I went to Hawaii in search of Hawaiian chocolate. I had no idea it would be so difficult to figure out exactly what that is!
Most everyone knows (and has likely tasted) the Chocolate Covered Macadamias made by Hawaiian Host. The traditional chocolate-nut treat has been around since the 1920’s, and Hawaii Host continues to add to its product line including the newly-added chocolate macadamia nut truffles. But for the most part, Hawaiian Host products are chocolate confections and not handcrafted artisanal chocolate.
The Waialua Estate Chocolate (owned by the Dole Food Company) is made from cocoa beans grown on the island of Oahu, but the finished chocolate is actually made in California by the Guittard Chocolate company and then packaged and sold as their Hawaiian Chocolate line of premium bars. I know that they do have plans to eventually process the chocolate in Hawaii, but for now, most of the beans are being shipped 2,393 miles from Honolulu to San Francisco and then distributed from there. I’ve also learned that some of Waialua Estate’s beans are sold to Big Island Candies of Hilo and are used to coat their delicious chocolate-covered macadamia nuts, and also to Kokolani Chocolates of Kailua, Oahu, for their all-local Kokolava.
a taste of Hawaiian handcrafted chocolate
The Original Hawaiian Chocolate (OHC) Factory near Kona, Hawaii, was the first company to grow cacao trees and make Hawaiian chocolate from the cocoa produced from them. Every step of the process is done at the same location. It is a small tree to bean to bar chocolate factory run by its owners with a limited amount of help. I’ll talk more about OHC when I post about our time on the Big Island.
Madre and Manoa are two excellent chocolate makers on the island of Oahu who would like to be using Hawaiian cocoa beans to make their chocolate, but can’t get enough of it to meet demand. So they use beans from around the world. Manoa’s labelling doesn’t tell you the origin of their 60% chocolate. Madre does give you partial information on the label, but it is confusing. Its delicious award-winning Triple Cacao bar is made from cocoa grown in the Dominican Republic, cacao pulp from Brazil, and Mexican vanilla. It is “made in” Hawaii, but the ingredients are not. Same goes for Kokolani Chocolates, where excellent Hawaiian chocolate novelties are made with French-made couverture and Hawaiian flavour enhancements. (I will cover each of these companies in more detail in the next post.)
So there we have three completely different scenarios in which each is being marketed as “Hawaiian handcrafted chocolate”:
1) Pure chocolate that is made from cacao/cocoa grown in Hawaii and is manufactured and processed on the same site as where the trees are grown. You can’t get any more Hawaiian than that, unless the chocolate was being made by Hawaiian-born individuals. It currently is not.
2) Pure chocolate that is made from cocoa grown in Hawaii, but made into chocolate outside the state in a large factory.
3) Pure chocolate that is not made from Hawaiian-grown cocoa, but is handcrafted in Hawaii. And chocolate creations that may or may not be made from Hawaii-grown cocoa, but are made in Hawaii using exclusively Hawaii-grown flavour enhancements such as fresh pineapple, macadamia nuts, Hawaiian sea salt, lavender or the like.
Is one any more or less Hawaiian than the other? Before we get too snooty about “origin of chocolate,” we’ve got to think back to European chocolate where the origin of the beans was not the key factor that distinguished one country’s chocolate from the other as most (if not all) were using the same cocoa beans from West Africa. It was the technique and style that differentiated Belgian chocolate from Swiss, French, Dutch chocolate and others.
With consumer tastes changing, and more of us preferring pure single origin chocolate as opposed to highly-processed chocolate made from blended or bulk beans, the world of chocolate is changing, and we now demand to know where the cocoa used to make our chocolate is grown, just as we prefer to know where the grapes in the wine or beans in the coffee we drink are from.
The difference for me, was that I knew I was going to a cacao-growing region when I went to Hawaii. So I assumed that the chocolate I would be eating there was of local origin and it is not. That is expected to change over time, as the Hawaiian cacao industry is new at just 10 years old. But for now, if you go on a chocolate travel excursion to Hawaii, be sure to ask questions, read the label, and consult the next volume of Chocolatour in which Hawaii will be prominently featured.
Please join us back here the week of April 21st, when we’ll take a closer look at the chocolate companies mentioned in this post.
