Now here’s a job we’d like to have – searching the world for the best chocolate there is. Suzanne Fluhr reviews Chocolatour: A Quest for the World’s Best Chocolate.
This first volume of a projected three has convinced me that travel writer Doreen Pendgracs is the “Rick Steves” of chocolate tourism. Like Steves’ books, this volume not only takes us to places, but also provides historical context and information necessary for an in depth understanding of chocolate. Pendgracs’ passion for and appreciation of chocolate is infectious.
In this first volume, Pendgracs ultimately takes us to seven European countries to explore the world of fine, artisanal chocolate, but she starts the book by sharing her travels to cacao growing regions in a remote Amazon jungle area in Peru and on back roads subject to mudslides in Ecuador. Her cacao growing exploration on the island nation of Saint Lucia was undertaken in somewhat more luxurious surroundings. In this chapter, we learn how the cacao fruit (yes, it’s a fruit!) is grown and ultimately harvested and processed into chocolate.
If you ever feel the need to explain your chocolate addiction or why chocolate is actually good for you, Pendgracs provides the necessary information in chapter two of her book which is titled, “Chocogasms and Other Health Benefits of Chocolate”.
Although most of us know we like chocolate, the author educates us about how not to just consume chocolate, but how to experience it — much as an oenophile understands and enjoys fine wine. She identifies ten chocolate personalities that we can use to characterize the products of different chocolatiers and then introduces us to chocolatiers she finds noteworthy in the United Kingdom, Belgium, France, Holland, Italy, Spain and Switzerland. These chapters will be very useful for travelers wanting to undertake a chocolate pilgrimage along with their visits to the “must sees” of Europe. After reading this book, you will want to and be able to add fine chocolate tastings to your European travel itineraries.
Many people know that Mexican mole sauce combines the flavors of chocolate and chile. In Chapter 12 of Volume One of Chocolatour, the author shares some recipes that employ chocolate in new and intriguing ways. Are you ready for cacao gazpacho or a summer salad with smoked eel, chocolate and pecorino wafers topped with chocolate vinegar?
There is also a chapter about chocolate festivals, museums and attractions around the globe. Indeed, I purchased my copy of Chocolatour: A Quest for the World’s Best Chocolate (Volume One) at the Hawaii Chocolate Festival in Honolulu, where the author, Doreen Pendgracs, lectured about chocolate. I admit I was a little leery about sitting still for an hour lecture about chocolate, especially immediately after having sampled some of the festival products (chocolate covered bacon anyone?). However, just as in her book, the author kept me and the others in the room engaged as she conveyed her knowledge about and enthusiasm for chocolate.
While you can (and should) purchase this book for yourself if you are a chocolate devotee or a chocolate devotee wannabe, it would also make a wonderful gift for the chocolate lovers in your life. My copy is inscribed to my favorite chocolate lover — my husband.