Trust me, nothing says 'I love you' like a champagne truffle...
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Beast: I want to do something for her...but what?
Cogsworth: Well, there are the usual things...flowers...chocolates...promises you don't intend to keep...
Unlike Cogsworth, for better or worse, I'm just not one of those people who considers Valentine's Day an entirely trite and media-motivated holiday created by the greeting card companies. Call me crazy, but I willingly choose to focus on all the lovely opportunities a day singled out - without real reason other than a primordial impetus I believe we all have - to simply celebrate love, can bring. Whether everyone does that or not is an entirely different story, and one I'm not particularly inclined to explore. (Come on, if there's one day to look at the world through rose colored glasses, this has to be it.)
Consequently, this week you'll be bombarded with six things, six lovely things, (in my book anyway) to celebrate February 14th. Hey, you do read this blog voluntarily don't you?
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Lovely thing #1 is *fiendish bugle ditty* CHOCOLATE.
In my humble opinion, chocolate is highly underrated as a Valentine's Day gift. This could partly be because, as many close to me have long theorized, I was born with a birth defect which located my heart in my stomach, but actually, I think it has more to do with chocolate, simply put, being one of the few, unadulterated gifts sent directly down from the Gods to us mere mortals. One of the last, few, and true Ambrosias, if you will.
I think the trend of outlandishly expensive Valentine's gifts coupled with males and females abandoning traditional roles and therefore always attempting to outdo each other with said outlandishly expensive gifts has something to do with chocolate's loss of popularity in the V-day sphere. I mean, how clichéd is it to get someone a box of chocolates these days? Unless they are covered in gold leaf or come in the form of a chocolatey (inevitably freakish) sculpture, it would seem you'd been unimaginative and thoughtless. Well, I'm here to tell you that I, for one, would not be upset to receive a box of (nice) chocolates (sorry Ferrero Rocher) this Valentine's Day. Hint, hint. :)
Here are my two cents on the subject of everyone's favorite aphrodisiac:
Top Five Reasons (or places) You Should Buy Someone Chocolate this Valentine's Day
Or, Why Chocolate = Ambrosia
Or, Why Chocolate = Ambrosia
5. It came from Mexico (kinda)!
Nope, you can't escape my usual shout out to Mexico on this one either. Believe it or not, chocolate is actually thought to date back originally to Mexico and Central America. The word Chocolate itself comes from a Spanish bastardization of the Nahuatl (Aztec language) word xocolatl. The cacao bean was used throughout Central and South America for hundreds of years as currency, for medicinal purposes and to make a delicious drink. In fact, it wasn't until the 16th Century that the Europeans got a hold of it - quickly elevating it to the status of regal delicacy at their courts. If you're into dallying with regal delicacies of any sort - chocolate and its rich history is the gift of choice for you. And by "you," I mean "me."
4. Cool Chocolate Shop #1
Last year Matt surprised me with a delectable little box of treats from what is now one of my favorite chocolate shops in London: L'Artisan du Chocolat Their website isn't the most aesthetically pleasing, but their miniature shop in Chelsea, just down the street from Sloane Square, more than makes up for it. Warning though, it is like Pandora's box. Once you open that door, all sorts of crazy stuff can happen. I once walked out with a Mexican Mole Chocolate Bar from that place - and I liked it. They also make the most amazing champagne truffles (yes, you read right). Not only are they chocolatey, they are champagne-y. (And the owner being French, you know it's the real stuff.) Chocolate and Champagne? Enough said.
3. Super-Cool Chocolate Shop #2
In honor of the Spanish being the first to introduce chocolate to the European continent, I thought I should mention an amazing place I visited during my last trip to Barcelona last April (once upon a time, in another life, when I had a job...) on food-related business. At a trade fair, I met one of the founders of Xocoa who then escorted me and my boss on a tour of their magical-other-world stores. My first experience of their products was a life-size chocolate Converse High Top. Then a life-size chocolate baseball cap. Then a cell phone and then a body part I can't quite recall...they sell numerous other (more romantic) things too. This gift always gets extra points for creativity and sheer one-of-a-kind-ness.
2. Super-Cool and Sophisticated Chocolate Shop #3
If only we all had a little shop and chocolatier like Juliette Binoche and her magical cafe in the highly aesthetically pleasing Chocolat down the street from us, perfect chocolatey-love-match awaiting, the choice would be much simpler. Lucky for you, I think I actually might have found a similar place also right here in London Town. And it's on the King's road (how cool does that sound?).
awesome packaging at Rococo Chocolates
Rococo Chocolates offers the most exquisite little chocolates (and delicately packaged!) in amazing flavors like rose, violet or geranium (me = big fan of flower-flavored things), or exotic lashings of ginger and chili. But they don't skimp on the good traditional stuff either and the husband-wife ownership team really takes their chocolate seriously. Interestingly, I sat next to one of the owners at dinner during the aforementioned food-related business trip to Barcelona on the day that happened to be Rococo's 25th anniversary. As luck would also have it, over tapas and clandestine chocolate tasting, I found out that the chocolate-loving British man next to me did his study abroad in Mexico during university. Reason #2. Period.
1. It's a love thang.
My last reason for pushing chocolate as lovely thing #1 is that it provides a sticky and delicious medium through which to "feel the (proverbial) love." Whoever you give it to, and whether they're gnawing on a chocolate flip flop or delicately nibbling on a dark Valrhona truffle, it's guaranteed they'll react with that instantaneous and utterly satisfying feeling of happiness that comes from knowing that someone likes them enough to go out and get them a chocolate. I think it's just that simple.
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Today's lovely thing is brought to you by Carla Bruni's "L'Amour." It's thick and delicious, just like chocolate. Plus, 'love' just sounds great in French, even when it's depressing.