chocolate ravioli a hit at April 4th dinner

The bar has been raised! Chef Chris Kopp and the culinary team at Prairie Ink Bistro accepted the challenge to tantalize chocolate lovers with a special menu for the April 4th chocolate dinner in the Community Classroom of McNally Robinson Booksellers in Winnipeg and they did not disappoint!

The culinary team of Prairie Ink Bistro visited the Community Classroom. Pictured left to right are Pastry Chef Geoffroy Dextraze, Zack, Bryce, and Chef Chris Kopp.
The culinary team of Prairie Ink Bistro visited the Community Classroom. Pictured left to right are Pastry Chef Geoffroy Dextraze, Zack (speaking), Bryce, and Chef Chris Kopp.

We’ve been doing chocolate dinners in the Community Classroom as part of McNally Robinson’s education program  since November, 2013, and they have been a resounding success, selling out well in advance of the date each time.

April 4 chocolate dinner

But at the March 6, 2015 dinner, we were introduced to the new chef at Prairie Ink. He had never worked with chocolate to any degree. The meal we received at that dinner was good, but the main course chicken didn’t have the star power of the first course (cacao gazpacho soup based on recipe contained in Chocolatour) or the dessert (white chocolate cheesecake created by Pastry Chef Geoffroy Dextraze.)

Arugula salad dressed with white chocolate and candied cocoa nibs.
Arugula salad dressed with white chocolate and candied cocoa nibs.

I made a challenge to Chef Kopp to raise the bar for our April dinner and he and his team exceeded my expectations. We began the meal with an arugula salad with snow peas and strawberries topped with a raspberry white chocolate dressing and garnished with hemp hearts and candied cocoa nibs. It was delicious!

The chocolate ravioli at the dinner was over-the-top delicious.
The chocolate ravioli at the dinner was over-the-top delicious.

The next course was my favourite. Chocolate ravioli filled with orange, thyme, and duck finished with a Frangelico cream sauce. The ravioli were chocolate brown in colour and the decadent sauce was garnished with cocoa nibs, hazelnuts, and pea shoots. Chef Kopp later told us how labour intensive it was to make those ravioli, but  wow … were they incredible!

The cocoa-crusted baby back ribs were a showcase of how the savoury side of cocoa can enhance any meat, fish, or sauce.
The cocoa-crusted baby back ribs were a showcase as to how the savoury side of cocoa can enhance the flavour of nearly any meat, fish, or sauce.

The main course didn’t disappoint. We enjoyed two different treatments on the baby back ribs. I preferred the ribs with the dry rub made from a blend of espresso coffee, crushed cocoa nibs, and chilli powder. But the ribs cooked in a dark chocolate and cherry BBQ sauce were equally enticing. The plate was finished with chocolate balsamic roasted fingerling potatoes and mint succotash.

The chocolate mousse with creme aux Kalamansi was the creation of Pastry Chef Geoffroy Dextraze.
The chocolate mousse with creme aux Kalamansi was the creation of Pastry Chef Geoffroy Dextraze.

Pastry Chef Geoffroy Dextraze again impressed us with his ability to partner chocolate with something non-traditional. The 70% chocolate mousse contained a think layer of creme aux Kalamansi, made from the Kalamansi fruit of Southeast Asia. The tangy citrus notes of the fruit coupled with the bittersweet richness of the dark chocolate were nearly as beautiful a feast to the palate as the creation was to our eyes.

I can’t wait for our September 19th to see what the team will come up with. There are still a few seats left for it. If you’re interested in attending, don’t wait to get your ticket! You can register by calling Barb King at (204) 475-0483 or booking online.

Dessert steals the show at March 6 chocolate dinner

We had another sold-out chocolate dinner in the Community Classroom of McNally Robinson Booksellers on Friday, March 6, 2015. (This was a snow-date to replace the Feb 7/15 date for which I couldn’t get into Winnipeg due to bad weather.)

white chocolate cheesecake

The star of the March 6th dinner was the White Chocolate Cheesecake, orchestrated by Geoffroy Dextraze, chef de pâtissier of the new culinary team at Prairie Ink Bistro. Dextraze really won my confidence, when just a matter of one day before the scheduled event, he was able to come up with an astounding dessert in honour of White Chocolate Cheesecake Day!

Geoffroy Dextraze (picuted in white), flagged by Chef Chris Kopp on the right and sous chef Bryce White on the left.
Geoffroy Dextraze (pictured in white), flagged by Chef Chris Kopp on the right and sous chef Bryce White on the left.

The White Chocolate Basil Cheesecake was served with peppered macerated strawberries and a hit with everyone in attendance (apart from one person who expressed a preference for dark chocolate desserts.) Indeed, the original dessert selection for last night’s dinner was to have been a dark chocolate selection, but how could we not sufficiently honour White Chocolate Cheesecake Day?

cacao crusted chicken

Chef Chris Kopp and his team presented us with cacao crusted chicken as the main course. I would have liked a much stronger presence of cocoa on the flavour palate, but did really enjoy the accompanying l’orange sauce, vanilla parsnip puree and citrus carrots. As well as the delicious flavour-packed Cacao Gazpacho Soup based on the recipe contained in Chocolatour (volume I.)

