As I continue the research for the second volume of Chocolatour, my chocolate travels will take me to numerous places–some planned, some spontaneous visits no doubt! Among the places I have pegged to visit in the coming year are:
1. The Okanagan Valley and Osoyoos, British Columbia, Canada. We’re spending the month of January at the Spirit Ridge Wine Resort & Spa in Osoyoos and I’m keeping my eye open in Osoyoos and the surrounding area for signs of noteworthy chocolate and activities you might enjoy.
2. I will be attending the NATJA conference in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, from May 4-9, and will then head to Mexico City to visit the Nestlé Chocolate Museum.
3. I’ve been invited to come check out the Hershey Chocolate Resort in Hershey, Pennsylvania, USA, and will also explore Philadelphia while in the area.
4. I’ve been meaning to return to the Twin Cities of Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA, to visit a number of chocolatier/chocolate makers and chocolate venues. At some point during 2015, I will make it there.
5. I’ve not been to the city of New York since 2001! There are several excellent chocolate makers in the city that I absolutely must visit, so a personal Chocolatour to the Big Apple in 2015 is a must.
6. I will also be leading a group Chocolatour to the Hawaiian Islands for clients of CAA Travel in October to celebrate the state’s declaration naming October as Hawaii Grown Cacao Month. We will be visiting the islands of Oahu, Hawaii, Kauai, and Maui during the last two weeks of October.
I have no doubt other destinations will come onto my radar over the next year, but these are locations I am committing to visit for the purposes of my chocolate research during 2015.
As you know, volume II of Chocolatour will focus on the Americas and the Caribbean, so the above list will greatly enhance the information I can offer you in the upcoming volume of the book. If you don’t yet have a copy of volume I, or are looking for a gift for your favourite chocolate lover, there is more info here.
Please stay tuned (subscribe using the button the right) for lots more chocolate travel posts in the months to come. And join us back here the week of January 25th for our next new offering, when we’ll head back to Costa Rica for more chocolate travel diversions.
This marks my final post of 2014. It has been a terrific year of chocolate travels–great fodder for the second volume of Chocolatour. Here are a few of the highlights:
1. February 22 I was a speaker at the Hawaii Chocolate Festival in Honolulu, and also did a great chocolate tour of the island of Oahu. It was fabulous staying at the Sheraton Moana Surfrider, a magnificent beachside resort I’d first stayed at roughly 20 years before.
2. We ended February with a visit to the Big Island of Hawaii. It was my 1st visit to the island of Hawaii, and I was not disappointed. Staying at the Fairmont Orchid made our time on the Big Island exquisite. The location and ambiance of the resort, incredible staff, and privilege of staying on the Fairmont Gold floor made our time at the resort equally as enticing as our exploration of the island.
3. Visiting the Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory in Kailua Kona and finding this breath-taking view at the Pololu Valley Lookout were also highlights of our time on the Big Island.
4. Meeting Paul Johnson and his wife Jeanne of Caribeans Chocolate in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica. Paul represents why I am doing the Chocolatour project, and that is to introduce you the chocolate loving reader and traveler to the passionate people around the world who live and breath chocolate.
5. Being slathered in warm, molten chocolate at the Pure Jungle Spa in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica. This photo says it all!
6. Visiting Miami, Florida, to receive my Readers’ Favorite Award for Chocolatour and to explore South Beach with my friend Christine.
It’s been a great year of travel for me along the Chocolatour. I hope you’ve had an equally great year of travel experiences, or if you don’t have the opportunity to travel, that you’ve enjoyed sharing them with me here.
Please subscribe to the blog via the tab at the right so that you won’t miss any further posts. Please share this post if you enjoyed it, and please join us back here the week of January 12th for our next new post.
Happy New Year, and thanks again for joining me on all the delicious chocolate travel journeys that I’m honoured to share with you– here, and in my book.
I promised readers Alison and Anita I would share my experience at the Pure Jungle Spa of Puerto Viejo here, as it was truly one of pure chocolate ecstasy!
I learned about the Pure Jungle Spa while at the Puerto Viejo Chocolate Festival. Owner Andrea Turcios enticed us with her presentation featuring a delectable bowl of warm, molten chocolate that is used to slather the body in the chocolate papaya wraps, facials, and chocolate massages offered at her spa.
Andrea’s assistant Ro seduced our senses, giving festival participants the opportunity to inhale the intoxicating aroma of the pure organic chocolate used in the various treatments.
