Patric Chocolate Limited Edition Double-Vanilla Orange Sherbet Chocolate Bar

There’s something ridiculously indulgent about having a full bar with no perforations or implicit ideas about how you should parcel it out. Patric’s emblazoned signature implies one rule- eat it. And you should, because it’s the older, more sophisticated brother of a Terry’s Chocolate Orange, with deeper, oiled nuances and natural caramel and butterscotch notes to make the unctuousness off the charts like a fruit off the tree from another planet. And yes, it’s milk chocolate- and not just milk chocolate, milk chocolate with whole milk powder for that dreamsicle dream. Sue me, that’s my favorite. It has a deep bone-like snap and satisfying thickness with a fresh aftertaste that reminds me, to the letter, of a coffee I had in St. Louis at Kaldi’s Coffee, a Mexican coatepec cold brew that really manages to evoke the sherbert that the name implies.DSC_2572 Continue reading “Patric Chocolate Limited Edition Double-Vanilla Orange Sherbet Chocolate Bar”

Euforia Triple Delight Cake

Happy Halloween! Am I dressing up? I’m not dressing up. I’m continuing in the grand tradition of exempting myself from holidays and social interaction by drinking cider, eating candy, and watching Twin Peaks in bed. Compare this to last year’s Bobcat Goldthwait/pumpkin crêpe and 2011’s Kubrick/leftover slices of cake marathon and you’ve got yourself a trend.DSC_6156

Continue reading “Euforia Triple Delight Cake”

Udi’s Soft-baked Cookies Salted Caramel Cashew

I am probably not the best person to be marketed toward. Like you, my Google search terms can best be described as ‘erratic and occasionally emotionally disturbing.’ An evening may start on the NY Times, clicking around various op-ed articles about death, and then abruptly switch to sixteen different pasta recipes. From there, Bloomberg and Cracked are visited in equal amounts, and I typically culminate the evening with a two-hour jag of Corgi-hunting, crying, and pointing on Petfinder. Also, porn.

So whenever I see ads in my mailbox for food or Kleenex or caskets, I laugh because it’s all very obtuse. Google doesn’t know me much better than your average Facebook stalker does. Do I mind it? In the sense that I don’t want it to happen, yes. I’m entitled to my privacy in dog and carb-lusting, but the ads are so ridiculous that to an extent, I don’t even care. The spot-on precision of the recent Udi’s package, though, that’s an accuracy in espionage that I don’t mind at all. I received a box of products from Udi’s today that makes me want to lobby for the Foodette Inbetween Nourishment and Enrichment Bill of 2013, which exists solely for the purpose of me being able to eat all the muffins in one day. One of the included items was something I’d been ogling at each visit to Whole Foods, shaking my head every time I passed them. Soft-baked salted caramel and cashew cookies. Holy bane of my existence, Batman. Did they film me? Did they gauge the sweat on my palms through my implanted social media machine? I don’t know.
That is, until I got a box of Udi’s treats today, including these wonder-cookies. They’re beautiful. They are chewy and soft, and have the texture and homey raw flour tinge of a fresh sugar cookie. I had an ex who used to make killer cookies, and these are the closest thing I have to them. The cashews add a nice salty,  nuttiness, which offsets the more protein bar-esque flavor of the cookie base. I liked that the caramel element wasn’t in the form of a saccharine filling or sticky sauce on top, but felt more incorporated into the cookie, and gave it a rich, brown butter flavor. 

TL;DR: I ate four, thus negating the mega-power-ultra workout I did the other day. Oh, the timing of it all.

La Bigarrade, Paris, France

A difficult afternoon was tempered by an elegant night, in no part due to my dinner companion and the effortless service at La Bigarrade in Paris. I had mixed feelings about maintaining the reservation. That was the morning my grandmother had passed away, but we ultimately decided to go in her honor, toasting her with sweet wine and tender seafood. It was a dinner I won’t quickly forget, and an experience I don’t regret.

La Bigarrade is located in the Batignolles area of the 17th arrondissement, not too far from the scenic Square des Batignolles. A tiny, but bright and vibrant restaurant, we made reservations to try out their grand tasting menu as part of a dual bacchanal to celebrate both Miss Love’s visit to Paris and my 22nd birthday.

