It’s been a busy couple of weeks! I almost missed bringing you a post this week as we’re in the final throws of putting Chocolatour: A Quest for the World’s Best Chocolate together. It will be printed in less than four weeks. (We’re expecting a June 21, 2013 delivery.)
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll see on the pages of Chocolatour:
Table of Contents
Acknowledgements: Appreciation to friends, colleagues, supporters, and members of the global chocolate and travel communities who have provided the author with assistance and information
Introduction: An invitation to join the author on a sensuous, taste-tempting journey of chocolate discovery
Chapter 1 – How and Where Cacao Becomes Chocolate: A look at where and how cacao (cocoa) is grown and processed, and some important chocolate terminology and distinctions.
Chapter 2- Chocogasms and Other Health Benefits of Chocolate: A scientific and sensuous look at a woman’s biological need and desire for chocolate, and why we should all eat more pure, dark chocolate.
Chapter 3- Exploring the Various Personalities of Chocolate: How do you want it? Sophisticated, elegant, exotic, sensual, playful, adventurous, purist, traditional, innovative, intellectual—or do you have a thing for multiple personalities?
Chapter 4: The Brilliance of Belgium
Chapter 5: The Flavours of France
Chapter 6: Happiness in Holland
Chapter 7: The Impact of Italy
Chapter 8: The Sensuality of Spain
Chapter 9: Sweet Success in Switzerland
Chapter 10: Ultimate Chocolate of the UK: Join the Chocolate Revolution!
Chapter 11- Chocolate Events: A listing of selected chocolate festivals, events, museums, and attractions around the world.
Chapter 12 Pairing Sensations and Recipes: Wines and other libations to pair with your favourite chocolate, plus a few chocolate-based recipes to please your palate.
Chapter 13: Chocolatour’s Awards for Chocolate Excellence
Chapter 14: An A to Z Guide for Chocolate Lovers: Alphabetical guide to chocolate around the world.
If you’re as excited about the release of Chocolatour as I am, please subscribe to http://chocolatour.net, the official site for Chocolatour, where I’ll be posting updates about the book, launches and chocolate events, and where you’ll be able to order the book and interact with me.
Thanks for being a part of the journey over the past 3.5 years as I’ve researched and written the first volume of Chocolatour. Research is already underway for volume II and there will be a lot more chocolate travel right here to keep your taste buds tingling and your travel toes tapping.
Our next new post will be late in the week of June 3rd, as I am away for conferences and more chocolate exploration May 31-June 8th in Ontario. Stay tuned!
I’ve been going to Gimli, Manitoba ever since I was a small child, as my father’s only sister lived there with her family. Until I was an adult, this small lakeside community of roughly 6,000 people simply represented a place where I had family, and where we spent many summer days walking the pier or trying to swim in the cool waters of Lake Winnipeg after tiptoeing over the stones of the pebbled beach that lines the shore.
As a travel and lifestyle writer, I began to look at Gimli through a different lens. It is a proud community with a strong heritage and a vibrant arts community. As the sixth-largest freshwater lake in Canada, it is the immenseness of Lake Winnipeg as an inland ocean that draws a great number of creative individuals to the Interlake region, with Gimli as the hub. Writers, artists, musicians, performers, and photographers come to the Gimli area to congregate, live in harmony, be inspired, and enjoy the affordable standard of living. My husband and I now live just 20 minutes from Gimli and for the past six years, have called the Interlake home.
There are many reasons you may choose to put Gimli on your horizon, whether as a visitor, or as a possible future resident. I’ve listed a few, with hope we might see you there this year.
5 reasons to visit Gimli
1. Gimli has the largest number of residents of Icelandic heritage in any community outside of Iceland. The New Iceland Heritage Museum is an excellent facility that celebrates the town’s Icelandic and Ukrainian settlers whose hard work and joint efforts helped make a good life for farming and fishing families. Tergesen’s General Store has an excellent book shop that offers many books about Iceland and Manitoba and predominantly features books authored by local writers. Tergesen’s is a big supporter of local culture and regularly holds book launches and events to spotlight local authors at the historic A-Spire Theatre.
