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Travel with TerriTerriM2015

For the Love of Chocolate

Story and Photos by Terri Marshall

Love takes center stage each February as Valentine’s Day approaches.  And for most of us, nothing goes better with love than chocolate.  It started more than 1500 years ago with the Maya and Aztec cultures.  Believing the cocoa bean was an aphrodisiac, the Aztec ruler, Montezuma, allegedly drank several cups of a strong and dark chocolate drink known as “xocoatl” before visiting his harem to give him stamina.  Maybe that’s not really love, but you get the point.

Those of us in a love affair with chocolate will seek it out everywhere we go.  So this Valentine’s Day, I’m bringing you some of the best places to find chocolate all around the world.

Chocolates by Kelly – Richmond, Virginia

Richmond’s culinary scene is booming and nowhere is that more evident than in the historic Church Hill neighborhood.  This is the place Patrick Henry delivered his “give me liberty or give me death” speech.  It’s also the place where Kelly Walker, the owner and master chocolatier of Chocolates By Kelly will have you saying give me chocolate or give me death.   Born into a family with a long history of chocolate making, chocolate is in Kelly’s DNA.

Behind the charming storefront at Chocolates By Kelly you will find a decadent selection of hand-crafted chocolates.  Salted caramels, cranberry vodka cordials and chocolates with Virginia wine centers will keep your love life on track.  Kelly also offers several types of chocolate making classes like Chocolate of the World – a tasting of chocolates sourced from all over the world.  In her Sweet Science of Chocolate class, she gets to express her inner science geek as she introduces the chemistry behind chocolate making.

ChocoMuseo – Lima, Peru

ChocoMuseo

Making chocolate at ChocoMuseo

What’s the first thing five friends do when they arrive in Lima, Peru after an overnight flight from New York?  Make chocolate, of course.   At the start of an epic Peruvian experience, my travel friends and I headed to the colorful Miraflores neighborhood in Lima for a chocolate workshop.

ChocoMuseo is part museum and part chocolate shop.  They offer several chocolate workshops the most popular being the “from the cacao bean to the chocolate bar”.   The class lasts about two hours and you learn all the steps from the harvest of the cacao to the completion of a chocolate bar.

We roasted cacao beans, peeled them and ground them into a paste.   From the paste we made the traditional chocolate drink of the Mayas.  We also made our very own chocolate bars to take home – but, of course, this was the beginning of the trip so no chocolate actually made it back to New York.

Fassbender & Rausch, Berlin, Germany

Berlin is home to the world’s largest chocolate shop, Fassbender & Rausch.  A chocolate lover’s dream, this elegant shop offers over 200 varieties of fresh filled chocolates and truffles.  At Fassbender & Rausch chocolate meets art with displays of chocolate sculptures of the Berlin TV Tower, the Brandenburg Gate, Titanic and more.

Fassbender

Brandenburg Gate in Chocolate at Fassbender & Rausch

Upstairs overlooking Gendarmenmarkt is a charming café serving hot chocolate, hand-crafted mini-tortes and other decadent cocoa creations. The chocolate experience continues in the evening with a four course dinner and a show at the Chocolate Restaurant.

Geiranger Sjokolade, Norway

Geiranger Skolade in Norway

I went to Norway for the jaw-dropping natural wonders, but I found chocolate.  There it stood at the water’s edge – a little brown converted boathouse, its rooftop sprouting grass – set against the dramatic backdrop of the Geirangerfjord.  The sign read “Geiranger Sjokolade – Chocolate with a View” – they weren’t kidding.

Inside the delicious aroma of chocolate permeated the air.  A spattering of three or four wooden tables and a nook with comfy sofas were filled with tourists from Sweden, France, Scotland and South Africa sipping hot cocoa.  Together we sampled chocolates filled with brown cheese, blue cheese, Arctic berries and Aquavit – Norway’s liquid spirit treasure.  It was an international chocolate incident.

