Chocolate Champion

Author Marcel Desaulniers to tempt Baltimore Book Festival crowd with his sweet treats

September 20, 2000|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF

Marcel Desaulniers is coming to the Baltimore Book Festival intent on making folks eat his words.

The author of the decadently delightful "Death by Chocolate" and "Death by Chocolate Cookies" is using his appearance at the festival to debut his latest mouthwatering manuscript, "Death by Chocolate Cakes: An Astonishing Array of Chocolate Enchantments" (William Morrow, 2000, $35). The cookbook is one of several that will take center stage at the fifth annual event, which runs Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Mount Vernon Place.

From Jewish recipes to African-American soul food and flavorful herb dishes, the Baltimore Book Festival will offer a wide range of books, and authors, for the cooking crowd. Officials say the festivities have grown steadily over the past five years - attributed in part to the culinary demonstrations and cookbook signings that have become as essential an ingredient to the event as the poetry readings and author meet-and-greets.

FOR THE RECORD - The location of chef Marcel Desaulniers' Trellis Restaurant was reported incorrectly in yesterday's A La Carte section. The restaurant is in Williamsburg, Va. The Sun regrets the error.

"We have publishers and authors calling us, wanting to participate," said Bill Gilmore, executive director of the Baltimore Office of Promotion. "We built a movable kitchen so we can wheel it in and out of storage, and during the festival we put a big tent over it for the cooking demonstrations."

Desaulniers said he holds no illusions about why fans turn out for his appearances.

"I think it's the chocolate they are excited to see," Desaulniers said, laughing. "I always bring chocolate with me."

With creations such as Chocolate Heart of Darkness Cakes and Mocha Mud Cake With Espresso Chocolate Chunk Mud Slide, Desaulniers is set to tantalize even the staunchest of dieters. The executive chef and co-owner of Trellis Restaurant in Williamsburg, Pa., Desaulniers said he has fond memories of the book festival from his last appearance there in 1997 to promote his book "Desserts to Die For" (Simon & Schuster, 1995, $ 30).

"It really is an excellent venue," said Desaulniers, whose latest cookbook has a photo accompanying each recipe. "There's always a really good book signing and people are really interested. It's fun."

Desaulniers, a self-professed chocoholic who admits to serving chocolate for breakfast, said he and his assistants brainstormed chapter titles and recipes.

"Our mantra is to push the envelope on taste, texture and decadence," he said. "It's kind of a no-holds-barred approach to confections." The popularity of cookbooks dates from the festival's beginning, when chef and Food Network superstar Emeril Lagasse appeared the first year. Like most new events, the festival was looking to establish itself, and, Gilmore said, Lagasse's presence attracted a great deal of attention.

"We just had no idea the reaction we would get and what it would mean to have Emeril," Gilmore said. "It created a frenzy. You would have thought the Rolling Stones were there."

And interestingly enough, Gilmore said, television had helped stimulate the sale of cookbooks and helped to generate excitement at events like the book festival."

[Television] has been a big boon to the publishing industry," Gilmore said. "It has exposed these different chefs and authors to a larger audience."

Gilmore said that now authors and publishers realize that they can sell a lot of books at the festival in addition to meeting their adoring fans.

"When we first started this we were afraid to promise this as a big-cash bonanza," he said. But, he added, "A lot of these smaller book authors are running back to refill their stock because they are selling so much."

This year, the festival offers a wide array of appearances on the Food for Thought Stage - one of several theme stages, including the Home & Garden Stage, the Sibanye Stage and the Children's Stage -which is being sponsored this year by Bibelot.

In addition to Desaulniers and his sinful creations, noted food luminaries include "the queen of soul food," Sylvia Woods, author of "Sylvia's Family Soul Food Cookbook: From Hemingway, South Carolina, to Harlem"(William Morrow, 1999, $25) and founder of Sylvia's restaurant; and former Gourmet magazine food editor Leslie Glover Pendleton, author of "Simply Shrimp, Salmon, and (Fish) Steaks: Easy, Delicious, and Healthful Ways to Enjoy Your Favorite Seafood Plus Side Dishes to Make a Meal" (Harper Collins, 2000, $24).

Joyce White, author of "Soul Food: Recipes and Reflections From African-American Churches" (Harper Collins, 1998, $25), said she was drawn to the festival for its location. Baltimore, with its deep roots in the black church, could fully appreciate her book, which evokes memories of church dinners and Southern picnics with dishes like sugar-crusted biscuits and chicken and dumplings.

"When I first started working on this book, there were other soul-food books but there were no books of soul," White said. "My book really captures the history and the spirit of the church."

Happy All the Time Cakes

Makes 12 muffins


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