2. Gimli’s strong interest in film and culture makes it a perfect place for a film festival. The Gimli Film Festival runs from July 24-28 this year and will showcase more than 130 feature films, documentaries, and shorts from around the world. Where else can you sit on the beach and watch a film under the moonlight on a 35×10 -foot movie screen suspended over the water?
3. The Gimli Icelandic Festival formally known as ”Islendingadagurinn” has been held in Gimli since 1932 and continues to reinvent itself. We really enjoy the Viking Re-enactment Village that draws re-enactors from around the world to setup a Viking village on the shores of Lake Winnipeg in Gimli and live like the Vikings did 1,000 years ago. The Gimli Icelandic Festival always runs on the August longweekend and is scheduled for August 2-5, 2013.
4. Gimli is a beautiful sailing community and has a scenic harbour where you can dock your boat, or stroll along the pier and look at the art and the boats harboured there.
5. Gimli is a fair trade community. Gimli is the 1st in Manitoba and 6th community in Canada to become a certified fair trade community. To qualify, local leaders must pass resolutions to support fair trade initiatives, local retailers must offer a wide range of fair trade products, and the community must host events that promote the fair trade movement. That is happening this coming week, when The Fresh Carrot, a health and wellness store in Gimli hosts a fair trade chocolate event on May 13th at 7:30 pm. If you live in the area, call (204) 642-3737 to register. I’ll see you there!
Have you been to Gimli? What strikes you as being special, unique, or quirky about the place? Please join the conversation, and meet us back here the week of May 20th for our next new post.
Vancouver, British Columbia is one sweet city. Gorgeous views and vistas at every turn. But how does it measure up on the chocolate scale?
As someone who’s been scouring the world in search of the best chocolate for the past 3+ years, I felt compelled to thoroughly explore the chocolate scene in Vancouver am pleased to report … it’s excellent!
Vancouver is home to worldclass chocolatier, Thomas Haas, rated by some as Canada’s very best. I would definitely put this amazing chocolatier in the top tier in Canada.
Originally hailing from Germany, Thomas Haas has European training and experience to his credit, and combines his youth and creativity with traditional old-world flair to bring you an excellent assortment of European-style pastries as well as a scrumptious selection of chocolate bars, treats and truffles.
The bars have extremely creative packaging, taste fantastic and make an excellent gift grouped in six-packs for $33C. That’s just $5.50 a bar for quality that you’d pay $10/bar for at many of the finer chocolate houses around the world.
Now with two locations (the original at 128-998 Harbourside Drive in North Vancouver and a second location at 2539 West Broadway in Kitsilano) Thomas Haas Chocolate has a devout following that will beat you to the punch and snap up the delicious double-baked chocolate croissants if you’re not quick on the draw. I was stunned at the line-ups on a Saturday in May when I visited the North Van location – particularly as it’s in an industrial area where the rest of the surrounding buildings are not open on weekends.
Do call ahead or check the website when you’re visiting to be sure you’re not disappointed as Haas respects “family hours” and is not open evenings, Sundays, or Mondays in order to give his hardworking staff well-deserved time off with their families.
While you’re on the North Shore, take time to drop into two other noteworthy chocolate shops. You’ll find Cinnamon’s Chocolates at 119 East 2nd Street in North Van and Olde World Confections in the waterfront Lonsdale Quay Market, most convenient if you’re taking the seabus over to the North Shore.
Cinnamon’s has a wide array of truffles and is best known for their Martini Collection, a decadent selection of truffles spiked with flavored liquors. Olde World Confections in the Lonsdale Quay Market uses Belgian chocolate to make a variety of chocolate goodies including dark chocolate caramel pecan turtles and a lovely ginger dark chocolate bark.
You’ll find a couple noteworthy chocolate diversions in downtown Vancouver. The Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory at 1017 Robson Street will sell you chocolate golf balls and a huge selection of chocolate-covered apples. The Sutton Place Hotel at 845 Burrard offers a Chocoholic Buffet in its restaurant every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evening. Reservations are recommended. Be sure to arrive hungry!