The last couple of posts relayed how fortunate I felt to be back in Hawaii. In this post, I wanted to share some of the things I like about the island of Oahu before I get on to our delicious finds in the realm of chocolate travel.
Oahu is a very easy island to drive. No crazy roads like the memorable “Road to Hana” over on Maui. The highways are remarkably good, traffic manageable, and scenery breath-taking. The island is the third largest of the Hawaiian Islands with a total land area of about 567 square miles. It’s approximately 44 miles long and 30 miles across at its widest point, so easy to do a day drive away from the crowds of Waikiki or Honolulu.
Oahu off the beaten path
Most people do come to Oahu for Waikiki Beach, its most popular land mark. Waikiki is situated within the bustling city of Honolulu, the Hawaiian capital. The city and county of Honolulu boast a population of nearly one million residents and 4.5 million tourists each year. That’s a lot of people! But if you want to get away from it all, and see the natural beauty for which Hawaii first became known, head to the island’s North Shore, where waves can reach as high as 40 feet! They weren’t nearly as high as that when we were there on this trip, but I do recall on previous visits where we witnessed surfers enjoying the thrill of riding the big ones.
While we were on the North Shore, we dropped into the charming village of Haleiwa and had lunch at the Beet Box Cafe, a cool little hideaway in the back of Celestial Natural Foods (a health food store) that offers an interesting selection of healthy local options for lunch or a light meal. My choice was the “Beet Goes On” salad adorned with fresh steamed beets, walnuts, kale or spinach, and goat cheese or feta. (I’m sure mine had kale and goat cheese, but I see that the website says spinach and feta, so I imagine they use what they have.)
We also enjoyed a tour of the Waialua Estate as part of our Chocolatour, but I’ll talk about growing cocoa in the next post. Very near the Waialua Estate you’ll find the Island-X Hawaii, a locally run store filled with Hawaiian specialties such as Waialua coffee and chocolate, and kukui oil (a natural oil that has been used in Hawaii for centuries to heal and nourish stressed and damaged skin.) I also picked up a CD by a local Hawaiian talent and enjoyed some freshly made shave ice flavoured with locally grown passion fruit (known as lilikoi in Hawaii.) I could definitely go on, but I think you get the idea that Oahu is not just about Waikiki and the urban amenities and density of Honolulu.
Have you enjoyed time exploring the island of Oahu? Have you tried surfing the waves on the North Shore or snorkelling at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve? Have you tried kukui oil on your skin? Please share your thoughts and experiences here, and then join us back here the week of April 7th for our next new post.
Waking up to this delightful view of Waikiki Beach is an obvious reason to enjoy a stay at the historic Moana Surfrider Hotel. But there are many more.
I’d stayed at the Moana about 20 years ago and loved the blend of old and new. The hotel was branded a Sheraton back then, but with an expansion and the addition of a full-service spa, the Moana–although still part of the Starwood family of properties–is now branded as a Westin Resort & Spa and consists of three buildings that are so perfectly blended together, you never really know when you’ve left one and entered another. The original hotel is now referred to as the Banyan Wing and was built in 1901, with a perfectly central location on Waikiki Beach and regal architecture to warrant the name “First Lady of Waikiki.” The two newer towers recently underwent a $20-million renovation and offer modern elegance blended with Hawaiian charm. We stayed in the Tower Wing and where pleased with our five-night stay, although the noise that accompanies a bustling beach area like Waikiki reminds you that you are indeed within a big city (Honolulu) and not on a remote idyllic beach somewhere in the South Pacific.
The Moana features a days-gone-by street-front veranda where you can sit and watch the bustling world go by, and a beach-side set of rocking chairs where you can soak in the beach-front entertainment, admire the massive banyan tree, or the activities going on in the inviting swimming pool.
The interior architecture of the hotel boasts beautiful pillars and a winding staircase where many brides and grooms have wedding pictures taken. And as a guest of the hotel, you, too, can have a complimentary photo shoot and purchase photos of yourself and companion(s) taken throughout the hotel and on the Moana’s strip of Waikiki Beach.
But this chocolate writer was also drawn to the fact that the Moana has its own custom brand of chocolates made by a local chocolatier. I can think of no better place to enjoy Waikiki with chocolate on my mind.
