You know how we live in this huge country (well, besides those of you who don’t) that has a bunch of states all smooshed up next to one another (50 the last time I checked, although there are those pesky two that are way out there…gallivanting) and there are just so many states that you don’t know where they all are (you don’t even remember the names of all of them), but you at least know where NY/NJ (because you live there) and you’re not very familiar with New England because anything north of NY (hell, anything north of NYC) is scary and far and cold and possibly infested with something that is largely contained within New England, like…American History, or something else that tortured you during high school?
When fellow Disneyland devotee Charlie invited me up to South Norwalk to go chocolate hunting with him and his foodie friend Lydia at Chocopologie last Saturday, my first thought was, “Yeah, Charlie and chocolate, SWEEET!” before realizing that I didn’t know where South Norwalk was. A quick search on Google and at the Metro-North website told me that it was in Connecticut. What in the…I didn’t even know how far CT was, and I doubt I had ever been there before (although I may have driven through it). Charlie was somewhat appalled when he found out I had never ventured to CT. Hey, if I had friends who lived there and knew that it contained chocolate eating possibilities, maybe I would’ve been there by now. Before I just thought of it as, “Hey, that’s a state I heard a bunch of people live in.”
So it turns out South Norwalk is only an hour away by train, which would explain why it’s worth it for some people commute from there to NYC. For about $20 (round-trip off-peak) I had the pleasure of sliding my bum on nearly friction-less seats for 60 shaky minutes (Metro-North trains aren’t very smooth).
I was amused to see that history only existed to the left of this sign, which made me more curious to see what would happen if I foolishly wandered right-ward in my quest for anti-history.
Sadly I wouldn’t get to defy the sign. Lydia and Charlie soon
applied blunt force to my head and shoved me into picked me up in a red rental car and whisked me away to Fritz Knipschildt’s little chocolate factory. …Which was about a 2 minute drive away. (You could easily walk there from the train station.)
The front room of the café where they display their chocolates and desserts is homey, spacious and fills with natural lighting (you know…if it’s sunny). However, since all the tables were taken up we moseyed on to the back.
The coolest part about the café/chocolate shop is its chocolate gallery, a long hall with seats that look into the kitchen through seven barn-style windows. I wonder how long it takes for the workers get used to people just staring at them, maybe drooling a bit, even if the workers are simply poking at a vat of chocolate (which is what we saw for a long time) or putting some equipment away. Hey, it’s all magical to us non-chocolate makers. Vats of chocolate really get us going. Sadly.
Lydia and Charlie each ordered the Chocopologie, composed of espresso, dark chocolate, and lavender foam. I probably could’ve asked for a non-espresso Chocopologie, but instead I opted out and watched them savor their cups of flowery, extra caffeinated chocolate liquid. After taking a sip Charlie emitted a noise that resembled the low, appreciative growl of a happy dog. Or something. Actually, it was just the sound of a happy Charlie, which is hard to categorize.
I went with a less sophisticated (just like me!) chocolate milkshake, which was sadly lacking in the “shake” part. By that I mean it could’ve used at least two more scoops of ice cream. Or three. I guess it’s just my preference that milkshakes should be thick as wet concrete, but if it’s not laden with ice cream isn’t it otherwise like slightly foamy flavored milk? And what is the fun in that?
…Correct, it is DEVOID OF FUN! More ice cream gives it more life! It might shorten your life a bit, but I think it’s worth it. Not like you wanna live until you’re 80, right? We’re never gonna get those damn flying cars anyway. (On that note, check out the excellent blog Paleo-Future, “A look into the future that never was.” The more that time goes by, the more we disappoint the innovative visions of the past!!!)
While we waited for our main dishes to come out, Charlie started to tell us a funny story about a drink gone horribly wrong (or undeniably right, depending on whose opinion you get). I broke out my pocket recorder to bring you this story of questionable culinary creativity, mostly transcripted word for word besides extraneous “likes”, the stuff that didn’t make much grammatical sense, and anything else that I deemed unimportant:
- I swear this will make sense…
Charlie: So I had this craving for rainbow sherbet. A week or so ago we made orancello, which is like limoncello, like the Italian liqueur. Basically you can make it just by soaking citrus zest or citrus peel in grain alcohol for a week and mixing it with sugar syrup. The testing phrase was [makes a “blech” sound]. It tasted like you were drinking rubbing alcohol. So we decide to make these drinks, which was like a bit of orancello with seltzer water, and I was like, “I’m gonna make it a float,” so I scooped some rainbow sherbet. It actually works! It tasted really good, but it looks like insane, it looks like the drink that an angry clown would drink.