We opted for the wine pairing and found it quite manageable, definitely moreso than the all-out blowout at wd~50 and Rogue24 (review to come), with clever pairings designed to be consumed with multiple courses. This format of tasting was both economical and multi-faceted, as it allowed many scents and flavors of the wines to emerge when interacting with different courses.

We started with a bread course of Neapolitan olive oil and a light, airy foccacia. Simple, yet palate cleansing as it was meant to be.

The first two amuse bouche courses, served side by side with a 2011 Anjou (whose producer I have regretfully forgotten) were delicious and springy. The first, a delicate melon, paprika, and chevre gazpacho with a little olive oil, was floral and piquant, something I could have enjoyed in a much larger quantity. The accompanying razor-thin slices of avocado, shredded tuna and crab meat, and smoked sea salt with cilantro was a rich, saline homage to Chef Yasuhiro Kanayama’s Japanese origins. The sweetness of the Anjou played well with the smoky, briny flavors in the fish and creaminess of the cheese.

Our second amuse bouche section featured a Kumamoto oyster with champagne, vinegar, (yes, you read that correctly) Tobigo, and applesauce. This was an impeccable example of the versatility of the chef. The entire bite was infused with an effervescence from the champagne and the roe, and a host of tangy flavors from the various acidic elements of the dish. The applesauce added an essential, quirky sweetness to the dish. The second amuse bouche was a potato, beet, and red onion dish. Not the most inventive, but visually pleasing and comfortingly monolithic in its flavors, like a cold borscht. The earthiness of these flavors brought out the more musky side of the Anjou.

The seafood course came next, a beautiful blue lobster tail in a white bean puree, brown butter, and grapefruit sauce. This tasted like a lighter, more modern take on the “classy” cruise dish of the 60’s, Lobster Newberg, a dish my grandmother may have enjoyed on a vacation as a younger woman. This dish, however, was not laden with butter and heavy cream. The nutty brown butter was deftly cut by the individually riced grapefruit flesh particles, a task completed with the precision of a surgeon, lending a sweet acidity to the dish. With our second wine, a 2008 Julien Meyer Riesling Muenchberg Grand Cru from Alsace, it was perfectly paired. This Riesling had a classic halbtrocken flavor profile and sweetness, tense and honeyed with a slightly smoky finish.
We followed the delicacy of the lobster with another fish course, lemon-infused sole with thin shavings of cauliflower, brown butter, fresh thyme, and mollusks. Despite a second round of brown butter and citrus, this didn’t feel repetitive. It was crisp, vegetal, and tender on the inside, with a salty bite from the mollusks. We enjoyed this with a 2010 1er Cru Mersault-Blagny from producer Sarnin-Berrux. Notes of acacia, bitter almond, and a delicate oakiness made this one of our favorites of the evening.

Our third savory course deviated from Franco-Japanese dishes to a decidedly Southwestern flavor profile. Sous-vide pork with a corn, arugula, and soapy oaxalis salad sounds innocuous enough. However, the chef undercut the bold spices with very subversive, clever Asian flavors and ingredients within the dish, like peanut oil and lemongrass. This was one of the most delicious pork dishes I have ever enjoyed. Crisp, fatty, and smart. This was paired with the heady, masculine 2007 Domaine Lucien Boillot et Fils Gevrey-Chambertin  “Les Cherbaudes”.

Finally, we finished strong with a rare roasted pigeon with grilled mushroom and tamarind mash and a pear and potato sauce. The visual presentation of this dish made me think we were being served steak frites! This was a savage, meaty dish with bold flavors and a clean, aromatic fruitiness from the pear. Very well-balanced, and classic when paired alongside the 2008 Chateau Massereau Bordeaux.

The cheese course was simple, yet astounding, immediately bringing me back to lazy summer nights enjoying simple dinners on the back porch with Miss Love back home. It was incredibly vibrant and summery, featuring a chewy Brebis cheese, a chevre round, and a dab of the best mustard I have ever had, sweet and tangy. This was served with a small glass of dolcetto from Italian producer Bera Vitorrio.

We then started our rollercoaster ride of sweet treats, commencing with a trio of miniature desserts, all interconnected with similar flavors and sensations. A pineapple granita, fresh and icy cold, segued to a brilliant, tangy pink grapefruit gel underneath a fizzy basil-mascarpone lime cream. This second dessert may have been my favorite course of the entire evening, so perfectly was it prepared. This was followed by a basic and bold preparation of sliced figs in a white vinegar gelee.

