Monday, February 16, 2009

Chocolate Fountain of Youth

About two years ago, our family purchased a residential-sized chocolate fountain. It seemed a bit indulgent at the time but has become a big hit at friend and family events. It’s not unusual for invitations to request our attendance, as well as our “fifth family member”, the fountain.

At the fountain’s début, I set it up at the kids’ table and prepared a more “sophisticated” dessert for the adults. The kids were in awe. With their little backs facing the adult crowd, we began an unintended game of “red light/green light”. An adult would inch toward the table. A child (now looking more like a short Charlie Chaplin) would sense movement and turn around. The adult would stop and offer “help”. The child would refuse, and the adult would be frozen in their red light spot.

I no longer prepare a second dessert item when the chocolate fountain makes an appearance.

It only took one experience with cheap, big-box store chocolate to realize that quality chocolate is required. Good chocolate yields a beautiful flow or “curtain” that becomes a buffet table centerpiece. It also produces that warm, creamy coating that you’d expect on your dipping item. Chocolate purchased at a store that also sells car batteries, forces the fountain to gurgle and plop the waxy concoction. Waxy is also an accurate taste description. It’s a big disappointment; one we haven’t repeated.

You are guaranteed to impress a crowd at your next event by replacing that frosted cake with a chocolate fountain. Just be sure to establish dipping rules to avoid confrontations. Adults can be very childish when it comes to chocolate.

A Truffle a Day Keeps the Voices at Bay

My dear friend Jane is very health conscious. She probably hovers around 105 pounds after a Pina Colada and getting caught in the rain. I won’t debate the “nature vs. nurture” causal factors of her peak condition, but I will share that she considers broccoli a main course and running, an adrenaline cocktail.

Jane’s one daily indulgence is a piece of chocolate. I’m not talking just any chocolate. I’m talking good chocolate. She looks forward to this savory moment to get her through the rest of the working day.

Few of us self-permit such a public indulgence. We’re closet candy eaters. We apply face paint, dress in camo, and swoop into a co-workers cubicle for a handful of candy jar offerings before anyone is witness. Who doesn’t buy into the philosophical riddle “If I eat a piece of candy in a forest and no one is around to see me, do I gain a calorie?”

Jane’s approach is refreshing and effective. Coworkers enable her habit, she doesn’t binge, and she’s afforded herself a guilt-free pleasure.

Wouldn’t it be nice to indulge in some good chocolate and hear only “Mmmmm” in your head?

Like a Kid in a Candy Store

Quick…What’s the first thing you think of when you smell bread baking?

Extensive scientific research regarding the connectivity between smells and tastes to memories is available at the click of a mouse. You could dissect articles about olfactory neurons, odorant receptors, and neurosciences…snore… The fact is, smells and tastes evoke memories, and generally those memories evoke an emotion.

In this age of virtual reality, are we denying ourselves an opportunity to create sensory memories? I admit this is a heavy topic for a confectionary blog; but, consider the memory created by meeting a friend in a “chat room”. You missed an opportunity to smell a cup of coffee and see a real smile, rather than just a :0)

Van Otis Chocolates originated in 1935 and today, resides at 341 Elm Street in Manchester, New Hampshire. For over 75 years, devoted patrons have held strong memories associated with the shop’s smells, tastes, and sights. These “kid in a candy store” memories occur at age 5 and 65 because an early association was developed.

Do you have a
Van Otis memory related to Easter bunnies, Swiss Fudge, or roasted cashews? Do you remember the feeling of being surrounded by display cases filled with sweet, vibrant, textured treats? Share your sensory memories with us and stop in to create more!