On a recent Saturday full of promise and me full of inner peace, with the house under control and work seemingly at bay for the moment, it seemed idyllic to pretend for a moment that I had not a care in the world and to head to Antonelli's and secure a fantastic loaf of bread. As if I were hosting a party on the beachfront or something and needed to get going making the sandwiches (a la Ina Garten here). At the time, I had in my mind to make French Onion Soup over the weekend, as winter would be descending again imminently here in Austin. I was on a roll at home with the son. He loved the haricots verts with garlic and butter (okay loved maybe not the right word: he ate them; pretty strong endorsement there), the halibut another night, and then the wild salmon. Things were on the up and up in foodie-training terms.
Indulging in the fantasy that the son would actually eat French Onion soup, I noted to myself that I would need (good) bread and an appropriate fromage: Gruyere or Comte. Ergo the trip to Antonelli's. I was in a Gruyere mood. Maybe because of the imminent winter weather. Comte seems more like a fantastic favorite cheese for any time of year. Gruyere makes me think of Switzerland, raclette, an ill-fated skiing adventure during my Junior Year in France for a short holiday spent in Sion, Switzerland with accomplished skiing friends, and cortisone shots for knee injury when back in Paris. Ergo, gruyere makes me think of winter.
I was very restrained at Antonelli's. I purchased only the one cheese. And only the one bread. And I almost left with just that. But no. They have there, as you linger there at the register over how to pay for the purchase, le chocolat.
Sure, there was sitting there the inappropriately deliciously amazing sea salt caramel chocolate. $11.99 I think it was. But non, I say to myself: Going to France on Thursday for crying out loud. Ridiculous purchase. I see larger, other chocolate bars, for a couple of dollars less, and beautifully packaged. Non, too big. Sure, The Cleanse is long gone, and I am back to bad habits I am so sorry to say, but that is just too much high-end, single-origin chocolate for one person to justify purchasing.
And then I saw it.
A tiny, narrow single bar of that same single-origin chocolate. A way smaller size. Easier to justify psychologically. I bought it. The brown paper wrapping; the size; the font for "twenty-four blackbirds." I fell for it all. For if I had a high-end artisanal chocolate company, I would want to package my chocolate this way too. The font. That's what got to me.
With fine bread and cheese and chocolate in hand, I needed only ham, as I had justified the purchase of bread in the first place to make not only French Onion Soup but also nice paninis for the son.
Central Market: Sure, I got the Black Forest ham. But I had to pass by the chocolate kisok/aisle there at the end on the way to the express check-out lanes. So I stopped. I saw a theme coming on. I had already one super specialty chocolate. Why not get more and compare and contrast?
I handily convinced myself, and so the taste test was born.
What other chocolate would make the cut of my first, in perhaps a series of, chocolate tastings ? Something well-packaged, yes. Something different. I went for a ginger lime and another with dark chocolate and cherry granola mix.
A funny thing happened, as I will fast forward here a bit. The chocolate I liked least the first day became a favorite some 3 days later, accompanied late at night with my favorite Cotes du Rhone. Which reminds us of a good lesson: good chocolate is obviously an impulse buy. Retail therapy. Emotional purchase. So the mood impacts the food experience: not many other people will have the same experience of the same food (chocolate).
First, I taste the twenty-four blackbirds. The 68% is pushing it for me, but under 70% I think I can handle. Whoa. This is like getting the Starbucks dark roast after 21 days of no caffeine. It was stout. I was, to my dismay, not digging it.
Second, I taste the Willie's Cacao ginger lime. Liked the packaging. Nice shape. Unusual: good in terms of not too large but not too small. Square, not rectangle. The taste? Surprisingly right and ok: not too much lime, but I got the taste of it. And love ginger already with chocolate.
I decide this chocolate tasting gig is really something I could get used to.
Third, I taste the Sanders "Cherry Almond Granola Dark Chocolate Bar." Not the greatest packaging, but not trite either. Not trying too hard to be cool and contemporary in this new marketplace of fancy chocolate. I taste. Oh. Yes. This, this is the winner. Love it immediately. And I do not like cherries. In anything. Except for Melissa's dried cherry and pistachio holiday biscotti.
A couple of days later - late at night, the twenty-four blackbirds is still hanging around - I give it a try (the cherry/granola/dark chocolate was long gone). Wow. Now this is good stuff.
I am sorry to say it is all gone now. And I am sorry to say I could not interest the son in any of these fine chocolates. I have only myself to blame for their relatively rapid disappearance over the course of 4 days. It was dark chocolate though. And we know that this, and red wine, in moderation, is all good for you.
Still just having a little bit of a problem with that moderation part.