wine travel

I’ve been writing about wine travel longer than I’ve been writing about chocolate travel. So I thought I’d do a quick round up of some of the fabulous wine regions I’ve had the pleasure of visiting.

The Marquis de Riscal Wine Resort in El Ciego, Spain is one of the most incredible places I've ever stayed.

The Marquis de Riscal Wine Resort in El Ciego, Spain is one of the most incredible places I’ve ever stayed.

I’d say that the Rioja region of Spain is probably the most memorable wine region I’ve visited to date. Why? because I love everything about Spain. The breath-taking scenery, the stunning architecture, the multi-layered culinary creations, the fabulous chocolate, and the full-bodied red wines that enhance pretty much any meal or occasion. This is where I discovered Tempranillo and Crianza, two bold and voluptuous reds that have brought a smile to my face on many occasions.

I also visited a winery on the island of Santorini in Greece where I discovered Boutari. Like Spain, Greece is a country filled with intense flavours and aromas. Boutari (which comes in white or red) is a great wine for pairing with Greek foods. The Nauossa Boutari red is considered the finest Greek wine and has won many prestigious awards. I haven’t had it lately, but the 2009 vintage is definitely one of my favourites.

Lodi considers itself the "Wine Grape Capital of California"

Lodi considers itself the “Wine Grape Capital of California”

Closer to home, last fall I visited wine country in California, spending time in the Napa Valley, Sonoma, and Lodi. Since familiarizing myself with the wines of Europe, I’ve considered myself an Old World wine girl, but I must say that the Old Vine Zin (Zinfandel) that I tasted in California has given me a greater respect for California wines.

Nk'Mip Cellars at Spirit Ridge in Osoyoos offers fantastic food and wine.

Nk’Mip Cellars at Spirit Ridge in Osoyoos offers fantastic food and wine.

I’ve also discovered some amazing wines in British Columbia, Canada, and am happy to be heading back to Spirit Ridge in Osoyoos in January to do some more tasting at the Nk’Mip Cellars. They have a wide range of award-winning wines, but to date, my favourite BC wine is the Cabernet Franc from the Burrowing Owl Winery. Last time I was there, I brought home a case of this deep red elixir with me, but it’s been a few years, so I’m curious to see whether it or my taste buds have changed, as wine changes each year with the crop of new grapes. And our taste buds certainly change and evolve over time.

The cuisine at wine resorts is usually impeccable. Pictured here is a delicious meal we enjoyed at Nk'Mip Cellars in Osoyoos.

The cuisine at wine resorts is usually impeccable. Pictured here is a delicious meal we enjoyed at Nk’Mip Cellars in Osoyoos.

There are also some great wines being produced in the Niagara and Prince Edward County Regions of Ontario. You’ll find a fruitier variety of wines being produced in Nova Scotia, Canada, as well–perfect for hot summer days.

What’s on my wish list for wine travel? I love Bordeaux wine from France, so would love to visit that well-renowned wine region. I also love the Sauvignon Blanc white wine being produced in New Zealand, and have certainly enjoyed some of the Wolf Blass reds from Australia. And as that region of the world is on my list of chocolate travel destinations planned for Volume III of Chocolatour, you can be sure I’ll get there in the next few years. As well, I’d like to visit Chile and Argentina. In my opinion, there are few better reds than a fine Argentinian Malbec.

Malbec wine from the Mendoza region of Argentina is a terrific moderately priced wine.

Malbec wine from the Mendoza region of Argentina is a terrific moderately-priced wine.

I hope that the grapes and vintages I’ve named will encourage you to try some new wines! And if you’re interested in wine travel, you are sure to enjoy the blog of my friend Veronica Leonard, who calls herself the wine tourist and runs this fine blog. As well, in her book, Unquenchable, wine writer Natalie MacLean shares some of her favourite places to experience wine travel.

Have you experienced travel for the sake of discovering new wines? If so, please share some memories or tips with us. And then please join me back here the week of September 8th for our next new post.

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Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel

It’s been wonderful reminiscing about the wonders of Hawaii and Hawaiian chocolate with you over the past 12 posts. But it was time to leave this tropical paradise and get back to Canada (which right now, is a temperate paradise, but in February, that certainly wasn’t so!)