For anyone looking for excellence in both creativity and quality, both Gem Chocolates at 2029 West 41st Avenue and Chocolate Arts at 1620-West 3rd Avenue are truly amazing for handmade chocolate truffles and ganaches. Gem Chocolates is the creation of chocolatier Glenn Knowles, who created a top-notch chocolate map and unique packaging for his delicious ganaches. Chocolate Arts is the creation of Maître Chocolatier Greg Hook — definitely one of Canada’s best chocolatiers — whose talent paired with superb quality, creativity, and innovative flavours offer you a selection of fine hand-crafted chocolate not to be missed when in Vancouver.
And if you’re out exploring the farmers’ markets in and around Vancouver, be sure to be on the lookout for Paul Dincer of Levni Chocolate. We encountered Dincer at the Burnaby Market last year and loved sampling his chocolates that are visually enticing and delicious on the palate. Based on all the delicious findings I had during my week of chocolate discovery in Vancouver, I’d have to say that this city is a must for any serious chocolate traveller, and gets my award for Top Canadian Chocolate Destination.
Have you tried some of these chocolates? Yes, there are others I could have included in this post. There are indeed more noteworthy creators on the chocolate scene in Vancouver. That will be for another visit, and another post.
Please join us back here the week of May 6th for our next new post. And if you want to be sure not to miss the launch of Chocolatour: A Quest for the World’s Best Chocolate, please subscribe to this website as it will be the hub for book promotions, sales, and events.
Thanks to Merle Rosenstein for the previous guest post on specialty coffees of Costa Rica. And thanks to everyone who has been supporting my Indiegogo campaign! The campaign will officially end on Saturday, but we’ll keep the donation lines open via our sister site at http://chocolatour.net. Any and all donations are most welcome, as the higher the total climbs, the more copies of Chocolatour that we can get printed, and the more extended our efforts in book promotion.
In this week’s post, I’d like to introduce you to Irene Ternier Gordon, an author friend of mine who did a guest post on doreenpendgracs.com about her speaking gig on Via Rail. This week, Irene shares with us how to create your own travel journal. Over to Irene …
Creating your own personalized travel guide
by Irene Ternier Gordon
When I casually mentioned to Doreen one day that I had spent much of that day preparing a personalized travel guide for the trip my husband Don and I were planning — a combination of Caribbean cruise and 10 days at Marathon in the Florida Keys — she asked me if I would do a blog post on the topic. My first reaction was, “Doesn’t everyone do this in the Internet Age? Why would anyone be interested in my guide?” She convinced me that everyone was not making personalized guides and that I should write about mine.
My guides consist in material downloaded from the Internet and filed in a binder. I usually begin by checking out what Wikipedia has to say about the places we’re visiting because Wikipedia includes an overview of their history, geology, climate, flora and fauna, and culture and recreation. Next I check official websites from these places. In many cases official sites have far too much info on hotels, restaurants and shopping and not enough info on places to visit for my taste. Because I am a history buff and Don loves maps and geology, I also download Google maps and extra articles about the history and geology of the places we are going.
Two useful sites for Marathon, Florida (a place we were visiting) were “Road Trip: Florida Keys” at travel.nationalgeographic.com and “The Florida Keys: Marathon” at goflorida.about.com. Then I downloaded more detailed information about three places that sounded particularly interesting — the Dolphin Research Center, Curry Hammock State Park, and Crane Point Museum and Nature Center.
the guide for each destination will be distinctly different
The guide I produced for a trip to Scotland last year was much more detailed than usual because we went with three distinct purposes in mind — to visit the town where Don’s great-grandfather was born, to see the sights of Edinburgh, and to visit places connected with the books I have written about the Canadian fur trade. Because it was not possible to book tours for many of the specific places we wanted to see, we rented a car and planned our own tour. Don is one of the few people I know who is brave enough to drive in the British Isles on the wrong side of the road. I already had a large amount of historical material about the places connected to the fur trade, but I copied detailed physical descriptions and hiking guides so that we could tour them on our own.
Once we arrive at our destinations, we usually are able to obtain brochures and maps to supplement the information I have included in my guide. Then on our return home, I convert the guide into a souvenir journal. I discard material that we didn’t use, and I add brochures and maps that we collected and download more information about some of the things we saw or did.
