People often say I’m the luckiest person in the world for the kind of life they perceive that I lead. But I’ve found some folks who’ve got me beat, hands-down.
I’m back from my book tour, which was exhilarating but made me a tad homesick. Although really, if one thinks about it, how many times can one visit Target in a month? And don’t even get me started on Walgreens…I mean, how much chapstick does a guy need? (Well, plenty, it seems…)
With my suitcases stuffed to the gills, my last weekend was spent in Seattle, Target-free, where I had lots and lots of good things to eat and drink, from sipping espresso with gal-pal Shauna, to get-together with a gaggle of food bloggers that was well-oiled by lots of good wine mixed with plates of the freshest food overlooking the water. There was time to catch up with new and old friends, unwind, and after a few glasses of wine, a bit of comparing notes was in order.
So watch it out there, readers!
On this last day, a chocolate tasting was planned at Theo Chocolate, one of a handful of excellent small-scale chocolate makers in the United States. From the moment I walked in the unassuming front door on North Phinney Avenue, I knew this was going to be a heckuva lot of fun for me and the guests who stopped by to say hi and sample.
It was like a big party going on inside, with lots and lots of chocolate everywhere. I’ve never seen such happy, excited people. Now those people are living the sweet life. But can you blame them? Being surrounded by all this chocolate, I’d be the happiest fellow on the planet as well. And for one afternoon, I was.
As mentioned, Theo is one of the few chocolate-makers in the US, making chocolate from the beans to the bar. Using organic and Fair-Trade beans, batches of beans are roasted, ground, then shaped into tablets of chocolate, many of them ‘origin’ bars, highlighting the nuances of cacao beans from various parts of the world. But unlike some of the other chocolate-makers, they’ve got chocolatier Autumn Martin, who’s crafting some of the finest chocolate confections I’ve ever tasted in my life.
Do you mind if I talk about the richest, purest flavors imaginable?
Okay, don’t mind if I do.
With just two-and-a-half years of chocolate-making under her belt, Autumn’s managed to hit just the right notes with every chocolate I tried.
A dark, chocolate-enrobed square encircling a raw-green spearmint ganache was refreshing and intense while guests were raving about the lemon-filled chocolate, a neat bite of puckery lemon goodness. After one bit, I was raving too.
Autumn uses a lemon curd base that’s folded into white chocolate, then it’s allowed to sit for several days to come to just the right consistency for coating with chocolate.
And how a big chocolate rectangle stuffed, fig and fennel flavored-ganache? Or a sophisticated peanut butter bonbon, filled with crunchy ground peanut praline and a touch of sea salt?
But I can’t resist telling you about my favorite: burnt sugar.
When we passed by the racks and racks of just-dipped chocolates, I gathered my nerve to ask for one and within seconds I was seduced with the taste of deeply-caramelized, rich-tasting organic cane sugar melded with bittersweet, homemade chocolate. If you don’t do anything else today (except finish reading my blog, of course), I urge you to visit Theo’s website and order a box. You won’t be disappointed! I’m hoarding the two boxes they wrapped for me and will only share them with very special people.
And since I’m not inviting on any special people over in the next couple of weeks, I’m guess I’ll have to eat them all by myself.
If you live in Seattle, or plan a visit in the future, I urge you to high-tail it to Theo. I offered to sleep there, indefinitely, an offer which was duly accepted. But had to come back to Paris to collect my belongings. So it’s all over for me here and I’m packing my bags. Soon I’ll be Living The Sweet Life in Seattle.
Just kidding. I haven’t even unpacked my bags yet…But I did unpack, and eat, one full box of the chocolates already.
And after all that super-duper chocolate, how could I end the perfect trip? By dining with food bloggers; the porous Adam, the ever-fabulous and gluten-free Shauna, the soon-to-be Mrs. Molly, tip-top Tara, and the lovely and learned Lara, who fixed my camera with the simple touch of one button. Really. Is there anything that makes one feel more stupid than that?
Dinner was at a wine bar, where we drank lots of wine (of course) and ate lots of terrific food. Then as we sat back, finishing off the last of the Sauvignon Blanc, one of the guests, oddly, starting picking his nose (which he now claims he was doing solely for the camera), prompting us to adjourn for the evening.
So I’m back in Paris with loads of chocolate bars and almost as many great memories. (Except for one of a certain New Yorker with his finger jammed in his snout. Now you’ve got it too. I know, I know…“Thanks for sharing, David”…) My next goal is to tuck myself into my own bed, surround myself with my special and highly-complex mélange of pillows that only I can arrange properly, and sleep for a few days.
And when I wake up, I’ll attack the rest of that chocolate.
With the same vigor that Adam attacked his, um…oh, never mind…
3400 Phinney Avenue North