Cardamom ice cream with a brown butter crumble followed alongside a butternut squash creme brulee, two sweetly autumnal desserts.

Tiny, tender hazelnut financiers with crispy chunks of fleur de sel made for a marvelous transition to our chocolate dessert and mignardises.

Our final dessert was simple, yet nostalgic: a chocolate torte with a smear of white chocolate and pink peppercorn. Spicy, sweet, and prepared in a way that let the natural flavors of the chocolate stand out.
The last bite of the night with the last swig of wine: tender vanilla dacquoises with a sweet Chantilly cream filling. The perfect ending to a wonderful evening. The food was artfully prepared and the service impeccable. Our waiter spoke to us in French, offering to slow down or repeat information at any time, and noticed later on in the evening that I was surreptitiously taking photos and told me not to hide my camera- that photography was fine and encouraged!

The unique flow of this dinner evoked so many memories, taking us through the seasons and years in a time-lapsed tour de force. It was sweet and melancholy given the circumstances of the visit, a bittersweet encapsulation of the passage of time in small bites. It truly astounds me that chefs whom I’ve never met, servers I’ll never see again, could evoke such precision and kindness in their cuisine. In this sprawling, lonely city, I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else.

Haribo Orangina Pik

Everything here is cute because I am in the stage of what’s commonly known to sociologists as the “honeymoon phase” of complete and utter culture shock. The dogs belonging to the homeless people (I mean nomads!) are cute. The pigeons (I mean doves!)  on the streets are cute. Even the overpriced (I mean high-quality!) groceries are cute and wonderful and amazing. And so far, the cutest thing of them all has undoubtedly been these gummies, the result of six subway stops worth of hunting for the one vending machine that I vaguely recall having them. This is what’s known as a “compulsion.” Anyhow, screw that. Haribo has partnered with Orangina to create a gummy, the Haribo Orangina Pik and that’s all you need to know.

Orangina, still reeling from (and hawking) their successful man-beast hybrid sex campaign (look it up, it’s real) has made the absolute best career move of their entire life. Haribo makes the best gummies in the world. It’s a very natural, perfect pairing. And the gummies are shaped like little Orangina bottles. If I ever type a more perfect sentence, I won’t know it because I’ll have had an aneurysm from the cuteness flooding to my brain. There are two types of gummies to correspond with two Orangina flavors. Presumably, these were orange and blood orange, but looking at the Orangina website, they could be Orangina Indien or Orangina Geisha for all I know. The website is a little traumatizing.

The gummies, however, forgive all. They’re very bright both in color and flavor, with a forward, bitter zestiness and distinct sour, sweet fruitiness. The Haribo chew is like nothing else- dense and fleshy, with the most satisfying bite. The gummies are very firm and hold their shape well, and despite their thick coating of sour sugar crystals, shed none of them in the poking/photography process. I adored these. It’s fairly obvious that I loved them, but I especially loved them because they were so different in flavor. I even went out and bought Orangina to compare them to, and they were identical.

The Orangina Rouge was sweeter than the regular one, with a juicy, slightly sour flavor and lemon-heavy base, and the regular Orangina was a little more bitter, more reminiscent of the oil of orange rinds rather than the actual fruit. Delicious, idiosyncratic, and- dare I say it? Damned sweet.

Dr. Lucy’s Cookies: Maple Bliss, Double Chocolate, and Ginger Snap

People love to ask me if I ever eat my words, or if I ever reevaluate a product after I review it for the first time. Because most companies are not masochists, and because I grew up in jaded 90’s SpecialKid land, I typically laugh in their face and tell them that, no, I do not, because words are not delicious and I am never wrong. But do you want to hear something private, secret internet diary? Sometimes, something good does occur and products that were once not awesome at all undergo a miraculous transformation that turns them into beautiful, sexy princesses with edible innards that I want to cram into my mouth. And they don’t even have to remove their glasses!

