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This Valentine’s Day most of the world’s lovers are planning on staying in, but that doesn’t mean you can’t dream of a tropical island escape. With a little planning ahead, you can even enjoy an exotic tasting tour of the Hawaiian Islands.
Tease and tantalize taste buds with Hawaii’s finest flavors—with enticing options likeOahu-made chocolate, elixirs from Kauai, and wine made of grapes grown on a fiery mountainside—to feel swept away in the sensations of tropical breezes and salty waves even while at home.
Photo Credit: Volcano Winery
Set the mood by popping open a bottle of Hawaii-grown wine. Maui Wine is known for its estate-grown wines, traditional method sparkling wines, and pineapple wines.Volcano Winery produces a range of styles from estate pinots and full–bodied reds to blushes and whites, plus Hawaiian–style sips like Macadamia nut honey wine and guava grape wine. Its wines are inspired by “volcanic fire and the bounty of the island.”According to Volcano Winery’s Lani Delapina, “All our wines are hand–crafted from start to finish, and all grapes are hand-harvested. Our staff [members] are all so passionate about these products and hope to share them with you soon.”Four grape varietals are grown on the slopes of the volcano making the ground fertile and ripe for growing a healthy crop. “Our microclimate is incredibly unique in this location,” Delapina explains, “Being at 4,000 feet elevation we experience both cold crisp winters and warm hot summers. This temperature differential is vital for the grapes to reach natural dormancy. This, combined with the nutrient-rich soil, produces delicious and one-of-a-kind wines.”
For a distinctively local Hawaiian indulgent sweet, try chocolate confections from the top–rated producers among the small-business bunch.Maui Specialty Chocolateshelmed by Valerie Jones, who graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in 1983 and worked stints as a pastry chef in some of Maui’s top hotels before launching Maui Specialty Chocolates with her husband Anthony in 1990. Her goal is to make the best chocolates possible using the best ingredients; she makes just about every piece herself and the only way to get them is to buy directly from the company. Manoa Chocolate, a boutique chocolaterie tucked away in the lush valleys onOahu’s east side, offers award-winning bars that pair Hawaiian-grown cacao with flavorslike Maui-grown lavender, ghost pepper, or Hawaiian-grown coffee. Make a commitment with a subscription service until you’re able to visit Hawaii.When you do travel to the islands, try your hand at the art of making a chocolate bar or savor a sommelier-led tasting experience at Manoa Chocolate’s tasting room, located just a 25-minute drive from Waikiki.
Photo Credit: Manoa Chocolate
Photo Credit: Makana Weiss
Hawaiians have a long-standingculinary love affair with a trifecta of juices known by its acronym POG, for passion fruit, orange, guava. Stir up some romantic sips with POG culinary syrupmade with real, island-sourced ingredients. Slow Island Company, which calls Kauai home, sources local, farm-grown ingredients including lilikoi (the Hawaiian name for passion fruit), Kauai-grown oranges, and pink guava juice. Add the syrup to rum or an alcohol-free spritzer that mimics the color of the Hawaiian setting sun.The elixir symbolizes the power of relationships on Kauai Island: “As a Black, woman-owned food business in a primarily white, male industry, Slow Island Company stands for representation, diversity and aloha through action,” says Chef/Founder Gida Snyder, an alum of the Culinary Institute of the Pacific. “With the knowledge that the best ingredients come from land worked with love, we do not compromise about sourcing from the islands, paying fairly for ingredients, and keeping our supply chain close to home. Through our unique products we are able to showcase the creativity of our all-female staff while scaling together with our farm partners to keep fresh flavors and ideas flowing. A beautiful relationship dynamic that only can be found here on our island in the middle of the Pacific with Slow Island Company.”
Mara Pyzel is an internationally published journalist with a passion for travel. She splits her time between Hawaii’s North Shore of Oahu and California’s Santa Barbara coast. Follow her adventures at marapyzel.com.