Janesville's Rotary Gardens serves up Taste of Chocolate

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Shelly Birkelo
Wednesday, November 13, 2013

JANESVILLE—Rotary Botanical Gardens had to add more than three dozen seats last year to accommodate the 237 people who craved the sweet treats served only at the gardens' Taste of Chocolate fundraiser.

“In the past we've had around 200" people attend, said Mary Fanning-Penny, the gardens' executive director.

Organizers of this year's seventh annual fundraiser are again preparing for a sell-out crowd. The event officially kicks off the holiday season at the local botanical gardens, 1455 Palmer Drive.

“We already have 150 reserved seats, and we're hoping to increase attendance ever so slightly over last year,” she said.

Participants will be treated to a delicious meal, decadent chocolate, festive music, a dazzling Holiday Light Show and a jewelry raffle.

Fanning-Penny shared details about each:

1.  Delicious meal. Best Events Catering is preparing a lighter menu this year so guests have more room for chocolate. The sit-down meal features a red velvet salad, French country-style vegetable soup, a cocoa- and cinnamon-crusted pork loin with garlic-infused cream sauce, garlic smashed potatoes and a harvest vegetable trio.

2. Decadent chocolate. Among the tantalizing offerings will be chocolate custard with sweet raspberry topping from Culver's of Janesville, dark chocolate flourless cake with fresh blueberries from Best Events, and a chocolate torte with ganache topping prepared by Rotary Gardens' staff. Five teams of local celebrities will compete to raise the most tips while serving the chocolate. All tips benefit Rotary Gardens.

A chocolate sampler box—new this year—will be given to guests to take home. It will include mints from Andes Candies of Delavan, a triple-layer chocolate ganache from 29 South Café of Janesville, and truffles from Paul's Chocolates of Madison.

3. Festive music. Chicago vocalist and pianist Elliott Little, a 2007 Parker High School graduate, will perform jazz during the cocktail hour and his own rendition of holiday music after dinner.

4. Dazzling Holiday Light Show. More than 330,000 twinkling lights will be turned on after dinner, kicking off the gardens' annual Holiday Light Show. This year's show features expanded paths through the Japanese Garden.

5. Jewelry raffle. The raffle prize is a diamond diopside pendant created for the occasion by Bay Design Custom Jewelers, Janesville. Raffle tickets are $5 each the night of the fundraiser. The drawing will take place before the Holiday Light Show.

Last updated: 8:02 am Wednesday, November 20, 2013

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