The cacao plant is starting to make big inroads in the chocolate market on the Big Island of Hawaii. This relatively new commodity is driving huge demand for locally grown cacao and creating new markets in bean to bar, chocolate purveyors and chocolatiers, secondary finished products, restaurant inspired chocolate creations and food fanciers using the raw product to create some amazing new chocolate inspirations.
Supporting this new fledging crop, the newly formed Kona Chocolate Association was established to promote and educate the general public and buying market of locally grown Hawaiian cacao. The association's main focus is to educate and create outreach opportunities for cacao and chocolate products. The association created a new venue, the Big Island Chocolate Festival, which is celebrating its second year of Chocolate festivities, seminars and gala events. Partnering with hospitality, educational groups and local media to bring more awareness and interest in the marketplace, this festival has quickly become a destination spot for chocolatiers and their supporters to enjoy all the activities centered on cacao and chocolate creation.
The chocolate festival is a chocoholic fantasy dream come true with alot of chocolate inspired activities geared to the enthusiasts. This three day celebration of everything centering around chocolate included chocolate demonstrations, chocolate farm tours, chocolate competions and of course an ample opportunity to see and savor chocolate at its best.
Student participation from the culinary schools around Hawaii brought out the best in group collaborations and imaginative creations. The attention to detail and focused concentration of the students to make nothing but the best shows the anticipation and excitement to the culinary events.
Ah, it was so hard to just pick one as a favorite dessert or savory presentation an the gala night presentation. Chocolate preparations were all on display from chocolate confectioners, bean to bar creators, chefs and chocolatiers were all putting on an amazing show.
Fortunately, a judging panel chose sweet and savory winners with the culinary team at the Fairmont Orchid receiving both sweet and savory award. They also won the people's choice award for the delicious sample below,cocoa dusted spicy ahi cone with truffle orange vinagrette and chocolate nibs.
Here's a sample of other sweet and savory dishes and chocolate inspirations from the gala evening event.
You get a delicous bite with this chocolate infused Kau pork belly from the Hilton Waikoloa, made with 72% Waialua chocolate from Oahu, pickled daikon and carrots and chile cilantro in a chocolate char siu sauce
Executive chef Donald Wressel from Guittard chocolate was busy working on a floral chocolate fantasy masterpiece. It was amazing, but I'm wondering who got away with this forty pounder at the end of the event, wish I had a big enough bag to haul this puppy away!
The beautiful floral details to this chocolate sculpture.
A very odd and yet delicious mixture of sensations presented was the Big Island Hog Balls made with all local ingredients including nice big chunks of Hawaiian bacon, I think I polished off a good third of this platter alone!
The sold out event at the Fairmont Orchid was truly a chocolate connoisseur's tasting experience, and it also raised funding for equipment at a local Hawaiian culinary school and a community amphitheature at a charter school at Kaleakekua.
Its always great to support and sample locally made ingredients and finished products like Hawaiian grown chocolate and the Kona chocolate association and their supporters are making great efforts to promoting Hawaiian products and events so that more people can appreciate these products.
To see more images of the three day event, please visit my flickr page.