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Kauai 2015: Ono Family Restaurant, Steelgrass Farm Chocolate Tour

It’s Day 5 of our week-long Kauai vacation, and today just happened to be my birthday! It didn’t really make a difference as this whole trip has been special and to actually be in Kauai on my birthday was pretty amazing.

I had booked us tours at Steelgrass Farms Chocolate tour for 9am. It was about $75 pp, so a little pricey but it had really good reviews, and probably the most chocolate we have eaten in one sitting! The tour also takes you through a sampling of some of Hawaii’s more exotic fruits which we were looking forward to as well.

Steelgrass Farms is located in the hills of Kapa’a, so we made our way there and stopped at Ono Family Restaurant for breakfast. It’s a cute little place and serves a good breakfast. I got some eggs with Portuguese sausage and a side of fried rice, and Steve got a breakfast burrito with hash browns. Everything was tasty and service was friendly and warm.

In Ono Family Restaurant in Kapa’a

Quaint cottage-style restaurant with antique decor.

Portuguese sausage and eggs, with side of fried rice, served with toast and a generous portion of hash browns.

A breakfast burrito for Steve. He ate my fried rice too!

Fueled from breakfast, we drove up into Kapa’a until we reached a small residential area with large houses, one of the houses was the Steelgrass Farms grounds. There was a very friendly young attendant who showed us where to park on the property, then we went to check in for our tour on the porch of the house. The house itself was fairly big with plantation style décor. The porch was huge and had tables and chairs to sit in the shade.

Steelgrass Farm Check in

We were welcome to help ourselves to crack-your-own mac nuts still in the shell. Some fresh picked limes were also free to take home (they had a surplus of limes that they grow on property), and we got our first sample of chocolate, shaped like a plumeria flower. It was a nice, smooth dark chocolate. Off to a great start!

Crack-your-own macadamia nuts

Free limes!

Waiting for others to check-in. There were about 12 people on the tour.

A lemon tree growing on property and our first taste of chocolate.

Steelgrass Farms is owned and operated by members of the Lydgate family (of Lydgate Beach Park fame, named after our guide’s great great grandfather). That was an interesting piece of history. We began our tour walking around to the side of the house where we saw limes and Meyer lemons growing. We picked lime leaves and crushed and smelled them. Then we were given samples of fresh sugarcane which we chewed on before sucking on a small piece of lime. It’s like a non-alcoholic shot! Our guide was very informative on the history of the farm and of agriculture in Hawaii in general.

Excited for our tour!

Sugarcane and lime “shot”

We moved on walking throughout the property, with our guide stopping to show us interesting things like vanilla pods and peppercorns growing up the side of larger trees. We got to handle and smell a fermented vanilla pod, and we plucked peppercorns and ate them too! We saw papyrus growing and even saw sample of a finished paper made with the papyrus stalks.

Walking on the tour

Coconut

Different varieties of bamboo

Vanilla pods

Vanilla pod that has been fermented. This is the vanilla that can be made into extract or scraped for their fragrant beans inside.

Steve really like the spicy flavor of the peppercorns.

Stalks of papyrus (the fuzzy plants growing on the right side of the picture)

Paper made from the papyrus stalks. This paper was made from the papyrus growing on the farm.

We stopped at many fruit trees, and got to sample a lot along the tour. We had passionfruit, egg fruit, logan, rambutan, mountain apple (tasted like rosewater!), soursop (which is sweet and delicious unlike its name), starfruit, and even the award-winning honey made from the bees at the farm. Not all the fruit we tasted is grown on property, but they were all local and it was nice to sample very unusual tropical fruit even for me. I grew up eating tropical fruit like soursop and longans in Singapore so those weren’t new to me. But the egg fruit was…it kind of weirdly reminded me of a hard-boiled egg yolk, hence its name!

Longans – kind of like a smaller lychee.

Rambutan – a hairy fruit with a white flesh inside. Has a seed like a lychee as well.

Passionfruit

Sapodilla – it was like brown sugar, sweet and grainy.

Egg fruit. Looks like sweet potato and tastes like sweet egg yolk.

Soursop

Peppery watermelon radish – it’s so pretty!

Mountain apple, tasted like rosewater

Starfruit

The award-winning honey

The distance we walked was not that far and there were some minor hills, but they offered a ride in the company SUV if you wished or weren’t able to walk. Finally we came to the end of the tour where there was a large tent setup with chairs. Surrounding the tent were all the cacao plants. This was where the actual chocolate tasting was to begin.

Cacao trees

The big green tent for our chocolate tasting.

We were given a clipboard with a list of the chocolates we were going to taste (from various chocolate producers around the world) – but in random order. We wouldn’t know what we were eating until the very end. They passed around the cocoa pods and got to feel the seeds and fruit, we even got to taste cocoa nibs which are actually pretty good and even better covered in chocolate! Then chocolate after chocolate followed, some were broken bars, some were circles, but all were great!

Clipboard for taking notes, and items from the blind tasting.

Chocolate covered cocoa nibs

The blind tasting – we didn’t know which chocolate we were eating until the very end.

Is chocolate tasting a profession, like a sommelier? Sign me up!

This blind tasting was really fun as we got to taste the subtle differences between the chocolates around the world. Interestingly enough, we didn’t taste any of Steelgrass’s own chocolate because they had sold out of their current inventory. Their new batch of cocoa pods were to be harvested in a few days – so if you want some of their own chocolate, best be to call them ahead to see if they have their 2015 chocolate available in their tours and/or to purchase, I’m sure it’s yummy!

Cacao pod ready to be harvested!

After the tasting and reveal, we were invited back to the main house where you can purchase any of the bars of chocolate that were in today’s tasting (they were all a variety of dark chocolate), their award-winning honey, vanilla pods, and cocoa nibs. I got some vanilla pods and cocoa nibs. I had a really great time on the tour, as it was informative and fun. I wouldn’t say it’s a must do though, as it’s quite pricey but you do get to sample a lot of exotic fruits, learn about the history of the Lydgate Family and Hawaiian agriculture, taste some pretty expensive chocolate, and the experience walking around the beautiful grounds was great.

Some items for sale after the tour

Stay tuned for our activities the rest of the day (my birthday!), including one of the best hot dogs I’ve ever eaten!

Read the rest of our Kauai 2015 Trip Report!



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