Have you stayed at the Moana Surfrider? Do you enjoy staying at historic hotels? There are many around the world to enhance your travel memories when choosing a destination. Some of my favourites include La Mansion in San Antonio, Texas, Chateau Lake Louise in Alberta, Canada, and The Fort Garry Hotel in my hometown of Winnipeg. Do you have a historic property you’d like to recommend to the rest of us? I’m all ears.
Please join us back here the week of March 24th as we continue to explore the island of Oahu.
My love for the Hawaiian Islands has endured. Even during the 15 years since my last visit, I never stopped thinking about my love for Maui and the memories of snorkelling in the Molokini Crater. Alas, this year’s brief trip to Hawaii did not include a return trip to Maui, but I did indulge in a taste of Maui with my introduction to Sweet Paradise Chocolates. Stay tuned to a future post for more about that.
a Chocolatour of Oahu and the Big Island of Hawaii
Nothing is more symbolic of the Hawaiian Islands than the image of the Diamond Head and Waikiki Beach, the tourist hubb in the city of Honolulu, on the island of Oahu. Diamond Head is actually a volcanic “tuff cone” caused by a volcanic eruption 150,000 years ago. You can hike into the crater at Diamond Head if you have time and are fit. We didn’t have to do so on this trip, but I did enjoy the hike on my first visit to Oahu many years ago.
Approximately 4.5 million visitors come to the island of Oahu each year. Nearly every one of them will visit Waikiki Beach at least once. Waikiki is a bustling destination, and not one I would recommend for those looking for serenity and solitude. But it is beautiful nonetheless, and definitely worth a few-day-visit if you are planning a trip to the Hawaiian Islands.
We had the great pleasure of staying at the Sheraton Moana Surfrider during our time at Waikiki. I had stayed at the hotel years ago and loved it for its historic ambiance. What surprised me most about this visit is how many Japanese tourists now visit Waikiki and the Moana on a daily basis. We were told that the Moana hosts four Japanese wedding receptions each day! I’m sure other hotels along the Waikiki strip are also home to visiting Japanese tourists, as many restaurants in the Waikiki area have menus in Japanese.
My next post will highlight our stay at the Moana. Have you stayed at this majestic hotel? When was your last visit to Hawaii? Do you have a favourite Hawaiian island or memories of Hawaii that you would like to share?
Please join us back here the week of March 10th for our next new post.
I was part of a successful Valentine’s Day event yesterday in which we combined a chocolate-inspired show of original art pieces by members of the WAVE Artists Group with my chocolate-inspired books, and chocolate creations by Constance Popp Chocolatier of Winnipeg and a chocolate buffet inspired by the chefs at the Selkirk Golf and Country Club. The collaboration of all these creative talents resulted in an incredible day of sumptuous chocolate-inspired bliss.
Chocolate is like that. You can go virtually anywhere in the world, say the word “chocolate” and you will immediately see a smile on the faces of all within hearing distance and a light in their eyes. Chocolate does that to people. It inspires and entices us. It makes us feel good. And it ignites creativity.
I first witnessed the profound effect of chocolate on the creative world in 2009, when I attended the Salon du Chocolat in Paris. The chocolate sculptures and chocolate-adorned couture blew me away! Who would have thought of adorning haute couture fashions with artisan chocolate? Or creating intricate sculptures out of chocolate?
Chocolate has inspired many authors and movie makers as well. Chocolatour was inspired by the movie Chocolat in which the beautiful chocolatier (Juliette Binoche) entices handsome Johnny Depp with intoxicating chocolate, explaining that she can predict the type of chocolate a person will crave based on intricacies of their personality. I firmly believe that to be true, and believe that you can best serve your chocolate fantasies by aligning yourself with the chocolatier or chocolate maker that makes the type of chocolate you are most likely to enjoy. Why waste time and calories eating chocolate that doesn’t alight your senses to the fullest?
I hope this post has got you thinking about the power of chocolate. Please share your thoughts on how chocolate has inspired you, or tell us about chocolate creations that have blown your senses out of the water.
