I've been lucky to enjoy a few interactive experiences where I got to enjoy chocolate on a whole 'nother level. Here they are below; let me know what you recommend I do next!
- Baking Ghirardelli Chocolate Caramel Turtle Brownies at home. OK, OK, so this is from a mix, but it's still heavenly good. Plus you feel a sense of accomplishment, and the food subjectively tastes "better" from the sweat you put into it.
- Chocolate tasting at Compartes. This is a chocolatier in L.A. that does all homemade stuff; I got to do a tasting there as surprise birthday gift. It's fairly high end (and unfortunately pricey), but it did taste really good. I remember getting to taste some very odd-flavored truffles, like blood orange and pumpkin, which tasted quite interesting. This place is also known for their custom-made sculpted chocolates. I once ordered a chocolate cell phone for my dad as a birthday gift. (Un)fortunately, he couldn't take any calls on it, but it did taste good.
- Chocolate and wine tasting at Waterford in South Africa. I wasn't really into the wine, but wineries are always beautiful and peaceful places to visit. The chocolate, though, was great, and I managed to trade some of my wine for some extra chocolate, which seemed like a win-win for all involved.
- Self-guided chocolate tasting walking tour in Paris. I read an article (in LA Times Travel, I think) before my last trip to Paris about a journalist's trip to "research" chocolate in Paris. (I did some similar "research" on crêpes after my freshman year at Stanford.) I loved how the article ended with the author agonizing over which of 2 desserts to order from a restaurant menu; she decides to order both because life is short, and she's in Paris. (That's become somewhat of a guiding philosophy for me day-to-day.)
So when I went to Paris, I decided to research and hit up some boulangeries and pâtisseries of my own. I can say it was a lot of fun, and I could easily fill a complete day's menu (calorie-wise at least) from dessert shops alone. There are even a couple companies like Chocolah that specialize in doing specifically these types of tours.
- Cadbury factory tour in Dunedin, New Zealand. New Zealand is calm, quiet, and full of sheep, and Dunedin is no different. However, they do have something the other more bustling cities do not: Cadbury! I felt like I was walking into Willy Wonka's factory, and it was fun and tasty. Plus, every grocery store and gas station sells Cadbury at bargain-basement prices, so we definitely took some for the road.