Who could resist? Within minutes, I was at the spa, my swollen (sprained) ankle soaking in warm water adorned with fresh flower petals, while enticing my taste buds with fresh locally made chocolate.
The Chocolate Decadence treatment began with a lemongrass scrub followed by a coconut oil full body massage to get my senses tingling. The pièce de résistance was being slathered with warm, molten chocolate–to every conceivable coordinate on my body.
This truly sensual treatment can be provided to couples who really want to experience the wild side of chocolate! But I was flying solo on this trip, so was happy to chat with my very capable masseuse, Ro, who kept me entertained with the story of her life as she applied the aromatic chocolate that had my nasal passages jumping with joy!
The laughing continued as I tried to scrub the chocolate off in the privacy of the jungle shower in the lush garden out back.
My visit to the Pure Jungle Spa was definitely a highlight of my visit to Puerto Viejo and will be covered in volume II of Chocolatour. But there’s lots more to come from my visit to Costa Rica. Please be sure to drop by the week of December 29th for our next new post.
And if you’ve been to the Pure Jungle Spa, or another spa that offers some form of chocolate treatment, let us know! Pleasure is only fully appreciated when shared.
The folks who organized the Puerto Viejo Chocolate Fest in Costa Rica really know how to throw a party! The festival runs for four days and offers a wonderful variety of events to enjoy throughout the laid-back beach resort community.
I had been invited to be a judge at this year’s festival, so had the pleasure of judging the single origin chocolate and the flavour infused chocolate truffles. It was tough tasting 11 single origin samples, but we judges persevered!
Judging focused on five categories: the aroma, mouthfeel, flavour, and finish (lingering flavours on the tongue), as well as the judge’s overall impression of each chocolate. Quite a tasty task, although I admit to not liking one of the truffles.
The chocolate judging was followed by a fabulous dinner at Stash’s featuring an excellent chicken molé and talapia fish encrusted with locally grown macadamia nuts. A truly delicious meal in a lovely setting. The walls at Stash’s are adorned with local art, and the tropical gardens on the grounds are a welcoming touch.
Day two of the festival was the largest public event, at which chocolate makers and chocolate lovers gathered to indulge in all sorts of chocolate flavours, entertainment, and craziness, including aerial dancers and the hypnotic dance of the cacao in which we were all invited to join in.
Day three of the festival was one of my favourites. There were several interesting presentations, including one by American chocolate maker Steve Devries, who was visiting from Colorado.
Later, we indulged in a series of delicious chocolate pairings at Chili Rojo, one of the finest restaurants in Puerto Viejo. Each chocolate maker had the opportunity to offer samples of their finest chocolate paired with the libation of their choice. We had Talamanca Chocolate’s Allspice bar with Single Malt Scotch, Tawny Port paired with 70% Pinca from Xocolat Chocolate, Carmenère wine from Chile paired with Bread & Chocolate’s Macadamia and Hazelnut Truffle, along with a Spumante paired with an orange truffle. Is your mouth watering yet?
Next up was Samaritan Chocolate, who paired their Pumpkin Pie Spice Chocolate with a Chocolate Stout. Caribeans Chocolate paired their espresso-infused 72% dark chocolate and their Three Kings Chocolate with several aged rums. Wow! And Talamanca Organica paired their 70% dark chocolate with an Organic Shiraz red wine from Italy. What a night!
The following day we did the “Chocolate Crawl,” where we visited various eating and drinking establishments for some form of chocolate offering. The various savoury chocolate dipping sauces served at Koki Beach (pictured below) were amazing. Who’d have thought that a cocoa-based sauce would pair so nicely with plantain and corn chips?
You can see a video of the Puerto Viejo Chocolate Fest made made by Henrik Bodholdt on my YouTube channel at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3YCSaQpYgHg&sns=tw. You can also order Costa Rican chocolate bars via Henrik’s site at http://www.chocolate-craft.com.
Next years’s Puerto Viejo Chocolate Festival is scheduled to begin Halloween night! Mark your calendars for October 31-November 3, 2015, and plan to be in Costa Rica to meet some amazing people and eat some mighty fine chocolate.
Please join us back here the week of December 15th, when I’ll introduce you to some of the chocolate makers mentioned in this post.
If you’re like me, you look for unique and local flavours from places you visit and seek out gifts and souvenirs that highlight those flavours. No surprise, my primary focus is on the chocolate of any given place, and I’m always thrilled when a chocolate shop I visit has travellers in mind.