And then join us back here the week of February 24th for our next new post. I’m heading to the Hawaii Chocolate Festival this week and have no doubt that I will be impressed with the creativity I will find there. Stay tuned to see what I find!
Most of you who know me or my work know that I try to look on the bright side of life, and make the best of any situation I am in. That is my nature.
However, I am unable to find the bright side in the winter weather we are experiencing here in Manitoba during the wicked winter of 2013-2014. The month of December was so cold that it has been recorded as the second coldest winter since 1893. Manitoba is experiencing its coldest winter in 64 years, and therefore the coldest winter of my life. It’s not all in my mind. It is COLD and we are buried deeply in snow.
I’m sure we’re not alone in our weather woes, as it appears that only British Columbia has experienced a better than usual winter. Every other Canadian province has experienced a severe winter this past few months, whether it be from excessive cold, blizzards, amount of snow, ice-storms, or wind gales in Atlantic Canada. Some of those, such as the ice-storm in Toronto this winter were so severe that people lost their lives, and many were without heat or electrical power for weeks during unseasonably cold weather. Many parts of the US have also experienced extreme weather during the winter of 2013-2014. I am incredibly grateful that our heat and power have held out, as we couldn’t stay in our home without it.
The polar vortex that has been hanging over the Prairies has kept temperatures low and winds high, making already cold temperatures feel much colder than they are reading on the thermometer. There were times over the past two months that our temperatures were in the range of -40 to -50 (in both Celsius and Fahrenheit) with the windchill factored in, registering colder than on the planet Mars!
Usually I manage to get away during the winter, if even for a short while. That helps ease the pain of winter, and later this month, I shall be attending the Hawaii Chocolate Festival and related events, so by the time I get home, March will be on the horizon, and the spring thaw hopefully not too far behind.
Just to prove I’m not a sissy and have at times, enjoyed participating in winter events, here are the links to three winter festivals I have previously attended and written about:
And a story about snowmobiling and attending the Quebec Winter Carnaval.
Now it’s your turn. How has winter been in your neck of the woods? Have you had anything exceptionally good or bad happen over the course of the winter? What’s been the winter highlight (or low-light) for you, no matter where you are?
Thanks for listening to my rant. Please join me back here the week of February 10th for the next new post. I promise to be in better spirits as spring inches near.
The exciting thing I am discovering after researching fine chocolate in earnest for the past 4 1/2 years is that there are chocolate events being held around the world, and you can find one in some part of the world at pretty much any given time. As we’d been in northern California to meet chocolate makers in San Francisco and explore the world of wine and chocolate in California wine country (see recent posts for more on this) last September/early October, it seemed a no-brainer to stick around for the Los Angeles Chocolate Salon, a chocolate event put on the folks at TasteTV.
Although it was called the LA Chocolate Salon, the event was actually held in Pasadena, California, a city of just over 137,000 residents located in Los Angeles County, 10 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles. I really like Pasadena. The scenery reminds me of Palm Springs, and because of its smaller size, traffic is manageable, you feel safe to meander the streets, and pretty much everything we needed or were interested in was of close proximity to the Pasadena Conference Center (the event venue) and the Sheraton Pasadena Hotel where we were staying.
Having been to much larger chocolate events like the Salon du Chocolat in Paris which now has as many as 550 participating chocolate-related exhibitors, I was a bit disappointed in the ultra-small size of the LA Chocolate Salon with only approximately 35 participants. And the stark lower-level windowless room in which the Pasadena event was held did not add to the ambiance. But for the most part, the chocolate we tasted was excellent. Even more concerning than the lack of character in the event’s venue was the fact that because there was a limited number of vendors, there were lineups at each and every chocolate stall we wanted to visit. We spent as much time waiting in line, as we did actually talking to the chocolatiers and sampling their chocolate. Kind of takes the pleasure out of what should be an extremely pleasurable event.
Here are a few of the chocolatiers I met that impressed me. Let me start with Joe Terpoghossian, owner of Mignon Chocolate, with shops in Glendale and Pasadena. Mignon has some really creative flavour blends such as Tequila Ganache, Ginger with Sea Salt, and Saffron Marzipan that will make your taste buds sing. As well, the Mignon bars are visually appealing and the fresh flavours of the Mixed Berries bar make eating a chocolate bar a lot more fun!
I also enjoyed speaking to chocolatier Michelle Crochet of DROGA Chocolates of Los Angeles. Michelle has a really cool concept with her City Caramel Collection in which she’s accented caramel with flavours that remind her of San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York. I loved them! Check out DROGA’s website as the hi-res visuals will have your mouth watering in a matter of seconds.
Mark Lewis of Marco Paolo Chocolates based in Van Nuys, California is a super talented chocolatier whose speciality is the double-layered chocolate truffle. Lewis is a true artisan, and handpaints each of his beautiful chocolates. You’ll find chocolate tasting tips and other interesting info on the Marco Paolo’s website.
I could go on. There really were some amazing chocolatiers and chocolate makers at this show. Until I began searching my notes, photos, and memory banks, I’d forgotten just how much I enjoyed them. There were also some interesting speakers at the show, which all in all, did make it worthwhile as a chocolate travel expedition.
Have you been to Pasadena or the Los Angeles Chocolate Salon? If so please share some of your highlights with us.
And please join us back here the week of January 27th for our next new post.
It seems appropriate to toast the New Year with a post about our recent visit to California Wine Country, in which friend and fellow blogger Susan Cooper arranged chocolate and wine pairings for us in selected wineries of Napa, Sonoma, and Lodi. What could be better than five women travelling the scenic hills of California in a comfortable van with our fun-filled designated driver (Elizabeth Scott), tasting wine, fine chocolate, and exotic cheeses? That’s what Chocolatouring is all about!
pure indulgence: chocolate and wine pairings in California wine country
From our comfortable base in Elk Grove, California (located in Sacramento County, and just south of the city of Sacramento) we visited a variety of wineries beginning with Beringer, the first winery in the Napa Valley to offer public tours. It is a large and well-established company, originally founded in 1876. Beringer is actually located in the community of St. Helena, and has a historic estate where you can taste, shop, meander, and participate in a variety of special events. Check out their website if you plan to be in the area. We enjoyed the Beringer wine pairings with Scharffen Berger Chocolate– which is made in San Francisco, and now owned by the Hershey Company.
For $20 each, we were able to taste four wines and four chocolates. I particularly enjoyed the Beringer Merlot and the Scharffen Berger 42% milk chocolate. If money is no object, go to the tasting room in the Beringer mansion and taste the reserve wines. The award-winning Reserve sells for $80/bottle, but has a rating of 97.
Our next stop took us down the road to the more laid-back community of Sonoma, where we had a delicious tasting of Meadowcroft Wines paired with a variety of delicious cheeses. Meadowcroft is a small winery that produces excellent quality wines and has won several awards. I loved the 2011 Chardonnay, which paired nicely with the blue cheese and nuts on our tasting slabs.
We completed the tasting with a wine-infused chocolate truffle courtesy of Anette’s Chocolates by Brent located in the Napa Valley. I wish I’d had time to visit with Brent and learn about his chocolate operation. Maybe next time, but on this trip, we opted instead for a tour of the Meadowcroft vineyard, complete with a personal serenade from our handsome guide. Meadowcroft also has a gorgeous events venue for weddings and special events. We enjoyed a picnic lunch on their grounds.
I think the most fun tasting was the following day in Lodi, when we visited Fields Family Vineyard and Winery. This is a small boutique winery making some excellent red wines. I was enamoured with the 2011 Old Vine Zin. The full-bodied Zinfandel is a deep red colour and appealed to me as it is much “meatier” than many other California reds. We had fun with Michael Perry, the “direct to consumer” manager of the winery who worked hard to create purposeful pairings of his wines with various different chocolates.
Exploring Lodi was fun. It is an unassuming community of just over 60,000 inhabitants that claims to be the “Zinfandel Capital of the World.” Based on the wines I tried, I could go along with that.
Cheers and thanks to author, blogger, illustrator, wine enthusiast, good friend and host extraordinaire, Susan Cooper, for making our visit to the Sacramento Valley and Wine Country a fabulous diversion. Please join us back here the week of January 13th, when we’ll take you to the International Chocolate Show in Pasadena, California.
We enjoyed such a variety of taste sensations during our recent Chocolatour to San Francisco and area, but there were definitely a few highlights.