Geiranger Sjokolade produces decadent chocolates from local raw ingredients inspired by the Norwegian fjords and mountains…and it’s not hard to find inspiration, just look out the window.

Cotton Tree Lodge, Belize

True chocolate adventures start where chocolate originates.  One of those places is in the Toledo District of Belize where howler monkeys provide the morning wake-up call and cacao pods grow on jungle trees.  Cotton Tree Lodge – an eco-lodge nestled between the banks of the MohoRiver and a rainforest hosts Chocolate Weeks where guests experience first-hand the bean to bar process.

During my stay I harvested cacao pods from the jungle, used an ancient metate stone to grind the cocoa nibs into a chocolate paste, drank traditional chocolate beverages with local Mayans and sampled cacao wine.  In nearby Punta Gorda, I even made my own chocolate bars at Cotton Tree Chocolates.

Adoratio Organic Chocolate – Saxon Switzerland, Germany

adoratio

Adoratio Chocolates

Along the lovely Painter’s Way trail, Elbe Sandstone Massif, with table-top mountains and narrow gorges where painters once sought inspiration for their masterpieces, there is an absolutely charming little chocolate shop, Adoratio.

This organic chocolate factory takes its inspiration from nature hand crafting extraordinary chocolates with all natural ingredients.  You can indulge in all the decadent chocolates in the adorable chocolate café surrounded by historical advertising.  Or enjoy the chocolate delicacies on the sunny terrace with views of Thürmsdorf castle with its beautiful park.  Seriously, what could better sipping a cup of hot chocolate looking at a castle?

Metropolitan – Amsterdam

sniffingcacao

Sniffing Cacao in Amsterdam

In a city known for its party scene, Kees Raat opened Metropolitan and turned chocolate into a party. This place is a blast!  The chocolates are incredible with unique flavor combinations like lemon and basil.   The gelato is the best I have ever tasted.   There are pastries, waffles with chocolate sauce, cookies, milkshakes and more.  There is even a cacao beer made exclusively for Metropolitan by the local craft brewery, De Prael.  All of which are incredible.  But it is the atmosphere that really makes Metropolitan shine.  Finger paint your name on the wall in chocolate. Create your own chocolate artwork.  Or do what I did, sniff a line of cacao.  It’s harmless and the closest I will ever come to sniffing anything.  Tickles the nostrils a bit though!

Voilà Chocolat – New York City

I found pure chocolate happiness on New York’s Upper West Side at Voilà Chocolat.  Born from the vision of Peter Moustakerski​​​, ​​who brought together a chocolate dream team: Master Chocolatier Christophe Toury (formerly of Jacques Torres) and chocolate scientist, Dennis Teets (a Hershey Scientist)​, Voilà Chocolat turns you into a chocolatier – a happy one.

The experiential concept allows you to walk in off the streets and make ​​​your very own high end chocolate such as​​​ enrobing truffles, creating bars and bar​​​k​​ and more ​in ​30 minutes to 1 hour sessions.

Voilapops!

Voilapops at Voila Chocolat

From the minute I walked into the shop all I saw were smiles.  A gentleman in his sixties was making chocolate for his birthday.  Next to him, a little girl celebrating a much younger birthday was making her chocolates.  I chose to make Voilapops – heart and circle shaped chocolate lollipops.  I chose the designs I wanted, a combination of dark, milk and white chocolate and topped them with sprinkles, cacao nibs and other assorted treats.  In less than an hour – voilà – I had beautiful handmade chocolates and a dose of unexpected happiness.

***

Terri is a New York City based writer who is happiest when she’s globetrotting.  She is the Special Projects Editor for TravelSquire.com, the National Chocolate Examiner, the Globetrotting Grandmom for TravelingMom.com and a contributor to several other publications.  Tough life, right? You can find more of Terri’s work along with tales of her adventures on the NYC subway on her website:  www.trippingwithterri.com  Follow her on Facebook at  https://www.facebook.com/TrippingwithTerri  and on Twitter @terrimarshall60



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