chocolate dinners in the Community Classroom

Establishing chocolate travel as the new niche has been my goal ever since embarking on the journey of researching and writing Chocolatour. But for those who can’t or don’t wish to travel, the journey of chocolate discovery can still be had at the delicious chocolate dinners we have been holding in the Community Classroom of McNally Robinson Booksellers in Winnipeg.

Chocolate dinner in the Community Classroom at McNally Robinson Booksellers

I wrote about the first of these dinners held Nov 2, 2013 in this earlier post. Today, I’d like to share the menu we experienced yesterday at the April 12, 2014  chocolate dinner.

Chef Karen Nielsen

Hats off to Chef Karen Nielsen and her team for creating a superb menu for last night’s meal. We started off with a Strawberry and Almond Salad topped with a quince balsamic and dark chocolate dressing. I loved it, but was too engulfed in dinner conversation to remember to capture it in a photograph!

Bittersweet Chocolate Beef Ribs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second course was Bittersweet Chocolate Beef Short Ribs simmered in a chocolate-infused red wine sauce.  They were tender, delicious, and cooked to perfection.

The meal was completed with an absolutely stunning dessert of Chocolate Mousse with Hazelnut Dacquoise–a creation of Patisserie Chef Geoffroy Dextraze, who is part of the culinary team at Prairie Ink. It was one of the best desserts I’ve ever had.

Chocolate Mousse with Hazelnut Dacquoise

I think everyone at this sold-out event really enjoyed the ambiance and culinary treats, and learned that chocolate is so much more than candy.

Here’s looking forward to the May 3, 2014 chocolate dinner we’ll be having in the Community Classroom. I’m sure Karen and her team will generate more squeals of delight with their offerings.

chocolate dinner

My dining companions Tara and Christopher Brasher of Winnipeg were a bit surprised at the impassioned sounds of my chocogasm. You can have one, too, if you join us.

We’ve also just scheduled a chocolate dinner in the Community Classroom for September 20, 2014. Be sure to register early, as these events at McNally Robinson sell out very quickly. Stay tuned for more chocolate events coming your way.

Chocolatour receives five-star review from Readers’ Favorite

Today was a super day for Chocolatour!

The book received a five-star rating from the Readers’ Favorite Reviews and Awards site.

Readers' Favorite badge

I’ve entered Chocolatour in several categories in the awards, and with any luck, come July 1, 2014, I’ll be announcing that we’re a finalist in the Readers’ Favorite Awards —  to be chosen September 1, 2014 .

 

Here is the review that you’ll see on the Readers’ Favorite site:

Review of Chocolatour: A Quest for the World’s Best Chocolate, Volume I
Reviewed by Lit Amri for Readers’ Favorite”To all chocolate lovers, this is a travel book that you will not want to overlook. Doreen Pendgracs’ Chocolatour: A Quest for the World’s Best Chocolate takes readers around the globe in the hunt for the best chocolate, chocolatiers, chocolate makers, events and attractions from seven countries including France, Italy, and Switzerland, and to the growing cocoa regions of Peru, Ecuador, and the West Indies.
I strongly suggest to readers to have a chocolate bar near because Pendgracs bombards Chocolatour with picturesque and delicious photos of everything related to chocolate, including recipes from chefs.

Do you know the difference between cacao and cocoa? If you love chocolate but lack the knowledge like me, Pendgracs deftly explains relevant terminologies specific to the world of chocolate in Chapter 1. Novices of the chocolate culture will know what differentiates chocolate makers, chocolatiers, and chocolate masters. Readers will love chocolate in Chapter 2, “Chocogasms and Other Health Benefits of Chocolate”. I do have my personal favorite – Chapter 9, “Sweet Success in Switzerland”, as my two favorite chocolate products are Toblerone and Lindt.

Simply put, Chocolatour: A Quest for the World’s Best Chocolate gives seasoned and new chocolate lovers incomparable insight into the self-indulgent culture of chocolate. It is undeniably an enjoyable and easy read with an appetizing theme boosted by clear, flawless prose. If you plan to travel soon, it is wise to bring this book along. Delightfully, this is only volume one of Chocolatour, so you can look forward to more of Doreen Pendgracs’ mouth-watering quest in the next installment.”