My flight to Winnipeg wasn’t until many hours after landing in Vancouver, British Columbia, so I was thrilled at an offer from the Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel to put me up for a quick sleep and fabulous chocolate-focused lunch in their ultra-chic Globe Restaurant. I’ve written previously about the various airport hotels that have made long-haul travels more palatable for me, and was really impressed with the Fairmont Vancouver Airport and grateful for this invitation as Fairmont Hotels are known throughout the world for their standard of excellence.

Fairmont Vancouver Airport

The real bonus here, was that in addition to being able to gain some much-needed shut-eye after a dreadful red-eye flight, and having a gorgeous room with a view of the mountains and aircraft (that didn’t disturb me because of the fantastic soundproofing of the hotel), I was able to have lunch with one of my very dear friends who lives in Vancouver who was able to take the easy ride on the Canada One rapid transit from downtown Vancouver. Why Toronto can’t come up with a similarly direct form of comfortable and cost-effective public transportation from downtown to Pearson International Airport frustrates me to no end.

Globe Restaurant

But back to the pleasures of my stay at the Fairmont Vancouver Airport. After a much-needed nap and shower, I made my down to the award-winning Globe Restaurant, and was greeted by the smiling host who led me to a table where we could watch the aircraft come and go.  Within minutes, my friend Pat arrived and we enjoyed a lunch as delicious as our 41-year-long friendship. We began with a Whipped and Beaten Martini, that featured creme de cacao and was topped with chocolate shavings.

Whipped & Beaten Martini

Our lunch of linguini carbonara was superb, and completed by a tray of chocolate pastries created by the pastry chef Lorna and the creative team at the Globe. Pat and I enjoyed meeting Pastry Chef Lorna and Sous Chef Mike who came out to explain each of the desserts that had been created for us.

Globe Resto

desserts at Globe RestoOf this tray of delectable chocolate offerings, I most enjoyed the White Chocolate with Foie Gras, Honey and Candied nuts, pictured on the left. I wish we could have had more time to linger and really enjoy those desserts, but I had a plane to catch!

If you find yourself having to spend some time at the Vancouver Airport, I’d highly recommend a meal at the Globe, and if you have the time and opportunity to stay at the Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel, I have no doubt your stay will be as pleasant as mine. It was a wonderful way to end an equally wonderful trip.

Please join me back here the week of August 25th for our next new post. And in the meantime, please share any stories you may have about a fantastic airport hotel, special things you have done on a brief layover, or any personal reflections of the Globe Restaurant or the multi-award winning Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel. Cheers! 

 

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Big Island Candies of Hawaii

I hope you’ve enjoyed the past few posts about the Big Island of Hawaii. It’s hard to believe I’ve only seen one half of the island!

Even though I didn’t get over to the Hilo side, I wanted to give a salute to Big Island Candies, a company that I’d foolishly ignored because of their misleading name. Big Island Candies (BIC) isn’t just a confectionary company producing sweet candy treats. They are a high-end producer of excellent Hawaiian chocolate creations that make a visit to the eastern side of the Big Island really worthwhile.

Big Island Candies

BIC produces authentic Hawaiian treats such as dried, chewy cuttlefish dipped in delicious dark chocolate. But it also makes a Hawaiian version of the turtle (one of my favourite chocolate treats) that replaces the traditional pecans with roasted Hawaiian-grown macadamia nuts. And, wow! They use really massive macadamia nuts in this creation, along with a not-too-sweet caramel encased in milk chocolate. I don’t believe this comes in a dark chocolate version, but I wish it did.

Big Island Candies

As well, BIC makes an amazing Hawaiian red chili butter toffee coated with a rich dark chocolate that was totally addictive. And my favourite treat of all … the toffee coated chocolate covered massive macadamia nuts that are dusted in Hawaiian grown cocoa. So delectable. This was one treat I absolutely would not share.

Big Island Candies

BIC makes so much more, and everything that I was sent for review, passed my test. Pure homegrown ingredients, fresh flavour, and a creative assortment of chocolates, nuts, and cookies that are among the best I have ever tasted. And everything came in really colourful attractive packaging, and to us ladies, that’s important. Big Island Candies is not a company to be overlooked by the chocolate connoisseur. I can assure you that on my next visit to the Big Island, I will be visiting Hilo to see firsthand how they make their creations, and I hope to meet the dynamic team that has been creating them and winning numerous awards since 1977.

Have you had the pleasure of trying some of the creations from Big Island Candies? How did you like them? Have you been to Hilo? What did I miss seeing there? 

