"So you wanna make chocolates?" a chef friend of mine once asked me. "I sure as hell hope you know what you're getting yourself into Aaron. The long hours it takes, the trickiness of tempering chocolate in all kinds of weather, not to mention the mess you're gonna have to clean up. Good God man that stuff gets everywhere!"
I should have really taken into account his words from that evening in New Orleans. We sat around talking about strategies for getting into the field of the culinary arts and how one becomes a chocolatier and what kind of people choose to take on the profession. And here all I thought it took was a special handshake. He went on to explain that there really is no "easy" entry into making chocolates, you just gotta want it.
Let me say how easy it is to sit back and talk chocolates and act all cool, but it sure is another thing to be slinging tempered chocolate, at all kind of hours, into molds at break-neck speeds because you don't want it to set up before you get to the next batch. There really is a lot more to it. I give it up to those people willing to do what it takes to see their dreams come alive.
Last night I had an order to fill for a co-worker. He has an anniversary in a few days and wanted a special batch for his wife. I worked all night. The mess extended from one end of the kitchen to the other, a virtual sea of brown. My feet hurt from marching back an forth, my back hurt from bending over and rolling out truffles, decorating molds, dipping chocolates etc. In the middle of me bitching about it I heard from the back of my skull -You just gotta want it! It made me smile because now I think I know what he meant.
Ever have one of those days where you get up and go to work but feel like something's missing.....like your clothes? I had to pat myself down to make sure I was wearing pants this morning. I've been having this feeling for the past few days and it just dawned on me what it was, I forgot to write my blog! Sorry about that.
I went out of town this weekend to visit with the family. I'll spare you the gory details but my grandmother had surgery about a week ago. I thought I'd pay her and my grandfather a visit to see how they were holding up. I told her that I would bring some of my truffles but ran out of time and couldn't make them (sorry grandma). So I did the next best thing and bought some bars that I personally think are excellent.
I wanted her to try Dagoba organic chocolates. I'm rather fond of their 37% milk chocolate Chai Bar with its bits of ginger and chai spices. I really dig Dagoba for their ethics and sustainability practices. Dagoba was founded in 2001 by Frederick Schilling, who at the time, was a 30 year old chef looking for a career change. I'm not gonna fill you in the details, but feel free to check out their website for more info.
Grandma has complained in the past that commercial chocolates taste too "waxy" for her palette and I tend to agree with her. But, I wanted her to experience some decent chocolates being made today that have a wonderful snap to them. I also wanted her to taste some of the new combinations of spices that are being added. The concept of percentages and different flavors seems kinda overwhelming, so I figured I'd take her a few bars from different regions and she could make her own distinctions.
We spent the afternoon on her bed methodically tearing wrappers and eating chocolates. It was cool to watch her furrow her brow and try to guess the ingredients. She would put one down saying she didn't like it only to pick up again, take another bite and exclaim that it was her favorite. I really enjoyed our time together....not to mention sharing her chocolates. Thanks grandma if you are reading this.
On a not so recent episode of "LOST" one of the main characters mentioned that Tallahassee Florida was nothing more than a land of strip malls and Waffle Houses. On the contrary it's much more than that. It's the deep end of the recreational pool in summertime with its sweltering heat. It's a monstrous mass of inert concrete and asphalt as far as the eye can see. Not only do we have Waffle Houses we have several major colleges, a myriad of state agencies, sprawling suburbs and new to my vocabulary....Sonic.
A few months back while driving down Monroe Street, listening to Ravi Shankar at full tilt, I noticed a strange but familiar fast food joint where people sit in their cars to eat. It then dawned on me that I had never been to a Sonic. I've seen the commercials and driven by the signs a number of times, but throughout all of my years I have never once had an inclining to pull in and order. The place always looked packed to the teeth. Everyone doing it. I must admit I felt I was missing out on some great American pastime of sucking down grease and huffing exhaust. Being a man of experience and curiosity I got kinda bummed that I hadn't participated. So, I made it my mission to dine at one, if that's what they call it.
In order to do this properly I had to have a guide, a person so adept in the ordering process, a person who knew the secret handshakes, a person who's been to the front line and single handedly held off the invasion, that person would be none other than my wife. Why she knows the in's and out's of a Sonic as if the prom were last weekend.
We ended up there one Friday after a wine tasting event. Right off the bat this sounds like a horrible idea, but I assure you at the time it was just the ticket. Alcohol commands! No need to choose a particular day, timing is everything in this type of endeavor. So, my trusty guide whipped the Jetta into the first available space and set about speaking in tongues at the monolithic display.
At 9 o'clock on a Friday when everybody's rushing for a parking spot there's sort of an electrical cackle in the air and the low hum of bass filtering in from the neighboring kid's crapmobile. It's the sort of thing that makes the hairs stand up on the back of your head. The before-dinner atmosphere, the blend of hot grease bubbling off in the distance, the stink of car farts, the sun-roof open and Tom Petty's Mary Jane's Last Dance on the radio drove the night to a delirious expectancy.
After some time our waitress arrived with a tray of Sonic's finest, 2 Cherry-Lime Aids, a chicken sandwich something-or-other and a tall stack of fries. Getting situated in a car has never been one of my better suits. Much to the chagrin of the kids next to us I immediately spilt my drink in my lap. "YES, I AM JUST A TOURIST HERE, GIVE ME A BREAK"! My guide on the other hand didn't find it nearly as amusing and handed me her napkins.
Life drifting by the window on a summer evening. The hypnotizing gastronomical apparatus of eating a greasy chicken sandwich with a wet sticky lap was actually quite the experience I was hoping for. Was the food good....no it wasn't. Was the waitstaff courteous and prompt....no they weren't. Will I ever go back...you bet your ass I will. The heart of Tallahassee sails unfurled into the night for those willing to seek adventure.