tapioca to chocolate ganache cake and coffee-smoked salmon. And, as the night continued on, the lights were turned low to set the mood and offset the vibrant, Latin music. The guests partnered up to swirl around the dance floor, and by the end, no one was ready to leave.

All this glitz, glamour and scrumptious food was brought together for the annual For the Love of Chocolate (FLOC) gala on Feb. 23. Held at the iconic Union League Club of Chicago, the event brought together more than 800 partygoers.

Organized by the For the Love of Chocolate Foundation, the gala brings together some of the most elite chefs, pastry makers and food enthusiasts for a night of indulgence.

The event, however, is first and foremost a fundraiser; donations made by sponsors, attendees and participants before and during the evening are used to provide scholarships for students attending the French Pastry School (FPS). In its eighth year, FLOC raised $106,000 to help students complete their training in the art of pastries.

One of the highlights from this year’s gala was the new location — the Union League Club of Chicago.

Chef Peter Rios, Alliance Bakery & Café’s owner and executive chef, who has been involved with FLOC since its first year, says the venue brings an elevated feel to the event.

“There is more space and more luxury at this venue,” he says. “We’ll definitely be coming back next year [to FLOC], but hope we have it here again.”

Cassie Cherne, LaBriola’s executive pastry chef, agrees.

“The venue is great,” she says. “There’s definitely a good energy here, and setting up a bit different, but it’s great. What this foundation does is amazing.”

However, despite the accolades about the new venue, the shining stars of the night continued to be the decadent foods and desserts.

The evening’s chocolate offerings ranged from chocolate Bailey’s cake truffles from Cake Nouveau to a flourless chocolate cake with almond and fruit cream from Midwest favorite LaBriola.

Even ice cream — a mango sorbet coated with milk chocolate and topped with smoked sea salt, chiles and lime — made an appearance at the gala, courtesy of Zarlengo’s Italian Ice and Gelato.

In contrast, there were very few savory offerings for patrons, a fact that many of the vendors felt needed to be rectified.

However, the few dishes that were available added both warmth and an international flair to the gala. Serving banh mi and turkey pesto sandwiches, Ba Le and Circle City Soups were two of the vendors to serve only savory foods at the event.

While the food took center stage that night, it was community and friendship that contributed to the glow, which made the evening fly by so quickly. Tommy Zarlengo, a graduate of FPS and co-owner of Zarlengo’s Italian Ice and Gelato, says seeing friends from years past again is one of the most exciting parts of the event.

“I’m already looking forward to next year,” he says.  

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