Dr. Lucy’s Cookies are a prime example of this transformation. About a year and a half ago, I reviewed Lucy’s chocolate chip cookies, featuring all-organic ingredients and a gluten, nut, and allergen-free stamp to boot. I thought the concept was in the right place, but that the flavor and texture still had a ways to go. Now, Lucy’s has introduced three new flavors of cookie- Maple Bliss, Double Chocolate, and Ginger Snap. And none of them taste like plant matter!

Seriously, this was what the boxes looked like two days in. I don’t think we’ve even gone through Oreos with this much zeal. And the fact that each cookie is around 40 calories doesn’t hurt in the slightest. What was so remarkable about these cookies was how they took a standard mass-produced cookie model and just made it better. I can honestly say that if I tasted these blindly against more well-known brands, I’d be hard-pressed to call a winner. The ginger snap is a great example of a twist on a classic. These remind me of a less tough, less sweet version of Trader Joe’s famous Triple Ginger cookies, with a crunchy texture and big pieces of crystallized ginger. They’re crunchy, but bend easily and have a great crumbly and crunch. And they’re really, really! Okay, I can’t end my paragraphs with that any more. I tried.

We loved the chocolate ones just as much. Their deep, dark, charcoal-heavy flavor of bittersweet cocoa powder and sea salt brought to mind a robust, thicker Oreo. It was tempting to want to sandwich these with icing! However, the winner of the new varieties, by a long shot, was the maple bliss flavor. The cakey, shortbread-esque texture of Maple Bliss, a little thicker than the others, topped with a generous scattering of maple sugar, tasted like a portable pancake! The 40 calories made it even easier to pile bacon on top, too. Or so I hoped. A girl can dream! In any case, these are fantastic. I’m impressed that they took such lengths to improve their formula and make these delicious, and even more impressed that they made a cookie that boldly faces the competition with a healthier design.

Bissinger’s Campfire S’mores Salted Caramels

I love me some s’mores. Actually, I should clarify. I love me some s’mores-flavored things. Actual s’mores squick me out on a sensory front tantamount to wrapping a germophobe in used Band-aids and throwing them into a Chuck E. Cheese. Usually, when someone talks about sticky, sweet-smelling debris with charred residue on it, they’re referring to evidence in a New Jersey criminal case. I cannot envision a more texturally unappealing snack. However, the flavor combination is a winner, so when something exciting and graham-infused comes along, I can’t help but check it out.

Bissinger’s gave me a box of these along with their new Porcini mushroom truffles, and I’m so jazzed with the results. Bissinger’s is one of the few older chocolate companies who, as I’ve mentioned before, does some really exciting things with chocolate and confection. These seasonal sweeties make a top-notch summer snack or post-barbecue dessert. The milk chocolate does an excellent job of keeping the nostalgic flavor front and center without making it too sweet. This is a really well-composed truffle. What I liked best was that they kept their smooth, rich caramel base while incorporating the iconic s’mores flavors and textures.
Holy hell, is this thing amazing. This might be the one of the best chocolates of the year. The sea salt on top is both mineral and intensely smoky, tempering the sweet marshmallow and caramel. It’s split somewhat like a Milky Way bar, but with a more delicate, fluffy marshmallow. There are actual pockets of soft graham cracker crumbs! This tastes like a less messy, compact s’more, and better yet, each one is perfect every time. No more mallows-on-fire or unmelted chocolate.

Today, on Fifty Shades of Single Origin Hell…

“I brought you your Cosmo magazines,” Porcini said, not looking at me as they thrust the mint copies of Cosmopolitan in my hands. They were still wrapped in their original magazine covers, and I could remember the day they bought them for me. Upon my graduation from Phoenix Online’s official food blogging and marriage officiant program, they gave them to me as a gift. Originally, I couldn’t accept such an extravagant, 12-month subscription with bonus summer slim-down tips, but as they pointed out the hidden implications in their choices (Sixteen Ways to Grow the Best Shrooms and Please Your Man!) I quickly began to love them and to know Porcini’s penchant for extravagance.

“I need to get my Macbook and champion racehorses out of your house, too,” I said, shifting anxiously. The racehorses had been another impromptu gift. I just wanted this to be over already…I wanted to abandon the Brown Room of Confection once and for all. But nevertheless, I knew I had to be polite, at least. Porcini looked over my modest apartment. “Would you like to sit down? I can pour you a glass of water or something. My cats broke all my glasses, so all I have are commemorative shot-glasses from Disney California.”