Lydia: An alcoholic clown would drink.
Charlie: It’s like all rainbow colored and like…
Lydia: It’s sort of like violently rainbow colored; the raspberry looks like nuclear raspberry.
Charlie: It was insane, but it was really good, and then I had like three and then I was a mess.
Charlie: They were so delicious!
[See, the picture did make sense. Kind of.]
Okay, back to talking about the stuff that went in my belly.
Thankfully my sandwich was 100% un-devoid of awesomeness! Fresh mozzarella, avocado, tomato, red pepper spread, and grilled Portobello were smooshed between crusty halves of pain rustique and branded with grill marks. Everything tasted…wonderful. And by wonderful I mean warm, soft and fatty. I love the combination of crunchy bread with soft gooey innards.
Lydia’s poached eggs—with corn bread and sweet corn relish—oozed with the bright yellow life source for their unrealized chicken embryo counterparts. Mmmm. The sweet corn bread went really nicely with the egg; I don’t think I’ve seen that combination before. At least, not with the egg plopped on top of the cornbread.
Charlie was happy with his rare cheeseburger. From the photo I’d say it looks pretty good—pink, moist without being overly juicy, topped with fresh looking vegetation. The fries were less awe-inspiring, meaning that Charlie didn’t eat all of them, meaning that I picked up the slack, wee!!! The fries actually reminded me of Calbee Potato Sticks, which was possibly my favorite potato snack as a kid, as they were intensely deliciousified with the flavors of salt and MSG. I once ate an entire bag in one afternoon, sometime before I was 10 years old and my stomach was—I’m guessing—smaller than it is now. The subsequent dehydration of my mouth’s inner lining from being attacked by sodium and god knows what else is a fond childhood memory for me.
God, I could really go for a bag now. Okay, I am so going to a Japanese supermarket next chance that I get.
We only got to witness chocolates in the making at the end of our meal. Balls of ganache were rolled under a chocolate waterfall a few at a time, taken off the belt and then dusted with cocoa powder. Oh how we wanted them. Breaking through the glass probably would’ve gotten us kicked out though.
You may have noticed that we didn’t actually eat any…chocolate. We decided to take a stroll and burn off a calorie or two (although it was probably only a calorie) and then return to the café to buy some chocs.
A block or two away (or more…well, whatever distance, it’s short) from Chocopologie is A Taste of Holland. Even if we couldn’t read, the imagery of cheese, tulips, sausage, apples, bright yellow clogs, and what I think is one lone cloud would have totally screamed “HOLLAND!” to us. Here’s a little tour of the shop.
How adorable is this jar of baby carrots and peas? Aside from the “reminiscent of the noise that throwing up makes” name of the company, very!
If I had fries, I would’ve liked to have tried the fritessaus, and if I had sausages I could’ve doused them in curry ketchup. If only I had salchipapa…
The back wall of the store was mainly taken up by a huge refrigerator of cheese. Lots of precious cheese, untouchable by customer’s hands.
My heart jumped at the sight of the mini stroopwafels, which I first got from a food trade with Maaike in 2005 and again in another food trade with Sean in 2006. THEY ARE SO GOOD. TRUST MEEEE. A thin layer of slightly chewy caramel splodged between two waffle cookies? Who wouldn’t find that delicious? I eat something like 5 at a time since they’re so small, but that’s probably the equivalent of one regular sized stroopwafel. Oops.
Update (4/23/07): These are $2 a pack at the Union Square Trader Joe's. A part of me wishes that no one had told me I could buy them there because NOW I WILL EAT THEM ALL THE FREAKIN' TIME, OH HOW I WISH I WERE KIDDING.
Zwart wit is licorice, which the store offered in freakishly abundant quantities. I think this is the squeezy tube version. My first thought upon seeing it? DO NOT WANT.
