Blocks apart downtown, chocolate and apple festivals vie for dulcet dominance

Dueling sweets

October 05, 2007|By Nick Madigan | Nick Madigan,Sun reporter

Chocolate won.

Anyone with a sweet tooth might have paused yesterday, if only for a moment, when confronted with the choice of attending the Chocolate Festival at Lexington Market or the Fall Apple Festival a few blocks east at War Memorial Plaza. The quandary might have been deepened by the apple festival's bold claim of being Baltimore's "sweetest event of the year."

It sounded like a salvo across the bow of the chocolatiers, but they stood their ground.

"I would differ," said Dana Heyl, whose family owns Moore's Candies, a Baltimore firm founded in 1919 where the house specialty is chocolate-dipped strawberries, pineapples and other fruit. "Chocolate is not only sweeter - it's healthier, too. Dark chocolate hardens the enamel on your teeth and has more antioxidants than broccoli."

Best to avoid the broccoli issue - there was enough trouble from the apple people.

"How could you get any sweeter than chocolate?" asked Nicole Darville, a nurse from Gonzales, La., who is working a three-month stint at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. She had just bought a chocolate treat on a stick, dipped in Rice Krispies, to send to her mother back home in an overnight package.

"But I'm going to check out the apple festival," she added, magnanimously. "We'll have to see."

Darlene Hudson, the Lexington Market's promotions manager, had no such plans. She said it was a testament to the enduring passion for chocolate that she expects 35,000 people to visit the festival, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary, over the course of the three-day event.

"You're going to hear women, especially, all day long saying, `Oh, my God, this chocolate,'" Hudson said. "The women will be here because chocolate is our aphrodisiac. I can't get that excited about an apple."

Hudson had a second argument in favor of the dark, succulent, sugar-laden brownies, eclairs and other morsels arrayed around her in the market.

"If you're in trouble with your wife, what are you going to take her at home - an apple or chocolate?" she asked with finality.

Watching Nick Konstant, whose family founded a chocolate emporium in the market in 1896, as he dipped perfectly round apples in chocolate and laid them on a tray, Hudson pondered. "I wonder at how many apple festivals do they dip apples right in front of you?" she asked. "I don't think so."

Actually, apples were being dipped at the one-day Fall Apple Festival, and proudly. Harry Bogier, a regular fixture at the nearby Sunday farmers' market under Interstate 83, was preparing candy apples ($2 each) and caramel apples ($2.50). His dipping was adroit, but he bowed to the chocolatiers' insistence that their festival packed more sweetness.

"They might have a point there," Bogier said as he continued his task in the shadow of City Hall. "They have a lot more chocolate, and I'm the only one here who has candy apples."

But Denise Deleaver, another apple lover, was not nearly as conciliatory toward the chocolate fiends. "We'll call them semisweet, 'cause we're the sweetest," she said, smiling sweetly.

Deleaver, a member of a downtown community group affiliated with the Women's Civic League, which helped organize the apple festival, pointed to her counter, laden with jars of apple butter, apple pies, apple fritters, apple cakes and bags of McIntosh apples.

"Anyway," she said. "We're better for you."

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