These chocolates were handmade by Windsor Vest for Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County’s annual Chocolate Lovers Gala. At left are dark chocolate meltaways made with coconut oil. Vest likes to pair them with wine such as the Dussek cabernet sauvignon shown above. In the right foreground are Vest’s peanut clusters made with dark chocolate. The 25th annual gala is March 10 at the Tulalip Resort Casino. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

These chocolates were handmade by Windsor Vest for Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County’s annual Chocolate Lovers Gala. At left are dark chocolate meltaways made with coconut oil. Vest likes to pair them with wine such as the Dussek cabernet sauvignon shown above. In the right foreground are Vest’s peanut clusters made with dark chocolate. The 25th annual gala is March 10 at the Tulalip Resort Casino. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

La dolce vita: Gala a chocolate lover’s dream

Windsor Vest will make 1,500 chocolates by hand for this year’s Chocolate Lovers Gala.

The hobby chocolatier is still working on her menu, but she’ll offer a variety of dark, milk and white chocolate at the 25th annual Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County event.

The popular gala — this year with an Italian “La Dolce Vita” theme — is set for 5-9 p.m. March 10 at the Tulalip Resort Casino. It features a chocolate tasting and silent auction from 5-7 p.m. and a dinner, dessert dash and live auction from 7-9 p.m. Sparkling, white and red wine will be served.

In the last 10 years, Vest has handmade and donated tens of thousands of chocolates for the gala. Each year she makes about 100 more than the year before. She makes all of her cream fillings, caramels and nut clusters in a special temperature-controlled room of her Snohomish home.

“I’ll make about 30 pounds of chocolate and we’ll go through those in 45 minutes,” she said. “I kept adding more and more chocolates, so now I’ll make 1,500 and we’ll watch those disappear.”

This year, Vest will make all of her sweets with origin chocolate from Italy. There will be 10 different kinds of chocolates, including a maple caramel cream, a “hot chocolate” made with chili pepper and cinnamon, a vanilla bean cream and a chocolate flavored with an Italian citrus oil.

“It’s a hobby that turned into a passion,” she said. “I love the challenge of seeing if I can create a new flavor combination.”

The gala dinner is catered by the resort and features your choice of Scallopini Pollo, which is thinly sliced chicken sautéed in a lemon, capers and sage butter sauce, or Rissoto con Verdure Giardino, a creamy rice dish with artichoke hearts, sweet peppers, Roma tomatoes and wild mushrooms.

The silent auction will have about 400 items up for bid and the live auction will have 45. Big-ticket items include a stay at Switzerland’s Fairmont Le Montreux Palace on Lake Geneva and a pound of chocolate paired with a bottle of wine each month for a year. Also available this year is a Learn the Art of Indian Cooking class and lunch; the class is limited to the first 20 to sign up.

The dessert dash will feature 55 cakes. Some of them will be chocolate and with an Italian theme. The table with the highest bid gets to choose their dessert first.

“Dawn’s Cake Club donates cakes every year,” said Vicci Hilty, executive director for DVS. “They put so much energy into these designer cakes. It’s just crazy. They go nuts because they’re this cake club and they’re really into it.”

The inaugural Chocolate Lovers Gala was held in 1992 and only served chocolate and wine. Local chefs made chocolate desserts for a juried competition.

Dinner was soon added, at the auctioneer’s request, so that supporters weren’t sloshed by the time the live auction started. ”We were losing people to Snoresville,” Hilty said.

The event also traded the chefs competition for chocolate fountains and then assorted handmade chocolates.

“If a tray comes by, take one,” said Debra Bordsen, deputy director of development for DVS. “Because we’ll run out quickly.”

Proceeds benefit the nonprofit Domestic Violence Services, which provides victims of domestic abuse in Snohomish County with free and confidential services, including emergency shelter, legal advocacy, support groups and transitional housing. It also works to prevent domestic violence through social change.

In 25 years, the gala has become the largest DVS fundraiser. Last year’s gala raised $185,000 — from which the dessert dash alone made $11,000. The organization’s goal is to hit $200,000 this year.

“We really make it fun. It’s more of a celebration,” Hilty said. “This is the one time of year that we really focus on the agency as a whole, our donors [who] are so wonderful, and celebrate the good work we do.”

Sara Bruestle: 425-339-3046; sbruestle@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @sarabruestle.

If you go

Chocolate Lovers Gala “La Dolce Vida” will be held 5-9 p.m. March 10 at the Tulalip Resort Casino, 10200 Quil Ceda Blvd., Tulalip.

Buon appetito! Tickets are $85 per seat or $800 for a table of 10. Enjoy chocolate, wine and a catered Italian dinner.

This is a sell-out event. Space is limited. Make your reservation by Feb. 24. Email stephanie@dvs-snoco.org or call 425-259-2827, ext. 1013. Sponorships and donations also are welcome.

For more information, visit www.dvs-snoco.org/news/sweetauction.

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