Monday, February 24th, you won’t want to be anywhere but at the Louisville Marriott East  from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. The 9th Annual Chocolate Dreams  will be in full decadent form. With some of the ‘ville’s hottest dining locales sampling forth their best chocolate-inspired handiwork, it is sure to be an exceptional event further adding to the foodie scene. Let the choco-devouring commence!
The 2014 participants include some of Louisville’s greatest:
- The Comfy Cow  (a favorite )
- Volare 
- Hilbilly Tea 
- Seelbach Hilton 
- Highlands Tap Room Grill 
- Zi Olive 
- Amore di Mona 
- Art Eatables 
- Episcopal Church Home 
- Brownsboro Park Retirement Community 
- Buck’s Restaurant 
- Eiderdown 
- Coach Lamp Restaurant 
- Kayrouz Café 
- Copper Cupcake  (one of two kinds of cupcakes I actually love)
- Treyton Oak Towers 
- Charr’d Bourbon Kitchen & Lounge 
- Wellstone Regional Hospital 
- Cake Flour 
- Ghyslain Chocolatier  (their chocolates are hand-painted  and are the bombdotcom)
- Vincenzo’s 
- The Chocolate Bar 
- Cellar Door Chocolates 
I was fortunate enough to be able to interview Susan Smith, Executive Director of GuardiaCare Services  (the organization benefited by this charity), and the host behind the glittering event.
Lou.com: This is the 9th year running, and going strong, for Chocolate Dreams. What have been some of the dessert creation highlights that stand out in your mind from the past?
Susan Smith: Chocolate lasagna, chocolate hot browns, chocolate sushi, chocolate wontons, chocolate chili, chocolate mint juleps, Mocha Dacquoise, chocolate flourless torte, fruit salsa with chocolate balsamic, and chocolate crème brulee.
Lou.com: What sort of chocolate concoctions can Louisvillians look forward to anticipating?
SS: The chefs are highly competitive and closely guard their entries and recipes until that evening. I have no idea what they will be making, despite the fact that I have been doing live tv with several of them during the past week. All have brought prior years’ entries to demonstrate for the viewers.
Lou.com: The six categories to which local culinary professionals will be submitting their best cacao combinations to include: Chocolate Savory, Chocolate Bluegrass, Chocolate International, Brain Freeze, Best Display, and People’s Choice. Have these categories remained the same over the years?
SS: We have always had Chocolate International, Chocolate Bluegrass, and People’s Choice Awards. Best Display was new in 2013, as was Chocolate Savory (it replaced Chocolate Absurdity).
Lou.com: What would it take for a chef to win for Best Display?
SS: Chefs have consulted with creative designers in the past and have brought ice sculptures, tropical floral displays, edible flowers, and various types of fountains. I have heard that one of our chefs is bringing a hand-carved chocolate sculpture.
Lou.com: Have you seen pretty elaborate dessert concepts executed?
SS: Yes, the eye is satiated as much as the palate!
Lou.com: What made you decide to add a classic Kentucky taste of bourbon into the chocolate mix?
SS: Over the years, the chefs have enjoyed recommending specific wines to be paired with their chocolate creations. Several chefs suggested that bourbon also pairs well with various chocolate flavors. So we turned to the Kentucky Distillers’ Association  to see if they would like to feature a variety of different bourbons to go with our chocolates. They were excited to do so, and will be featuring the following bourbons:
- Basil Hayden
- Maker’s Mark
- Maker’s 46
- Evan Williams Single Barrel
- Four Roses Small Batch
- Four Roses Single Barrel
- Russell’s Reserve
- Wild Turkey Spice
- Woodford Reserve
- Woodford Reserve Double Oak
- Town Branch
Lou.com: How do you think that will elevate the creativity of the samples?
SS: I anticipate that many of the chefs will incorporate bourbon into their recipes.
Features of the event to look forward to:
SS: We have chefs from various types of settings: high-end gourmet restaurants, ...neighborhood cafes, candy and cupcake shops, bakeries, and specialty stores who hire chefs to create entries featuring their products. Our judges include a renowned former restaurant owner, a current restaurant manager, and a food and wine critic.
Lou.com: How did the idea for this event first come into being nine years ago?
SS: Two GuardiaCare board members were enjoying some spirits together and began to envision an event right before Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday, which would enable the guests to enjoy as many desserts and liquid refreshments as they chose before giving up such treats during Lent. They used their extensive network of friends who were chefs to create the first event as a competition, and Chocolate Dreams  was born with sponsorship from Brown-Forman.
How has it grown over the years?
SS: The first event had fewer than 10 chefs and less than 100 people. They all had such a great time that word spread and we now cap the number of chefs at 30 and the number of guests at 400. A few years ago, we added a silent auction to increase the funds raised for GuardiaCare , then added a live auction with unique items our guests look forward to each year. Both corporate and media sponsorship has grown as the event expanded.
Lou.com: In what ways do the proceeds of this fundraiser directly impact GuardiaCare Services?
SS: The mission of GuardiaCare Services is to guide individuals and families through the challenges of aging and disability. Most of our clients pay a portion of the cost for their services, but cannot afford to pay the full amount it costs us to provide our programs. These funds help us to offer our services to individuals and families who would not be able to afford them without such assistance.
Lou.com: Who would most enjoy this delectable fundraiser aside from the average chocoholic?
SS: Along with the opportunity to taste 14 of Kentucky’s quality bourbons from the Kentucky Distillers’ Association, we will also have a great interactive photo booth provided by TopSnap (check it out at http://vimeo.com/79154731 ) Our auction items are a highlight of our event, with items of all prices including trips to Disney World and Cancun, jewelry, Coach purses, art, high school and college sports memorabilia, Millionaire’s Row at Churchill Downs , and much more. Some of our most popular this year are
- A private dinner (including wine) for six (6) hosted by University of Louisville basketball coaching legend Denny Crum and his wife, Susan Sweeney Crum from WFPL, in their home. Dinner will be prepared and served by renowned Executive Chef David Danielson from Churchill Downs’ Levy Restaurants. Dave is a featured chef at the Sochi Olympics and will have many stories to share!
- Use of an interior premium clubhouse suite on Millionaire’s Row at Churchill Downs next to the prestigious Turf Club and Matt Winn Room for 8 people on one day during either the September or Fall Meets this year, including private restrooms, dining service, and betting computer.
- Reserved seats and parking for the 2014 St X-Trinity Football Classic.
You won’t need Willy Wonka’s golden ticket for this chocolate factory. If you want one ticket so you don't have to share all the edible, eye-catching goodies, buy  a single ticket for $65.00. If you are still on the heels of St. Valentine adoration, or have the ideal family member or friend who you know would love this event (because who wouldn't?), you can buy  a pair of tickets for $125.00. Group night out? You can purchase  a table of eight for $475.00.
Don't miss out on Louisville's chocolate lover's extravaganza, all in support of helping the elderly!
Top Photo: Courtesy of Shutterstock /D7INAMI7S ; Second Photo: Courtesy of Shutterstock /pick  ; Third Photo: Courtesy of Shutterstock /Onizu3d ; Fourth Photo: Courtesy of Shutterstock /Randy Yarbrough ; Fifth Photo: Courtesy of Shutterstock /wawri ; Sixth Photo: Courtesy of Shutterstock /ollyy