Chocolate Museums and (maybe) Barbecue

cacao poulain posterBased on customer words bouncing off the glass display cases in the front of the store this week it seems everyone in and around Riverside is hitting the road for short and long Memorial Day weekend travel plans. Alas, not us. We’d like to travel, but store’s open. So, when things go slow this Memorial Day weekend we heading to museums around the world.

Chocolate museums, of course.

Unfortunately, not everyone is as accommodating as San’s Francisco Exploratorium museum which provides its chocolate exhibit in an easily explored online form. As a result, a quiet time might be the perfect time to work our way through a New York Daily News article on the world’s top chocolate museums to see what links besides the Cologne Chocolate Museum (which we already knew about) that we can dig up. Alternatively, there is also a more extensive list from the Chocolate Wrappers site [], which has its own seemingly-abandoned Facebook “museum” to virtually visit.

Somewhat related to today’s UEFA Cup championship match setting German compatriots Borussia Dortmund at the throat of last year’s runner-up Bayern Munich, we are also thinking of pitting the Eupen, Belgium-based online offerings from the Antoine Jacques museum against the Brussels, Belgium, Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate for some sort of chocobragging rights.

Anyway, that’s the current plan. However, if the weather turns wonderful and we still aren’t drawing in customers, it may be time to start planning the Memorial Day cookout, thinking inspired by Dying for Chocolate postings of chocolate barbecues recipes they’re recommending.

In other words, chocolate virtual can be entertaining, but chocolate victuals are sustaining.

Chocolate Around the World May Keep You at Home

chinese chocolate soldiersBABY IT’S cold outside … and so time for some choco-tourism news. First catching our attention is Florida’s recently opened Chocolate Kingdom. Featuring five (Five? Really? That’s a “kingdom?”) cacao trees amid its 8,300 squ. ft. (Not to beat up this dead horse too much, but 8,300 squ. ft. as a “kingdom?” Are the citizens amoebae? Does the king moonlight as Horton Hears A Who! Mayor of Whoville?) Admittedly, it may seem, at least at first if you’ll pardon the mangled pun, a bit cheezy:

Next, we turned to the second annual Shanghai Chocolate Dream Park
scheduled to run from 18 Jan through 24 Feb., and showcasing what a massive state can proffer when marshalling effort on behalf of choco-tourism and featuring chocolate sculpture and samples from folks around the world, as well as the finals of the International Chocolate Talent contest.

Ambitiously, chocolate is also being used to sell winter trips to Wales, Abu Dhabi, and in fact everywhere from (at least) Brussels to Belize (and as long as we’re thinking “B”‘s there’s Nicole Basaraba’s in-depth tourist hints for Belgium chocolate enjoyment). Quirkiest of all, there’s even the possibility for Valentine’s Day travel plans and an opportunity to escape the winter blahs in “southern” Ocean County, N.J. between 9-18 Feb. for their “chocolate week.”

If none of this appeals, we encourage you to vacate your current space and drop in for some hot chocolate — based on recent research we are trying to scrounge up some orange cups to make it taste even better, and until then are providing blindfolds or tinted glasses to help you go — and a slice of some chocolate something-else, as well as the warmth of friends.

Kids Getting Chocolate Smart

NO SURPRISE, chocolate brings children together from throughout world. However (and we do sorta hate to write this), but KUDOS to Hershey for how they’re connecting 11- and 12-year-olds in suburban Pennsylvania with peers in a rural district’s capital in Ghana by building school lessons around The Pod.

This isn’t just your standard use of chocolate-themed lesson plans, but a sophisticated use of technology to share over a 5000+ divide the lives and lessons of kids in Hershey Pa. from a chocolate consuming nation with those from Assin Fosu, Ghana, citizens of a cacao farming and producing one. Institutions facilitating The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first CenturyThe World Is Flat connections include the Milton Hershey School, the M.S. Hershey Foundation, Hershey Story Museum, Cisco, The Assin Fosu Demonstration Primary School, Ghana Education Service, Ghana Cocoa Board and Source Trust.

We’re tempted by the idea, but can’t make it. However, if you are planning to be in the Hershey area Nov. 27, you might get in touch with the folks at The Hershey Story Museum to sit in on a session between the classrooms.

Woes of Too Many Travel Choices

TO travel in order to learn about chocolate or to savor it? That is the question currently plaguing (?) the darkest-of-night worries of our assistant baker (and scrub down fool) Theo Panadero.

On the one hand there is the San Diego Natural History Museum’s Chocolate: The Exhibition, which has among its online educational resources their Chocolate Challenge. The exhibit tself, a traveling one originally organized by Chicago’s Field Museum, is both historic and fun.

On the other, there is this past Sunday’s inspiration from The New York Times Travel Section of A Chocolate Tour of the Caribbean. As if the idea of traveling between islands and from cacao highlight to chocolate-consuming decadence wasn’t enough to make it seem like a trip to take, the online feature has its own online picture gallery to tempt just an over-the-line little bit more.

Of course, if Theo should decide to venture a bit further afield (and on his own money — just to be clear and upfront so he doesn’t get any ideas from reading this), we did just see the press release from Brooklyn, New York’s Madécasse Chocolate Company, a former Peace Corps members’ idea for promoting great chocolate and helping to encourage greater peace in Madagascar, talking up their “discovery” of some “extinct” criollo gene. The release and some of the claims may be a bit hyperbolic, but it’s for a good cause and we do still hope it works to draw attention to the chocolates and Madagascar cacao farmers.

Anyway, Theo, we’re sorry you’re up so late/early with such worries … but they are also worries that we wish were all that consumed everyone.

*Image is from a vintage” Chocolat Poulain, a company that successfully aimed its mass market chocolate at kids that was founded by 23-year-old Frenchman August Poulain in 1848 and now owned by Cadbury Schweppes.

Considering the Attractions of Mexico’s Sweetest Museum

Should we go home?

Well, not really home, but back in time to Chocolate’s ancestral home. The recent news about the Mayans use of chocolate as a spice 2500 or so years ago and, of course, the ongoing kerfuffle over their 21 December “prediction” of the end of time put them in front of mind. The idea visiting the new Ecomuseo del Cacao in the heart of old Mayaland and on The Tikul Plantation, a 300-hectare criollo cocoa farm.

A bit over an hour south of the archaeological exploration of Uxmal, cocoa-growing is all about. The heart of the visit we imagine will be the tour of the grounds, with its sprinkling of info tidbits on how the Maya cultivated cocoa, the eye candy of the orchid gardens and, of course, the preparation and imbibing of the muse of the gods.

Maybe January for the vacation? That is if we can get to the other side of that nasty and somewhat disheartening end of the world prediction. Even if we make it through the apocalypse there is always the store to worry about. We could take the trip without leaving home, but it can’t possibly taste or smell as good as actually being there.

Choco Trail and Town

Burlington, Ontario, has decided to sell itself to travelers as “chocolate town.” The city fathers (and mothers) have created the Burlington Chocolate Trail, which tries, somehow, to build a bridge between the 2000 year history of the bean and a mid-sized Canadian city — and one with a ready-made theme song at its disposal:

While that all seems like a bit too much specious touristy marketing, there are folks here at CAC who might be getting a closer look at (the non-Hershey, Penna.) “chocolate town.” The province’s Royal Botanical Garden currently features Chocolate: The Exhibition, something, which like the right cacao bean, does seem worth going out of one’s way for.