As it is officially International Chocolate Day, I feel safe admitting that food is my foremost travel inspiration and chocolate is my favourite food group. Wherever my travels take me, I get a kick out of scouring the supermarket candy shelves at a minimum and undergoing a specialised sweet-tooth experience if at all possible. Here are a few personal experiences to get you started on the most chocolatey day of the year.
Chocolate pastries, Japan
A country that blessedly embraces carbs, Japan abounds in bakeries that offer chocolate and bread in a trillion formations. My personal favourite is the chocolate choux cream – an Asian take on the cream puff that leaves the profiterole for dead. These choco choux are bursting with custard-y chocolate cream and somehow satisfy your tastebuds and your belly in one bite. They’re not as common as their vanilla counterparts, but if you’re passing through Sapporo Airport, Royce’s Chocolate World Cafe has got the goods and then some. Don’t forget to pick up some choc-coated potato chips.
Deep fried Mars Bar, Scotland
Groan and roll your eyes if you will, but every self respecting chocolate lover should sample this Scottish specialty. ‘Deep fried’ is my second favourite food group, so I considered the oily batter and explosion of warm, fluffy Mars Bar to be a party in my mouth, although like all good parties I didn’t feel so good afterwards. Hot tip – try and find a chippy that keeps the batter light and crispy, and fries the Mars Bars separate from the fish.
Mole Poblano, Mexico
If you need a solid meal in your belly before venturing into the world of dessert, there’s no need to stray from chocolate. Mexico’s famous Mole Poblano varies greatly from kitchen to kitchen, but always contains chillies, chocolate and a blend of spices. While the resulting mix is a far cry from chocolate sauce, the spicy chillies are counteracted by the bitter-sweet chocolate in a unique flavour that turns any meat dish into a sweet and salty delight.
More Foodie Inspiration
Churros con chocolate, Spain
I’d tasted churros and thought I was an expert on hot chocolate, but Spain’s churros con chocolate proved me wrong. My first experience with the dish was on Las Ramblas in Barcelona, where I made the mistake of gulping down the creamy mug of chocolate without the churros. My lovely, tolerant waiter brought me a new cup and showed me how it’s done; dip the crispy donuts into the thick chocolate and munch down on one magnificent mouthful. Traditional Spanish chocolate is slightly less thick and uniquely tasty.
Before I’d tried the real deal I didn’t know what all the fuss was about, but eating gooey s’mores around a camp fire at the Grand Canyon is now one of my all-time favourite travel memories. There is no substitution for Graham Crackers, and six oblongs of Hershey’s chocolate fit perfectly onto one cracker. The marshmallow must be white, and toasted enough to squish apart easily and melt the chocolate a little while it’s at it. It’s a messy, glorious treat that you’ll be licking off your fingers.
PBO Stack, Calgary Stampede, Canada
It may be the biggest rodeo in the world, but the Calgary Stampede also breaks new ground when it comes to sinful snack food. A personal favourite is the PBO stack; a sandwich of Oreos and a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup that is battered and fried into kingdom come. The Stampede’s treats are overwhelmingly rich, so either pace yourself or choose your treats wisely.