In the top picture on the cover of my guide I am posing with a gumbo-limbo tree in Curry Hammock State Park. For those who are unfamiliar with this tree, it is nick-named the tourist tree because its red, peeling bark looks like a sunburn. The lower picture shows the Queen’s Steps in Nassau, Bahamas.
Thanks, Irene for this great post! I think it’s really cool how you’ve created these personalized travel guides for each of your trips. Way more economical than purchasing travel guides, also more up to date, as you pull the info off the internet right before you leave (or as you are doing your planning) vs taking it from a guidebook that may be a year or more out of date. How about the rest of you? Have you done something similar to what Irene does in her trip planning? Or have you come up with another unique way to prepare for your trips? Please share ideas, and then join us back here the week of April 22nd for our next new post, when we’ll delve into the chocolate scene of Vancouver.
Hi everyone, and thanks to those of you who have helped with the crowdfunding campaign for Chocolatour. We’re slowly making our way to our goal. There’s still time to help if you can.
This week, we have the great pleasure of welcoming guest blogger Merle Rosenstein to the blog. I know Merle through the Professional Writers Association of Canada. We both share a love of travel, and a love for fine coffee. As Merle has just returned from Costa Rica, where she visited a number of coffee plantations, she has been generous to offer us insight into what she saw and tasted. Please welcome Merle with the same warmth we’ve come to know here on the blog.
Cupping Specialty Coffee in Costa Rica
Hello chocolate enthusiasts! I’ve been reading Doreen’s delicious accounts of her chocolate travels and wanted to share with you a guest post on coffee travel. Coffee is the number one beverage in Canada after non-bottled water and a favourite morning pick-me-up. But there’s more to coffee than most people know. For example, did you know that coffee is more complex than wine and has over 850 aromatic compounds? On a recent trip to Costa Rica, I sampled coffee cherry directly from the bush, talked with farmers and pickers about a new picking paradigm, witnessed the washing, pulping and drying processes and ‘cupped’ micro-lots of coffee alongside experts.
In February, Francisco Mena of Exclusive Coffees, a boutique coffee exporter, took me to two farms in the lush, mountainous West Valley, a key agricultural district in Costa Rica. The Helsar de Zarcero micro mill is located on a high ridge in the area of Alajuela, in the coffee areas of Zarcero and Naranjo. At the Mill I met the very gracious Ricardo Perez and his charming daughter, who walked me through the washing and drying stations.
The washing process removes the pulp surrounding the bean in preparation for drying. On a massive cement patio, white coffee beans baked in the hot sun. The beans felt smooth and dry to the touch, but were not ready yet. Fully-washed beans are patio-dried for two days and placed on African beds for eight days. I watched as a worker examined the beans resting in elevated wood frames covered in netting.
Perez drove me over to Finca Don Chepe to meet farmer Manuel Arce and his wife Lorena. Plots of coffee bushes lined a valley on the property, planted in a similar configuration to grape vines. I traversed the steep slippery slope to greet the Nicaraguan and Panamanian pickers. The workers pick coffee cherry by hand and drop them into baskets called cajuelas.
Lorena invited me to sample some fully ripe coffee cherry. The ruby red cherries were very sweet. The ripest coffee cherry make the best tasting coffee.
Then Francisco Mena took me back to his office/warehouse to cup coffee with some coffee roasters from Crema Coffee in Nashville, in Costa Rica on a buying trip. The coffee tasting or ‘cupping’ process is very intricate and involves smelling and tasting a number of different coffee samples, set up in a circle. As I walked around the table trying each sample, I could detect different tasting notes or complexity in each. Three sample coffees were selected and prepared in the espresso maker as a final test. The coffees were fragrant and full bodied, full of complex aromas.
If you are interested in specialty coffee in Canada, you can read my li paper, Specialty Coffee in Canada on Twitter @merlerosenstein. To learn more about my travels, you can subscribe to my blog www.newfreelancewriter.wordpress.com.
Thanks to Merle for this informative post. Please join us back here the week of April 8th, when Irene Gordon will share tips on how to create a customized travel journal for each of your trips.
