ROCKLAND, Maine — Hot chocolate massages. Chocolate martinis. Chocolate and wine pairings.
Are you tasting a trend — dark or milky — yet? Rockland’s hospitality denizens hope you are, as they roll out the “cocoa carpet” Saturday at the Fourth annual Chocolate March event.
It’s held to mark National Chocolate Week, and also to encourage winter-weary Mainers to get out, socialize — and, of course, eat chocolate.
“March is clearly a transitional month,” said Frank Isganitis, co-owner and breakfast cook at the LimeRock Inn. “You’ve been cooped up all winter long. Chocolate March is a cure for cabin fever. What could be a better reason to get out than to get great stuff to eat?”
Isganitis deftly sifted flour and cut in butter and chocolate chips to whip up a batch of Toll House Scones, which will be his contribution to the event. Innkeepers were asked to put a chocolaty spin on breakfast dishes, and so the sweet smell of baking chocolate wafted through the inn’s cheerful yellow-and-blue kitchen, as Isganitis extolled Rockland’s small-city cultural draws.
“Everybody knows what a wonderful place Rockland is to come to in the summertime. But we’re trying to promote it in the shoulder and off-season, too,” he said.
That’s why Rockland’s historic inns, including the LimeRock Inn, are promoting Chocolate March, along with the very popular January “pies on parade” event. Two months ago, Pies on Parade sold out and generated a whopping $10,000 for a local food bank, thanks to a donation from an anonymous participant.
“We’re trying to put together two broad-based, appealing events,” Isganitis said.
One $20 Chocolate March ticket will snag participants a tour of four of Rockland’s historic inns, including the LimeRock Inn, plus a sampling of chocolate goodies, an entree to the International Chocolate Tasting at the Farnsworth Art Museum Library, tips about baking with chocolate from local chefs, whoopie pies from the Rockland Cafe, chocolate-tinis from the Boathouse Restaurant and much more.
More than 20 local restaurants and businesses will participate in the chocolate-themed festivities, and 25 percent of ticket sales will benefit the Area Interfaith Food Pantry and Fuel Assistance Program.
The program could use the help, according to assistant director Judy Terrio, who said that more people are coming for food and fuel assistance “every single day.”
“We love it,” she said of the community support from Chocolate March. “We just put it in the general fund and buy food with it.”
The Captain Lindsey House Inn is another historic venue that will open its doors Saturday for a tour and chocolate tasting.
The downtown bed-and-breakfast, which owners Ellen and Ken Barnes describe as a “lovely old English inn magically blended with a 19th century Maine sea captain’s home,” will be serving Chocolate March guests chocolate blintzes with raspberry sauce.
Ellen Barnes — a sea captain in her own right — bustled around her kitchen Monday, putting finishing touches on the brand-new recipe.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Barnes said of Chocolate March. “This year it’s really exciting. We’ve increased it to being a townwide thing.”
She filled chocolate crepes with a cocoa-ricotta mixture and drizzled them with raspberry sauce, proudly showing off the finished concoction.
“Nice breakfast dessert, isn’t it?” she asked rhetorically. “You think of serving people chocolate for breakfast, you think of chocolate-chip waffles, chocolate-chip pancakes. This, we thought, was more elegant.”
For more information about Chocolate March, or for reservations, visit www.historicinnsofrockland.com or call 1-877-ROC-INNS.