“That’s fine,” said Porcini, looking tortured and for a brief instant, I imagined them as a spore again, unable to ride the awesome, Southwestern-themed rides at Disney California because they were too small. Poor Porcini. Was that why they hated amusement parks? Was I being insensitive? They pulled a bottle out of their fluted wrapper. “I actually brought a bottle of pink champagne. It’s the 2009 Pink by P!NK. A spectacular vintage.” I poured us some champagne and we sat down on cat-hair covered office chairs. Sigh. This was awkward. I took a sip of the champagne. “Wow, memories, am I right?” Suddenly, I heard a creak behind me. “Who’s there?”

And then, she stepped out from the background. “Who…who are you?” She had long, flowing brown ringlets of caramel, and a smooth, marshmallow interior. Clad in brown leather with sea salt accents, she was gorgeous. “And…are those graham cracker crumb stripes?” She fingered the soft, buttery leather jacket. “Yeah, they’re hand-stitched.” Sticking out her hand, she introduced herself. “I’m S’mores, Porcini’s sister.” Omigod. My inner goddess bounces up and down like a small child post-ice cream, pre-Adderall. She is stunning! Porcini drained his shot glass and went into the living room to unload another box of magazines.

“So,” S’mores said, “Have you ever had a s’more before?” And suddenly, she was in my mouth, and I was peeling off the soft, sweet clothes, gently scraping my teeth over the buttery chocolate, running my tongue over the salt crystals. The graham flavor was so intense, so malty, that I nearly fell back on the couch in lust. I dabbed my finger on the caramel, feeling it pool in my hands, entwining my hands in those locks. I place my finger on her marshmallow, and swiftly, smoothly, she removed my hand, her eyes locking in mine. My tongue muscles clench in the most delicious fashion.

“Don’t.” I looked at her, shuddering. “I’m fifty flaves of fucked up, Jessica Bunny Rabbits Google von Cutenstein McMercedes. We’re…different. Special, you might even say.” Her expression shifted, and she smiled at me. “But come, enjoy me. Enjoy my smoked campfire seasalt. In choco veritas, Jessica. We can have it all…”

It was then that I knew that my adventures with the clumsy, heavy-handed aggression of single-origin chocolates were over. A new beginning had started, one with the feminine touch of Bissinger’s Campfire S’mores. My fifty shades of single origin hell…she’s mine once more. No one can take S’mores away from me. I realize in this moment of intoxicating flavor that I shall do everything in my power to keep her.

Keep her mine.

Thanks for reading Fifty Shades of Single Origin Hell, everyone! Regular reviews start back up tomorrow!

Taza Naranja y Canela Chocolate

Yum yum yum. The weather is hot outside but I’m snacking on the latest release from Taza, slated for a December introduction in time for the holidays. The Naranja y Canela dark chocolate wheel is delightful, just as nuanced as their other bars, with a distinctly wintry twist. Featuring vanilla bean, orange oils, cinnamon, cloves and other spices, each bite recalls the warm, spicy flavors of the holiday season.

The flavors in this bar are so nuanced! The banana-hinted chocolate base yields and transitions smoothly to the spices. While the orange isn’t as forward as some dark chocolate orange zest bars I’ve had, there’s a distinctly floral flavor that brings out the bittersweet flavors in the cinnamon bark. It’s delicious, and I love the grainy texture. It’s a very rustic bar, versatile for all functions and needs. I love using these in baking and making hot drinks out of them, too.

porcinipleasuresU: wats up
foodie8910: nm u
porcinipleasuresU: in brn rm of sex er lol confection…u like ur new macbook?
foodie8910: kewl
foodie8910: ya thanx its super
porcinipleasuresU: cummin up with new things 4 us 2 try……new kinds of shrooms
foodie8910: kewl
porcinipleasuresU: u dnt like shrooms ne more?
foodie8910: their okay i guess
foodie8910: cnt relly talk im with a friend
porcinipleasuresU: who r u with??
porcinipleasuresU: hellooooo??
porcinipleasuresU: where did u go???
— foodie8910 is away —
— foodie8910 is back —
— foodie8910 is away —
— foodie8910 is back —
porcinipleasuresU: hey what happened?
foodie8910: sry had 2 pee
foodie8910: with my friend taza naranja y canela
porcinipleasuresU: WHO
biotaza: u can call me orange and cinnamon :-{)D