Such is definitely the case with Caribeans Organic Artisan Chocolate in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica. It was thanks to Paul Johnson of Caribeans that I was able to make my way to Puerto Viejo and be a judge at this year’s chocolate fest. We met online (I believe it was via Twitter) and a post by one of Paul’s colleagues on the facebook page of the Puerto Viejo Chocolate Festival alerted me to the fact that there was a major chocolate event happening in a country I was anxious to explore. I’m thrilled that it all worked out, and even more thrilled with the stash of chocolate, cacao (cocoa beans and nibs), and coffee I brought home with me from Caribeans. The coffee and cocoa beans and nibs are packaged in durable plastic that easily survives a journey around the world.
And what about the chocolate? Well, it’s not for sissies. Caribeans chocolate is conched for only 24-36 hours, so it not the silky smooth chocolate you may have tried in other places. It is pure, and quite intense. All bars are made from 72% cacao except the milk chocolate. It’s nice and thin, and has a good snap to it. I like to call it authentic chocolate, as it only contains cacao, some cane sugar, and whatever natural flavourings may be included to create a special bar. Like the “Tequila Shot” bar that contains the leaves of Johnson’s own lime tree and some granulated sea salt. I love it, and will have to try it with a shot of tequila!
Paul and his wife Jeanne are excellent marketers, and give you the option of purchasing tiny 25-gram bars in a multitude of flavours (also available online), or the 150-gram larger “Special Reserve” bars featuring the finest cacao beans Caribeans has to offer.
It’s really worth taking the Caribeans Chocolate Forest Experience Chocolate Tour that shows you how Caribeans grows its cacao and makes its chocolate. The price is just $26USD for a three-hour tour that includes a fabulous guided tasting experience featuring this view!
If you really want to go all out and experience the world of Caribeans Chocolate and The Mango Walk guesthouse I profiled in the previous post, I recommend indulging in the “Chocolate Makers Dream” vacation. I guarantee you will leave a changed person, having learned all about this amazing chocolate destination of Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica.
Please join us back here the week of December 1st, when we’re continue our journey of chocolate discovery through Puerto Viejo.
There are so many vivid memories from my week of chocolate exploration in Costa Rica, I’m not quite sure where to start! So I’ll begin with the fabulous guesthouse that hosted me during my visit to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca.
The Mango Walk is the brainchild of Jeff and Sherry Ghiotto, childhood sweethearts from Florida who moved to Costa Rica a few years ago after building their dream home–which they now share with chocolate lovers to the Puerto Viejo area.
The Ghiottos have a cacao forest on their property that has been restored for cocoa production with the help of Paul Johnson of Caribeans Chocolate and Coffee Roastery. You’ll meet Paul and his wife Jeanne in a future post on this blog.
I had the pleasure and privilege of staying on the second floor of The Mango Walk, which offers splendid views of the Caribbean Sea, as well as a natural environment with no less than 50 shades of green, resident sloths and howler monkeys.
There is a wrap-around deck complete with hammock for those lazy days when you just want to chill. My brief time in Costa Rica allowed no time for that, but I would highly recommend this property for those who relish seclusion and an immersion in nature combined with the occasional intrusion from creatures of the dark.
Thanks to Jessica Ghiotto who shared this remarkable space with me, and showed me how to be brave and self-reliant when it came to removing unwanted visitors from our abode. I was so amazed with this moth (whose wing-span was no less than four inches) that I just let him stay as long as he wanted.
Have you been to Puerto Viejo or the jungles of Costa Rica? What images are most engraved in your mind? Did you encounter any extra large members of the insect world that stopped you in your path?
Let’s share some memories and virtual images of Costa Rica, and then please join us back here the week of November 24th for our next post on this emerging land of chocolate.
I visited both coasts of Costa Rica back in December of 2001, while on a Panama Canal cruise. We had the opportunity to visit Puerto Limon on the east coast, where we explored the port city of Limon and Parque Vargas–and after passing through the canal–the port of Puntarenas located on an inlet on the west coast, from where we embarked on a day trip to the capital city of San José located in the central interior.
I’ll be back in San José next week, as I’ve been invited to be a judge in the Puerto Viejo Chocolate Festival that runs from October 30-November 2, 2014.
I can’t wait to return to this Central American country, as when my husband and I were there for only two days back in 2001, we both agreed that we would love to return and become better acquainted with this very charming country.
Costa Rica has a much healthier economy than other Central American countries like Honduras and Guatemala. That is likely tied into the fact that Costa Rica puts a very strong emphasis on education, and has a literacy rate of 96%!
