Tasty Kine For Your Valentine
Walking into Kaua’i Chocolate Company in Ele’ele is like curling up in a cloak of velvety comfort. The rich aroma of chocolate pierces your cocoa-loving heart, tawny-colored swirls cover the floor and glassfronted counters bulge with handmade bars, bricks, truffles and fudge.
In the back, Joy Laborte (a 2007 Waimea High graduate) taps a mold filled with sugar-free chocolate against the counter, while an enrober quietly whirrs and circulates melted chocolate. Earrings fill a heartshaped basket near the cash register where a sign reads, “Support our local high school students. Earrings by Jesica. Waimea High School 2012.”
“We’ve had a Waimea valedictorian working here five years in a row,” says owner Don Greer, puffing his chest out a little.
Ten years ago, Don and wife Marlene opened the only chocolate store on Kaua’i, and today, the shop goes through 100 pounds of chocolate a day.
Every Valentine’s Day, they sell a captivating confection. “We fly strawberries in from Kula, Maui,” says Don Greer. “It’s the only day we can afford to fly in strawberries. They’re picked a couple of days before. We pick them up and start dipping them in chocolate.”
We’ve heard that chocolate is an aphrodisiac, which may explain why we use a little chemical romance to charm our sweethearts. Researchers at the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego believe that “chocolate contains pharmacologically active substances that have the same effect on the brain as marijuana, and that these chemicals may be responsible for certain drug-induced psychoses associated with chocolate craving.”
Bite-sized love nuggets include truffles ($1.50 each) with creamy centers such as mango, lilikoi, guava, salted caramel and my favorite, smoked ghost pepper. This pepper is rumored to be the hottest chili pepper in the world, and Greer makes a silky filling by steeping the pepper in cream and butter.
This truffle is no joke. A sweet, smoky flavor creeps in behind a fiery intensity that makes my eyes water. It slowly spreads across my jaw, and begins to burn my ears!
Being a heat-seeker, my husband Dan also popped the whole truffle in his mouth. Within seconds, all he could say was “Wow … wow.” He turned red, coughed a little, and tears streamed from his eyes. Then the hiccups kicked in.
“I learned a few things being an engineer,” recalls Greer, a former aircraft designer. “One of the things is, keep your techs happy. When the guys were building this shop, we made some chocolate for them.”
He points to a case containing their very first brick creation, a chocolate and coconut combination ($21.25 per pound). Every brick starts with squares of milk or dark chocolate, and is layered with buttery toffee and soft caramel.
The case is brimming with eight trays of flavor, including Kahlua made with Kaua’i Coffee and Big Island mac nuts, mango, S’mores made with marshmallows and graham cracker, and a squishy peanut butter brick.
“I wanted to dip opihis in chocolate,” Greer says, of the saltwater snails known as limpets. “But my wife wasn’t going to have any of that. She said it was gross. She came up with these for our blessing, and we’ve been making them ever since.”
Marlene’s Opihis (six for $7.95) are squares of Kaua’i Cookie Company shortbread smeared with caramel, topped with a fat mac nut, then double-dipped in dark or milk chocolate.
Bento boxes come with mango sushi, opihi, fudge and truffles, or you can custom fill your own Valentine’s box. Pre-order chocolate-covered strawberries now. It’s their busiest day of the year, and Greer says they usually run out.
Kaua’i Chocolate Company
Port Allen Marina, Ele’ele
Open Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday, noon to 3 p.m.