SINGAPORE - Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was one of my favourite books as a child. Oh, how I wished I could win a golden ticket to visit Willy Wonka's chocolate factory.
My favourite part from Roald Dahl's book was the chocolate room where there was a huge chocolate waterfall and edible grass fields. My ten-year-old self would kill to be there and stuff her face. When I heard that there would be a Guinness World Record attempt for the world's tallest chocolate fountain at this weekend's confectionery showcase Fantasia by Escriba at Marina Bay Sands, I was really excited.
Internationally-acclaimed pastry chef Christian Escriba, from family-owned pastry boutique Pasteleria Escriba in Barcelona, teamed up with Brazilian pastry chef Patricia Schmidt, Barcelonian theatre group Comediants' Artistic Director Joan Font I Pujol, and Escriba Asia's co-founder Paul Wakefield to bring Fantasia to Singapore. This is the first stop in their plans for an Asian tour, said Paul Wakefield.
"Fantasia is like a tribute to all pastry, confectionery and cake makers," said Christian Escriba through a translator. "Cake makers are people who create happy moments for everyone else."
The media was given a preview on Thursday, a day before Fantasia opens to the public. When we entered the exhibition hall at Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre, wafts of vanilla greeted us. The room was filled with fluffy clouds and planets, a cheery man dressed like a chef welcomed us in.
Walking into the next room, the smell of chocolate hit me. And then I saw it - the 8.5-metre-tall chocolate fountain in the shape of a waterfall. It was made of chocolate from Belgian chocolate purveyor Callebaut. You could hear choruses of "wow" from the media there. It took the fear of losing my job to stop me from rushing over and drinking up the chocolate like Augustus Gloop in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
The heady scent of molten chocolate distracted me from the other three exhibits in the room. In a corner of the room, I spotted staff pouring liquid chocolate into little glasses. Salivating, I greedily took two glasses - one dark chocolate and one milk chocolate - even though they did not come from the waterfall. I was expecting life-changing chocolate, but they were ordinary tasting. The dark chocolate was a bit too sweet for my liking, but the milk chocolate has a malty taste which I loved, although it had a cloying aftertaste.
Before I could wallow in mild disappointment, I was ushered into the Nature pavilion. I was enchanted by the confectionery-made life-size animals. I didn't know where to start - the 4-metre-tall giraffe, 5-metre-tall elephant or the albino crocodile with lollipops for teeth.
The animals were made of Massa Ticino sugarpaste by Carma, Callebaut chocolate, meringue and pastries. If you are bringing small children, you might want to hold onto them tightly. The animals smell really delicious, and despite not having a sweet tooth, I longed to take a bite.
Moving into the Royal Cake Theatre, guests can expect acrobatic performances by Comediants. Outside the theatre, there is a History Wall where you can learn about Escriba's 108-year-old heritage and view a showcase of Escriba's masterpieces such as the El Bulli dog created for the closing of Ferran Adria's Michelin-starred restaurant and a three-metre-tall macaroon Eiffel Tower.
There are also booths selling food such as Escriba's famous chocolate lips and "ham" shavings from a chocolate ham leg that took six hours to make. Event organisers have partnered with Food Bank Singapore to donate any unsold food at the end of the event for distribution to the less fortunate.
On Saturday, after the exhibition closes at 9pm, it will switch from a family-friendly wonderland into a party for adults only. A different ticket applies, and guests can expect to party to hits from Ibiza's DJs and sip cocktails.
While I still long to have my Willy Wonka's chocolate factory dreams come true, Fantasia by Escriba comes close to taking my inner child on a candyland trip.
Fantasia by Escriba will be held at Marina Bay Sands Convention and Exhibition Centre, Halls D & E, from August 22 to 24, 2014.
Tickets to the regular showcases are available at $88 for children, $128 for adults, and family bundles (2 adults & 2 children) for $388. Tickets include a pass which entitles pass holders to redeem 12-14 food items. Additional passes can be purchased at counters.
Tickets to Midnight @ Fantasia are available for adults over 18 years of age at $68 and $188, depending on the package.
There are also cooking sessions, and tickets for the Escriba Academy @ Fantasia sessions are $188 for participants aged 16 and above.