Please join me back here the week of August 11th, when we’ll say Aloha to the Big Island, and head back to North America for more culinary treats.

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exploring the Big Island of Hawaii

I hope you enjoyed meeting the executive chef of the Fairmont Orchid in my last post. In addition to the amazing food and ambiance of the resort, the Fairmont Orchid also provides a great location for exploring the northwestern shore of the Big Island of Hawaii.

Heading north on Highway 19, we arrived at Hapuna Beach, a place to which I would love to return. We didn’t have enough time to swim there, but we did enjoy an afternoon stroll along the beach. I was surprised at how crowded the parking lot was as this is a fairly remote location, but once we got to the beach we could understand why. It’s a lovely swimming beach that is great for families. In the background of the photo, you can see the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel. We didn’t have time to explore it, but the hotel certainly has an amazing view and stunning location, doesn’t it?

Hapuna Beach

We then headed to the end of Highway 19 to the Pololu Valley Lookout–an overlook of one of the most scenic stretches of shoreline I’ve had the pleasure of visiting. It reminded me of some of the striking scenery I’d seen in Newfoundland, Canada, but much more tropical, and with a black sand beach.

Pololu Valley Lookout

The Pololu Valley is part of the Kohala Forest Reserve, and was once a prime agricultural area for growing taro (a root and leaf vegetable also known as kalo) and rice.

Pololu Valley, Hawaii

It was kind of neat being at what is referred to as both the end and the start of the State Highway!

Highway 19, Hawaii

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We then spent some time in the tiny village of Hawi, where we had lunch, shopped, and found a fabulous fudge shop in the Kava Kafe. The passionfruit and chocolate, passionfruit and ginger, macadamia nut and chocolate, and pure dark chocolate fudges were all fantastic, and handmade of local ingredients. I’d forgotten how delicious they were until I started writing this post!

fudge shop

As you can see, I am a huge fan of Hawaii, and my first visit to the Big Island was as satisfying as I’d hoped it would be. Have you explored this part of Hawaii? If so, what impressed or surprised you most? Let’s share more travel tips about this heavenly destination, and for your reward, I’ll meet you back here the week of July 28th, when I’ll share more discoveries of decadent Hawaiian chocolate  …

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a profile of Executive Chef Hubert Des Marais IV

Every once in awhile I have the opportunity to meet a chef who is really doing something special, and that happened on my recent visit to the Big Island of Hawaii. In this post I talked about how much we loved staying at the beautiful Fairmont Orchid resort on the Kohala Coast. This man was partially responsible for the deliciously chocolate focus of our visit.

Hubert Des Marais

“Freedom is king,” says Chef Hubert Des Marais IV of his global career

Born in Virginia, and growing up in North Carolina, Des Marais developed an early interest in fine cuisine. He worked in Mexico and studied how to make the perfect molé (savoury chocolate sauce.) He oversaw a group of properties in East Africa and got deeply interested in the world of cocoa there, and when the opportunity arose to relocate to Hawaii, he embraced it. “I really enjoy the flavours of the Banana Belt,” says Des Marais. “Wherever they grow cocoa, there’s always good coffee and tropical fruit.”

So Des Marais made the commitment to work with what was grown locally, and find the best of what Hawaii had to offer. “My biggest challenge here has been our remoteness. It makes it very expensive to import products. When I came here two years ago, the resort was only using 30% local produce. We’re now up to 80%. The Aquaculture Center provides us with our fish, and local farmers and growers provide the rest. The only thing we can’t get locally is chicken, as there is no USDA slaughterhouse for poultry on the Island of Hawaii.”

One of the local specialities who will find featured at the Fairmont Orchid is fish crusted with cocoa nibs. “Hebi (shortbill spearfish) and other stronger fish such as monchong and striped marlin (also called nairagi) pair very well with cocoa,” says Des Marais. “We either coat the fish in cocoa-flavoured sea salt or keep it coarse with crunchy nibs.” Des Marais has 50 cocoa trees of his own growing in his orchards, and is continually experimenting in combining local flavours. “Acidic fruits such as passionfruit go really well in a salsa with pieces of chocolate or cocoa nibs,” he says.  “And I like to blend flavours of coffee and chocolate with meats such as lamb.”

chocolate cocoa pod

The chocolate cocoa pod above shows why the Fairmont Orchid is the perfect place for chocolate connoisseurs! Des Marais and his culinary team–which includes seven sous chefs (one of which is a dedicated pastry chef and chocolatier) and 78 cooks continually stretch the boundaries of their creativity to keep the culinary offerings exotic, enticing, and satisfying. Here’s hoping I’ll have the opportunity to return again soon for more of their cocoa cuisine.

