Friday, January 31, 2020

Valentine's Day Chocolate, Castronovo Chocolate Style, Fla.

Stuart, Fla.--Award winning chocolate is the way to impress your sweetheart this Valentine's Day. And if it's small batch, artisanal, single origin, ethically and sustainably sourced, heirloom, bean-to-bar and locally made it makes it even better. Dennis Castronovo founder of Castronovo Chocolate Factory in Stuart, Florida, makes this style of chocolate. Her international award winning chocolate comes in bars (dark, milk and white), bonbons, pralines, one-pound blocks (for chefs), and even as sipping chocolate.

Bean-To Bar artisanal chocolates at Castronovo Chocolate Factory, Stuart, Fla.
Copyright 2020 by Helen A Lockey

Dennis sources rare heirloom cacao from plantations in Central and South America, and then sorts, winnows, and mills the beans into a delicious chocolate mixture, which allows the full flavors of the beans to shine through in the bars. This has resulted in her chocolate bars winning gold, silver and bronze metals at the Academy of Chocolate in London, and International Chocolate Awards Worlds Finals, here in the United States.

The Golden Bean awarded to Castronovo Chocolate, Stuart, Fla.
Copyright 2020 by Helen A Lockey

Last year she even won a Golden Bean Award from the Academy of Chocolate, for her Sierra Nevada Dark Milk 63 percent chocolate bar. She also makes White Chocolate infused with lemon oil and lemon salt. Most of her ingredients are organic too.

Bean-to-Bar award winning Castronovo Chocolate in Stuart, Fla.
Copyright 2020 by Helen A Lockey

You don't have to travel to Stuart, Florida to buy her chocolate, although it would be worth it for the aromas and the prices are lower, because you can buy all her delicious creations online at

If you do go in person
her address is: Castronovo Chocolate Factory, 555 Colorado Avenue, suite 103, Stuart, FL 34994
Phone: 772-521-1699

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Dollar Weed, Pest Plant Turned Culinary Treat

Bet you never thought that dollar weed was edible. This plant is often looked at as more of an invasive pest in Florida yards than something you find on the menu of a restaurant. It is usually grows on the wettest part of your lawn. It likes water.

Dollar weed as seen from above
Copyright 2019 by Helen A. Lockey

Dollar Weed is small plant with only one shiny, very round, scalloped leaf that is about the size of an American silver dollar (hence the name). It's botanical name is Hydrocotyle bonariensis and it is also known as large leaf Pennywort.

Underside of dollar weed with stem growing out of center of
leaf. Copyright 2019 by Helen A. Lockey

It has an unique stem that grows from the center of the leaf down to the ground. In its raw form it is very crisp with a bit of a bitter aftertaste. The stems are a bit more bitter but the leaves. It can eaten raw in salads or cooked.

There are some look alike plants in Florida that have stems growing of the side of the leaf.

And like I said you can find it in practically every south Florida lawn. But before you eat it make sure it has not be sprayed with any chemicals.

If you are unsure seek out a wild food forager to get them to identify the wild version. You can also ask one of the many local farmers growing this plant for area restaurants how much they want for their domesticated dollar weed.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Distillery 031, Small Batch Craft Spirits, South African

Small batch, craft, Distillery 031 of Durban, South Africa, makes delicious vegan alcohol. They are a small-batch craft distillery, said Andrew Rall, owner and founder, during an interview at the 23rd Annual Americas Food & Beverage Show, Miami Beach, Florida. 

Andrew Rall, owner and founder of Distillery 031,
23rd Annual Americas Food & Beverage Show, Miami Beach,
Florida, Copyright 2019 by Helen A. Lockey

Rall’s fascination with craft spirits began in 2000 with a trip to Scotland and a later trip to the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Norway and Brazil where he explored several approaches to distilling. He started a craft distilling as a hobby 2007 at his home. The decision to grow his hobby into a distillery was energized by the craft distillery movement in South Africa. He wanted his spirits to reflect the eclectic style of Durban and so kept his process small-batch. In 2015, he started selling to the public.

He uses locally sourced ingredients in his alcohol like fresh harvested and pressed sugar cane juice, cascara (coffee cherries), African Rosehip, African Baobab, Madagascar Vanilla beans, Naartjie, and Rooibos.

Distillery 031 of South Africa, from left to right:
Agua Zulu Cachaca, 031 Vodka, 23 Americas Food & Beverage Show,
Miami Beach, Fla. Copyright 2019 by Helen A. Lockey

His 031 Vodka is made in a Swedish style way, unfiltered so it has a bit of flavor. It is distilled 10 times from molasses produced from locally grown sugar cane. The final alcohol is ultra smooth, and is as pure as it can be with the just the body of the alcohol, both the head (ethanol) and the tail (acetone) are discarded. It is has refreshing, slightly sweet citrus zest flavor, and is 43 percent Alcohol by Volume. 

Distillery 031 from left to right: Ancestors Absinthe,
Heart of Gold Vanilla & Baobab Liqueur, Heart of Darkness
Coffee Liqueur, 23 Americas Food & Beverage Show,
Miami Beach, Fla., Copyright 2019 by Helen A. Lockey

Distillery 031 uses their hand crafted, ten times distilled, Vodka as a base for their Heart Of Gold Liqueur. This spirit is delightfully sweet and creamy, infused with African Baobab fruit and Madagascar vanilla bean in the bottle. It has a creamy mouth feel simulating a dairy base but its all vegan, according to Rall.

They also make Brazilian-Portuguese style Cachaca called Agua Zulu, D'Urban Dry Gin, D'Urban Barrel Aged Gin, D'Urban Scarlet Gin, Heart of Stone Naartjie & Rooibus Liqueur, Ancestors Absinthe, Heart of Darkness Coffee Liqueur, Brandy, and Tonic.

Distillery 031, named after the area code in their part of Durban, was at the 23rd Americas Food and Beverage Show to find a distributor for the Florida market. They hope to be available for sales in 2020, first on the Internet and then Brick and Mortar stores. But for right now if you want to taste their craft spirits you will have to travel to South Africa.