Thursday, July 2, 2009

Chocolate in Three Acts

I. Belgium

My taste buds wanted to commit euphoric suicide, leaping off my tongue to chase the silk ribbon of chocolate headed for my stomach. Chocolate so impeccable, so rich, so superbly unexpected. I had almost - perish the thought - not ordered it. Full, I almost ignored the invitation of "Molten Chocolate Cake" in lovely fine print at the bottom of that Belgian menu. 

Everyone around us was Belgian; they had had it before. They didn't realize the implications of their chocolate. The dangers. Chatting with friends and co-workers around the dimly lit cafe, they didn't seem to understand that this was the best chocolate in the world. Each day they passed Leonidas and Neuhaus, offering barely a glance to the incredible displays: coated croquant and ganache, caramelized pecans dipped in white chocolate, buttery caramels dripped in dark chocolate, holiday icons molded in milk chocolate. To acknowledge the perfection of these tastes and textures would be to lose themselves in one sense, taste, and abandon the world. Soon everyone in Belgium would swell and the U.N. would have to relocate its headquarters. 

Lucky me, then, to be just a visitor allowed to revel in my forkfuls of bliss, my "mixed most populars" box from Leonidas, and my hazelnut chocolate cream at Au Bon Pain. 

II. Italy

After dinner we trekked two miles of wet street to find Chocolat, the gelateria of choice among hip and happening dessert-lovers of Milan. Two steps inside the door and we were face to face with the heart of the place, 20 rotating gelato flavors under glass, half of them subtle spins on chocolate.

"So what will you pair?" asked the case, as each flavor vied for our attention. 

"Pick me," whispered the cinnamon chocolate.

"No me," said the ginger chocolate heatedly.

"I go well with milk chocolate," said the Honey-Poppyseed Cream, hoping for consideration.

Raspberry sorbet might be good with dark chocolate orange. Perhaps white chocolate with chocolate pear. Might mango compliment chili chocolate? I just didn't know. 

A big decision lay in front of us. Luckily, our train didn't depart for another hour.

III. Bulgaria

"Chocolate Romance Pie?" I needed some cake, and that seemed close enough. I was sitting in a reclining wicker chair at "Sweet" Cafe, across the table from Brett, and it was my birthday. 

We hadn't yet learned that Sweet was a popular hangout for folks we probably shouldn't be hanging out with, and we sat blissfully unaware of the career paths of our neighbors. I had finished a pretty OK mojito, and there is something about one drink that makes dessert that much better to me, as if it sharpened the sweet side of my tongue a touch, and opened extra room in my stomach. 

As the Chocolate Romance Pie floated across the room on its tiny plate, I imagined heads turning, everyone wishing it were theirs. I'd never had anything quite like it. It was as if a triangular wedge of fudge fell in love with a plate of roasted hazelnuts, and the two went skinny dipping in cream together before lying down on a bed of soft vanilla.  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Didn't dare finish these...too evocative for a diabetic!