Taste of the Dominican Republic

with Caroline Booth

Abdalah Castillo and Chef Tita

Sampling chocolate

Elaine DeWindt explaining chocolate tasting process

Members of the Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism with Larysa KalytaMarche restuarnaat Canada

Salpicon (salada mixture) with lionfish and mangos from Bani

Cacao tasting? Yes please! What better way to get a sense for a destination than to sample the food and local delicacies. Recently the  Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism hosted a brunch and cacao tasting event at Marché Restaurant in downtown Toronto for its travel partners and media. 

“We have invited you here today to show you that the Dominican Republic is not only beaches and sand," said Abdalah Castillo, Chairman, Ministry Of Tourism of the Dominican Republic."

 Indeed we learned that gastronomy is an important part of the Dominican culture, not the least of which is the appreciation of fine chocolate. "Chocolate flavour preferences can vary like with wine," said Elaine DeWindt, recipe and product developer for the Kah Kow chocolate company in the D.R. DeWindt taught us how to use our senses as we snapped, sniffed and savoured our way through 4 different chocolate samples:

 See: How does it look? Is it shiny &  glossy with minimal air bubbles?

Hear: Listen for the “snap” when you break it with your fingers. An easy and neat snap demonstrates quality.

Smell: Close your eyes and breathe in the aroma. Does the chocolate carry a hint of fruit, liquorice or anything else?

Touch: Is it smooth or course to touch?

Taste: Don’t chew! Let the chocolate melt on your tongue and enjoy!

 “The Dominican Republic is the largest producer and exporter of organic cacao in the world and the 3rd largest producer of conventional cacao in America”, said Carol Felix, General Manager for Grupo Rizek, one of the top producers of cacao in the Dominican Republic. “Rizek beans are qualified as 'fine' meaning they are used in gourmet chocolate and are the best quality.” Established in 1905, the Rizek family has been developing and perfecting its farming techniques and factory processes for over a hundred years to deliver a superior and sustainable product. 

 In 2008 Rizek opened El Sendero del Cacao where visitors can take a tour of a cacao farm, learn about harvesting and even make their own chocolate at the on-site factory. To accommodate tourists who cannot make it out to the farm, Rizek will open a new attraction this winter in Santo Domingo called "Cacao Experience”. Visitors here can learn about the history and production of cacao via multimedia displays and videos, and of course will have an opportunity to sample the products.  

 Now that we know that the Dominican Republic is a chocolate lovers paradise, foodies visiting the island will also be delighted by flavourful meals created from exotic home-grown ingredients such as mango, lionfish and plantain.  During today's brunch guests were treated to a multiple course menu prepared by the talented Chef Ines Paez, (also known as Chef Tita) whose fusion cooking style heightens traditional recipes to the level of haute cuisine. Think tropical fruit salad with aromatic herbs drizzled with Domincan rum, and mini roast pork sandwiches stuffed with red wine caramelized onion. A few words to describe the experience: exciting, savoury, rich and of course, delicioso!

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