NORWALK -- Researchers say those who indulge in chocolate feel a sense of elation as a result of the sweet treat's power to release endorphins and chemicals in the brain.
That theory proved true on Sunday at the Chocolate World Expo, where thousands of blissful people filled Norwalk's Maritime Aquarium to sample everything from chocolate-covered pickles to chocolate balsamic dressing.
"I'm definitely a chocoholic," said Renee Nardo as she bit into a piece of chocolate-covered bacon from New Jersey-based Bacon Bites. "So this is the place to be. It's a chocolate lover's dream."
Nardo traveled from Plymouth, Mass., to join hordes of chocolate enthusiasts at the event, which drew close to 6,000 people.
Approximately 35 local and regional vendors offered tastings and sales of their decadent products, which included chocolates, baked goods, gelato, specialty foods and food-related gift items.
Weston-based chocolatier Aarti Khosla set up a booth in the Aquarium's Newman's Own Hall, where she showcased her handmade artisan chocolates.
"I've been in business for two months and right now I'm operating out of the Norfield Church in Weston," Khosla said. "My friend told me about the event and I thought it was fabulous since I don't have a storefront yet."
Khosla's creations, which range from wasabi ginger to mango delight, struck a chord with event-goers who lined up to taste the decadent delights.
"I'm a chocoholic, I love cooking and dessert is a big thing in our house," Khosla said. "I always wanted to do something that I enjoyed, so I basically just started making chocolate. Everything is very fresh."
Like Khosla, small business owners at the event showcased their unique treats in an attempt to boost sales -- a goal that event organizer Marvin Baum strived for.
"This is our first time in Connecticut and it's been such a phenomenal turnout," Baum said. "It's really a shot in the arm for every vendor here that suffered from Hurricane Sandy and is struggling to succeed."
Baum, a self-described chocolate lover, was unable to zero in on one specific treat at the event, saying simply, he loves it all.
"It's like choosing between your children," Baum said. "They're all my favorites."