Food for Thought Chocolate Exhibit and Rodin Masterpiece Give Museum Goers Something to Chew On

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), June 3, 2007 | Go to article overview

Food for Thought Chocolate Exhibit and Rodin Masterpiece Give Museum Goers Something to Chew On


Byline: Mike Michaelson

There's a wide world of chocolate unwrapped and waiting for you in Grand Rapids, Michigan's second-largest city. Also on hand is one of the world's most famous thinkers: Auguste Rodin's iconic sculpture "The Thinker."

The famous artwork arrived to spend summer and early fall at Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park. It is on loan from the Detroit Institute of Arts (until Oct. 31), the first time it has been loaned out since the museum acquired "The Thinker" in 1922.

At the height of his career, Rodin was regarded as the greatest sculptor since Michelangelo. In 1880 he created "The Thinker" and cast it in bronze in 1904. The monumental work joins two pieces by Rodin in Meijer gardens' permanent collection. "The Thinker" takes up residence across from the waterfall in the sculpture park - one of its most photographed locations.

Call the sculpture's visit a vacation - or perhaps "The Thinker" is a closet chocoholic. Coincidentally, "The Amazing Chocolate Tree" exhibition also is visiting the gardens (until Sept. 3).

The chocolate exhibition places 14 elements across Meijer's 125- acre grounds. It takes you on an interactive journey that brings life to the history, production and use of chocolate around the world.

You're invited to enter a 20-foot-tall flower dome for a multi- media show. You can activate factory components to grind, mix and pour chocolate and visit a whimsical Chocolate Garden. And, yes, you do get to sample (and you also should check out chocolate specialties on the menu at Taste of the Gardens Cafe).

Setting the scene, a 15-minute film traces the history of chocolate from the bitter liquid the Aztecs drank to its social adaptation in the courts and cafes of Europe and the creation of chocolate bars. This film explains where and how cacao trees are grown and why small farmers in tropical environments are successful at growing them.

Inside a giant cacao pod, you are encouraged to compare the aroma of cacao beans to seeds from other tropical plants, such as coffee, allspice, vanilla, pepper and cardamom. You also are invited into a whimsical garden where an array of plants reminds you of things sweet, from orchids that smell like chocolate to a gingerbread house made of plants. Walk through a stand of cacao trees and learn how they grow beneath the canopy of the warm, humid tropical rain forest.

Chocolate-related activities include watching chefs from the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel create trees out of chocolate (July 7 and Aug. 11). Look for the edible tree fashioned from 75 pounds of chocolate that will be on display throughout the exhibition.

A "Taste Your Way Through Chocolate" class led by chef Amy Sherman lets you see and taste how chocolate has developed through the ages and pick up tips for becoming an expert chocolate taster (June 19 and 23 and July 21). …

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