The Sweet Side Of Padovani

Jo McGarry
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Friday - February 17, 2006
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Chef Philippe Padovani is now in the handmade chocolate business
Chef Philippe Padovani is
now in the handmade
chocolate business

Those with a taste for the finer things in life might want to stop by Philippe Padovani’s new downtown location. The award-winning chef has temporarily put aside haute cuisine in favor of hazelnut pralines. Padovani’s Restaurant and Wine Bar closed last month, and in a quick turnaround, chef opened Padovani’s Chocolates last week.

The Australian-born, French-speaking Padovani and his brother Pierre have been creating handmade gourmet chocolates for years, and chocoholics flocked to buy them when they were available at Neiman Marcus and at Padovani’s original store in Waikiki. The new location on Queen Street (between Alakea and Bishop) is perfect for business people who need a quick sugar fix to get them through the afternoon.

“We’re the only people actually making chocolates in Hawaii,” says Philippe Padovani, “and that’s really unique.”

They’re not your grandma’s chocolates, either.

Champagne cognac truffles are filled with “a little too much alcohol,” admits the chef with a grin, and the Grand Marnier, Crème de Cassis and Cointreau certainly pack a pretty potent punch.

A selection of fruit, including apricots, prunes, mango and orange, are all perfectly dipped in chocolate - because, as chef points out, “people don’t really want cream fillings anymore.”

The new venture is one Philippe is enjoying thus far.

“I do have people negotiating with me to open a new restaurant,” says Philippe, “but for now I’m planning on doing satellite stores with the chocolates - and returning to the restaurant later.”

I’m pretty boring when it comes to chocolate - my favorite is a simple milk chocolate caramel. Padovani’s is made with Tahitian vanilla and is softer inside than a typical hard caramel. The chocolates are incredibly fresh - the Padovani brothers can make batches every day if they need to - and there are dozens to choose from. They come in four different styles: white, dark, milk and alcohol. Padovani’s is also selling couveture (the highly prized, rich chocolate used by professionals for its incredible sheen and smooth, creamy flavor). Those of you who love to bake or cook with chocolate will love the depth it brings to a recipe. “The couveture is only available here,” says Philippe, adding that a small amount of the chocolate, which is high in cocoa butter, makes “the greatest hot chocolate in the world.”

And probably one of the most expensive. Specialties at the store include a fabulous Lilikoi Milk Chocolate, Kiawe Honey, Kona Coffee, Macadamia Lava Rock, Sea Breeze Vanilla, Mint, Nougat and a variety of fruits.

Observant customers who dined frequently at Padovani’s Restaurant will recognize some of the furniture being used in a slightly different way. The cheese cart from the restaurant, for example, is now used to display the distinctive green faux-leather boxes that contain a selection of chocolates.

The store is simply decorated with chocolate taking center stage - and when I visited last week there were people almost drooling at the sight of so many decadent treasures in one place.

Temperature control is as important for chocolate as it is for wine, and the Padovani store is a comfortably cool 60 degrees, with temperature-controlled glass-front cabinets to keep the chocolate perfect.

“Chocolate doesn’t like humidity,” explains Philippe, “so these are kept in perfect conditions.”

When you get yours home, keep them in the fridge. That is, if they make it home. My little bag of vanilla and lilikoi caramels lasted until I reached my car, one block away.

But what makes Padovani’s chocolates so different from say, See’s or Godiva?

“Let’s put it in terms of red wine,” says Philippe in his trademark grandiose manner. “Those are Beaujolais Nouveau, we are Chateaux Margaux.”

Chocolates start at about $1.50 a piece and, no, you can’t eat just one. Take it from someone who’s tried.

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