19 Nov 2015 1228
PortoBay Hotels & Resorts

If you love chocolate, you won’t resist . ..

There’s a sweet smell in the air . .. It’s almost January and by then, chocolate will be king at PortoBay’s hotels in Madeira !!

At the mail halls, floral arrangements are adorned with chocolate and there are sweet sculptures everywhere. The kitchens are already preparing the next events in the schedule: there are truffles and chocolate glasses, cocktails, thematic dinners . .. The smell is everywhere. There are also guided tours to the spa, massages with chocolate oil, workshops, demonstrations and tastings . .. 

In the end, the event goes out in the streets: a visit to Blandy’s Wine Lodge, the local chocolate factory, and there’s even a piano recital at Funchal’s main theatre house !!

Chocolate and flowers

At the Cliff Bay, Graça Reis is dipping fresh flowers in a bowl of melted chocolate. She just finished dipping a candle holder: "The idea is to use chocolate to decorate objects that aren’t useful anymore”, the florist says, while she explains the whole process to the guests.

"Does it sticks in glass too ?”, asks one of the participants. "Of course, and to take it off, you just have to dip it into hot water.” Here you have one more tip !! "It’s an interesting and creative work”, says Elizabeth Machnicki, a guest at Porto Mare that didn’t resist going to The Cliff Bay to see the show. "I’m leaving with some new ideas to apply at home !!”

Chocolate tastings

The guests are waiting patiently for their turn in the line. On the opposite side of the table, Chef Luís Silva dips the truffles in melted chocolate, while he explains the content and the making process. This was just another sunny afternoon at Porto Mare.

On the next day, the scenario was just the same: after all, who can resist to a delicious chocolate ? This time, the Chef was offering a crunchy one with almonds and rice. "As soon as I left Switzerland, I said to myself, no more chocolate !!” said one of the guests, joking about his un-kept promise, but who can judge him ?

A walk thought Madeira’s wine history

Once they’ve finished their breakfast, the Lawrence’s couple waits for the bus that will take them to Blandy’s Wine Lodge. A group from the Cliff Bay followed them. They walk through wine barrels while learning more about Madeiran’s wine, the family that owns its production, the different types of castes and how the conservation of the wine is done. 

Dave Lawrence is not a wine lover. "I’m more a beer-type of guy. I even toast with beer on weddings !!” he explained, saying that he only came to accompany his wife that really wanted to take the tour around the cellar. In the end of the visit, they both seat on the chairs made of old barrels to taste one (or maybe two) chalices of Madeira’s wine !!

The doors of the kitchen are open

A cap holding the hair, a special gown and protected shoes: the hygiene rules are taken very seriously. The doors of Vila Porto Mare main kitchen are officially opened.

Walking through the halls of this impressive kitchen, the group looks pleasantly surprised when they realise that PortoBay’s kitchen not only doesn’t waist food, but it also helps who needs it the most.

"The food that is left from the buffet is collected by CASA, a charity institution that delivers the food to homeless people in Funchal”, says the tour guide. 

The last stop is made at the sweetest area of the kitchen. The Chef garnishes the chocolate cake with strawberry marmalade, brushing it with rum and covering it with a just-made ganache. The way it looks predicts the reaction to the first bite: absolutely divine !!

Cocoa and more cocoa

The walls and the floor are all painted chocolate brown and behind the counter you can see the words "UAUCACAU” — "wow, cocoa”. It’s at this store’s basement that the magic happens.

Chocolate maker and owner of the shop, Tony Fernandes seasons the chocolate, shapes every piece of it, garnishes it and paints all the small pieces.

Everyday are made around 10 to 15 kilos of chocolate of more than 40 different qualities, many of them highlighting the local flavours: passion fruit, guava, honey, "poncha” . .. "is there any whisky flavoured ? Because we are from Scotland”, one of the guests jokes while he’s visiting the chocolate factory. 

Between a chalice of Madeira’s wine and a chocolate bite

Nearby the pool, enjoying the sunlight and the 20 degrees of temperature, the guests are waiting for one more tasting. On another table, 4 different types of Madeira’s wine are waiting to be served with the many varieties of chocolate.

The main goal is to explain which wine combines best with the different kinds of chocolate. Between a chalice of wine and a chocolate bite, the guests take their notes and change some impressions. Some enjoyed the first one the most, others enjoyed the last bite, and others couldn’t yet decide . ..

Outside, next to Porto Santa Maria restaurant, Arsenal, the mood is joyful. There’s so much talking and enjoyment that other couples couldn’t resist joining the group.

"Do you already have set the next year’s date ?” asks Jutta Müller. "I’m definitely coming back !!”

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