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Chocolate Expo returns to the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City with more vendors than ever before

On Friday, Chocolate Works owner Jennifer Austin spoke about the benefits of having her business at the Chocolate Expo at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City on Sunday.  Credit: Newsday / Chris Ware

“More chocolate than ever before” is being promised by organizers of the ninth annual Chocolate Expo at the Cradle of Aviation Museum, where a record-breaking number of vendors are expected to participate.

As usual, chocoholics will get to taste, purchase and otherwise indulge in delicious gourmet chocolates, baked goods, specialty food, cheeses, wines, spirits, hard ciders, craft sodas and more when the event comes to Garden City from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. March 1. But there’ll be some new attractions this year, including a “Long Island Honey Market,” “a New England Pavilion,” “The Chocolate Spa Experience,” a TV-style chef competition and a seminar on “Chocolate and Brain Health.”

Expo spokesman and organizer Marvin Baum adds that chocolate lovers should also look for their experience at the event to be more “interactive” than ever before and notes there’ll be a lot for attendees not totally captivated by chocolate to see, taste and do.

Look for a dance party with “Cutthroat Kitchen” winner DJ Chef, who spins tunes and cooks, “Star Wars”-inspired characters dancing at the dance party and walking around the grounds, showings of “Apollo 11: First Steps” in the Planetarium Giant Dome Theater, and a “Kidz Zone” with face painting, balloon twisting and chocolate crafts.

And hear a performance by the Girl Scouts of Nassau County Chorus — past members of which sang “True Colors” by Cyndi Lauper in a highly-acclaimed “Campaign for Real Beauty” TV ad during Super Bowl XL.

“For the first time ever, we’ll have vendors coming from as far away as Honduras and New Hampshire to participate," Baum adds. “Some vendors are still on a waiting list to see if they can get in. There’ll probably be about 90 vendor booths." Baum says the most the expo has had in previous years is 80.

Included among the Long Island vendors will be Banana Bread Baking Company of Garden City, Batter & Bubbles waffle company of Calverton, BeeWitched Bee chocolate-infused honey makers of Northport, Chez Hedwige bakery of Valley Stream, Chocolate Works of Rockville Centre, Girl Scouts of Nassau County, Gooseberry Grove, Inc. of Bayville, which will offer savory selections, Heidi's Health Kitchen gourmet foods of Amityville, Liquid Luv Cake Jars & Confections of Bellport, Matti Taco of Mattituck, Savoy Truffle Sweet Shop of Bethpage, TerraNut of West Babylon, The Sunflower Bake Shop and Twizzles Tasty Treats of Valley Stream.

Baum says that while this year the Chocolate Expo experience is expected to be greatly enhanced, the aviation venue always makes the expo “unique” compared to similar events elsewhere because attendees can take in the sights of one of the largest air and spacecraft exhibits in the world along with lots of chocolate. “You can have a chocolate tasting while standing by the Spirit of St. Louis,” he adds. The single-seat monoplane is a replica of the one flown by Charles Lindbergh in 1927 on the first solo nonstop trans-Atlantic flight from Long Island to Paris.

The expo, which will include gluten-free and kosher treats, will also give ticket holders free access to the planetarium.

“There’ll be a lot to see, eat and do,” Baum says, “And the whole goal this year is to engage people — there’ll be a lot that’s interactive like an audience-involved chef competition — in past years it’s been chefs competing, this year chefs will be guiding competitors from the audience. It’s going to be all about engagement.”

A variety of different tickets are available for ages 2 and up ranging from $10 to $35 per person, including a VIP package. Here’s what to expect of the expo's new attractions:

The Chocolate Spa Experience

Body care expert Cristy Bergeron of the Concord, New Hampshire-based ScrubIt NH online company will select volunteers from the audience to try chocolate beauty and skin care products, with samples being distributed and a grand prize gift basket being given to one lucky winner at the end of each presentation. The “Chocolate Spa Experience” will be offered twice during the day — at 1 and 4 p.m.

TV-Style Chef Competition

Chef Lawrence Rosenberg (seen on the Food Network’s “Guy’s Grocery Games”) will host the “Chocolate Challenge” at noon and 3 p.m., for which cooks are selected from the audience to compete using chocolate goodies from expo vendors. At the 3 p.m. session, Girl Scout Cookies will be added as a key ingredient in the creations.

Long Island Honey Market

Perfect for your honey-do-list, the honey market will feature hundreds of local, regional and international honey and honey products to further sweeten the Chocolate Expo experience. BeeWitched Bee, of Northport, plans to bring chocolate-infused honey in flavors dark chocolate, dark chocolate chili and dark chocolate mint, as well as maple syrups and maple-infused vinegars.

New England Pavilion

Vendors from the New England region will offer handcrafted chocolates, desserts and other items in a special area that will be created just for them within the museum.

Chocolate and Brain Health discussion

Tarrytown, New York-based neurologist and author Dr. Jay Lombard will give a talk on “Chocolate and Brain Health” at 2 p.m., with topics including how chocolate activates key chemicals in the brain that are associated with pleasure and how antioxidants in chocolate promote overall well-being. An audience question and answer session will follow.

WHAT: Chocolate Expo

WHERE: Cradle of Aviation Museum, Charles Lindbergh Boulevard, Garden City

WHEN: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., March 1

MORE INFO: 516-572-4111, TheChocolateExpo.com and CradleofAviation.org

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