RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Philippe Padovani, left, and brother Pierre offer a wide variety of premium chocolates at their new store, Padovani's Chocolates at the Davies Pacific Center.
Tasteful excellence sets Padovani's apart
Exquisite chocolates have stolen hearts and palates in the isles
LIKE WINE IN A BOX, chocolate can be bought on the cheap and consumed in massive quantities so easily that it's hard to believe there's another kind of chocolate experience out there: the first-growth Bordeaux kind.
Chocolate by Padovani
is at 841 Bishop St., Suite 151.
Cacao beans and their commodities are a passionate affair at Padovani's Chocolates, a shop that opened in February in the heart of downtown. To anyone interested, the effervescent Padovani brothers will explain ganache, how a poorly made macadamia nut can ruin a confection, couverture (what gives chocolate its glossy sheen), the importance of temperature control, the evils of corn syrup, high-end packaging and the care they take with each creation.
What they won't talk about is where they make the chocolates on Oahu. "It's top secret!" declared Philippe Padovani, who then launched into optimistic plans to build a 5,000 square-foot chocolate factory that would enable them to meet demands for orders on the mainland.
The store is already a hit with Honolulu business folks who send the edible works of art to clients in Asia. Flavors from Hawaii, such as lilikoi and kiawe honey, comprise some of the 30 varieties lining the cases. "We keep changing and adding," said Philippe. "We think about chocolate the same way we used to cook."
Most people know the Padovanis for their eponymous bistro in the Doubletree Alana Hotel in Waikiki, which closed before the chocolate store opened. The French siblings, Philippe, 52, and Pierre, 48, have worked together in Hawaii for seven years.
Judy Bishop, owner of her own staffing company, Bishop & Co., is a frequent customer. The Padovanis worked with her to find a mold to create a dark chocolate frog, a symbol in her new marketing campaign. To thank clients at Easter, she sent out the frogs wrapped in "a beautiful box with a purple ribbon" to coincide with her campaign's colors. The gift earned responses and questions, and gave her a chance to explain her promotional efforts.
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Padovani chocolates include, from the front row, Gianduja, Handmade Truffle with Cognac Fine Champagne, Leaf Ovale Cointreau, Cherry Lilikoi, Geodesic Kiawe Honey, Diamond, and Mauna Kea (with Grand Marnier).
"It's a very customized opportunity," said Bishop. "It's not a mass-produced thing. It's a hand-crafted item that they're very proud of, and I think that makes a big difference. You really feel special when you have one of their chocolates."
Rep. Corinne Ching said Hawaii is the only state in America that can manufacture cacao beans, which represents huge potential in agriculture, as well as and research and development. "This is the last untapped connoisseur market," she added, and it's an area where the state could achieve excellence. Currently, the Padovanis acquire ingredients from Hawaii and elsewhere in the world.
Mitsue Varley of the Oahu Visitors Bureau said the chocolates have made an impression on Japanese media, though distribution is limited to a few select clients. "You cannot spend that kind of money all the time," said Varley, director of sales and marketing, Japan/Asia. "But Japanese people are so informed; they will pay money for good-quality products." Furthermore, added Varley, it allows people to experience Hawaii flavors "in a different way."
The Marc Aurel Cafe in Wailuku, Maui, began stocking Padovani Chocolates recently. Ten pounds sold in the first six weeks. "I have a beautiful (temperature-controlled) chocolate case, and this adds to the class of my cafe," said owner Aurel, who's noticed that a piece of chocolate is a popular companion with an organic espresso.
Spending $1.50 for a small but rich square of chocolate may seem extravagant -- until you taste one. Warning: Once you've tried this delicacy, you might never go back to the vending machine. Or to wine from a box, for that matter.