Tourism is the number one industry in Costa Rica, and so you find that English is widely spoken. That may be partly because of the huge expat population in the country. There are an estimated 100,000 Americans living in Costa Rica, and by no coincidence, the primary hosts for my upcoming visit are an American couple that own and operate Caribeans Chocolate.
Agriculture is the second largest industry in Costa Rica, and although bananas and coffee have historically been the primary agricultural crops, the growing of cacao is forging forward as an important agricultural activity, and there is now a significant amount of great chocolate in Costa Rica to be found–which is why you will find me there!
You can be assured that I’ll have a stream of posts that will share the chocolate of Costa Rica with you, information about growing cacao in Costa Rica, and highlights of the Puerto Viejo Chocolate Festival. I can’t believe it’s taken me 13 years to return to this country. Here’s hoping my new experiences will far exceed the memories of our excellent first visit.
Have you been to Costa Rica? If so, what have been your impressions? Your favourite experiences? Please share your comments here, and then stay tuned for my next post, which will follow my return from Costa Rica on November 4th.
I had the pleasure of being the culture guide on September 27th in Gimli, Manitoba, for the town’s inaugural participation in Nuit Blanche, the special night-time culture tour that is free and designed to immerse participants into a collage of cultural opportunities and venues to fill their senses with pleasure.
Nuit Blanche Gimli was organized by representatives of Gimli’s cultural scene in cooperation with the folks at Culture Days Manitoba, and how special we felt knowing that Gimli was the only place in Manitoba outside of Winnipeg to have a Nuit Blanche event (although several other communities did participate in Culture Days.)
Nuit Blanche is a cultural event that was first launched in Nantes, France, back in 1984, and can now be found in more than 120 locations around the world. Although we didn’t go all night as some Nuit Blanche events are said to do – thus the name meaning “white night” as the lights are on throughout the night. Some venues in Winnipeg and abroad lived up to the name, but our local tour ran from 8-10:30 p.m. and I think everyone was happy with that. Perhaps we’ll start earlier in the evening next year as we were a bit rushed between performances at the various venues.
The A-Spire Theatre houses many cultural events such as live performances and readings by authors. We were treated to a sketch called “Louis and Dave” by playwright Norm Foster that has us rolling in the aisles. Could it get any better?
Those who love melodic music would have been thrilled with the next stop on the tour, as we were whisked away to the land of bliss, listening to Deborah Romeyn’s concert at the New Iceland Heritage Museum. You can get a taste of Deb’s music on her site. Some folks enjoyed perusing the quilt show that was featured at the museum, but you couldn’t tear me away from the music.
We then made our way to the Gimli Art Club, where artist Warren Wenzel was waiting for us with his chainsaw! In addition to stoneworks (also on sale at the GAC) Warren is a master of chainsaw art, and showed us how he carves a pelican out of a stump of wood. Inside the art club, tour participants could create their own mini painting with guidance from members of the club.
The final stop on the tour was to the Ship and Plough Gastropub. Unfortunately, the other stops on the tour took a bit longer than anticipated, so we missed most of the performance by Hammer’s Music School (pictured above.) And the kitchen closed shortly after we arrived, so members of our group could not order food. And there was a shortage of chairs, so many members of the tour has no choice but to leave. And the second musical act (the Tin Cat Bandits) played a bit too loud for such a small venue, and any conversation or camaraderie were pretty much out of the question.
But all in all, Nuit Blanche Gimli was a great success and I was thrilled to be a part of it.
Have you participated in a Nuit Blanche or Culture Days event? How was it? The link I give near the top of this post shows events that were held across Canada during Culture Days 2014. I can’t wait to see what’s in the offering for 2015!
Please join us back here the week of October 20th for our next new post. And while you’re here, please share the post and subscribe to the blog. You’ll be glad you did.
It’s not often I accept guest posts on this blog, but I couldn’t refuse Marta Lopez Garcia’s offer to post this delicious article and pics about some of her favourite chocolate destinations. Author Bio Marta López is a travel writer originally from Spain and now based in London. Marta is an occasional contributor to Expedia UK. She loves travelling, cooking and chocolate. When she isn’t writing on her laptop she can be found around the city looking for the best chocolate stores.
5 Worldwide destinations for chocolate lovers
It may have originated from the Spanish language and it dates back to Mesoamerican history. Chocolate is more than a delicious sweet, it’s also a way of travel. If you are still planning your first autumn trip, here you have five chocolate destinations that will sweeten your life!