They also offer licorice in powdered version for when you want to dust it on your tongue. Or snort like coke. Seriously though, this crazy licorice madness has to stop. The black candy of death is not uber-delicious.
I loves me some beewax!
I was excited to see such a thing called butter candy (baabbelaars), but was disappointed when I popped one in my mouth (Charlie and Lydia declined since they were full, while giving me a look that said, “Oh my god, you’re still eating?!”…which they also may have said aloud) and found out that it didn’t reek with deliciousness. I’d say it’s good enough for me to slowly eat most of the bag, but not so good that I’d get it again. The flavor is sweet, kind of buttery, but doesn’t have much depth and…um, maybe I’m being too critical of a simple hard candy. I do like the bright blue wrapper with the illustration of a woman’s head being attacked with what looks like giant sea sponges but probably aren’t (unless they are Dutch sea sponges!).
No one actually wants to wear wooden clogs, hence why there’s a PLUSH VERSION. Snuggle up with a pair of these before you go to sleep. Or not.
Charlie and Lydia almost escaped the shop without buying anything until they set their eyes on the bin of super corny Dutch-pride buttons.
They purposefully posed in front of the shelves of wooden clogs with blank, unexcited faces while donning their snazzy new accessories.
“Wooden Shoe Rather Be Dutch?” Yes, yes I would.
Besides the Dutch goodies, there are also a lot of Indonesian products to choose from. I wouldn’t have thought that a Dutch shop would double as a source of Indonesian sauces and snacks. Oh colonization, what funny things you have done for food! (History classes would’ve been so much more interesting if they included more information about food besides, “And these countries traded craploads of spices.” The only time I got to learn about that stuff was in my food in history class last year. Unfortunately, I forgot most of what I learned after the class was over, which is how my brain treats all history classes. On the upside, out of all the history classes I’ve taken in my life the food one was the one I liked the most.)
We returned to Chocopologie to get our desserts. But Charlie did not get the “what must be purely decorational because who the hell would eat this thing?” $40 chocolate dinosaur egg. And I guess I wouldn’t either if I had to save up to EAT AT PER SE FOR MY BIRTHDAY. (On that note, happy almost 21st birthday, Charlie!) Ohh whatever, I’m not bitter. One of my other friends will be eating at El Bulli in May and you know, that’s cool…[weeps on the inside]…
Because I cannot resist the hypnotizing allure of a chocolate chip cookie (CC cookies haunt me in my sleep), I had to try Chocopologie’s version. It was unfortunately quite hard and not in the nice crunchy sense but in the, “Hm, this is…rather not soft” sense. The texture was all that was off—otherwise, the flavor was good and the cookie had some beautiful chocolate layering action going on.
I was also intrigued by the passion fruit egg because I love the flavor of passion fruit and I like…eggs? I like round things? Yes, I like round things. Unfortunately, this was overly sweet. And you know if I’m saying it, it must be true. I thought the filling would stick to the insides of my swallowing tube, resulting in throat diabetes. Or maybe I ate it wrong. …I DON’T KNOW, I JUST DON’T KNOW. It was mind-alteringly sweet. Of course, I ate the whole thing anyway because it was peeerty.
I also bought a box of assorted chocolates but haven’t dug into it yet because I’m going to share it with my mum when I go home this weekend as a late birthday treat. She turned the big five-three (everything after 50 is pretty big, right?) earlier this week. YAY, MOMMIE!!!
Thanks to Charlie and Lydia for making my first visit to Connecticut full of delicious chocolate and Dutch goodies! I leave you (or rather, Charlie leaves you) with this audio clip of Charlie making funny noises and bellowing “BAAABIIIIES” mainly for my personal enjoyment, partially for yours:
I think my carrying around of a hand held recorder may be a very dangerous thing. Hehe. Hehehe. [rubs hands together in a sinister, Mr. Burns kind of way.]
Update: My latest Gothamist post about E-Mo is up. To any Korean people (or someone who knows a lot about Korean or Japanese cuisine), can you tell me if kimbap came from sushi or if sushi came from kimbap? I thought it was the first, but I'm no expert.