Sometimes we tend to forget just what we have in our own backyard.
Hawke's Bay is full of gems — one of them is the Silky Oak Chocolate Company. The family owned business has bloomed over the past 20 years it has been under the guidance of Jeanette and Kevin Darwen.
With the second generation son Scott (production manager) and his wife Erica (packaging manager) involved it has certainly spread its delicious wings in all directions.
First and foremost are the chocolates, all made onsite. The chocolate shop is just divine. My senses were on fire when I walked in the door. I didn't know which way to look first. There are just piles of deliciousness in every direction.
So many flavours, textures and beautiful wrappings. There was even a box of chocolates made from chocolate.
I couldn't resist the Lemon Meringue Fudge and if you have never tried one of their chocolate fish you are in for a treat. Thick dark chocolate filled with delicious creamy marshmallow.
Chocolate is not the only thing you will find in this shop. This amazing Silky Oak team also make their own pickles, relishes, chutneys, jams, infused oils and vinaigrette and much more.
Jeanette said the most popular vinaigrette was passionfruit. I had a little taste and had to buy a bottle — I may have bought some fudge as well.
This shop is packed with goodies. There is also sorbet, gelato, pies — both sweet and savoury — all made onsite.
"We have four commercial kitchens and four chefs including Scott," Jeanette said.
"We also have our cafe which is open seven days [Mon-Fri 9am to 3pm and Sat-Sun 10am-4pm]. Our ginger gems and carrot cake are very popular."
There is a breakfast and lunch menu as well as cabinet food. There is plenty of space to sit either indoors or in the large outdoor area.
In 2004 the Darwens opened a Chocolate Museum which has a 3000-year timeline of the history of chocolate. It's fascinating. The first part is quite a bit of reading as "it's rather hard to get memorabilia from 3000 years ago".
Jeanette has travelled the world looking for the right memorabilia to tell the story. They have also had life size models made to set the scenes.
There are some beautiful items in this collection.
There is even a World War II Hershey's chocolate bar in one of the displays. A couple of soldiers that have been through the museum said "it was B-awful", Jeanette laughed.
"It was made so it wouldn't melt in the tropics."
The museum offers a unique look at chocolate through the years. Visitors are welcome to visit the museum or pay for a guided tour.
Once you have had a look at the museum, visited the chocolate shop and had a coffee and a bite to eat at the cafe you can browse through the gift shop.
Jeanette says she hopes everyone who visits leaves having had a good time.
"That's what it's all about really, that customer contact — talking to people. We have met people from all over the world and got to know many of our regular local customers.
"We also are lucky to have a great team working for us."
Staff member Sue was quick to point out that Jeanette was "not a boss but more like a team member who could cover all aspects of the business".
"Except I can't master the coffee machine," Jeanette laughed. "But that's probably not a bad thing."
It's Father's Day tomorrow — take him for a treat and buy him a chocolate fish.
■ Silky Oaks Chocolate is a supporter of brain injury and runs regular raffles to raise money for the cause.