We stayed at the W Hotel San Francisco in the SoMA district — a great part of town for art enthusiasts. Our room was small, but tastefully decorated, and it had a terrific view of the Bay Bridge. The W is home to the Trace Restaurant, and for me, the highlight was the amazing French Toast made with roasted banana, toasted pecans, and caramel sauce. It was absolutely delightful, and not too sweet at all. And we were thrilled to receive a platter of handcrafted chocolates delivered to our room. Chocolate always makes every stay that much sweeter.
The chocolates of Recchiuti are by far the most exquisite chocolates in San Francisco. As mentioned in previous posts, I love the handcrafted chocolate bars of Dandelion and TCHO Chocolate, but Recchiuti is known for its velvety truffles and ganaches. No surprise: I loved the Madagascan squares and the Fleur de Sel sea salt caramels. Recchiuti Confections does both of these extremely well and is just one more reason to visit this fabulous chocolate-loving city.
As much as we enjoyed our time in San Francisco and Oakland, it was time to move on to wine country. Please join us back here the week of December 30th, when we’ll toast in the new year with some remarkable finds in the California wine regions of Napa, Sonoma, and Lodi.
I was planning to do a wrap-up post of my visit to San Francisco this week, but something bigger and potentially more exciting has taken precedence. I’ll be hosting the first-ever group Chocolatour to Switzerland March 29-April 8th, 2014, and wanted to be sure to reach as many of my contacts as possible about this, because the travel agent needs your deposit by January 20th if you’d like to join us.
UPDATE: UNFORTUNATELY, WE HAVE HAD TO POSTPONE THIS TRIP UNTIL A LATER DATE. IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN PARTICIPATING IN A CHOCOLATOUR WITH DOREEN, SEND HER AN E-MAIL AND WE’LL PLAN SOMETHING IN THE FUTURE.
Many people have said to me that they’d like to join me on a chocolate excursion. This is your chance! The travel agent in Switzerland has worked closely with Journey’s Travel in Winnipeg to put together a tremendous itinerary with these highlights:
March 30 – April 2 – Lucerne – Hotel Waldstätterhof
April 2 – 4 – Lausanne – Hotel Agora Swiss Night
April 4 – 8 – Zurich – Hotel Helmhaus
Included in our Chocolatour:
- Accommodation as mentioned above including breakfast, service charge & taxes
- Mar 29 – Travel to Switzerland
- Mar 30 – Private transfer from Zurich airport to Lucerne via scenic Albis pass
- Mar 31 – Private guide for walking tour of Lucerne
- Mar 31 – Private chocolate tasting at Max Chocolatier
- April 1 – Private guide for full day
- April 1 – First class train from Lucerne to Engelberg and return
- April 1 – Tickets to Mount Titlis
- April 1 – Private visit to cheese dairy in Engelberg
- April 1 – Tasting at cheese dairy incl. cheese, bread and 1 glass of white wine
- April 2 – Private transfer from Lucerne to Lausanne
- April 3 – Private guide for full day
- April 3 – Private motor coach for excursion to Montreux and Lavaux vineyards
- April 3 – Private castle guide at Chillon castle
- April 3 – Entrance fees to Chillon castle
- April 3 – Private wine tasting with snacks at Domaine du Daley
- April 4 – Private transfer from Lausanne to Zurich via Gruyères
- April 4 – Entrance fees to Cailler chocolate factory in Broc
- April 4 – Creation of own chocolate at Cailler chocolate factory
- April 5 – Private motor coach for excursion to Basel
- April 5 – Private visit at Beschle with tour, tasting and creation of of own chocolate
- April 6 – Visit to the International Chocolate Salon in Zurich
- April 7 – Free day in Zurich and optional chocolate touring with Doreen
- April 8 – Private transfer from hotel to Zurich airport
Sorry, guys. This is a ladies-only tour. In the future, we may do Chocolatours for both men and women. Let me know if you’re interested.
And ladies: Please visit this site to see the detailed itinerary and to contact Sheila Rempel to register for the tour. Deadline to place your deposit is January 20th, so please don’t wait. It is likely to sell out soon as we are deliberately making this a small group.
Join us back here the week of December 16th for our next new post.