travelling with culture in mind

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.

An installation of doodle art by Shaun Morin on display at the Flatland Coffee Company was our first stop on the tour.

An installation of doodle art by Shaun Morin on display at the Flatland Coffee Company was our first stop on the tour.

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.)

The second stop on our tour was at Lifa, where the Pixel jazz duo offered some fantastic music on the porch, which art fans could learn how to master an antique finish on different surfaces.

The second stop on our tour was at Lifa, where the Pixel jazz duo offered some fantastic music on the porch, which art fans could learn how to master an antique finish on different surfaces.

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 third stop on the tour was at the A-Spire Theatre, a Gimli landmark that houses many cultural activities.

The third stop on the tour was at the A-Spire Theatre, a 1905 Gimli landmark that houses many cultural activities.

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?

Deborah Romeyn has the voice of an angel.

Deborah Romeyn has the voice of an angel.

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.

I bet they didn't get chainsaw art at any other Nuit Blanche events in the world!

I bet they didn’t get chainsaw art at any other Nuit Blanche events in the world!

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.

Members of the Hammer's Music School of Winnipeg Beach performing at the Ship and Plough.

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.

 

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5 destinations for fall chocolate travel

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

by Marta Lopez Garcia

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

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

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.

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

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

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.

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falling for fall

I’m saddened by the fact that summer is coming to an end on the Canadian Prairies. But grateful that I don’t live in Calgary, Alberta. They had snow yesterday! Yes, that was snow on September 8, 2014. Here in Manitoba, things are beginning to cool down, but hopefully … we don’t see any of the white stuff for quite some time to come.

It’s funny that I came across this photo today. It was taken on Matlock Beach back on October 1, 2011, but I was wearing the same jacket and slacks today by coincidence!

I really do love fall when the leaves start to change colour, we hear the geese honking as they fly by overhead on their way to warmer climes, and the harvest of the summer season is now in full bounty.  To celebrate that, and the bounty and wonders of the new season that is upon us, I’ve decided to make this post a travelogue of falls gone by. I hope you enjoy the colours of fall, and will share some of your own reflections of the change in season, and what you most like about fall. And please join us back here the week of September 22nd for our next new post.

I was enamoured by the stunning beauty of this unique pumpkin I saw at the Petersfield Farmers' Market.

I was enamoured by the stunning beauty of this unique pumpkin I saw at the Petersfield Farmers’ Market last weekend.

A multitude of pumpkins at the Byward Market in Ottawa.

A multitude of pumpkins at the Byward Market in Ottawa, Ontario, October, 2005.

This is the incredible view we had from our room at the Delta Bessborough Hotel in Saskatoon, September, 2012.

This is the incredible view we had from our room at the Delta Bessborough Hotel in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, September, 2012.

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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

IMG_1163

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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