CAPE MAY — They came for the Victorian homes. They stayed for the chocolate.
That was the flavor of Saturday’s Chocolate Championship Tour & Tasting event, which combined a tour of historic 19th centuries homes with a competition of sorts to see which of the town’s innkeepers and hoteliers make the best chocolate desert.
Many signed up to see the old houses but quickly changed focus to the candies, cakes, truffles, and chocolate-coated strawberries.
“When was this house built?” asked Sue DiMoia, of Levittown, Pa., as she entered Leith Hall on Ocean Street.
Innkeeper Elan Zingman-Leith gave DiMoia the date, 1886, and a truffle. The house is a Mansard-style building furnished in the Aesthetic Movement, Eastlake style. The truffle was made with chocolate and heavy cream, highlighted with organic orange flavoring and then dusted with sugar and cocoa powder.
DiMoia appreciated both of them.
“It’s a good way to sample the goodies and see the buildings. It’s a really nice way to combine history with something fun,” DiMoia said.
Her friend, Justine Kozielski, of Lindenwold, Camden County, made it clear why she took the tour.
“I love chocolate. I love eating chocolate. I love looking at it,” said Kozielski.
Tourgoers arriving next door at The Queen Victoria began with innkeeper Anna Marie McMain explaining the history of the 1881 home built by a Delaware Bay pilot. Her husband, Douglas McMain, got to dole out their unique Queen Victoria chocolate delight. With 35 rooms and 75 people to feed each day, Douglas said, they never joined the chocolate competition put on twice a year by the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities. They were simply too busy. He was glad they did this time. It brought a lot of new people in to appreciate the meticulously restored building.
“I think chocolate closes the deal,” McMain said.
Some came just for the chocolate. Dennis and Ethel Iannuzzi drove from northeast Philadelphia for the event.
“Oh God, it’s delicious,” said Ethel as she ate a truffle.
Ten women in town for a bachelorette party took the tour with bride-to-be Tara Crimsley of Newtown, Pa. in tow.
“It sounded great. We’re a group that likes desert,” said Jenessa Jimenez of Keansburg, Monmouth County.
Those on the tour vote for the winners and get recipes for all the delights they tasted while the innkeepers battle for bragging rights, said Zingman-Leith, who came up with the idea for the chocolate competition a few years ago. He has never won the event.
“The first year I had chocolate pound cake, the second year Julia Child’s chocolate mousse. Last year a candy won so I’m going with the truffles. It’s half dark chocolate and half heavy cream, called ganache. I melted them together and whipped them. I added organic peppermint to half of them and organic orange to half. Cocoa power and sugar is on the orange ones and icing on the peppermint,” Zingman-Leith said.
Once the evaluation cards are completed and turned in a winner will be announced. Zingman-Leith is hoping to finally win the event he created. He can use it to advertise his inn, and to gloat a bit.
“I’ll send it out by blog, e-mail and Facebook. It’s something to talk about,” he said.
Contact Richard Degener: