07 NOV 2016: In a post Halloween haze a couple of days after the annual trick or treating tradition, there I am munching on - more chocolate.  It’s not any chocolate though. It’s designer ware of gourmet chocolate that has given new meaning to a sun spot we often associate with all-inclusives and too much rum.

Last week the Dominican Republic Tourism Board showcased its locally grown organic chocolate and the Caribbean country’s nouvelle cuisine by hosting a media brunch and chocolate tasting part of the Dominican Food Fest, held at Le Marche which was sponsored by the Ministry of Tourism.

The Rise of Chocolate Tourism “Currently the country is the largest producer and exporter of organic chocolate worldwide,” begins Carol Felix, the project manager at El Sendero del Cacao, the Dominican’s top organic cocoa producer, part of the Rizek Cacao CxA division, considered the Dominican’s first organic cocoa company.

Located in the heart of the Dominican Republic travellers can visit El Sendero del Cacao’s 39-hectared cocoa plantation, Hacienda La Esmeralda in San Francisco de Macaris which is roughly a two-hour drive from either Santo Domingo, Puerto Plata or Samana.

She further explains El Sendero del Cacao began offering tours in 2008 due to interest the company was receiving from its premium chocolate manufacturing clients in Europe and the United States.

“These companies wanted to know more about the cocoa fruit. They wanted to see the quality of the beans. This is how we started to do tours,” explains Felix, the tour developer.

Today, the local company reports 40,000 customers have visited the attraction since opening. Visitors of El Sendero del Cacao are welcomed with the signature hot chocolate and learn about harvesting, manufacturing, and the cocoa fruit which has been often dubbed, “the food of the gods” for its rich qualities. A compact factory onsite also offers guests a hands-on DIY lesson on chocolate making.

“Ruta de Cacao”

According to the Dominican Republic Tourism Board, some of the finest organic chocolate in the world is produced in the country from plantations on the “Ruta de Cacao” (Cacao Route) under the Kah Kow brand which was featured during the brunch.

Company Background

Guests heard how the Rizek family, the island’s first chocolate purveyors, started their cocoa business in 1905 and in 1961 started to export its high-end chocolate to the United States. Felix later added the cocoa products only recently became a priority. “When the Trujillo tyranny ended we started to export to other countries.” She said.

A new Kah Kow Experience

In the heart of the Dominican Republic capital of Santo Domingo stay tuned for the December opening of the city’s latest attraction, the Kah Kow Experience.

The new facility will house a special effects museum that showcases the history of cacao in a 35-minute show, a Kah Kow factory for a chocolate making experience, a Kah Kow Soap Lab, workshops, as well as a store and a cafe. “We want people who can’t go to the farm to have an experience here,” notes Felix.

Besides the location, (it’s situated on Calle Las Damas No. 102, the first street built in the New World), the new chocolate experience is also inside the third house built in the Americas. “It is just down the street from Christopher Columbus’ house,” says Abdalah Castillo, chairman of the Dominican Republic Tourism Board in Toronto.

More than beaches

Castillo further explained how the island is ready to showcase more offerings besides the beach, sun and sand. “We want to show you that the Dominican Republic is more than sand, sun and beaches. We have culture and a lot of extra added value,” he told his guests and later toasted some yummy hot chocolate to the food of the gods.

Nouvelle Dominican Cuisine

Acclaimed ambassador to Dominican nouvelle cuisine Chef Tita (Ines Paez) who currently has the top restaurant Travesias in the Dominican Republic drummed up a menu of tropical fruits, green salad with crispy macadamia nuts, mangu which is mashed green plantains, and the kicker: Salpicon, a salad mixture laden in venomous lionfish.

Her restaurant is known to feature the invasive lionfish that has been plaguing the Caribbean Sea. Local media there have described her place in one phrase. “Eat a lion at Travesias.” So I did... in Toronto.  I ate every chunk. It was very good.

For more travel information see www.GoDominicanRepublic.com

For more details on the Cacao Trail http://www.cacaotour.com/index.php/en/home

For more details on Rizek Cacao http://rizekcacao.com/

For details on Chef Tita’s restaurant see www.travesiasrd.com

AT the Reception
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Ilona Kauremszky

A regular contributor to Travel Industry Today, Ilona is a prize winning journalist whose writing pursuits have taken her around the globe.

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