Thanks to everyone who’s been with me on this wonderful journey of chocolate exploration over the past 3+ years. We have a lot more chocolate to discover!
As most of you know, I’ve been writing the first edition of “Chocolatour: A Quest for the World’s Best Chocolate” over the past year. I had no idea at that point in time that the book would take so long to write, or the breadth and magnitude of the research I had accumulated. I soon realized that this was much more than one book, and so the plan was transformed into a trilogy that would be published in a series of three distinct volumes that would divide the world up geographically.
The 1st edition of Chocolatour will focus on Europe and the UK. Within that region, I have spotlighted six European countries that to me, epitomize the best that Europe has to offer in the world of chocolate. I have chosen Belgium, France, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, and Holland as each of these countries has played an important role in the modern evolution of chocolate. And I’ve included the British Isles (UK) in this volume as it is my opinion that Britain is making the best chocolate on the planet, and that Scotland and Ireland aren’t far behind.
Chocolatour has selected a small number of chocolatiers, chocolate makers and chocolate companies to profile from each of these countries. My goal has been to give you some travel tidbits on each location, and then introduce you to the men and women of chocolate who are doing something special. Those who are the most innovative. Those who are worth checking out –whether you decide to plan a trip and head overseas, or whether you decide to order some fine artisanal chocolate online and open your chocolate-loving taste buds to the world.
In addition to these profiles, Chocolatour takes you to some of the world’s finest cocoa growing regions including Peru, Ecuador, and St. Lucia, where we also had the pleasure of attending the Jade Mountain Chocolate Festival. We have a full chapter on chocolate events and attractions around the world, in addition to chapters on the health benefits of chocolate, the personalities of chocolate, and a global A-Z Guide for Chocolate Lovers.
Because I am a travel writer, and visuals have always comprised a huge portion of any stories I have written, Chocolatour will contain more than 50 full colour photos in the 1st edition to help you become immersed in the stories and feel that you have truly met these masters of chocolate and cocoa farmers from around the world. But as you can imagine, producing a quality book with a magnitude of full colour images is an expensive undertaking.
I therefore am launching an Indiegogo.com crowdfunding campaign to raise funds to cover the cost of a professional editor, designer, and printer to bring this beautiful book to you. If you have been enjoying this blog over the past 3 years, please consider donating a small sum or passing word about the campaign to others. If you are involved in the world of fine chocolate, please know that you are as much a part of this book as I am, and please consider supporting it in any way you can.
If you are a strong supporter of the arts and independent publishing projects, please consider supporting my campaign with a generous donation here. And if you are a philanthropist with considerable means, please blow my mind with a contribution that is beyond my wildest dreams to help me bring Chocolatour to the world.
Together, we can make this artisanal publishing project about the world of artisanal chocolate a reality.
Thank you so much for your support. Please share this post with your world, and in the comments section for this post, please let me know where/how you’ve helped me spread the word. One lucky supporter whose contact has come thru with a contribution to the campaign will win a copy of Chocolatour when the Indiegogo campaign closes on April 13th.
In this post we talked about our most memorable travel moments. It got me thinking about how it can be the smallest things about a trip that bring a smile to our lips and define that trip in our memory banks.
For example, as much as I loved everything about the wonderful resorts we stayed at in St. Lucia– and certainly standing in that infinity pool in our sanctuary at Jade Mountain was a high I’ll never forget– it was being out in the jungle with a naturalist who told us all about the local plants, the history of the island’s cocoa plantations, and introduced us to “Peppa” that really stands out in my mind.
No matter where my travels take me, I find it’s always the moments in which I’m closest to nature that really stand out in my memory banks. Or the moments that I connect with someone who is totally unique and epitomizes the essence of the place I am visiting.
Such is the case of our adventure in the jungles of St. Lucia with “Peppa,” a rastafarian who was chillin’ among the palms.
Our guide, Tyson, seemed to have a good level of comfort with Peppa (which I’m sure is a mutation of ‘Pepper’) so we quickly felt in the spirit of the discourse and welcomed Peppa’s comments from among the trees. The next thing we knew, Peppa came running out of the bush with a possum for us to see!
