The Daily Planet Café, a Rocky Top Hospitality establishment hosted an exploration of the science behind chocolate. The event was held on Thursday evening, November 29, 2012 and covered 2,500 years of the food and medicinal uses of chocolate. Dr. Keith Harris from North Carolina State University’s Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences Department opened the science café by discussing his intense love for chocolate. During a trip to Oaxaca, Mexico, Dr. Harris discovered the Mayordomo chocolate factory. The Mayordomo employees allowed Dr. Harris to taste every step of chocolate production including the roasted cocoa nibs. He discovered that the Mayordomo chocolate was produced in a minimalist method using only a few ingredients like sugar, cinnamon and roasted cocoa nibs. His heart was racing after the tour because the chocolate was so potent in terms of its stimulant properties. This potency was caused because the chocolate contained no dairy. Thus, this trip sparked Dr. Harris’ interest in studying the chemical properties of chocolate.


I’m a huge chocolate lover and enjoyed learning more about the history behind one of my favorite foods. I suppose I’m not the only one who sees the value in chocolate, for instance, in 1502 cocoa beans were used as money. Chocolate has always played a critical role in society and was originally consumed as a beverage or for medicinal purposes. Thank goodness for Milton Hershey, who invented the chocolate bar and made it affordable in 1900. The addition of dairy to the bitter chocolate satisfied the tasted buds of Europeans. Chocolate became available to the masses during World War II. From 1920 to 1941 many of my favorite chocolate candies became popular like Reese’s, M&M’s, Butterfinger and Snickers. I could really go for a chocolate peanut butter cup right now!


Co-owner, Sam Ratto of downtown Raleigh’s Videri Chocolate Factory offered samples of milk and dark chocolate at the end of the science café. I didn’t feel bad eating a few bites of chocolate after learning about the health benefits of my favorite food. Many studies have shown that eating one to two ounces of dark chocolate each day may decrease your blood pressure and increase your good cholesterol.


I also enjoyed a piece of Ghirardelli milk and white chocolate covered bacon made especially for the science café by The Daily Planet Café’s chef. This sweet and savory treat paired nicely with Fullsteam Brewery’s Working Man’s Lunch. The Daily Planet Café has many local North Carolina beers on tap, which you are encouraged to enjoy along with a delicious snack or meal.


The Daily Planet Café frequently hosts discussions of science as it relates to the hospitality industry. Visit The Daily Planet Café located inside the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences for a great meal featuring local North Carolina ingredients. The next science café is this Thursday, December 13, 2012 and includes an informal discussion about searching for life beyond earth. Science café events are always free and open to the public.