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The timing of the courses could have been better, but with the recent departure of Chef Karen Nielsen, it is understandable that the new culinary team will take a bit more time to get up to speed.

Our next (sold-out) chocolate dinner in the classroom is scheduled for April 4th, and I’ve been assured by Chef Chris that we will all be pleased.  There are a number of seats left for the September 19, 2015 dinner. If you’d like to join us, please don’t wait much longer to book, as each one of the six previous chocolate dinners has sold out well in advance.

chocolate dinner

Please call Barb King at (204) 475-0483 or book online via the Community Classroom link. I look forward to seeing you there!

 

 

interview with CJ107 radio

So many exciting things happening with Chocolatour!

If you have a few minutes, please listen to this interview that names a few of the events we’ve got coming up.

To book your tickets to the September 19, 2015 chocolate dinner in the McNally Robinson Community Classroom, please follow this link: http://www.mcnallyrobinson.com/classes#.VO45QCjSHqX or call (204) 475-0483.

To get more information about the Chocolatour to Hawaii in October, please e-mail Cristy Patterson in CAA Group Travel at Cristy Patterson <cristyp@caamanitoba.com>.

To order a print or e-copy of Chocolatour, Volume I please follow this link:  http://chocolatour.net/book.

Thanks, and I hope to share some chocolate with you soon!

another accolade for Chocolatour

Chocolatour: A Quest for the World’s Best Chocolate, volume I, has been declared a Finalist in the 2014 Awards sponsored by the North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA.)

NATJA Finalist 2014

The 2014 NATJA Awards for excellence in travel journalism and literature will be awarded in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, in May at the NATJA 2015 conference.

Being acknowledged as a finalist in this prestigious competition is a tremendous accomplishment for me as a travel journalist. Thanks to everyone who has purchased the book (available in print and e-book formats), to those who regularly visits my travel and lifestyle blogs, to everyone who has offered me words of encouragement and support via friendship and social media shares, and to all the chocolate lovers and chocolate makers of the world.

I am midway through the necessary research for Volume II of Chocolatour: A Quest for the World’s Best Chocolate Adventures. Stay tuned for updates!

Valentine interview on CBC radio

I was pleased to be interviewed by Laurie Hoogstraten of the CBC Weekend Morning Show on CBC Radio One today.

Roselen Chocolates

We spoke about how the contemporary world of chocolate has changed from the days when chocolate lovers received a red heart-shaped satin or velvet box filled with ultra-sweet chocolate confections for Valentine’s Day.

Hear the full interview here, and may your Valentine’s week include something special–like the handcrafted Roselen Chocolates from Peru pictured here.

more chocolate events for Chocolatour

It’s going to be a busy month!

I’ll be giving a chocolate talk at Gaynor Family Regional Library in Selkirk, Manitoba, on Friday, Feb 6th from 1-3 pm.  This is a free event and open to all. I will have copies of Chocolatour on hand for sale, just in time for Valentine’s Day!

Chocolatour

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s time for another Chocolate Dinner in the Community Classroom of McNally Robinson on Saturday, Feb 7th. The dinner is sold out, as is the next one on April 4th. But we’ve got another dinner planned for September 19th. How about buying your Valentine a ticket at http://www.mcnallyrobinson.com/classes#.VNFQhSjSHqW. It’s already half full, so I wouldn’t wait too long to get your tickets.

McNally Robinson also has signed copies of Chocolatour on hand for sale online and at their store in Winnipeg.

McNally Robinson

On February 13th, I’m giving a chocolate chat to members of the University Women’s Club in Winnipeg. I’m sure they’ll challenge me to some thought-provoking questions about the world of chocolate.

If you’d like me to come and make a presentation to your group, let me know. And if you’d like to order a copy of Chocolatour for your favourite Valentine, it’s available in print on Amazon, and in print and e-book editions via this site.

Until we meet again, enjoy your Valentine’s Day celebrations, and the thought that spring is on its way. :-)

Chocolatour at chocolate events

November has been a busy month for Chocolatour!

This pic was taken by Jessica of JAG Photography and shows us judging the Single Origin Chocolate of Costa Rica.
This pic was taken by Jessica of JAG Photography and shows us judging the Single Origin Chocolate of Costa Rica.

At the end of October, I was a judge at the Puerto Viejo Chocolate Festival in Costa Rica. I stayed on for a few days into early November, meeting chocolate makers and investigating chocolate for the second volume of Chocolatour. You can find copies of volume I at Caribeans, profiled in this post.

After a brief rest at home, I headed to Kingston, Ontario, where I gave a presentation about the world of fine chocolate at an event sponsored by the Writers Union of Canada Reading Program (made possible via a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts. )

In Kingston at Sugar Swan Sweet Shop.
In Kingston at Sugar Swan Sweet Shop.