 

Chocolatour at the Hawaii Chocolate Festival

It was fun being a speaker at the 2014 Hawaii Chocolate Festival last month. They have a huge venue at the Dole Cannery in Honolulu, with a good assortment of exhibitors including cacao growers, chocolate makers, chocolatiers, candy makers, and companies who make soaps from cacao, liquor infused with cocoa, and of course, an author promoting her book about the best chocolate of the world (that would be me!)

hawaii-chocolate

During my talk at the Hawaii Chocolate Festival. Photo credit: Suzanne Fluhr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are a few photos to whet your appetite to the idea of travelling to some of the intriguing chocolate events I have listed in Chapter 11 of Chocolatour. You’ll find the Hawaii Chocolate Fest listed on page 125. Please visit/subscribe to my chocolate travel blog at http://diversionswithdoreen.com for detailed posts about my Chocolatour to the Hawaiian Islands.

hawaii-chocolate

There was a great selection of tasty treats at the Hawaii Chocolate Fest

hula-dancers

It was nice to be welcomed by hula dancers at the Hawaiian Chocolate Fest

 

 

madre-chocolate

Madre Chocolate was an exhibitor at the Hawaii Chocolate Festival

 

one-day sale

 

inspired-by-chocolate

Doreen at the Inspired by Chocolate Valentine’s Day event in Selkirk, Manitoba.

Greetings everyone! Our “Inspired by Chocolate” Valentine’s Day event at the Selkirk Golf & Country Club went so well on Friday that I’m down to 20 remaining copies of the first print run of Chocolatour: A Quest for the World’s Best Chocolate.

February 17, 2014: my one-day sale

In honour of Louis Riel Day here in Manitoba, other Family Days across Canada, and Presidents’ Day in the US, I’m offering a 1-day sale to clear out those books and focus on the updated second printing.

If you live in Canada, you can get a copy of Chocolatour for $23 including postage. If you live in the US, I’ll mail you a signed copy tomorrow for $27. Just post a PayPal or e-transfer payment to me today, and help me  put the best chocolate book ever in your hands before I head off on my research trip to Hawaii, where I’ll be speaking at the Hawaii Chocolate Festival on Feb 22nd. (Research for the second volume of Chocolatour.)

Here are a few more pics from the “Inspired by Chocolate” event where chocolate-inspired art, literature, and confections were brought together for a decadent day of chocolate bliss.

chocolate-art

Chocolate books, chocolates from Constance Popp Chocolatier, and chocolate desserts complimented the chocolate-inspired art show.

chocolate-inspired-art

chocolate-art

A sampling of the chocolate inspired art that was on display and for sale at the Feb 14th event.

 

 

my interview on the Stuph File

It’s always great to be interviewed by the media on my favourite subject: fine artisanal chocolate and chocolate travel.

roselen-chocolates

Roselen Chocolates of Lima, Peru, received the Chocolatour award for the Most Beautiful Handpainted Chocolates.

Thanks to Peter Anthony Holder, Montreal-based journalist and media personality of the Stuph File for interviewing me for the February 10, 2014 show (#0234). You’ll find the interview here.

We’re talking about where to find the best chocolate, art in chocolate, endorphins produced when you eat chocolate, chocolate and wine pairings, and more.

chocolate inspired art

chocolate-event

 

Please join us February 14th at Selkirk Golf & Country Club as the WAVE Interlake Artists  Group will be displaying pieces of original art that have been inspired by the beauty and sensuality of chocolate.

I will be there with signed copies of Chocolatour: A Quest for the World’s Best Chocolate for your favourite Valentine. And Constance Popp Chocolatier of Winnipeg will be offering up some of her delicious handmade truffles to satisfy your chocolate cravings.

constance-popp

Constance Menzies of Constance Popp Chocolatier is an uber-creative chocolatier.

