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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Classes at Key Largo Chocolates


Getting you hands dirty is, well, delicious way to learn

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L'Attitudes Contributor

Posted - Friday, August 17, 2012 11:01 AM EDT

Getting your hands dirty is, well, delicious way to learn

L'Attitudes Contributor

Jennifer Zemmel from Key Largo Chocolates helps Makenzie Wright, 12, and Coral DePauw, 8, from Key Largo scrape the chocolate off the tops of their lollipop molds at the Jr. Chocolatier Class.
"Is it chocolate day?"

Those were the first words out of four-year-old Maggie Mae Brage's mouth when she woke up on a recent Saturday morning.

Her mother, Tina Roberge-Brage of Islamorada, recounted her daughter's excitement about attending the Jr. Chocolatier class at Key Largo Chocolates.

"I've never seen her pop out of bed so fast," she said.
Later that morning, Maggie joined 11 other children ranging in ages from 4-14 for a morning of creative chocolate projects in the factory behind the store. After being helped into paper chef's toques and aprons, they had a short lesson on the different types of chocolate and tasted each kind.
Then, pouring melted chocolate into molds, they made lollipops in shapes like whales, sharks, fish and dogs and painted them with brightly colored white chocolate. Other activities included chocolate dipped marshmallows, pretzels and cookies, which they decorated with sprinkles.
Chocolatier, Kristie Thomas, who owns the factory and shop with her husband Bob, started teaching the classes at the end of July.
"We try to do a good variety of treats that they can take home and do at home," Thomas said. "The children like getting their hands in the chocolate, and we want them to do all of the activities themselves. It doesn't matter if the chocolate spills on the floor or if they get dirty. It's part of the learning process."
Amanda Phair Zischka of Islamorada made the day a family affair, taking her two daughters Abigail, 10, and Olivia, 4, and their cousins Zane Phair, 14, and Seth Phair, 10.
"This class was a good fit," she said. "Abigail loves cooking and baking, and Zane loves Key Largo Chocolates. Zane said it was the best day of his summer vacation so far."
Thomas said she's wanted to teach classes since opening the shop, but she was waiting for the timing to be right. When they moved to the new location at mile marker 100.5, nearly tripling their square footage, hosting classes became more realistic.
"I took a lot of classes when I was learning, and I found them very informative and fun," she said. "Plus, it's another stream of revenue for the business. I just needed a little prompting by people asking to get it going."
The classes have been so popular that they have added a second children's class on Saturdays, according to demand, and a class for adults called a Night of Chocolate. The first adult class was held on Tuesday, August 7. "I wanted to make it more relaxed than the classes I've taken in the past," she said. "The most important thing is for people to have fun and learn."
Wine and hors d'oeuvres were served, as participants donned hairnets and brown aprons bearing the slogan, "Nobody knows the truffles I've seen." Thomas, dressed in her trademark pink and green chef's outfit, demonstrated how to make a Raspberry Champagne Ganache using rosé champagne, raspberry purée, white chocolate, heavy cream and butter. Ganache is the creamy center of a truffle.
Afterwards, each small group was given their own ganache recipe to prepare with dark Belgian chocolate. Then they were tasked with rolling the chilled filling into small balls, covering them in melted chocolate and decorating them with nuts, edible glitter and other tasty toppings. While the results were delicious, the process was far from pristine. Many of the participants ended up with chocolate on their faces and glitter in their hair.
Dawn DeBrule, from Key Largo signed up with her two friends, Jeannine Cook and Maria Jones, as soon as the adult class was announced.
"I really enjoyed the flow of the class," she said. "It was relaxed, and it was a fun night out with the best things--wine, chocolate and great friends. I shared the truffles I made with my husband and son, and they loved them."
Thomas said that these classes are just the beginning, and she plans on offering more specialized themes in the future.
"After we do the basic things, there are some fun holiday treats that we can make," she said. "We can also do private parties, and we're trying to accumulate some different ideas."
Maggie, for one, is already planning to have her birthday party there in October.
Key Largo Chocolates is located at mile marker 100.5 Bayside in Key Largo. The Junior Chocolatier Class is held each Saturday at 10:00 a.m. with an additional class at 2:00 p.m. based on demand. Cost is $20 for the class or $30 dollars with a Key Largo Chocolates t-shirt.
The next Night of Chocolate will be held at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, August 21. The adult classes are priced at a special introductory rate of $59 for August. The regular price, beginning in September, will be $75. Reservations are required. Call 305-453-6613 for reservations.

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