It seems Peppa had awakened the possum from his afternoon siesta, and the possum was in no mood to meet a couple of chocolate lovers from Canada. So after a bit of prodding, he hustled back into the bush.
Peppa chose to inspire us with more of his survival skills, and decided to show us how he could strip a coconut shell with his teeth! That was no easy task. We watched in awe as our rastafarian friend tore the coconut hair strip-by-strip off the coconut shell, and then cracked it open for us to drink from.
These proceedings made a lasting impression on both my travelling companion and I, giving us something to joke about and remember with fondness.
Have you had a similar adventure in your travels, when something most unexpected happened, only to take front stage in your memory banks of that particular trip?
Let’s share some travel fun, and then please join us back here the week of March 11th, when we’ll have our next new adventure.
“If you want to give your Valentine some real pleasure this Valentine’s Day/Week, give her chocolate. Really good chocolate.
It has been scientifically proven that eating chocolate releases endorphins in the body. Endorphins are chemicals in the body that make us feel good and give us an increased sense of pleasure. Those feelings are so strong in some of us that we experience what’s called a chocogasm: a near orgasmic feeling when we smell and taste fine artisanal chocolate, and allow it to slowly melt on our tongues. I think the picture below says it all.
I was surprised to see that the word “chocogasm” is actually in the Urban Dictionary. The definition shown is:
“eating high quality choclate and experiencing bliss like states of choc-erotic pleasure.”
Some chocolate facts to help you experience a more fulfilling Valentine’s Day/Week:
- Women need chocolate. Resistance is futile as we actually have a biological connection to chocolate. Read “Why Women Need Chocolate” by Debra Waterhouse, M.P.H., R.D. for more.
- Chocolate definitely makes you feel better (it is a mood enhancer and gives us energy) and many consider it to be an aphrodisiac. The presence of endorphins and the fact that chocolate produces dopamine, serotonin, and cannabinoid receptors in our bodies makes it nature’s best tasting “love drug.”
- Chocolate also has performance enhancing abilities. Many bodybuilders use nitric oxide to improve their body’s ability to excel. Dark chocolate contains a significant amount of nitric oxide among its 380 chemical compounds. Prolific lovers such as Casanova regularly consumed chocolate before getting intimate. Try it!
- When surveyed, 52% of women have stated they prefer chocolate to sex. Perhaps combining chocolate with sex will make everybody happy!
Any woman would love to receive a beautiful box of chocolate for Valentine’s Day (or any day for that matter.) I’ve seen none more beautiful than these from Roselen Chocolatier of Peru. They are created and hand-painted by Giorgio Demarini Basagoitia and his mother Elena Basagoitia Villavicencio of Lima. You’ll find more about them in this post.
Wishing you a wonderful Valentine’s Day/Week filled with chocolate and love.
Please join us back here the week of Feb 25th when we’ll have our next new post. And if you haven’t already done so … please subsubscribe to this blog by clicking on the box at the right. Thanks!
Our time on St. Lucia was a week of utter chocolate bliss. As mentioned in the previous post, we had three glorious days at Hotel Chocolat Boucan, a boutique property owned by British chocolatier Hotel Chocolat and situated on the 140-acre Rabot Estate, the island’s longest-producing cacao plantation, operational since 1745.
We toured the estate with cocoa production manager, Cuthbert Monroque, who explained that unlike nearby South America, the biggest problem his cacao-growing team has to deal with is rats. Yes, there are so many rats trying to bite into the sweet pulp of the ripening cocoa pods that Monroque has had to establish a rat-drowning regiment to keep things under control. This photo shows how a rat chewed his way into a pod and ate the flesh and cocoa beans from within.
Another challenge for St. Lucian cocoa growers are mushroom spores, which spread the fungus that has been destroying some of the crop. As Rabot Estate is an organic property, no pesticides or fungicides are used.
The resort offers a “Tree to Bean” tour as well as a “Bean to Bar” tour to help chocolate lovers understand how cacao is grown and how the beans are harvested, cleaned, fermented, dried, and processed to make chocolate. We grafted seedlings and put our name on them so that we could return in future and see the cacao tree that we helped create.
