Friday, April 03, 2009

Big Island Candies: a fantasy in Chocolate

I never believed in the Easter Bunny, the good fairy, or Santa Claus. But I believe in Big Island Candies. Their fantastic chocolates, exciting flavor choices and whimsical packaging makes this a joyful experience for chocolate lovers of any age. Not a chocolate lover? ( then why are you reading this?) You will still love them for their coconut and lemon shortbread cookies.

I first tasted a Big Island Cookie at a food and wine event on the Big Island. There were booths of fresh fruits and vegetables, locally made products and uniquely Hawaiian items. My eyes went right to the colorful packages and beautiful display on the Big Island Candy table. It looked like a Tiffany jewelry store. Each item was treated like a precious jewel and displayed accordingly. I instantly knew these people understood chocoholics like me.

On a recent trip to the Big Island to judge the Kona Chocolate Festival, I finally got to fulfill my fantasy. I went to the Hawaiian chocolate mecca: the headquarters for Big Island Candies. It was even better than I expected. The friend who went with me said it looked like Ala Moana ..the upscale mall on Oahu. I love shopping. Maybe that is why I feel such a resonance with Big Island Candies. The festive displays made me feel like I was at a party. The "factory" part looks like a branch of Ikea. Stark white accented with steel and large overhead signs indicating what was done in that area--Melters., Packaging, Hand Dipping, Quality Inspection, Cooling Tunnel, Chocolate Enrober, Chocolate Melter, Chocolate Panner, Baking Floor to ceiling glass walls divided the candy makes from the customers, but you felt like you could peer through the windows and be such inches away from the chocolate.

The best thing about Big Island Candies

Because I am a journalist and co-own a chocolate website, people often send me samples and give me me tastes of all their new products. At Big Island Candies everyone can taste anything they want. As you enter, they offer you a cup with two products and direct you to their free coffee bar where they serve Big Island Candies Coffee.

Weird and wonderful

Since I was in town to judge the Kona Chocolate Festival, I knew I would be tasting lots of cookies, brownies and etc. So I asked Lance Duyao, chocolate genius and marketing director of Big Island Candies what were the most unique flavors they offered. He did not hesitate for a moment. He grabbed packages of Chocolate Dipped Ika (cuttlefish), Chocolate dipped mochi balls(a Japanese rice treat) and chocolate dipped dried a salted plums (a favorite with Orientals and Hawaiians). These are all from Hawaiian Da-Kines line.

Lance asked me if I had ever tasted cuttlefish. I proudly confirmed that I had. He served me one and I was about to start at the white stringy end that looked like slices of coconut. Lots of people think it is coconut Lance explained as he graciously handed me a napkin. He suggested I start at the chocolate end. I took a small bit of the round chocolate side. It was pure chocolate so of course I liked it. My next small bite was into the chocolate and cuttlefish. I was grateful that Lance had handed me a napkin. Next up was the chocolate dipped mochi balls. Since I am not a big mochi fan I did not go nuts over this one, but I expect many people would. The chocolate dipped dried salted plums resonated with me. I felt like it stimulated all my taste receptors--sweet, salty, with a lasting flavor as you sucked on them. I got some of these to take home. Except I have already eaten them.

My Favorite

I loved tasting the chocolate covered crunch bars, the cookies and the brownies. But I know my favorite will always be the shortbread cookies. They have several new flavors including lemon and coconut. But for me it is the basic shortbread dipped in dark chocolate. But drool through their catalogue or their website and I am sure you will find thousand of calories of temptation.

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