Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Key Largo Chocolates

Storefront of Key Largo Chocolates

Carol decorates the truffles.

A tee shirt in the store reads "Nobody knows the truffles I've seen." Very apropos.

Heat and humidity make bitter enemies of those working with chocolate, and let’s face it; summer temperatures soar in the Keys. However, Key Largo Chocolates has created an impressive line of sweets that survive Florida's tropical climate.  The local confectioners perfected a method to produce dazzling candy and some of the most delicious chocolates anywhere.

Bob Thomas, a retired pilot and his wife Kristie, a passionate entrepreneur, decided to start their company about 18 months ago. They have become the first and only chocolatiers in the Keys; or as Kristie sees it--not a Mom and Pop but Grandma and Grandpa business. 

Like Jack's famous beanstalk, their operation grew overnight.  Five months ago they burst free from the original digs and replanted themselves in pink and green candyland. The new storefront sits at Mile Marker 100 in Key Largo. The preppy colors, reminiscent of Lilly Pulitzer fabrics, radiate the company spirit and speak of a classy lifestyle and refined tastes.

Key Largo Chocolates truffles are not rolled by hand but hand-crafted in molds via a four step process.  First, tempered chocolate is poured in the mold, then flipped to leave a thin coating. The molds are refrigerated and when cooled, a dollop of thick ganache is pressed in.  Next, the bottom (top of the mold) gets an additional layer of melted chocolate. Once again they are chilled until ready for artist Carol Schryver to decorate with her delicate and distinctive designs. 

Key Largo Chocolate's proclaim the Key Lime Truffle as their signature dish - a morsel of dark chocolate surrounding a reduction of intense Key Lime flavored crème.  For optimal tasting, let the chocolate melt on the tongue and release the vibrant citrus tang.

Many other island inspired truffle choices are produced including mango, Jamaican Rum, coconut, cappuccino and caramel, as well as cutesy solid chocolate or white chocolate turtles, sharks and gators.

Kid's classes or Junior Chocolatier parties have been added to the menu along with a selection of superior ice cream.  What a cool way to beat the heat in the tropics. 
Favorite Boxed Candy at Key Largo Chocolates

For information call:  305 852-1791

Visit the store at Mile Marker 100- on the Bayside, Key Largo

Visit the website: www.keylargochocolates.com

Florida Keys Visitor Information:
www.fla-keys.com

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Maya and Chaya



Colorful Caribbean Cocktails
Colorful Caribbean Cocktails at Xcaret

Caribbean cocktails are famous for being colorful, sweet and delicious. Many times you can’t even taste the alcohol hiding within. They rouse memories of turquoise water, sandy beaches and tangy tropical fruits. 

I discovered an array of beautiful, refreshing and fun drinks when I visited the  Riviera Maya in Mexico. Interestingly, I kept encountering one drink that was touted for his medicinal purposes. 

A cocktail that’s good for you?  Really?

The drink I am referring to included Chaya or Mexican spinach.  That may sound horrid but I swear -- it was yummy. The foamy green drink had an uplifting zing to it. Actually, it reminded me of kiwi-based Shrek juice that I was treated to at Gaylord Palms.  

The Chaya Plant
According to the National Institute of Nutrition in Mexico City, ingesting Chaya will:

            Improve blood circulation,
            Help digestion,
            Improve vision,
            Disincline veins and hemorrhoids,
            Help lower cholesterol,
            Help reduce weight,
            Prevent coughs,
            Augment calcium in the bones,
            Decongest and disinfect the lungs,
            Prevent anemia by replacing iron in the blood,
            Improve memory and brain function and
            Combat arthritis and diabetes.
   
   
That’s a pretty impressive list; no wonder Chaya has been called the Mayan miracle plant. I’m also told that Chaya is rich in protein, iron and a powerful source of potassium and calcium.

Mayan Margarita , Chaya
A Maya-Margarita with Chaya at Yaxche Restaurant
The “Chaya” drink is made from cooked plant leaves (grown in the Yucatan peninsula) that are mixed in a blender with fresh orange juice, pineapple juice or lemonade and ice. Tequila, rum or vodka can also be added to this thirst quencher.

Cooked Chaya leaves are also used to wrap tamales, in boiled or fried dishes, and as pizza toppings. Cooking is vital to inactivate a toxin found in the raw state.

The Maya have used Chaya in their healing practices for centuries and Chaya trees can be seen growing around Mayan temples. 

With all that goodness, bring me another Maya-margarita please.

Read this and other food blog stories on Wanderfood Wednesdays.

Multi-colored drinks at Mahekal Resort