Chocolate and coffee.
It’s a pairing that is both legal and enticing.
This is also the pairing Dean Strober has found to be golden as he puts on the Southwest Chocolate & Coffee Fest.
“I drink six cups of coffee a day,” Strober says with a laugh. “It’s a constant in my life.”
This year’s event will be held from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, April 2, and Sunday, April 3, at Expo New Mexico.
“It’s been interesting to get back to in-person events,” Strober says. “We changed a lot of the event last year to be more comfortable and safer. COVID forced me to reinvent the wheel.”
One switch is that instead of the event being held inside the Manuel Lujan Building, it is now located on Main Street at the fairgrounds.
“The majority of the event is outdoors,” he says. “With the music and the pairings, the event now feels like a sprawling festival.”
Strober established the event in 2009 and has become one of the largest festivals dedicated to chocolate, coffee and gourmet foods.
This year’s event will host over 120 chocolatiers, coffee roasters, bakers, candy makers, purveyors of gourmet foods, coffee trucks, food trucks, and New Mexico’s finest breweries, wineries and distilleries.
Strober says there will also be music lined up for both days.
Some of the performers include Silver Crow Asylum, Hillary Smith & Chillhouse, and Trinity Soul on Saturday, April 2.
On Sunday, April 3, Jamy Woodbury, Eli del Puerto, Felix y Los Gatos, and Casey Mráz and Los Metamorfos will perform.
There will also be the Planet Oat Latte Throwdown, where baristas of all levels will compete by creating latte art.
There is also the Guittard Chocolate Challenge, which is open to bakers of all ages and backgrounds. Contestants will make a chocolate dessert ranging from cake, pie, cookie or mousse.
Strober says there will also be a yoga class for an add-on price.
“We’ve worked to make this event family friendly,” he says. “I want to exceed all expectations.”
With the event running more than 10 years, Strober is finding vendors are seeking him out to participate.
“We have vendors from across the country,” he says. “Big brands are seeking us out. That reflects more about the Albuquerque market and community.”
Strober says the event is back to full size for vendors, but is sad to see some of the coffee and chocolate businesses no longer exist after the pandemic.
“It takes a lot to open a business, which is why we’ve always been focused on local and smaller businesses,” he says.
Strober is welcoming the event’s growth and hopes to also make it an educational event.
“There’s so much we can learn about both coffee and chocolate,” he says. “These items get us through good and bad times. They help us feel better.”