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Chocolatouring on a virtual book tour

I’m thrilled to share news that next week will begin a virtual book tour for Chocolatour.

The exciting thing about being a blogger, and more specifically a travel blogger, is that I’ve met so many amazing bloggers–in person, in online groups, and at various events– who have been supportive of my work in the realm of chocolate travel. I’m forging a new niche here, and it’s exciting to find fellow enthusiasts who will share different aspects of Chocolatour and chocolatouring on their blogs.

chocolatour

virtual book tour for Chocolatour

Let me give you a rundown on the hosts of the virtual book tour, and the dates they’ll be chocolatouring with us.

We start the week off with Agness Walewinder, who will host a guest post from me on her terrific blog at http://etramping.com/best-chocolate-destinations-around-world/ on June 23rd. Stay tuned for my picks of top chocolate travel destinations to visit. Agness is originally from Poland, and has been travelling the world for the past three years with her friend Cez.

On June 24th, Carolyn Hamilton will host Chocolatour for a Q&A on her site http://www.adventuress-travel-magazine.com/Chocolatour.html. Carolyn is an “over 50 Adventuress doing fun things.” Please check out her site and bookmark it to return on June 24th.

On June 25th, I’ll be guest posting on The City Traveler at http://www.thecitytraveler.com/2014/06/choco-tours-five-cities-to-sample/ where I’ll share some excitement for a few of my favourite chocolate-friendly cities. This site is run by JoAnn Greco and a team of talented travel writers.

On June 26th, Suzanne Stavert will host a Q&A on her site for Adventures of Empty Nesters at http://adventuresofemptynesters.com/chocolatour-quest-worlds-best-chocolate. Suzanne and her husband are enjoying life in the “empty nest” stage of life and sharing their adventures on their lively blog.

On June 27th, Suzanne Fluhr of Boomeresque will share her review of Chocolatour with travel loving baby boomers at http://www.boomeresque.com/a-boomeresque-book-review-chocolatour-a-quest-for-the-worlds-best-chocolate-volume-one-by-doreen-pendgracs/. I had the pleasure of meeting Suzanne in Hawaii in February and we are both members of the Boomer Travel Writers group on facebook.

On June 28th, there will be a post on the blog of Jenna Davis at http://giveforgranted.com/2014/06/featured-doreen-pendgracs-book-review-chocolatour/. I have only very recently ‘met’ Jenna online, but love her enthusiasm and dedication to her project. Please check it out and help if you can.

On June 29th, I’ll be hosted by fellow Winnipegger Donna Janke, who lives in Manitoba spring thru fall, and is a snowbird in winter when she heads south to escape our winters. Donna will be posting a Q&A on her blog Destinations, Detours, and Dreams at http://destinationsdetoursdreams.blogspot.com/2014/06/chocolatour-book-tour-exploring-many.html where you’ll learn about some of the chocolate events I have been hosting and attending.

On Monday, June 30th, I’m on Michele Peterson’s site “A Taste for Travel” at http://michelepeterson.com/2830-q-a-with-chocolatour/. Michele and I share a common focus: travelling the world for the sake of great tastes!

And to wrap things up with a salute to the best of Canadian chocolatiers and chocolate makers, on July 1st I’ve got a special Canada Day Salute on Canadian author Sarah Butland’s site at http://sarahbutland.com/blog/2014/06/30/a-canada-day-salute-to-some-of-canadas-finest-chocolate-makers/.

Be sure to stop into each one of the posted hosts where you’ll receive a code to receive a discount on your copy of Chocolatour when you order it via my site at http://chocolatour.net between June 23-July 1st, 2014. A special thanks to D’vorah Lansky for the great information I received in her book, 21 Ways to Launch a Successful Virtual Book Tour.

See you next week on the tour …

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a visit to the Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory

We had the great pleasure of meeting Pam and Bob Cooper at their cocoa plantation–which also happens to be their chocolate factory! This is the only location in the world I have visited to date, where the cacao/cocoa is grown on the very same piece of land on which the beans are fermented, dried, made into chocolate, packaged and sold all on the same site! And what a site!

original-hawaiian-chocolate-factory

The Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory is located on leeward slope of Mount Hualalai.

