Stepping Out

Sweet treats that are out of this world

Chocolate Expo takes flight at the Cradle of Aviation

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Under an array of biplanes, fighter jets, hot air balloons and other air and spacecraft, visitors to the eighth edition of the Chocolate Expo on March 3 will get to taste, celebrate and indulge in fine, gourmet chocolates at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City.

The Chocolate Expo is America’s largest chocolate festival, according to event presenter Baum Image Group, featuring local and regional vendors who share their wares. “The Chocolate Expo is the perfect place to go to spend the day,” says founder Marvin Baum. “You can see and explore all kinds of foods and fun while celebrating Long Island’s aviation history.”

Through its larger-than-life exhibits, the museum preserves Long Island’s rich aerospace heritage, and inspires future generations through science and technology. The defunct Grumman Corporation, based in Bethpage, actually produced many of the major building components for NASA’s Apollo lunar module. This July marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing in 1969 — the first manned mission to successfully land on the moon.

In celebration of the milestone mission, Maryland-based food artist Nancy Baker, who appeared on Food Network’s “Halloween Wars,” will recreate the famous scene of Neil Armstrong planting the American flag on the moon’s surface, using an appealing combination of chocolates, cookies and colored sugars.

“Part of my job as a food artist is to create this ‘wow moment,’ and creating an experience that [people] can’t get anywhere else,” Baker says. “How often do you see an astronaut made out of vanilla wafers?”

The base of Baker’s creation spans five feet wide and five feet tall. Her sculpture of Armstrong stands at four-and-a-half feet tall. To sculpt the scene she purchased 30, 12-ounce-packages of cookies, a pound of colored sugars and three pounds of modeling chocolate. At completion the three-dimensional structure will weigh 60 pounds. Baker will add finishing touches to her sweet-smelling structure during the Expo, as a way to involve guests in her gastronomical feat.

“Everyone has a connection with food, and when I buy cookies I use types that people are used to seeing,” Baker explains, “And when they see it turned into this multisensory art experience, that’s what’s exciting to me.”

This year’s event will feature old favorites as well as new vendors. Chocolate lovers can choose from bevy of bites, including gourmet chocolates, baked goods, specialty foods, and gelato, wines, cheeses, spirits, hard ciders, craft sodas, and much more. Participating chocolatiers include Chocolate Moonshine, Chocolates U, Emalyn Sweets, Raw Chocolate Love, Twizzle’s Tasty Treats, Teacher’s Recipe Fudge, the Cocoa Exchange and the Pretzel Princess, among others.

Guests will be greeted in the lobby with waterfalls of flowing chocolate fountains, courtesy of Aurora Gourmet. Feast on unusual items like chocolate-covered bacon, chocolate-flavored pumpkin seeds, chocolate wine, chocolate soda and even chocolate-scented skin care products.

Sip fine wines — and maybe buy a bottle — from Adirondack Winery, Fire Island Winery and Warwick Valley Winery, and drink ciders by Doc’s Hard Ciders or spirits from Lake George Distillery and Black Dirt Distillery.

There will also be fun for the family throughout the day, highlighted by those popular authentically costumed Star Wars characters from the 501st Legion. More than 20 inhabitants of the Star Wars universe will descend on the museum site to meet up with visitors between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Kids can visit with their favorite storybook princesses, too. In addition, face painting, balloon twisting and wire sculpting will take place in the Junior Jet Club, and the movie “Space Junk” will be shown in the JetBlue Airways Planetarium at 12, 3, and 5 p.m.

Visitors are also encouraged to participate in the event’s food drive in partnership with Long Island Cares’ Harry Chapin Food Bank. Guests can bring non-perishable food items for donation, and can purchase tote bags to support the food bank. Donation bins will also be located in the main doorway of the museum.

“You won’t find an event like this in any other fairway of the world,” Baum adds. “By combining food and entertainment, we’re challenging participants to see things in new ways.”

Admission to all air and space exhibits is included in the Chocolate Expo’s ticket price. Tickets can be purchased online at www.TheChocolateExpo.com ($15/adult and $10/child) or at the door ($20/adult and $15/child). For more information visit www.TheChocolateExpo.com.