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Rotary fundraiser is chocolate delight
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Debra Burger, assistant dietary director for Oak Manor Senior Living Community, stands in front of a chocolate replica of the community's grounds Dec. 7 during Largo Rotary Club’s Death by Chocolate.
LARGO – By near the end of the evening, Oak Manor Senior Living Community staff had given out about 3,100 chocolate delicacies at the Largo Rotary Club’s annual Death by Chocolate fundraiser Dec. 7.

Debbie Burger, assistant dietary director for the community, and her staff spent about three weeks making about 3,500 different chocolate desserts for the event at the Largo Cultural Center.

“It’s a lot of fun to do. We look forward to it every year,” Burger said. “I have a lot of hands, a lot of people come in to help.”

The results were a colorful display spanning several tables: square chocolate cups topped with pink cinnamon ganache, tiny chocolate tarts with peach schnapps and cherry liqueur fillings, gourmet peanut butter cups sprinkled with nuts, round chocolate suckers – made with white, dark and peppermint-flavored chocolate – chocolate Rice Krispie treats, chocolate pretzels and cannolis dipped in white and dark chocolate.

Oak Manor’s display was one of two dozen chocolatiers at the fundraiser to support the Rotary Club’s activities on behalf of local youth throughout the year. The community offered a wide assortment of desserts, fruit and nontraditional foods that were dipped, covered, baked, themed and flavored in chocolate.

Chocolate paired with bacon was a recurring theme, and while brownies, chocolate cookies and ice cream made appearances, the creative chocolatiers were not afraid to mix chocolate with wasabi peas, meatballs and ginger.

The Oak Manor chocolatiers sculpted one creation not to be tasted. A large three-dimensional map of the Oak Manor campus stood propped up on a table. Burger said the creation took her staff about 40 hours to build up the landscaping and various buildings of the property.

“A lot of it’s (made of) Rice Krispie treats and then they’re covered in pastillage and then painted and painted and painted,” she explained.

A 93-year-old resident named Thad Pollard constructed the base of the creation and ran the electricity for the miniature street lights. The map shows benches sitting at the edge of a pond and along the wide main road between the various residences. On one corner a hill slopes up to the original house on the property, an old building called Grandma’s House.

Hidden within the layout are some quirky Easter-egg surprises.

“We figured we’d throw in a few,” Burger said with a sly smile.

A nurse who hides in the stairwell to smoke cigarettes is featured in her favorite spot. One of cooks always parks in the same spot and complains that a white egret seems to favor the vehicle.

“So I made a little blue Toyota and we put a giant bird on it, having its accident on his car,” Burger said.
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