As you pull into the driveway of the Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory (OHCF), it feels like you are driving into the yard of friends–who just happen to have a beautiful hilltop piece of property with a stunning ocean view! The Coopers left their home in Raleigh, North Carolina, in 1997 and moved to the Big Island near Kona. In 1998, Bob took a chocolate making course at Richardson Researches, Inc. in California, and by September, 2000, made his first batch of chocolate for sale. He now has approximately 1,450 cacao trees on his six-acre farm alongside some macadamia trees.

cocoa-pods-beans

A visit to the Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory gives you the chance to see cocoa pods, unfermented cocoa beans, and much more.

The OHCF presently makes 10,000 pounds of chocolate per year but has the capacity to make 80,000 pounds if they could get more Hawaiian-grown cocoa. The Coopers currently buy cocoa beans from 27 different growers, but still can’t get nearly enough to make their capacity. They call themselves a ‘self-restraining operation,’ and limit production so that they can maintain their 100% Hawaiian grown branding. OHCF uses organic growing practices and organic fertilizer, but doesn’t have formal organic certification because of the ‘red tape’ it involves.

drying-cocoa-beans

Drying the cocoa beans at OHCF.

On your visit to the Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory, you’ll learn that the cocoa beans are fermented in mahogany boxes for a week and then dried in the sun for 30 days in order to reduce the moisture content of the beans from their natural state of 22-28% down to just seven percent. The shells of the beans are then removed by winnowing and the cocoa is conched (refined) for just 18 hours—compared to the 80 or more hours I’ve seen done in many European establishments. Yet, the chocolate is heavenly smooth.

cocoa-nibs

The cocoa nibs from the Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory have an intensely fresh flavour.

I particularly enjoyed the dark Forastero chocolate from OHCF and their fresh cocoa nibs. It was a very sad day for me when I finished the cocoa nibs I’d brought back with me from OHCF. I love the intensity they bring to yogurt mixed with fresh fruit, crunchiness to ice-cream sundaes, and the exotic layering of flavour they add when mixed in with granola.

bob-and-pam-cooper

Bob and Pam Cooper relaxing in their cocoa plantation.

Bob and Pam Cooper are founding members of the Hawaii Chocolate and Cocoa Association (HCCA) and are really committed to seeing the local industry grow. You can take a tour of their operation by getting in touch via their website or reserving by phone at (808) 322-2626. The really cool thing for chocolate travellers is that OHCF uses Fedex to courier orders to customers in the US, so that you don’t have to carry your chocolate orders home with you. Something to remember for your Chocolatour to the island of Hawaii!

Have you tried the chocolate offerings of OHCF? Do you enjoy cocoa nibs as a healthy snack? Have you considered including Hawaii in your chocolate travel plans? Let’s talk about it! And then please join us back here the week of June 16th for our next delicious post.

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Fairmont Orchid is my kind of place

I wasn’t certain whether to stick with more posts about our stay on Oahu or whether to venture over to the Big Island for the next post. My query was answered by news that the Big Island Film Festival is taking place this week at the Fairmont Orchid Resort and I wanted to get this post out incase anyone reading this was toying with the idea of attending the event.

fairmont-orchid

The grounds and gardens at the Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii, are soothing and inspiring.

I happily accepted the invitation to stay at the Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii, in February, as an opportunity to scout out the venue as the host of the Big Island Chocolate Festival which was held May 1-3, 2014. Although I wasn’t able to attend this year’s event, I did meet Hubert Des Marais IV, the Executive Chef at the Fairmont Orchid, and enjoyed several of his creations. I also know this venue can’t help but add to the vibe of any event. It is truly magnificent, in a relaxed and understated kind of way.  We loved everything about it.

fairmont-orchid

It was awesome watching the whales frolicking off our lanai at the Fairmont Orchid.

We could watch the humpback whales breaching from our lanai, or be inspired by the vistas of the mountains or the beauty of the golf course. This resort far exceeded our expectations. Every member of the staff we encountered was friendly and helpful. The cuisine was creative and satisfying. The location ideal, being just 20 miles north of the Kona Airport and an easy drive to the city of Kailua Kona or the rustic solitude of Pololu Valley lookout on the northern tip of the island of Hawaii, one of the most scenic vistas I’ve ever seen. Stay tuned for more on that in a future post.

