Having A Sweet Holiday Season

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - December 10, 2008
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Sam Choy’s pastry chef Ron Viloria

There are plenty of places to get your sugar fix this month as restaurants step up dessert menus and bakeries roll out their most spectacular holiday creations. Look for locally made if you’re sending gifts to the Mainland. We have some of the best chocolate - and fillings being used in chocolates - in the nation.

If you’re a true connoisseur, you’ll be happy to learn that Philippe Padovani recently moved his entire Padovani’s Chocolates operation to Dole Cannery. The serious Padovani is no Willy Wonka, but he does have his very own chocolate factory, and visitors to the second-floor store (next to Ballet Hawaii) will be lured by the aroma of melting chocolate and can appreciate the effort that goes into making his gourmet chocolates as they watch the chef at work. Fillings are made from local ingredients and include guava, kiawe honey, lilikoi, Kona coffee, macadamia nuts and Hawaiian vanilla.

Padovani refers to his chocolates as the Chateaux Margaux of the confectionary world, and you’d be hard-pressed to find an expert who disagrees. Buy them individually (prices start at about $1.50) or tucked into designer boxes, making a perfect gift for the chocoholic on your Christmas list.


In the same neighborhood, at Sam Choy’s on Nimitz, Ron Viloria, a noted local pastry chef, is creating some wonderfully sweet treats for the holidays. He’s just back from a two-year working visit to Japan, where he learned why the patis-series there are some of the best in the world.

“The dedication in Japan is incredible,” he says. “Something as simple as a tart shell can evoke the deepest concentration.”

The effect on Viloria was renewed energy and focus, which can be seen in examples like his Pistachio Opera. It’s pistachio joconde (sponge cake) layered with pistachio buttercream and chocolate then garnished with pistachios and thin chocolate sheets. And the most surprising thing? The price.

“We want to make everything affordable to let people taste what we’re doing,” says Viloria. Prices start at just $1 a bag for cookies.

And if your taste for chocolate and sensual experiences takes you on a search for the exotic - or if you just have to find something for the woman who has everything - this season’s best selling truffle from Vosges Haute-Chocolat are for you.

I’m happy to report that the truffles are made with white Hawaiian honey from Richard Spiegel’s Volcano Island Honey Company on the Big Island. I met owner and chocolate creator Katrina Markoff earlier this year, and we spent a fascinating hour eating chocolate and chatting about the meaning of life and the importance of cacao. Her Volcano Island Honey Truffle Collection (featuring rare white organic honey and dark-chocolate ganache) is the fastest-selling collection of the year - every year.

“It’s been our most-popular truffle since day one,” she says. Markoff also makes a Red Hawaiian salt caramel with li hing powder and a black Hawaiian salt caramel. Think sensual overload in a box rather than a mere seasonal treat. The rare white honey chocolate is so divine, it ought to come with a warning. If you can afford the $43 for a box of 16 truffles, I say go for it. If you can’t find them at Neiman Marcus locally, then head online to http://www.vosgeschocolate.com.

Happy eating!

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