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Chocolate 2013: Another sweet year in the books

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Every year brings new experiences, new stories and even new chocolates. Here's a look back at some of my favorite chocolate experiences in 2013.

An Unexpected Discovery

Road tripping through Deadwood, South Dakota I expected to get a glimpse of wildlife, maybe Native American landmarks and possibly a cowboy or two. I did not expect to find the chocolatier responsible for providing truffles for the gift bags for the 2013 Grammy award program, the Country Music Awards and the Latin Grammy's. And, I certainly didn't expect to find all this deliciousness in a former Sinclair gas station with a larger than life statue of a chubby chipmunk outside. Kudos to Mary "Chip" Tautkus for creating some of the most delicious truffles I have ever sampled. Read all about the birth of Chubby Chipmunk Chocolate here.

Norway's Favorite Brands

In the USA we grow up with Hershey's Kisses, M&M's, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Mild Duds and Three Musketeers. Norwegians grow up with Smash!, Bergene Melk, Troika, Laban and Stratos produced by Nidar Chocolate. Touring the Nidar Chocolate Factory in Trondheim with my Norwegian friend, Lisbeth, and watching her delight as she witnessed the making of her childhood favorites reminded me of myself when I toured the M&M factory. It occurred to me that our love of chocolate isn't just about satisfying a sweet tooth - it's a deeper nostalgic connection and it doesn't matter what language you speak. As Nidar's mottos states, "Any nation with self-respect has its own chocolate factory and traditional chocolate products." Here's to self-respecting nations like the USA and Norway. And here's the rest of Nidar's story.

Celebrating an Inspirational Woman

In 2013 I had the privilege of meeting Isabel Uriarte, quite possibly one of the most inspiring women I have ever encountered. Raised on a coffee farm in the rolling hills of Northeastern Peru, Isabel grew up very much aware of the difficult lives women from her region endured. Isabel left the coffee farm and relocated to the city where she earned a college degree and met her husband, Victor. Isabel and Victor used their education to embark on a journey to change the culture in the indigenous regions of Peru. Her pioneering efforts have resulted in improvements to farming practices throughout Peru, education opportunities for girls and a significant decrease in domestic violence toward women. Read more about this amazing woman here.

Tasting the World

Legendary Belgium chocolatier, Neuhaus, invented the praline and they continue to create inventive delicious chocolates. This year I was fortunate to be on hand for the debut of the culinary masterpiece "Haute Patisserie" collection. Neuhaus teamed up with nine internationally renowned pastry chefs to create individual pralines showcasing their individual talents paired with the company’s rich history. The result is a unique collection of nine different pralines that will take chocolate lovers on a journey around the world of “Haute Patisserie.” Join me for the journey here.

Previewing a Macy's Thanksgiving Parade Addition

With more than 50 million viewers across the country and 3.5 million spectators lining the streets of New York, Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is a national icon that has grown into a world-famous holiday event. This year I had the opportunity to see how it all comes together at Macy's Studio with a sneak preview of the enchanting Lindt Chocolate float. Rising three stories above a spectacular chocolate shop, the new Lindt float features a larger-than-life Lindt Master Chocolatier that has the world dancing on a string as he orchestrates the pouring and casting of Lindt Bear and other chocolate figures for the holidays. Seeing how it all came together was quite a thrill! Read more about it here.

The Cutest Little Chocolate Shop - EVER

Imagine this. You have just cruised through the spectacular fjords of Norway past waterfalls streaming down steep mountains topped with blue glaciers, alongside Vikings entertaining tourists pretending to be Vikings for the day and into the delightful town of Geirangerfjord. And then you see a little brown wooden building, its rooftop sprouting grass set against the dramatic backdrop if the Geirangerfjord with the delicious aroma of chocolate permeating the air. This is Geiranger Sjokolade - Chocolate with a View. This converted boathouse turned chocolate shop and factory is without a doubt the cutest chocolate shop I have ever seen - and the chocolate were absolutely delicious! Check out the full story here.

All the unexpected chocolate treasures of 2013 are behind us now and I look forward to discovering more to share with you in 2014. Happy New Year!

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