Want a beach-side massage? You got it. There’s also a sanctuary for the endangered Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle on the beach. Just like us humans, the turtles (called Honu in Hawaiian) like to rest themselves on the beach and soak up the sun. The Fairmont Orchid has plenty for guests to do, but if you just want to chill and enjoy the peaceful serenity, it is there without loud music and noisy activities to spoil the Zen.

fairmont-orchid

The beachfront spa at Fairmont Orchid offers sounds of the sea as the perfect backdrop for your massage.

For us chocolate lovers, there is no better place to be. We were welcomed with an assortment of chocolate covered strawberries hand-dipped in Hawaiian-grown chocolate. Our consolation prize for not being able to attend the Chocolate Festival–which I hear was fantastic this year.

chocolate

I’ve also heard that the 2015 Big Island Chocolate Festival will be held in March rather than May. With any luck … I’ll see you there. Stay tuned for exact dates.

Have you been to the Big Island? Stayed at the Fairmont Orchid? Attended the Big Island Chocolate Festival? Is it on your Bucket List? Please share your thoughts and experiences, and join us back here the week of June 2nd for our next post on the Big Island of Hawaii.

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growing cacao in Hawaii

We’ve explored the island of Oahu and some of the fabulous Hawaiian chocolate produced there in the past few posts. I’d now like to share some of what I learned while visiting cocoa farms and plantations on the island.

cocoa-pods

I’ve never seen such a dense concentration of cocoa pods as I did on the cacao trees of the Waialua Estate on Oahu.

growing cocoa on American soil

Usually, the growing of cacao (cocoa) has been limited to a belt 20 degrees north or south of the equator.  It’s only in the past 10 years or so, that cocoa has been grown in Hawaii in any quantity–which is at 21-22 degrees latitude. You’ll now find about 100 planted acres of cacao growing on the islands of Oahu, the Big Island of Hawaii, and lesser amounts on the islands of Maui and Kauai, with the amount of cacao grown in Hawaii increasing by 25% each year.

In 2013, there were 30,700 pounds of cocoa beans harvested in Hawaii. Of that, 24,500 was grown on Oahu, 5,600 pounds on the Big Island, 580 pounds on Maui, and 100 pounds on Kauai. It’s good to know that production is on the increase, as demand for Hawaiian cocoa far exceeds the amount of beans currently grown.

I had the pleasure of being invited to participate in the 2014 field trip of the Hawaii Chocolate and Cacao Association in February that took me to several of the 16 test sites where cacao is being grown and studied with respect to grafting and fertilization techniques as well as disease control. We also visited the largest private cocoa estate on the island of Oahu. I’ve seen cacao growing in South America and the Caribbean and learned that each growing region has its own unique challenges when it comes to growing cacao. Hawaii is no exception, where the Chinese rose beetle is the main challenge to growers.

cacao-seedling

Cacao seedlings on Oahu are being attacked by Chinese rose beetles.

To combat further devastation to cocoa seedlings from the rose beetles, growers wrap the trunk in a heavy plastic to prohibit the beetles from crunching on the seedlings. As well, they use LED lights to keep the cocoa fields lit during the night. It seems the beetles only come out in the dark, so light is projected onto the young cocoa trees from dusk until dawn, discouraging the damaging vermin from eating the young tender leaves of the seedlings. I’m told that grasshoppers are a challenge on Maui.

caco-seedlngs

Cacao seedlings on the Waialua Estate are wrapped in heavy plastic to protect them from the Chinese rose beetles.

At present, chocolate makers and chocolatiers in Hawaii have to partially rely on imported cocoa to make their chocolates as there just isn’t enough cocoa grown on the islands of Hawaii to meet the demand. And due to higher production costs, the price for cocoa grown on Hawaii is considerably higher than what chocolate companies have to pay for imported beans or couverture. But it appears that is changing, and Waialua Estate (owned by Dole), now has 25 acres of cocoa planted alongside its 200 acres of coffee. They are making some excellent chocolate from those beans — most notably the Waialua Estate 55% semisweet bar adorned with Hawaiian cocoa nibs.

You’ll find that cacao is often grown on the same property as coffee as they require similar growing conditions. No wonder their flavours go so nicely together!