The chef at the Selkirk Golf & Country Club will be preparing a special Valentine menu, including a sumptuous chocolate offering for dessert. Dinner will be served between 4-9 pm. The art show will be available for viewing and purchase from 9 am until 9 pm.

We hope you’ll join us in celebrating creativity inspired by chocolate.

first group Chocolatour planned for Switzerland

This trip has been postponed. But please subscribe and stay tuned to this site for future group Chocolatours! And if there is a specific destination you’d like to go, do let me know and we will consider it in our chocolate travel planning.

laderach-chocolat-suisse

Laderach has chocolate demonstrations at the Merkur shop in Zurich.

Together with Bucher Travel of Switzerland and Journey’s Travel of Winnipeg, Chocolatour has created a customized tour for chocolate lovers. We’ll pack our bags on March 29, 2014 and head to Switzerland for nine days of chocolate touring through Lucerne, Engelberg, Lausanne, Montreux, Gruyeres, Broc, and Zurich.

Fortunately, most of these locations are close to one another, so we’ll use Lucerne as our first stop for three nights, Lausanne as our second resting place for two nights, and Zurich as our hub for the final four nights.

The highlight of the trip will be a visit to the International Chocolate Salon in Zurich, where we will taste chocolate from around the world and enjoy chocolate art and fashions. What could be more exquisite?

As the maximum number of participants will be 16 including your host, Doreen Pendgracs, author of Chocolatour: A Quest for the World’s Best Chocolate, we’re asking that you contact Sheila Rempel at Journey’s Travel by January 17th to place your deposit on the package. This will reserve your spot on the tour.

If you live in Manitoba, please visit this link for the complete itinerary from Winnipeg.

If you live outside of Manitoba and wish to join the group in Switzerland for the chocolate tour, please visit this link for the international itinerary and some fantastic photos to get your taste buds tingling. (scroll down to the send event listing for the Chocolatour.)

This trip will be experiential travel at its best. We’ll learn how to make chocolate and cheese, we’ll sample some fine wines and cuisine, and we’ll experience some of Switzerland’s most beautiful places. Join us!

P.S. My apologies to any fellows who might be interested in this trip as this is a women-only tour.

the goals of Chocolatour: to educate and entertain

My goal in writing the Chocolatour: A Quest for the World’s Best Chocolate series is two-fold: to educate chocolate lovers about the exciting and extensive world of chocolate, and to entertain my readers with insightful and informative profiles and chocolate events.

Understandably, the most well-liked events involve chocolate tastings. I was thrilled to be able to share an assortment of single origin Guittard Chocolate yesterday at a gathering of chocolate lovers.

guittard-chocolate

Guittard Chocolate is made in the San Francisco area, but uses cocoa beans from around the world.

We tried single origin 65% dark chocolate from Ecuador, Venezuela, Columbia, and Madagascar. Single origin chocolate means the beans are from one specific country. This enables you to taste the difference between sources of origin and find your preference.

And we sampled 38% milk chocolate, a 72% bittersweet dark, and a 91% extra dark chocolate made from cocoa mass blended from a variety of sources. Blending cocoa beans is popular among commercial brands. Less so, in handcrafted artisanal chocolate. Read the labels carefully to know what you’re getting/eating.

I always prefer the single origin chocolates as they really give you the chance to close your eyes, inhale the aroma from the chocolate, and then taste the difference between the varietals. In almost every taste test I do with different chocolate companies, I invariably prefer the Madagascan chocolate. The Guittard Madagascar chocolate uses exclusively Criollo beans, thought by many around the world to be the finest tasting cocoa beans you can buy. The result is cocoa with a higher level of acidity, producing chocolate with a fruity flavour that immediately transports you to the tropics.

guittard-chocolate

I really enjoyed Guittard’s Hawaiian chocolate bar featuring chunks of Hawaiian cocoa nibs from the Waialua Coffee and Chocolate Company.

