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Devouring desirable creations

How fancy has this affair become? Try samples of chocolate truffles, fondue or sushi at a delectable fundraiser.

By TIFFANI SHERMAN, Times Correspondent
Published December 7, 2007

"Chocolate Dream," from Grillmarks restaurant, was one of last year's offerings at the annual Death by Chocolate Rotary Club fundraiser.
[Times photo (2006)]
[Times photo (2006)]
A flaming marshmallow billows up for a s'more of chocolate and graham crackers.

If you could pick a way to go, death by chocolate could be a pretty good option.

It's not just an intriguing concept. Death by Chocolate is also the name of a fundraiser for kids in Largo involving thousands of samples of chocolate confections.

"As soon as you walk in the door, you know you're at a chocolate holiday event," said Joan Byrne, 57, director of recreation, parks and arts for the city of Largo. "You walk in the door and it smells like chocolate."

More than 25 chocolatiers will bring hundreds of samples to the 12th annual Death by Chocolate Rotary Club fundraiser today from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Largo Cultural Center.

"We have more restaurants than we had last year, and that means more chocolate," Byrne said.

Admission is $25 in advance and $30 at the door. The price includes champagne, coffee, salty snacks, music and, of course, plenty of chocolate.

"People can basically sample to their heart's content," Byrne said.

Catherine Peplowski, 37, executive chef at the Pepper Mill on Fort Harrison in Clearwater, said she is bringing her creation: chocolate sin. The rich, flourless, dark chocolate creation has been on the restaurant's menu for years. "People just love it," Peplowski said. "They like the flavor and consistency."

She plans to prepare five pans of chocolate sin, but won't be able to watch people sampling it because she'll be working at the restaurant that night. "It's always like that - the story of my life," she said jokingly.

This is Peplowski's first time participating in Death by Chocolate, but some chefs have been in it since the beginning.

"Everybody back then was serving chocolate chip cookies," said Erwin Scheuringer, 51, executive chef and owner of E&E Stakeout Grill in Belleair Bluffs. "It's getting better every year."

Scheuringer is teaming up with the chef from Guppy's on Indian Rocks Beach to bring chocolate raspberry truffles, a chocolate fondue (with Godiva dark chocolate and liqueur) and chocolate sushi (chocolate fondant with coconut and a chocolate center).

"It's really nice, if I do say so myself," Scheuringer said.

Chefs need to bring at least 800 sample portions of each dish.

"The goal is to try as many different things as you can." Byrne said.

In addition to nibbling on sweet confections, attendees can bid in the silent auction. Gift certificates, gift baskets, quilts, grills and more will be up for bid.

"Every bit of money gets pumped back into the local community to support things that help kids," said Byrne, who is also the Rotary Club chairwoman of the event.

Last year's Death by Chocolate raised about $32,000. Tickets often sell out, and there is free parking available around the Largo Cultural Center.

"It's early in the holiday season," Scheuringer said. "So people haven't stopped eating yet."

By the numbers

12annual Death by Chocolate events

25 chocolatiers participating

800 sample portions of each dish

$32,000 raised at last year's Death by Chocolate

$230,000 donated to youth programs in the first 11 years

Largo Rotary (

Fast facts

If you go

What: The 12th annual Death by Chocolate Rotary Club fundraiser

When: 7 to 9 p.m. today

Where: Largo Cultural Center, 105 Central Park Drive.

Admission:$25 in advance and $30 at the door.

[Last modified December 7, 2007, 01:15:15]

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