Big Island Chocolate Festival offers sweet and savory events

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It was impossible for me to write this column without a constant supply of dark chocolate melting in my mouth. One of my favorite events is back for its sixth year of sweet and savory indulgences: The Big Island Chocolate Festival is Friday and Saturday, April 28 and 29, with most activities at the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel.

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It was impossible for me to write this column without a constant supply of dark chocolate melting in my mouth. One of my favorite events is back for its sixth year of sweet and savory indulgences: The Big Island Chocolate Festival is Friday and Saturday, April 28 and 29, with most activities at the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel.

This year’s event theme, “Worth Its Weight in Gold: The History of Chocolate” (that’s a mouthful) will be reflected in decorated culinary stations at the Saturday night Gala.

Presented by the Kona Cacao Association, this year’s event benefits the ACF Kona-Kohala Chefs Association, Kona Dance & Performing Arts, Kona Pacific Public Charter School, and Waimea Country School’s Na Kaiki Aloha ‘Aina.

For a list of all events, go to bigislandchocolatefestival.com; here are a few that include tasting opportunities. Most are at the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel unless otherwise noted:

Friday, April 28

10 a.m. to 3 p.m.: Student Culinary Competition, featuring statewide college students in a plated dessert competition judged by festival celebrity chefs. Free and open to the public.

11 a.m. to noon: Guided Plantation Tour at the Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory in Keauhou includes touring the cacao farm, processing facility, and the retail shop, with tastings. This is a bargain at $25 and a great experience for keikis as well as adults.

12:15 to 1:15 p.m.: “Bean to Bar Chocolate Production” demonstration by author Paul Picton, president/co-owner of Maverick Chocolate, a family-operated company.

Saturday, April 29

9:30 to 11 a.m.: “Small Chocolate Bites” demonstration and tasting by Donald Wressel, Exec. Pastry Chef at Guittard Chocolate Company, who has created spectacular chocolate sculptures for past events. This time he will create mini desserts like chocolate “financier” and others.

5 to 9 p.m.: The main Gala event held in the ballroom and beautiful courtyard is a true indulgence by top chefs and chocolatiers, plus wine, beer, a mole and salad bar, displays, a silent auction and more. “Le Chocolat” music and dance performances, live DJ for dancing, and chocolate body painting will keep everyone entertained. Judging all the delicious offerings are celebrity chefs from the mainland, Maui, and Oahu.

Tickets to the gala are $79 pre-sale, $100 at the door (if available.) Also offered is a Saturday “I Love Chocolate” all-day pass for $135, that includes three daytime culinary demos and the evening gala. For ticket information and event details, visit www.bigislandchocolatefestival.com

Here are three examples of Chocolate Festival decadence shared by participating chefs.

Double Chocolate Toffee Scones

By Lisa Siu, Assistant Pastry Chef, Hualalai Resort and Four Seasons Resort; makes 5 scones.

8 1/2 ounces all-purpose flour

1 1/2 ounces cocoa powder

3 ounces brown sugar

1 heaping tablespoon baking powder

6 ounces cold butter, cut into small cubes

1/2 cup whole milk

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup chocolate chips

1/3 cup toffee bits

Mix flour, cocoa powder, brown sugar and baking powder together in a bowl. Add butter to dry mix until crumbly. In a separate bowl, mix milk, egg and vanilla extract; add to crumbly mixture and mix well. Roll out dough, then fold in chocolate chips and toffee bits. Cut into 5 pieces, roughly 5 oz. each. Brush tops with milk and sprinkle a little sugar on top. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for approx. 25 minutes till firm to the touch.

Venison Chocolate Mole

By chefs Connor Butler and Frank Kramm, Kona Butcher Shop; makes 2 cups sauce, for 4 servings.

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup finely chopped onion

3 tablespoons chopped garlic

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1⁄4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 1⁄2 tablespoons chili powder

1/4 cup ground macadamia nuts

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 banana, mashed

4 cups chicken broth

2 ounces chopped Valrhona dark chocolate, preferably 72%+ cocoa liqueur

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, oregano, cumin and cinnamon. Cover and cook until onion is almost tender, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Mix in chili powder, macnuts, and flour; stir for 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in banana and chicken broth. Increase heat to medium high; boil and reduce sauce, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Whisk in chocolate; season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with roasted venison rack, corn and rice.

Roasted Hamakua Tomato-Cocoa Nib Salsa

By Dayne Tanabe, Chef of Restaurants-Culinary, Hilton Waikoloa Village

5 Kamuela tomatoes

1 tomatillo

½ jalapeno (whole piece if you like it hot)

1 Kula onion (large dice)

5 garlic cloves

½ bunch cilantro (chopped)

¼ cup cocoa nibs

Kosher salt to taste

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Roast tomato, tomatillo and jalapeno on a grill. Char until really black on the outside. In a dry sauce pot, on high heat, add large diced Kula onions and garlic; sauté until dark and roasted, about 5 minutes. Place roasted tomatoes, tomatillo, jalapeno, onions, garlic and cilantro into a food processor and pulse, making sure the salsa is chunky. Season with kosher salt and fold in the cocoa nibs.

Serve with shredded beef, steak tacos, chicken, pork or with chips.