Guittard also produces fantastic chocolate made from Hawaiian cocoa grown on the Waialua Estate on the North Shore of the island of Oahu. I’ve definitely got to get there and further explore the Hawaiian chocolate scene. I especially enjoyed the 53% cacao semisweet chocolate bar featuring small chunks of Hawaiian cocoa nibs. You can bet I didn’t share that one!

chocolate events to entice you

The November 2nd, 2013 chocolate dinner at McNally Robinson Booksellers in Winnipeg was a great success! We had a sell-out crowd, and have scheduled the next dinner of chocolate exploration for April 12th, 2014. You can sign up for that with McNally Robinson here.

signing-chocolatour

I always enjoy signing copies of Chocolatour for chocolate lovers.

I was pleased to sign copies of Chocolatour prior to the dinner. You’ll find some signed copies in the store on Grant Avenue in Winnipeg. Please drop in and grab one for yourself or the favourite chocolate lover in your life.

Here are some photos from last week’s dinner to show you what Chef Karen Nielsen can do!

parsnip-soup

Roasted parsnip soup topped with slow-melting chocolate shavings was our first course.

community classroom

McNally Robinson’s Community Classroom made a lovely venue for the chocolate dinner.

mole-over-chicken

The main course was a zesty chocolate mole sauce over a chicken breast.

chocolate-mousse

The dessert was an intense version of the Chocolate Mousse featured in the recipes chapter of Chocolatour.

The next chocolate event that will have my attention is the Evening of Chocolate Art and Inspiration to be held at the Selkirk Golf & Country in Selkirk, Manitoba on February 14th. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than with a chocolate-inspired art show by the WAVE Artists Group and a  dinner featuring a chocolate buffet. I’ll be  with my books and some enticing chocolate courtesy of Constance Popp Chocolatier of Winnipeg.

And in the future, we’re looking forward to a Chocolatour to Switzerland with members of the Worldly Women Travel Club. Our tentative itinerary includes visits to Basel, Lausanne, Montreux, Broc, and Zurich to scout out the best in Swiss chocolate. There will be a maximum of 16 participants in our group, so if you’re interested, do call Sheila Rempel at Journeys Travel at (204) 982-0715 or e-mail worldlywomen@journeystravel.com and reserve your spot.

chocolate-in-zurich

Confiserie Sprungli is one of the best places to indulge your chocolate fantasies while in Zurich.

Do stay tuned (subscribe) to this site for updates on all.

upcoming Chocolatour events

We’ve got a host of chocolate events coming up to celebrate the launch of Chocolatour and our devotion to chocolate. Please make note of the following:

November 2, 2013: Book signing from 5-6 pm, followed by a chocolate dinner in the Community Classroom of McNally Robinson. Please note the dinner is sold out, but we have scheduled a second one for April 12, 2014. Ask to be put on the waiting list for that if you missed getting in on the first one. I’ll be happy to sign copies of Chocolatour for you at McNally Robinson, 1120 Grant Avenue, Winnipeg on November 2nd. Look for me by the cash desk. Come tell me about your best chocolate find! Contact McNally Robinson Booksellers for details.

February 14, 2014: An Evening of Chocolate Art and Inspiration at Selkirk Golf & Country Club, Manitoba. We’re planning a spectacular evening of chocolate art and indulgence at in Selkirk. Stay tuned for details on how to reserve your ticket.

laderach-chocolate

Laderach chocolate is made in the Swiss tradition.

March 29-April 8, 2014: If you’d like to join me for some chocolate travel, sign up for the Chocolatour to Switzerland that is being coordinated by Journeys Travel and the Worldly Women Travel Club.  Details will be available at the Worldly Women site in just a few days. We’d love to have you join us, as we meet Swiss chocolatiers, sample other culinary delights, and attend the International Chocolate Salon in Zurich. Swiss chocolate is among the most sensuous in the world, and this is one trip I’m really looking forward to!

April 12, 2014: If you didn’t make it into the chocolate dinner event at McNally Robinson Booksellers for November 2nd, don’t fret. We’ve got a second event scheduled for April 12th, and a third one scheduled for May 3rd . Details are available on the Community Classroom page.

Details are being firmed up on other delicious chocolate events for 2014. Please subscribe to this blog so you don’t miss a beat.