Powers of love and chocolate combine in Belfast kitchen

Posted Feb. 09, 2010, at 5:42 p.m.

It all began with a crazy desire for chocolate.

“I had an intense craving for chocolate with nuts,” Deb Derecktor of Belfast, recalled. “But I’m allergic to milk, and no one was making a dark chocolate bar with almonds. So, I ended up melting my own chocolate and making my own bars.”

She experimented with original recipes, adding flax and sesame seeds in place of almonds. She put her chocolate trials on cookie sheets and tested out her yummy creations on friends and family.

The result of her kitchen experiments is her 6-year-old enterprise, Power Chocolates. The environmentally friendly chocolate company is located in her rambling, three-story, mid-19th-century Victorian house, on Church Street.

She started her chocolate business around the same time she bought the historic, 11-room house, she noted. Chocolates are manufactured on the home’s second floor, in a 12-by-18-foot room she calls the “Chocolate Kitchen.”

“I’m a small business. I produce small quantities at a time. I’m the factory. It’s at a cottage [industry] level and is still being made by me and some local people. It’s locally handmade chocolates,” said Derecktor, an energetic blonde with dramatic flair and a megawatt personality.

In fact, Derecktor has a bachelor of science degree in fine arts and theater (acting and directing) from Boston University, where she graduated in 1986.

Now, for the sixth year in a row, she will be marrying her passions for theater and dark chocolate in her role as organizer and maitre d’ of the “Sixth Annual Power Chocolate Soiree,” at 7 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 13, at The Playhouse Theater, located on Church Street in downtown Belfast.

The show’s “Power of Love Performance” will include local singers, musicians, dancers and poets. A chocolate, wine and dance party will follow. Soiree tickets are $12 at the door; all proceeds go to benefit The Playhouse. For more information and to reserve a ticket, call 338-5777.

Also at the soiree, Power Chocolates will match funds raised by jar donations, whose proceeds will benefit the Haiti earthquake relief fund of the charitable nonprofit, World Vision.

“It’s all about original, local talent — a lot of new stuff,” Derecktor said, of the evening performances. “I have some great talent scheduled. I’m excited. … It’s magic!”

For one, the show will feature Kristen Burkholder and Martin Gottlieb of Stockton Springs, who form the musical team Tango.

“She sings, he plays piano,” Derecktor said.

Other highlights will include Kristi Williamson of Camden, who will sing an original song for the night’s theme of chocolate and love.

“Jim James will play the guitar and sing. Jacob Fricke and Julia Clapp will do a waltz. They’re a romantic couple,” Derecktor said. Other performers include Clare Olson, Lilianne Gaul, Charlotte Herbold and Lisa Redfern.

Also taking part in the Valentine variety show will be Derecktor’s three children, Eliza Duggan, 19, a freshman at Boston College, Riley Duggan, 15, a freshman at Camden Hills Regional High School and Lily Gaul, 8, in the third grade at Camden-Rockport Elementary School.

“Eliza will sing and Riley and Lily will share their original poems,” she said.

“Everyone will do stuff about love, but it’s not all hearts and flowers. Kristi Williamson will sing a song about Innana, the Sumerian goddess of sexuality, love and warfare,” Derecktor said.

To sweeten the night, she will be giving away samples of her chocolates and selling chocolate bark.

Your brain on chocolate

Derecktor is a fountain of praise for the virtues of that hedonistic pleasure food — chocolate.

“It’s real food. It’s part of my staple, my regular diet,” she said, as she cut out “Valentine Soiree” announcement cards in her high-ceilinged dining room.

On the formally arranged dining table, a bouquet of long-stemmed red roses, two white candles and a red satin table cloth gleamed festively, conjuring up the only calendar occasion that brightens February’s winter misery — Valentine’s Day.

“I use all natural chocolate from France. The French are excellent at making chocolate,” she said.

When consumed in sensible amounts, chocolate comes with significant health benefits. Made from cacao beans, chocolate contains the health benefits of dark vegetables, according to an article by Mark Stibich, Ph.D., at about.com.

