International Chocolate Festival, Óbidos: Chocolate Sculpture Competition

International Chocolate Festival, Óbidos: Chocolate Sculpture Competition

The 12th annual International Festival of Chocolate is in full swing in the historic town of Óbidos, celebrating on weekends (Friday to Sunday) from March 14-April 6 this year. We attended last Saturday, doing our best to curb our appetites for chocolate by filling our bellies with a big lunch before going in. Note: this only works for a few hours!

The entrance fee to the festival is 7 euros (5 euros, ages 6-11), but if chocolate is not your thing, Óbidos has plenty of festivities, art, food and beverages outside the castle walls to keep people entertained.

While we were there, the TV show Aqui Portugal had set up in the main church square — a perfect people-watching opportunity. For a newcomer to Portugal, I find this show very informative as it’s a bit of a travelogue — a mix of entertainment, local commerce, and national pride, travelling around the entire country following festivals and events. Food, drinks, traditions, history, music, religion, and whatever local colour can be found in the villages and cities they set up in for that day are featured on the show. Watching video footage of the scenery — especially from the aerial drones — is for me what sparked curiosity for places like Nazaré, which we visited the next day. It’s easy to spot the show as they always have a stage set up with full lighting rig (I work on the production side of events so I notice these things first), performers, and several hosts taking turns interviewing the local businesses to talk about their products or services. The hosts also mingle with the crowd, which gives people a chance to say hello to their relatives overseas (RTP broadcasts internationally).

Lest I start looking like a PR person for Aqui Portugal, the reason why I’m mentioning them is because of the cultural value — they spotlight villages and cities equally. Of course, there are more festivals in the cities, but the villages don’t get left out. Coming from an enormous country like Canada where the population is very divided between the large cities which get lots of media exposure and everywhere else which gets minimal exposure or nothing at all, a show like this would be of great benefit. The closest thing I can think of to compare with Aqui Portugal is the CBC’s Rick Mercer roaming around the country, but he’s a one-man show who travels to the action and there’s more of a focus on him, whereas Aqui Portugal has several hosts — four? — and the show becomes part of the event.

Anyway, back to the CHOCOLATE. This videoclip (2:42) will give you an idea of what the event looks like:

Official site: http://www.festivalchocolate.cm-obidos.pt/
http://www.obidos.pt (also in English)

Esculturas em Chocolate

Theme for 2014: “Animal Kingdom” — inspired by animals at the Lisbon Zoo

The chocolate sculptures are works of art, created by the food crafters at the Centro de Formação Profissional para o Sector Alimentar da Pontinha and kept in a climate-controlled tent. The competition invites visitors to the display to cast their vote for best group, with ballot boxes at the end of the queue. I took as many photos as I had time for, which wasn’t much since everyone was trying to do the same thing while keeping the line moving through the tent. It was hard to decide between them all — the crocodile was impressive but I was also taken by the amount of detail on the primates. How does one choose??? In the end, Paulo and I voted for two different groups, and I’m assuming we won’t know who the winner is until the very end of the festival on April 6, or maybe afterwards.

Here’s the group list with credits; I’ve put the sculpture photos in no particular order.

O EXTREMO DO PLANETA TERRA / END OF THE PLANET EARTH
Chefes // Conceição Moura, Luís Carriço, Renzo de Marco

PARA ALÉM DO DESERTO / BEYOND THE DESERT
Chefes // Carlos Videira, Daniel Sousa, Rui Alves

O OÁSIS DE ÁFRICA / The OASIS OF AFRICA
Chefes // Carina Gomes, Elsa Costa, Rafael Gomes

A BAÍA DOS GOLFINHOS / DOLPHIN BAY
Chefes // Céu Carvalho, Ricardo Batista, João Ferreira

A SAVANA AFRICANA / THE AFRICAN SAVANNAH
Chefes // João Mateus, Ana Santos, Isadora Pereira

MUNDO DOS PRIMATAS / WORLD OF PRIMATES
Chefes // André Figueiras, Henrique Leitão, Inês Azevedo e Silva

OS ANIMAIS DA OCEÂNIA / ANIMALS OF OCEANIA
Chefes // José Cobra, Sara Martins, Rui Pinheiro

Coordenador // Chefe Vítor Nunes
Coordenador adjunto // Chefe Manuel Gomes

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March 15, 2014
Album: Portugal’s Central Coast