Cuthbert makes a special tea that he uses to fertilize the seedlings, and that, combined with a special manure mixture help make the cacao trees strong and healthy. Grafting the seedlings helps reduce the time it takes for them to bear fruit. Without grafting it may take up to three years for a cacao tree to produce pods. With grafting, that period may be reduced to as little as 18 months.
We ground cocoa nibs with a pestle and mortar and saw them slowly turn into molten chocolate. It was a lot of hard work, but worth it to see the dry cocoa granules slowly turn to cocoa liquor, a liquid form of chocolate that we added cocoa butter and sugar to, resulting in our very own personalized chocolate bar.
I’d highly recommend a visit to Hotel Chocolat Boucan and St. Lucia for any chocolate lover who wants to learn more about the chocolate making and growing process while staying at a luxury resort with amazing cuisine.
Have you had a chocolate experience like this? Have you ever tried hand-grinding cocoa nibs and making chocolate from it? Please share your experiences and enthusiasm with us, and then join us back here the week of February 11th, for our next sweet post. As it’s Valentine Week, we’re sure to have something special just for you.
If you truly want to become immersed in the world of chocolate while visiting St. Lucia, there is no better place to be than Hotel Chocolat Boucan, a small resort of 14 deluxe rooms overlooking the mesmerizing Petit Piton on the southern end of this delicious Caribbean island.
Whether it’s “Cacao Cuisine” (a full menu created around the wonders of cocoa), the “Cocoa Juvenate” spa treatments that wrap and pamper you with cocoa-based products, or the “Tree to Bean” and “Bean to Bar” tours of the Rabot Estate plantation where cacao is grown and harvested, British chocolatier Hotel Chocolat makes sure all your chocolate dreams come true when you visit their Boucan Hotel & Restaurant.
Boucan is a boutique property built on the historic 140-acre Rabot Estate, where cacao has been grown since 1745, making it the island’s longest-producing cacao plantation. For the past 260 years, cacao has been grown and exported to various countries, who have been making delicious chocolate from it and selling it abroad. All that will change in 2014, as Hotel Chocolat is building a chocolate production plant on its Rabot Estate, where chocolate can be made right from the fermented, dried, and roasted beans in the Hotel Chocolat tradition.
I had the pleasure of visiting the British chocolatier’s Rabot Estate Bistro in Borough Market in London, met company co-founder and CEO Angus Thirlwell, and tasted a wide selection of Hotel Chocolat chocolate as well as a selection of its cacao cuisine. I knew I had to visit the St. Lucian property to complete the experience. I was not disappointed.
“Cacao Cuisine” is a fusion-style of cooking into which cacao/cocoa is used as a seasoning or flavour enhancement. It is never over-bearing, and provides a cocoa/chocolate essence to the menu as opposed to the more in-your-face style of chocolate cooking you might experience in a chocolate molé sauce popular in Mexican cuisine and various other countries.
At Boucan, crushed cocoa nibs are always on the table as a seasoning alongside the salt and pepper. I was really pleased at how the pure cocoa gently enhanced our food, and was totally blown away by the quality of the cuisine we enjoyed during our three-day stay. The full menu is online to tempt your taste buds. Every item we sampled was extraordinary.
My only complaint about our visit to Hotel Chocolat Boucan was that they didn’t have any of the extensive line of Hotel Chocolat chocolate products onsite for sale. I understand the logistics of why. Shipping it back from Britain where the cocoa is made into finished chocolate creations would make them cost prohibitive. Gratefully, that will change come June, 2014 when Hotel Chocolat’s St. Lucian chocolate factory will go into production. That will then truly transform this amazing property to the ultimate level for any visiting chocolate lover.
Please join us back here the week of January 28th, when we’ll take a closer look at the grounds of Rabot Estate, and the chocolate lover’s tours.
In the meantime, let’s talk! Have you been to Hotel Chocolat Boucan in St. Lucia? Are you a fan of Hotel Chocolat chocolate? Have you tried the St. Lucian chocolate they produce? Are you captivated enough by the idea of chocolate travel to book this culinary adventure for yourself?