porcinipleasuresU: wtf is that? and wtf r u doin here? this is a private chat hello!!!!
biotaza: it’s a smiley with a moustache and a beard lol
foodie8910: lol isn’t he funny?
porcinipleasuresU: ummmmmmm, we need to talk, who is this guy?!
biotaza: i’m made of orange oils, cinnamon, vanilla, and organic mexican chocolate. :/)~>
porcinipleasuresU: plz stop making those emoticons
foodie8910: met taza @ the ffs this summer…we totes hit it off n hes comin 2 visit in december to live here 4 good!!!
porcinipleasuresU: o
biotaza: i thi
biotaza: nk we cud all b friends :—D–B
foodie8910: hes all fairtrade organic n he lives in bostonnnnn too
porcinipleasuresU: wtf this is so screwed up
porcinipleasuresU: i bought u this new macbook iphone n blackberry so we cud IM not so u cud meet other chocolates!!!
foodie8910: w/e
porcinipleasuresU: laters baby
porcinipleasuresU: btw i hate u
porcinipleasuresU: btw my audi is a rental
porcinipleasuresU: btw im not really 100% dark chocolate i just said that so ud eat me
porcinipleasuresU: btw im seeing other chix
— porcinipleasuresU has signed off —
biotaza: so what do u wanna do today
biotaza: u wanna cyber?
biotaza: do u have to give back the macbook now?
foodie8910: no
foodie8910: maybe
foodie8910: so do u like to bake?
biotaza: yes 😉

SNACKDOWN: Chocolove Pretzel in Milk Chocolate vs. Zoe’s Pretzel Bar

Fifty Shades of Single Origin Hell (Part 2 of 13) 
Erotic chick-on-choc action in the style of E.L James
By Winterbottom Foodeater

 They were on my table, unwrapped. In my dreams, it was like eating a Snickers bar, but better. I didn’t quite know how to express it, but it was more wholesome, more elevating. The deep, thick milk chocolate coating a barely contained layer of silky, chewy nougat, caramel, and crunchy roasted peanuts. It was almost too much for me to bear. I picked the bar up and turned it around in my hands, admiring the contours and weight of it, before I lifted it to my lips and–

A knock rapped at the door, urgently, interrupting me from my thoughts. Who could that be? I wasn’t expecting any guests. My dear, wonderful father lived a few states away, fishing and grunting in his endearing, monosyllabic way after mom died last year. And as an internet famous, notoriously funny food blogger, my company was spent with only my cats and my computer as companionship.

I opened the door to find Chocolove, the pretzel candy bar I’d been lusting over for the last few weeks! Oh my god…they looked so lost, so vulnerable, the chocolate coating slightly melting in the sun. I just wanted to hug it like I hugged and cuddled my best gay friends.(AN: Love you Zack and Ross! Let’s get married tomorrow.)

“Chocolove…what are you doing here?” I put my hands on my hips to convey the impression that maybe I was a little mad, but I mainly wasn’t, because seeing Chocolove in a place like this was so awe-inspiring, so beautiful, so jaw-dropping. It was like seeing a Monet in a gas station bathroom.

“I came to tell you that I…I…” Chocolove, so normally composed and brilliant, always handy with a note or love poem, was at a loss for words. “I love you, Jessica Jasmine Isabella Marysue Hershey Omnipotent McProm-Wedding!” For a moment, I paused, struggling to comprehend the gravity of those eleven incredible words. America’s most eligible, romantic, wealthy, pretzel-studded bachelor loved…me!? But we couldn’t be any more different! I, the lowly food blogger, and Chocolove…a household name!

It was almost too much to bear, so I stopped thinking and started doing, my inner goddess cheering and grinding against my temporal lobe, and I let Chocolove enrobe me. “Chocolove, your pretzel pieces are rock-hard!” Chocolove murmured against my ear, “And they’re salted, too.” I groaned and took another bite. The pieces, so small and yet, so infused with the salinity and crunch of tinny pretzels, were melting within me, overpowered by the sweet, sweet chocolate.

