Hi! My name is Stephanie Zonis, and welcome to the July-August, 2004 edition of For Chocolate Lovers Only! Each month, you’ll find recipes, tips, and recommendations on great chocolate specialties.
Chocolate Recommendation of the Month: I have a great affection for idealists, particularly those willing to plug away at their dream on a daily basis and despite all odds. This month’s Chocolate Recommendation is headed partly by a man so idealistic that, upon his finishing graduate school in St. Louis in 1974, the only state he would consider working/living in was Massachusetts. Why? Because it was the only state carried by George McGovern in the 1972 Presidential election. That might sound crazy, but it’s part of the reason that Bart’s Homemade continues to churn out (pardon the pun) such good ice cream. This is a small company committed to the use of good-quality ingredients, expanding their organic roster of products with time, and, not least, helping the smaller family-run farms in their area.
Over time, I’ve tried a number of flavors from Bart’s Homemade, and I am here to tell you that the Chunky Chocolate Mousse with Raspberry is my idea of near-perfection. Think of an ice cream that looks and tastes like a chocolate mousse, packed with chocolate chunks and a ribbon of raspberry. Wonderful! But you don’t want to stop with one flavor, of course. Try their gloriously creamy Vanilla, their Coffee Heath Bar Crunch, their Ginger (yes! ginger ice cream!), their Mudpie (coffee ice cream with chocolate sandwich cookies and a fudge ripple), their Almond Joy (coconut-based, of course)...well, obviously, they have a good variety. You can try these products at either of their two ice cream parlors if you’re lucky enough to live in Northampton or Amherst, MA. If you’re not, Bart’s Homemade will ship to you.
Due to circumstances beyond their control, much of the website hasn’t been updated in over 3 years (this is changing, but slowly). However, if you go to the site (www.bartshomemade.com), you can see a current roster of available flavors by clicking “On-line Store”, then either 12 pack or 6 pack. If you don’t know what’s in a flavor by the name, copy the name down, then go back to the “Flavors” section of the site to check. And yes, you can order online. It is not inexpensive to have ice cream shipped to you, but if you’re as idealistic as the owners of Bart’s Homemade (or me, when it comes to finding good ice cream), you know it’s worth it.
Chocolate Book of the Month: What’s part affectionate memoir, part bizarre philosophy, and part travelogue about candy bar manufacture in the United States? Why, it’s Candyfreak: A Journey Through the Chocolate Underbelly of America, of course. The author, one Steve Almond, frankly discusses both his candy-obsessed past and his current state of intense preoccupation with sweets, most of which, fortunately for the readers of this column, involve chocolate. Why doesn’t Dr. Phil ever have guests this interesting on his show? Almond even tours some American candy manufacturing plants, reporting in depth on such unique treats as the Twin Bing, Owyhee Butter Toffee, and Valomilks. This is a well-written adventure through topics as diverse as the author’s frequency of thinking about candy (“at least once an hour”) to his thoughts on the next generation. By turns, Candyfreak is hilariously funny, informative, and reflective---occasionally simultaneously. And, if for no reason other than his indictments of Marshmallow Peeps, Orange Circus Peanuts, and Chuckles, Mr. Almond will eventually end up in Paradise if his other sins weigh not too heavily upon him. My only problem with this book is that I wish I’d written it myself. That aside, I love Candyfreak and hope you’ll pick up a copy. The Jessica’s Biscuit website (www.ecookbooks.com) offers it, along with Amazon.com and several other sources.
Not-Necessarily-Chocolate Idea of the Month: I’ve read that there’s a growing trend for Americans to want to learn on their vacations. I also know that, inside most people faced with a “daily grind”, there’s a deep-seated longing to do something else. Have you long believed that you should really be making wine or cheese? Have you dreamed of being a horse-trainer or opening up the ideal bed and breakfast? Now, you can learn on a vacation and learn more about your passion…all without quitting your day job. Vocation Vacations will hook you up with a trained professional in fields as diverse as gardening or managing a raceway, and you’ll receive one-on-one mentoring for a couple of days (in one case, that can be extended to 8 days). You’ll discover what it’s really like to produce film events or make beer on a commercial scale. Chances are that your Vocation Vacation will involve more work than you imagine, but you might also be able to decide if that “dream job” is really your cup of tea after all. These packages are emphatically not cheap, but they’d be a wonderful gift under the right circumstances. And who knows? What begins as a working vacation just might end up as a positive career change. For more information, see the Vocation Vacations website at www.vocationvacations.com.
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