Create an unforgettable tasting experience on board with the multi-faceted decadence of cacao.
The thing about yachting is that the best experiences come down to the details. Are the welcome towels chilled? Was the correct dress steamed (not ironed!) for this evening’s dinner? Are the turn-down chocolates interesting and worth that last experience of the day?
Finding or creating the perfect chocolates ranks as part of the guest experience and is expected to wow just like everything else. Serving up something bought at the market may be the best you can manage, depending on where you are in the world. But if you can plan ahead, a little bit of thought can elevate onboard chocolate from something tossed into a drawer to something worthy of late-night conversations.
At Roni Sue’s Chocolate Shoppe in New York City, Rhonda Kave carefully crafts in-house chocolates and custom truffles for restaurants, famous international brands, and unique businesses. A chocolatier for 40 years, Kave also cultivated her own special cacao spliced with indigenous fruit trees in southern Belize. The resulting product became a popular ingredient in her custom truffles, and she continues to source this unique, organic Mayan cacao from Belizean artisans of the Moho Chocolate Company that she co-founded.
The use of many different types of chocolate in her truffles and bars is one thing that sets Kave’s chocolates apart. “Indigenous fruit trees are often part of the terroir and microclimate where cacao grows,” she says. “Some farmers are also beginning to experiment with adding other fruits [besides the cacao fruit itself] during the fermentation process, with interesting results.”
A custom flavor created for guests can become part of a yacht’s brand. When it comes to flavor pairings, Kave recommends thinking about which flavors may be popular with your guests. Have an owner who loves scotch? Is a guest coming who loves piña coladas? She suggests that a conversation with guests can reveal themes or favorite experiences that can translate to unexpected flavors. It is these types of personalized extra touches that will surprise and delight guests.
“Established flavor profiles and tasting notes are easier to work with because the pairings are classics,” Kave says.
As part of my onboard culinary program, I have incorporated chocolate to fill in time for guests when it may be raining outside, or when the guests are not especially sporty. I love to share how I learned to truly taste chocolate after taking Kave’s chocolate class. She has created tasting kits that teach people how to train their palates to the nuances of fruit and terroir. The curated experience begins with tastings of the cacao fruit, the unfermented beans, and the fermented beans. It is an interesting taste and conversation journey that often has guests chatting about their personal experiences with chocolate, and sometimes the geopolitical circumstances around its creation.
“Many folks are completely unaware that chocolate is a product of fermentation, or have any idea how it’s really made,” Kave says. “The tasting class is a great way to take a deep dive into chocolate and experience the wide variety of cacao flavor profiles from around the world. Relaxing and taking the time to taste the chocolate samples really allows guests to develop a deeper appreciation for fine-flavored cacao and the craft chocolate-makers who make the ‘Food of the Gods’ by hand.”
Yachts travel all over the world and it is not unusual for guests to find themselves in cacao-producing regions such as Australia, Fiji, Barbados, St Lucia, and others. Offering guests tastings of chocolates in which the cacao is sourced from the islands they are visiting is always interesting. For yacht programs, Kave says, “the goal is to provide the guests with an experience that exposes them to the delicious flavor varieties available today to fine chocolate lovers”
When crafting guest menus, I try to consider the terroir of the week’s program and, as much as possible, incorporate the flavors of our location into the meals — including the chocolate. Offering guests a tasting experience of chocolate helps them appreciate the nuances of not only our immediate location, but also the techniques and influences of the global chocolate trade. Do you have Swiss guests on a trip heading to St Lucia? Offering a chocolate that blends St. Lucia-grown cacoa with Swiss milk adds a personalized touch and thoughtful conversation.
We all know galley temperatures can be unpredictable. Kave suggests keeping an assortment of chocolate available as bars are shelf stable and truffles or bonbons are usually not. Bars are also sturdier than truffles, which are more prone to melting.
Here are Kave’s main tips for storing chocolate: “Tightly seal the box or package in a Ziploc bag and press out the air, or wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and store in the fridge. Allow the product to come to room temperature before unwrapping to prevent condensation from the warmer air settling on the chocolate surface and ruining the finish of the bar or bonbon.
You can help keep the chocolates from melting during outdoor dining service by presenting them on a chilled tray or slipping an ice pack under the plate. At some point, you just have to deal with the reality that chocolate is gonna melt!”
Personalize your boat’s onboard chocolate experiences with Kave’s tasting class. It takes about an hour and is incredibly popular with guests and crew. No one tastes chocolate the same way after! And for a limited time, Kave is offering Triton readers a special deal: Yacht chefs and stews who mention Triton when ordering tasting kits will receive a free additional kit.
She also offers yacht chefs special pricing on custom (flavor, fillings, inclusions) bars made with the boat’s logo and a custom shape. Check it out at Roni-Sue’s Chocolates.
Click here to find the best ways to stock and store chocolate, and a recipe that is sure to wow guests!