“Jessica…you shouldn’t,” Chocolove said, pulling away with a tortured glance. “I’m no good for you.” I gasped. “Chocolove, don’t say that…I’ve seen the articles and the reviews. You’re made with premium beans- you’re even certified kosher by the Scroll K Kashruth! You’re completely free of GMO’s! Please, don’t say that…I love you, too.” My lips shuddering and my stomach growling- damn it, I needed Chocolove now to satisfy my hunger, I moved closer, caressing the delicately embossed milk chocolate as we…

“Am I interrupting something?” Chocolove and I tore apart, breaking off like pieces of a Kit-Kat and turned to face my neighbor, Zoe’s Pretzel Bar. Zoe and I had been neighbors in the apartment complex for years, and I’d always sensed a tantric connection, a chemistry, between us. Life was so hard! Wasn’t there anyone around here who didn’t want me to eat them!? YOLO, I thought to myself sadly, YOLO. Chocolove backed away, the milk chocolate darkening at least 15% as they left in the elevator.

“I have to go,” I tore myself from my computer, pausing the episode of Grey’s Anatomy I’d been watching. “Chocolove, no!” But it was too late, and I could see the doors shut on the bronze-wrapped demigod I had loved for so long, too late, but too sweet for my affections. I turned to Zoe, or P, as I called them. “P, you shouldn’t have done that,” I said. P came toward me, dark chocolate up front and bold in my face.

“Don’t you see? I had to. That Chocolove is no good. Jessica, you could do better. I’m artisanal. I’m sophisticated. I locally source my pretzels.” P’s aromatic dark chocolate glistened in the sun as they lowered their voice. “Do you know how Chocolove gets those pretzels?” Smiling, they turned toward me. “I’m more cost-effective and I’m wrapped in an aesthetically pleasing, brown paper casing.” I took another look at P, realizing that its dark chocolate was alluring. It did have more pretzels per bite than Chocolove, and a slightly saltier, much darker flavor, an exotic flair hinting of smoke and lavender wrapped up in its imported dark chocolate. Turning once back to see Chocolove leave, I gazed into the dark soul of P, realizing that I never really did like Robert Browning’s poetry anyway, and my lips fell open in arousal as I licked the chocolate slowly, but surely. P was the winner, sure as I was of anything in my life, including my love of romance novels and baby squirrels.

“Come,” said P, “I can show you things far darker than that,” and we turned, entering the apartment to explore places heretofore unknown, and I knew my 120 days of chocolate were to commence…

To be continued…

Skillet Diner, Seattle, WA

Throughout the meal, a single thought was running rampant through my head. Damn. We’re in public now, but when I take you back to my hotel, I am going to eat you like I’ve never eaten before. And in complete truth, I wish that I could have publicly done what I did later that night, bathed in the glow of Seattle dusk, paradise by the bathroom light. I didn’t just eat.

I fed.

And it was the best damned fried chicken I’ve ever had.

That’s the angle of Skillet Street Food, a company I’ve had a constant cross-continental flirtation with ever since the introduction of their famed bacon jam, my go-to pork condiment. When I heard that they’d traded in the Airstream for a physical location in Seattle, I knew I had to eat there at least once. What I didn’t expect is that in 40 hours, I’d go there twice and spend the other 35 hours thinking about it.
On my first visit to Skillet, with co-panelists April and Lil, I had pored over the menu ahead of time, no idea what to get or where to even start. I was overwhelmed by the bustle, the frantic dance of the plaid-draped servers, and the enticing scents coming from the open kitchen. Whoever is making their playlist is a genius with songs- Outkast, Rick Astley, and Bob Seger made good company with the cuisine. As soon as we sat down, though, one thing was definitely fixed in my mind: any place that has an agua fresca of the day is worth forgoing Walla Walla Riesling for. My hunch paid off with an enormous Mason jar full of the daily libation: jalapeno, agave, cucumber, and coriander provided a cool, even drink to quench my thirst with.

Both Lil and April had vocalized their dietary restrictions ahead of time, and looked like they were very pleased with the service and quality of their plates. Lil ordered a salmon salad, and April, the pork shoulder and corn succotash with a grapefruit and mint salad.
Both looked awesome. April also ordered a cocktail- at this point, I’d been satisfied with the portion sizes of both the food and drinks, but I’d advise going virgin if you check out the restaurant. Unless the size of the glasses provided a strange optical illusion, they looked frugally small, no larger than four ounces for all alcohols, beer included.