In a future post, I’ll talk more about the Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory on the Big Island, the only current locale in the Hawaiian Islands where the cocoa is grown on the same site as where the chocolate is made. Their cocoa nibs are absolutely fantastic!

Please join us back here the week of May 19th, when we’ll have our first post on the Big Island of Hawaii.

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Kailua is King of Hawaiian Chocolate

Before we began chocolatouring around Hawaii, I hadn’t previously heard of Kailua–a community located within Honolulu County and just 12 miles northeast of the metropolis of Honolulu city. But the small town of about 38,000 residents is a world away from the hustle and bustle of Honolulu and has a bit of the country feel you’d find in a Midwest town of the same size. What makes Kailua different (besides the beautiful beach) is the chocolate!

Within the course of a few blocks, we visited the three chocolate shops I mentioned in the previous post: Manoa Chocolate Hawaii, Madre Chocolate, and Kokolani Chocolates. Each of these is very different and well worth a look.

Manoa Chocolate

I love Manoa because it is the labour of love of a young couple in love. Hawaiian-born chocolate maker Dylan Butterbaugh and his finance Tamara Armstrong lead the creative team at Manoa. Tamara handles most of the marketing and Dylan is the chief chocolate maker. They make a super cute couple and some incredibly tasty chocolate. My favourite is the Breakfast Bars made of a 60% “dark milk” chocolate and Hawaiian-grown crushed coffee beans. Unfortunately, due to a shortage in local supply and the high price of Hawaiian-grown cocoa (as much as 4x the price of fine cocoa from any other part of the world,) Manoa uses cocoa beans from Costa Rica, Liberia, and Papua New Guinea to make most of their chocolate. I love the crunch of the Breakfast Bar with cocoa nibs and coffee beans to give your day the kickstart it deserves. (Coincidentally, Manoa used Kickstarter crowdfunding to purchase new equipment for its operation in 2012.) You can take a tour of the tiny Manoa “factory” and learn more about their operation while you taste the different products in their lineup.

madre-chocolate

Nat Bletter, co-owner of Madre Chocolate is extremely passionate about chocolate.

Madre Chocolate is similar to Manoa in that they focus on producing excellent chocolate bars from the best quality cocoa beans they can acquire from numerous sources around the world. My favourite Madre creation is the Triple Cacao bar that features chocolate made from cocoa grown in the Dominican Republic along with pieces of cocoa nib, cacao pulp from Brazil, and vanilla bean from Mexico. It’s one of the best bars I’ve ever had, as the tiny chunks of cacao pulp really add a new dimension to the bar. Madre had a super small chocolate workshop in Kailua at time of my visit, but I’m told they’re moving to a larger location in Honolulu’s China Town in May, so do check their website for details before you plan your visit. Also keep your eye open for more Madre chocolate to contain locally grown beans, as they’ve already begun working with beans from Hamakua and Holualoa on the Big Island and Waiahole on Oahu, and hope to continue increasing the Hawaiian component of their chocolate over time.

Kokolani Chocolates

Kokolani Chocolates is another fabulous stop for chocolate lovers visiting Kailua. Chocolatier Virginia Douglas is a Master Chocolatier and graduate of Ecole Chocolat. She uses some chocolate couverture from Valrhona, but specializes in uniquely Hawaiian chocolate creations such as exotic truffles. Some of my favourites from Kokolani include the Blond Chocolate Caramels and the Kokolava made from Waialua Estate Hawaiian dark chocolate, pineapple, macadamia nuts, and coconut. Virginia is a true chocolate artisan with an uncanny ability to blend flavours and design chocolate delicacies that are as beautiful to look at as they are to eat.

You can visit each of these terrific chocolate makers in their shops. I also visited their booths at the Hawaii Chocolate Festival in Honolulu. Detailed profiles of each of these uniquely-Hawaiian chocolate artisans will be contained in Volume II of Chocolatour.

Have you tried any of these chocolate creations? Have you been to Kailua? Please share your thoughts here, and join us back here the week of May 5th for our next new post. And by the way, for any of you lucky to be in Hawaii at the beginning of May, the lovely Fairmont Orchid Hotel near Kona is hosting the Big Island Chocolate Festival May 2-3, 2014. How I’d love to be back at that fabulous hotel for this delectable event . (I’ll be showcasing the Fairmont in a future post.)

 

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