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Chocolate Heaven


WATCH OUT, HERSHEY, PENNSYLVANIA! from 11am to 5pm on Saturday, November 5, Red Hook (Dutchess County) will be the sweetest place on earth when it hosts Red Hook & The Chocolate Festival. The event, which commemorates the hamlet’s place in chocolate history, includes cooking demos, live music and tastings from area chefs and chocolatiers. There will be a Top Chef-style cooking competition and kids can enjoy a skateboard race and the “Chocolate Olympics.”

The long, strange trip for chocolate in Red Hook began in the late 1880s, when grocer William H. Baker went into the chocolate business in New York City as the W.H. Baker Co., labeling his chocolate “Baker’s” to capitalize on the popularity of the Baker Chocolate Company, America’s oldest chocolate manufacturer, founded in 1780 by Dr. John Baker. Adding insult to injury, William H. Baker also copied the national company’s distinctive yellow packaging. Unfortunately for W.H., Dr. Baker’s Harvard Law School-educated son and successor, Walter, had legally protected both the name “Baker’s” and its label. When a judge ordered W.H. to stop using the name and label, the savvy marketer adopted a blue label with the tagline “Best quality now with blue label.”

Despite the legal setbacks, business was so good that W.H. Baker & Co. outgrew its New York City facilities and expanded into the Hudson Valley, eventually building a factory in Red Hook in 1902. The company thrived, at its peak producing 20,000 pounds of chocolate a day, but it was sold by his sons after Baker died and was a victim of the Depression. The building was used as a food warehouse before it was abandoned in the early 1980s; it was converted into artists’ studios, offices and shops in 1995.

Among the festivities on Saturday will be a historical reenactment of what it was like to work at the factory at Arts at The Chocolate Factory, a new performance space, and Historic Red Hook will present a history of business at the Elmendorph Inn.

More than 30 chocolate vendors are expected at this year’s event, and visitors can expect plenty of chocolate-flavored everything, from pastries, cup cakes and ice cream to cocktails, pizza and even beauty products. facebook.com/redhookchocolatefest

Hudson Valley Restaurant Week is back this April 8-21!