By Don Bolding
Killeen Daily Herald
SALADO – It seemed that all of Salado was chocolate-covered this weekend – and not vending-machine chocolate but high-dollar varieties that go well with red wine.
There were even chocolate-covered marshmallows and strawberries at the intermission between a pair of "monodramas" given by two University of Texas professors from Austin to wrap up the three-day Chocolate and Art Festival Sunday afternoon.
One of the presentations by Professor Robert Freeman and Associate Professor Lucien Douglas had a rather bitter theme, but confection chef Marc Doherty, demonstrating how to make boxes and ribbons of chocolate Saturday morning, said the purer chocolate is, the more bitter it is.
The festival started with an "Evening of Chocolate and Wine" at Salado Wine Seller, continuing with two presentations by Doherty and a demonstration called "Heart of Darkness – Red Wine and Dark Chocolate" by "Miss Jane" Nickles. Both presenters are instructors at the Texas Culinary Academy in Austin.
Also included were a presentation by Kevin Wenzel on handmade creations of Wiseman House Chocolates and a "Gallery Night in September" with a golf-cart tour of Salado's downtown art galleries. Sunday morning through early afternoon, various restaurants and inns participated in a "chocolate and champagne brunch."
The featured chocolates were mostly imported from South America, France and Belgium and elsewhere overseas. The experts said the finest chocolates are notable not for their ingredients as much as for the absence of added sugars, glutens, sodium nitrates and trans fats in deference to a more exquisite taste and smoother texture.
Doherty, whose curriculum vitae includes stints at Austin's Driskill Hotel and Whole Foods Market, said he "fell into" the pastry and confection specialty in culinary school and now teaches advanced courses.
"To grade my students, I have to sample all their projects," he said. "I have to run a lot to keep it from catching up with me."
Doherty said that pure chocolate from the cocoa nut is "loaded with antioxidants" but said the recommended dietary limit for finished products is an ounce per day.
Working with $12-a-pound Cocoa Noel from France (cheaper on the Internet), he cautioned his students for the day to keep water away from chocolate sculptures to avoid a fudge-like effect. He went through all the moves to produce a sheet of chocolate "that should be firm, breaking with a snap."
The Austin professors' performance was also the second in the four-part "Heritage, Heroes and Home" series produced by The Institute for the Humanities at Salado. Its two "monodramas" at the Longhorn Conference Center of the Stagecoach Inn were "The History of Babar," a children's story by French author Jean de Brunhoff, which tells the story of an orphaned baby elephant's growth to become king of the elephants, and an adaptation of "Enoch Arden," a 19th-century epic poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson about a shipwrecked sailor who finds his way home to England after 10 years on a desert island to find his wife remarried after holding out hope for his return for years.
To preserve the family's happiness, the sailor lives alone the rest of his life, finally revealing his identity to a friend and asking her to keep his secret until after he dies.
Douglas delivers monologues while Freeman accompanies with mood music on the piano. Freeman said the art form is describing events with music rather than putting words to music.
"Enoch Arden" has been treated in films numerous times, most recently in Tom Hanks' "Cast Away." The famous German composer Richard Strauss wrote the score for Tennyson's poem.
"Music has always been hard-wired into the human brain," Freeman told the audience. "That's true, whether you believe the earth was created 6,000 years ago or evolved over a billion years. The ancient Greeks had it. In the Dark Ages, the Roman Catholics invented notations and polyphony, without which no modern music from symphonies to Elvis Presley would be possible."
Contact Don Bolding at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7557.