You’ll learn more about Ridgway Confections and Sugar Swan (where copies of Chocolatour are on sale) in future posts on my chocolate travel blog, but do drop in and meet Ken and Tanya is you’re looking for some terrific chocolate or candy.

Doreen at Readers' Favorite

And from there, I headed straight to Miami, Florida, where Chocolatour was awarded a bronze medal in the 2014 Readers’ Favorite International Book Awards. Such an exciting moment!

On November 29th, author Arthur Slade and I hosted a crowdfunding workshop at the Winnipeg Millennium Library organized by the Professional Writers Association of Canada and funded by the Winnipeg Public Library.

Arthur Slade and I conducted crowdfunding campaigns at the same time on Indiegogo.
Arthur Slade and I conducted crowdfunding campaigns at the same time on Indiegogo.

My next event is on December 4th at the Gaynor Regional Library in Selkirk, Manitoba, where I’ll be giving a chocolate talk at 7 pm. Please join us if you can. I’ll have copies of Chocolatour on hand to help with your Christmas shopping. If you can’t make it, you can order the book here. (Discounts are available for multiple copies.)

If you have a chocolate event you’d like to have me at, drop me a line! My goal is to attend every chocolate event that promotes artisan chocolate,  and to experience the world of fine chocolate  in virtually every part of the world. With your help and support … I’ll get there!

another evening of chocolate enjoyment

September 20, 2014 was the fourth sold-out dinner of “Chocolate Exploration” held in the Community Classroom of McNally Robinson Booksellers in Winnipeg.

McNally Robinson

McNally Robinson is a favourite location of readers and writers alike, and I was privileged to also have a special signing of Chocolatour: A Quest for the World’s Best Chocolate at which I could affix a “Readers’ Favorite Award Winner” sticker to each book as I signed them.  Such an honour!

book signing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chef Karen Nielsen and the culinary team once again outdid themselves for our chocolate and cocoa-inspired menu. The starter consisted of a delicious salad described as “Orange and onion salad with feta cheese , candied pecans and dark chocolate balsamic dressing.” It was great, but I would have loved more of the delicious candied pecans on it.

salad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The main course was “Chocolate and coffee crusted New York steak with milk chocolate, cognac peppercorn cream sauce.” The meat was tender enough to cut with a fork, and the chocolate sauce really enhanced the richness of the meat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the dessert was a “Triple Chocolate Crème Brûlée” served with a pecan brittle. What an absolutely decadent way to end a perfect meal!

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I look forward to the next chocolate dinner in the Community Classroom, which is scheduled for February, 7, 2015. Just one week before Valentine’s Day–you know we’ll have a sweet time.

 

 

 

You can register online at the McNally Robinson site. Call Barb King at McNally Robinson at 204-475-0483, or email classroom@grant.mcnallyrobinson.ca if you have any questions. But please don’t wait! The chocolate dinners always sell out well in advance of the event date.  Hope to see you then, or at another one of the chocolate events I’ve got coming up. Stay tuned (subscribe) to this site for updates.

Chocolatour wins bronze medal!

I’m thrilled to announce that “Chocolatour: A Quest for the World’s Best Chocolate”  has been awarded a Bronze Medal in the 2014 Readers’ Favorite Book Awards! Readers' Favourite Bronze Medal badge

 

 

 

 

I plan to go to Miami in November to claim my award, but for now, this badge, and the lovely certificate they have sent me will do.

Readers  Favorite Award Certificate-page-001

Thanks to everyone who has supported this book through every stage: the offering of guidance, contributing to the crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, buying the book, attending Chocolatour events, sending me chocolate samples and granting me interviews, inviting me to attend chocolate events and attractions, offering me discounted travel and accommodations so that I can continue to conduct my global research, technical support, reviewing the book, etc.

Each and every one of these acts of kindness and support has been integral to my success. Thanks so much to all of you. Please help me continue to spread the word about Chocolatour.

In appreciation,

Doreen Pendgracs, Award-winning Author

Chocolatour is a Readers’ Favorite Finalist!

Such amazing news came through tonight that I just had to share!

Readers' Favorite badge

Chocolatour has been named a finalist in the Readers’ Favourite 2014 book awards in four categories:

  • Non-fiction, Cooking & Food
  • Non-fiction, General
  • Non-fiction, Memoir
  • Non-fiction, Travel

There was a 50% increase in the number of entries this year, with some categories having as many as 300 entries, so to be selected as a finalist in one category would have been wonderful. But to have been selected a finalist in each of the four categories that were suitable for my book is beyond comprehension.

The winners will be announced on September 1st, with the awards ceremony being held in Miami on November 22nd to coincide with the Miami Book Festival .

Here is a link to the 2015 Readers’ Favorite Awards for anyone who has a book they’d like to enter.  Best wishes to all, and please send your good vibes my way so that Chocolatour is a winner on September 1, 2014.