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A chocoholics' convention

It's easy to make friends when you're giving away chocolate, says Linda Shumate, owner of PremRose Edibles in Creswell. The ambitious chocolatier specializes in exquisite, hand-rolled, organic chocolates, including her decadent masterpiece, the "black rose" — a ganache truffle made entirely of dark chocolate and sweetened with honey.

"You can't get any more chocolate-serious than that," she says.

Shumate, along with more than 40 other Oregon chocolatiers, will present their cocoa offerings at the seventh annual Oregon Chocolate Festival, Friday through Sunday, March 4-6, in Ashland.

Last year, Shumate won Best in Show at the festival for her "raspberry rose," a 70-percent, dark-chocolate truffle infused with raspberry and rose flavors. This year, she will showcase a ginger-dark chocolate truffle, as well as hibiscus- and saffron-flavored, white-chocolate truffles.

The chocolate extravaganza will kick off from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday during the art walk. Several downtown galleries will provide chocolate confections and local wines to accompany the art experience.

At 7:30 p.m. Friday, chocolatier Kevin Shaw of Bandon's Coastal Mist and vintners from the Umpqua Valley's HV Cellars will offer an educational, albeit delicious, presentation on the art of tasting and pairing at ScienceWorks Hands-On Museum, 1500 E. Main St., Ashland. Tickets cost $15. Call 541-482-6767, ext. 232.

Ashland Springs executive chefs Kate Cyr and David Georgeson will prepare a four-course, chocoholics' dinner Friday evening at the hotel, 212, E. Main St. Tickets to the dinner are sold out.

The abundance of chocolate continues Saturday at the hotel, where Oregon vendors will present a mouthwatering buffet of truffles, bars, beverages, cheeses, cookies, ice cream and lots of other gooey goodness. Various brews by Ashland's Noble Coffee Roasting and local wines also will be available in the hotel's Palm Room. Tastings will be held from 11 to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Participating vendors may submit their chocolate standout to be judged in the Best Chocolate Product competition with awards for Best Chocolate Candy, Best Truffle, Best Raw Chocolate Product, Best in Show, Best Non-Traditional Use of Chocolate and People's Choice. This year's judges are Marna Reinhardt, owner of Immaculate Confections in California; Charlie Douglass, chocolatier and manager of research and development at Harry & David; and Art Pollard, owner of Amano Artisan Chocolate in Utah.

Saturday afternoon, ScienceWorks will host "Heat It, Freeze It, Eat It," a presentation on the states of chocolate matter, at 1 p.m.; and "The Science of Chocolate Making," an interactive exhibit presented by local chocolatier Melissa Schweisguth, at 2 and 3 p.m. at the museum. The kid-friendly presentations cost $2.

Adult-geared seminars on related topics, such as making a chocolate martini, the health benefits of chocolate, body-care products and how chocolate can be utilized in making and decorating cakes, will be offered Saturday and Sunday in the hotel's Palm Room.

For a schedule of presentations, a list of participating chocolatiers and other activities and discounts offered during the festival, see http://www.ashlandspringshotel.com/11_oregon_chocolate_festival.php. A one-day pass to the festival is $20 and includes all tastings, wine and seminars at Ashland Springs Hotel.

Sample and vote for your favorite chocolate confection Saturday and Sunday at the Ashland Springs Hotel. - Photo courtesy of Ashland Springs Hotel