Jeff de Bruges Shop in Bruges courtesy of Robyn Lee via Creative Commons
Bruges: The heart of fine chocolate ￼
Bruges is one of those places that once you visit it, you feel like you were on a fairy tale and most travellers say that it’ s a city that you drink and eat with the eyes. Apart from its canals and its medieval architecture, Bruges is well known for beer and chocolate. It’s a fact; this city of narrow streets is full of chocolatiers that produce the finest praliné in Europe. Last but not least: After trying hundreds of different chocolates, take the challenge and reach the top of Belfort Belfry, a symbol of the city that dates back to 1282. Once you have reached the top you will confirm that everywhere looks like an antique map… Top tip: Don’t forget to visit Bruges Chocolate Museum (Wijnzakstraat 2, Sint-Jansplein), found in the Maison Croon which dates from 1480.
Tabasco: The land of maya chocolate ￼
Chocolate skulls photo courtesy of Janet Lackey via Creative Commons
Chocolate hides an intense past in Mesoamerica. It was in 1502 when settlers arrived to what we known as Mexico and discovered this “brown gold”, cultivated by the Olmec culture. Hernán Cortés was the first to try this delicatessen in front of the Aztec emperor and consequently he didn’t hesitate to bring all the accessories for its production back in Spain. Today whoever visits Tabasco, in the southeast of Mexico, will have the chance to discover the origins and the route of the sacred cacao. Here you will be able to immerse yourself in the jungle and feel the aroma of maya cacao thanks to the wide number of small farms that cultivate this precious treasure. Top tip: Find out more about this ancient product and visit Finca Génesis, an organic cacao-producing farm.
St Lucia: A luxury chocolate experience
Cocoa image courtesy of Andi Jetaime via Creative Commons
Sweet and sunny, St Lucia has become a worldwide chocolate destination. This island, based in the Caribbean, used to export its cacao beans in the past, whereas now it keeps them for its own production. Visitors will find here a less sweet chocolate that the one from France, Belgium or America. St Lucia’s chocolate legacy dates back to the cocoa industry of the 1700’s. Today the island has an important reputation when it comes to talking about quality cacao and that is one of the reasons why travellers can find here a wide collection of hotels and resorts offering luxury services related to it such as cacao routes or chocolate-infused spa treatments. To tip: There is no St Lucia without experiencing the luxury of chocolate. Don’t hesitate to choose a holiday that offers a proper cacao experience. (Doreen’s note: Hotel Chocolat Boucan and Jade Mountain are 2 St. Lucia properties that I have written about previously on this blog and highly recommend.)
Madrid: Hot chocolate for breakfast ￼
Chocolatería San Ginés image courtesy of Edu Blanco via Creative Commons
The capital of Spain is one of the coolest places in Europe to enjoy chocolate in a very casual way. “Chocolate con churros” is what Spaniards call the perfect breakfast, which is hardly ever consumed at home. This New Year’s tradition is a combination of a cup of rich, thick hot chocolate and a light and crisp churros (pastry-like fritters). If you finally decide to visit the Spanish capital, don’t miss the chance to pop in at any of the many chocolaterías available, a sort of coffee shop where artesian hot chocolate is the speciality. Top tip: You can’t leave Madrid without enjoying a proper chocolate con churros. Visit Chocolatería San Ginés (Pasadizo de San Ginés, 5).
Perugia: The land of kisses ￼
The old chocolate truck image courtesy of travelling steve via Creative Commons
Legend says that it was here where Valentines’ Day was born. In Perugia, the capital of the beautiful Umbria region, everything has to do with a kiss, or what Italians call a bacio. It’s therefore no coincidence that the most popular chocolate in this area is the brand of Baci. Such is the passion that Perugian people feel about chocolate, that the city celebrates every October a festival called Eurochocolate (Friday 17th- Sunday 26th October) which attracts people from all over the country looking for the best chocolate products to buy and taste. Top tip: If you fancy a walk around the city, don’t hesitate to visit Rocca Paolina, an underground town built by the Pope Paolo III in 1540.
I hope you enjoyed Marta’s post and that it has inspired you to enjoy some chocolate travel of your own. I’ve been to St. Lucia and Madrid, but Bruges, Perugia, and Tabasco are still high on my list of chocolate destinations to visit. Which of these places have you visited and enjoyed?
Please share your thoughts and questions, and then join us back here the week of October 6th for our next new post.