“These benefits are from flavonoids, which act as antioxidants. Antioxidants protect the body from aging caused by free radicals, which in turn can cause damage that leads to heart disease. Dark chocolate contains a large number of antioxidants (nearly eight times the number found in strawberries). Flavonids also help relax blood pressure through the production of nitric acid and balance certain hormones in the body,” according to Stibich.

Nonetheless, cocoa butter, a vegetable fat extracted from the cacao bean, and sugar, are also components of chocolate, a combination that can put extra pounds on chocoholics.

Derecktor insists, however, that cocoa butter is actually good for you.

“It’s the only fat in there (Power Chocolates). I don’t use butter. You need healthy fats in your diet,” she said.

Chocolate researchers would agree.

“ … Eating chocolate has no effect on the level of potentially harmful cholesterol in your blood,” according to information posted at allchocolate.com.

“… More than half of the saturated fat in cocoa butter is stearic acid, which is cholesterol neutral, and another one-third is mono-or polyunsaturated fat, which can reduce cholesterol levels,” the online information stated.

“I love it, that I have a healthy product,” she said.

But to Derecktor, who is into energy healing and yoga, the little cacao bean goes beyond superfood status. To her, it is the gateway to the gods.

“It’s a spiritual experience. I get into a zone when I make chocolate, I turn off other thoughts and focus on chocolate,” she said, later, while wrapping dark-chocolate hearts in electric-colored, shiny foil wrappers in the Chocolate Kitchen. Each wrapped chocolate gets a gold-foil label that depicts a stylized human figure standing amid an atom’s swirling electrons.

“Chocolate is a positive mood enhancer,” she said.

Researchers confirm that bioactive compounds found in chocolate can produce a fleeting sense of well-being, euphoria and energy. Aztecs viewed it as an aphrodisiac. All of which helps explain our love affair for the most commonly craved food in America.

As she makes her chocolates, she believes that her positive energy meditations boost their potency.

“I breathe in chocolate. Breathing it in elevates serotonin levels in your brain. Serotonin is a feel-good chemical” she said of the neurotransmitter involved in sleep, depression and memory . When you’re in love, it increases your serotonin levels. Chocolate boosts your brain chemistry in a positive way,” she said.

Derecktor uses dark-chocolate with both 60 percent and 70 percent cacao. Her products includes handmade bars, hearts and squares. She also makes chocolate-covered gluten-free pretzels and chocolate heart lollipops.

In her varied products, she will add foods such as organic sesame, sunflower and flax seeds, espresso beans, Maine dried blueberries and blueberry granola. The chocolates have no gluten or dairy. No additives or preservatives are used.

Her products can be found from Bangor to Portland, she said. Venues include The Natural Living Center in Bangor, the Belfast Co-op in Belfast and Good Tern Natural Foods Co-op & Cafe in Rockland.

Her dark chocolates are moderately priced, currently ranging from $2 to $3 per item. “For a small price, you get a lot of nutrition,” she said.

She was raised in Rye, N.Y., and has been a Belfast resident for about 13 years. Her mother, Jane Sanford, 77, has been living in Belfast for 20 years.

Derecktor thinks her chocolate obsession may have genetic roots.

“My grandfather was a closet chocoholic,” she said, of Nathan E. Derecktor of Katonah, N.Y., owner and operator of Derecktor Shipyard.

“He had a secret stash,” she said.

Lynn Ascrizzi is a poet, gardener and freelance writer who lives in Freedom.

VALENTINE SOIREE’

• The “Sixth Annual Power Chocolates Valentine Soirée” will be held at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 13, at The Playhouse Theater, located at 107 Church St., downtown Belfast. The show’s “Power of Love Performance” will include local singers, musicians, dancers and poets. A chocolate, wine and dance party will follow. Tickets are $12 at the door. Soiree proceeds go to benefit The Playhouse. For more information and to reserve a ticket, call 338-5777.

• The Valentine Soiree will be hosted by Deb Derecktor, owner and operator of Power Chocolates of Belfast (powerchocolates.com). Free samples of her dark-chocolate products will be offered at the soiree; chocolate bark will be sold at the benefit. Also, Power Chocolates will match funds raised by jar donations, whose proceeds will benefit he Haiti earthquake relief fund of World Vision.

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