For my main course, one item stuck out like a blinking, neon sign. Fried chicken with clover and black pepper honey, mustard root veggie and potato salad, and a cornmeal waffle. Do want. One order included three huge, tender pieces with a sweet and substantial crust. I was pleased to see that they were all white meat portions held together with the smallest bones. Skillet Diner sources chickens that could be easily employed at Hooter’s from the looks of it. The waffle was dense and enormous, with a thickness and texture that held up to the deluge of toppings I crammed on top, and absorbed the tangy mustard dressing atop the potatoes for a wonderful contrast.

I asked for a side portion of stinging nettle chimichurri, a condiment I saw on another dish but couldn’t resist trying. It had a sweet, almost pear-like flavor and subtle spiciness.

I had such a wonderful time that almost immediately after I finished my leftovers post-conference on Friday, I decided to go back for a solo dinner. It was so crowded that I had to sit at the bar, but the slight inconvenience was made up for with the sweetest, kindest bartender I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. Each order and delivery was punctuated with a “my darling” or “my dear,” a small bit of comfort in a strange city. I started with another agua fresca, this time featuring mint, jalapeno, and apple. There was a more aggressive tingle in this one than the night before, but the apple didn’t add as much flavor as the cucumber had.

I was feeling more like a sandwich that night, so despite the allure of the Friday night cornbread and short rib special, a lamby joe was on my mind. Indian spiced lamb, fried onions, and garam masala aioli on a soft, squishy bun. It came with luscious poutine, too. The sandwich was ephemeral, with a lightness that defied the homey messiness of its composition. The meat was such a finely ground blend that it was impossible to distinguish from the sauce, and had a spicy, sweet, ultimately comforting flavor, bolstered by the creamy aioli on top.
The poutine was righteous. Atypical from its Canadian counterpart, but delicious in its own fashion, it came in an enormous portion covered in Beecher’s cheddar, homemade duck gravy, and green onions. A cross between cheese fries and traditional poutine, the crispy fries soaked up the condiments but were easy and flavorful enough to eat by the forkful. With bites of the meat crumbles from the sandwich, it was the perfect meatcheesefriedbunsauce combination that I adore. A delicious mess.

I was stuffed and knew I’d be taking home leftovers, but I still wanted some sort of dessert. It was a battle between good and evil- good being the blueberry bread pudding with almond milk creme anglaise, oatmeal almond crunch, and homemade Cool Whip, and evil being the Elvis cake- banana peanut butter cake with peanut butter bacon sauce and candied bacon on top. The bartender recommended the blueberry, so I went with that. Not to say that there weren’t other desserts I would have loved to try. One could eat an entire meal of desserts here, from the homemade pie to the thick milkshakes to the fried waffle bacon caramel sundae.

But hot damn, this was the right decision. I wrecked this. I just killed it. It was the best bread pudding I’ve ever had, so smooth and custardy that a fork seemed superfluous. Unlike regular bread pudding, it didn’t segment in chunks and was served in thick slices with an airy, macaroon crust, bracketed with homemade almond granola and fresh, warm blueberries. The homemade Cool Whip turned me into a convert, this coming from a Reddi-Whip disciple. It was gently salted and vanilla-heavy, with a silky texture and an airy melt. The sweetness of the pudding was tempered from the granola’s bold salinity. It was a beautiful, hearty melange of textures and flavors with exceptional balance.

Two blocks away, I realized that I’d forgotten my leftovers at the restaurant. In any other situation, I might have called it a loss, but I sprinted back, wildly looking around for the box where I sat. It was gone! Hope abandoned, I trudged back to the door, nightmares of tepid buffets and Starbucks dancing through my head, when my server appeared behind me, leftovers in hand. Wordlessly, he handed them over to me. Our eyes locked, and with a fist-pump of solidarity, he nodded, and said, “Success.”

And in my hotel room at 1:45 in the morning, anxiously wolfing down the last of my lamby joe before catching my flight out, it seemed fitting that my final bite of Seattle was this carefully prepared, quirky little dish.  
Success indeed. Screw you, Bayless, I thought to myself. Your airport food can shove it, internally canceling my plans to check out Tortas at O’Hare. This, this sweet, raw emotion on a plate, was truly the epitome of travel and transcendence.