Sunday at the Toby Rosenberg Gallery was a fun day, with Meg Swoboda, whose passion it is to make and share the finest in handmade chocolates, on hand for a tasting of her latest creations. The newest of which are a line of "Umami Chocolates". These five chocolates, Sweet Potato Caramel, Plum Sake, Sesame Tahini, Green Tea & Ginger and Malted Bacon are based on the principle of Umami. About a century ago a Japanese scientist started using the word umami to describe the fifth taste, beyond sweet, sour, bitter and salty. It is in the savory or full mouth sensation found in foods like sweet potatoes, green tea, soy sauce, meat and parmesan cheese. Of course she hasn't forgotten more traditional bites featured in her assorted boxes, making her version of peanut butter cups, with Venezuelan milk chocolate, the creamy ganache center is a mix of milk chocolate and cashew butter, wrapped around a whole cashew. Another offering that proved extremely popular was her chile and dark chocolate concoction made with layers of dark chocolate ganache, and ribbons of spicy orange gelee'.
The enthusiastic crowd got to not only try sweet Marguerites chocolates but lay their hands on some of Maine's finest crafts in an intimate setting at the Toby Rosenberg Gallery, which uses the downstairs parlor rooms of an 1890 Victorian, at 293 Read Street, just off Forest Avenue in Portland. Among this seasons guest artists are Obadiah Buell - granite works, Lou Charlett - wood, Allyson Humphrey - stained glass, Betsy Levine - salt glazed & wood fired pottery, Melissa mattes - felt & fiber paintings, Diane Bowie Zaitin - encaustic paintings and Grey Dog Studio - glass & stainless serving pieces. They join holdovers Funky Pretty - jewelry, Silk Bijou - scarfs, DoDa! Foto! - photography, Lenora Leibowitz - illuminated cards and of course Toby's functional pottery and fine judaica.
Also on hand during the afternoon with her sweetness was Erin Forbes of Overland Honey. Erin is one of only four master bee keepers in the state and by far the youngest. From her backyard on Capisic Street in Portland she harvests honey from her many hives to make honey, which as the saying goes... "You are what you eat" and the bee eats different blooms, from spring to fall and the honey is accordingly different in color and taste with the seasons. Erin also makes candles, luminaries and beeswax from her eager little workers. Shes also available for consultations and offering encouragement to novice beekeepers. Erin was once one of Toby's pottery students before growing up to become the "Queen Bee".
I took pictures of these little guys just last week in Erin's backyard. They'll spend the winter inside their hives, which get a tar paper wrap for protection, but otherwise are on their own to flap their wings trying to maintain a 90 degree temperature keeping the queen alive thru the winter.
So if you haven't finished your holiday shopping yet, stop by the Toby Rosenberg Gallery for Meg's chocolates, Erin's honey or to see art & handmade crafts from some of Maine's finest artists.
Toby Rosenberg Gallery, 293 Read Street, Portland tel. 207-878-4590, 10-6 daily until the new year.