Friday, February 19th, 2021
Imagine with me, if you will…
Valentine’s Day had begun care-free enough. Having the rare opportunity to sleep in, I was elated to find a rich breakfast platter of pannekaker (Norweigan Pancakes) had been left for me in the dining car of the Hawaiʻi Cacao Express.
Not long after, I made the rounds to the other passenger cars, passing out tokens of affection in the form of portions of my festive chocolate stash, as well as hand-crafted Valentine’s, made in part with the finest scribbles my nearly two year old son’s attention span had to offer. The day was off to a cracking start.
The central hours I devoted to savoring and exploring the new chocolate flavors as I flitted about the train.
The White Chocolate Hearts from Island Shark’s Chocolate were sublime. That incredibly rich, vanilla heavy, white chocolate they make, with an almost instantaneous melt, was well served by the small heart shape.
I’m one who actually looks forward to those chalky, novelty, heart candies every year, even though I often imagine a soul-less automaton cranking them out on an assembly line en masse. But these white chocolate hearts would have me abandon them in a heartbeat.
Their simplicity was quite a contrast to the Dark and White Chocolate Bar with Hibiscus Hearts from Island Sharks Chocolate. The thickest bar they’ve made yet with its double layers of chocolate, it reminded me of an instance where I ordered what sounded like a regular burger, only the have the plate arrive carrying a formidable stacked tower of food. The flavors were interesting, but the experience of eating it a little unwieldy.
I’m normally not one for hibiscus or fruit teas that leave a sour tang lingering in the palate, but that same flavor in little pops of the hibiscus hearts just worked for me in this chocolate. The combination of strong flavors from each layer was an intense experience, but not overwhelmingly so. The flavors do bleed into each other a little, which while it is a tasty combo, meant everything was sharing the spotlight in the flavor profile of the bar and no one element stood out as the star.
I found my brain couldn’t quite get used to the texture, try as it might. Because of the difference in their unique white chocolate’s density compared to their dark chocolate on the bottom layer, my teeth would glide through the top coat and catch on the layer beneath, as if passing through a thick glaze on a robust pastry.
Overall the new combo bar was a strange, but not unpleasant experience. It certainly felt, looked, and tasted festive. While I might not choose to indulge in it year round, I would certainly consider it for Valentine’s next year.
Puna Chocolate Co.’s Strawberries ‘N’ Cream White Chocolate Bar had the same thick, creamy, richness I’ve come to expect from their white chocolate, with the addition of a mouth-watering integration of a strawberry preserves flavor, that tickled my inner child. I loved the texture of small crunchy strawberry seeds throughout the bar.
On the other hand, Puna Chocolate Co.’s Rose Cardamom Pistachio Dark Chocolate Bar was sophisticated and delicate. The rose was just present enough and added a nice floral aroma to the flavor profile, and the slightly salty pistachios gave a nice contrast in flavor and texture to the warmly spiced cardamom that was integrated perfectly into their dark chocolate.
I confess, I was initially concerned this bar was created just because it looked so festive, with colorful, potpourri-like toppings. Years of buying wines with a great label, but poor taste have left dregs of suspicion towards food overtly designed and packaged with beauty in mind. I’m so glad my suspicions were groundless in this case. Though this bar is more than fitting for Valentine’s, I would eat this bar year-round given half the chance.
This chocolate adventure left me in high spirits even after hearing that the chef who’d been planning a fantastic steak dinner for the evening was, quite suddenly, feeling unwell.
With the sun not far from setting and no time to lose, I grabbed my adventure gear and festive wear and set out to exchange our feast of turf for one of fresh surf. I was acutely aware of the minute hand’s every movement, and I risked getting stuck in traffic driving at this hour, but it was hard to be concerned while driving to Pahoa town in such beautiful weather with a delightful chocolate buzz. I was practically humming the whole way, and triumphantly returned to the train, only slightly delayed, with the fish and chips still hot and crispy, and the sushi still cool and soft.
And so, everyone aboard the Hawaiʻi Cacao Express had a decadent Valentine’s Day. I hope you did too, reader.
Side note: If you want to try some of the chocolate I had on Valentine’s Day, check online. As of when I’m writing this, it looks like both companies still have some of their limited time bars in stock.
Island Sharks Chocolate website: https://www.islandsharkschocolate.com/
Puna Chocolate Co.’s website: https://punachocolate.com/