Travel Fears

We are days away from embarking on the trip of a lifetime.  It’s time to assess my major fears about this trip and my plans to deal with them.

Crossing the Drake Passage, reputed to be some of the roughest open water on the planet. Ugh. I don’t do boats. But I am willing to do this one because I want to see Antarctica. So I am fully loaded with drugs to handle the seasickness of life on board and, I hope, the roughest the seas can throw at me. (‘Cause otherwise, I’ll be throwing it right back at them…)

Next, having enough to read. This was a major quandary. But I recently learned that our ship contains the largest floating library in Antarctica and has both non-fiction, which I assumed, and fiction, which I wasn’t sure about. So now I am fairly confident that the four books I have packed will be enough for the off-ship travel portion of our almost-month-long trip.

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Will all the books in the library published by Penguin?

 

Taking these two biggies off the table leaves me with just one final concern: Will there be enough chocolate on board?

Photo Credit: Flickr Photo by Antartica Bound used under CC License

Our Lady of Chocolate

Notre Dame in chocolateParis’ Montmartre neighborhood, as I am no doubt not the first person to discover, is a wonderful place to wander. Full of cafes and shops of all kinds, it seems to me to be quintessential Paris, an area where people actually live rather than one that tourists occupy. I loved peering into the shops, both essential and quirky, that lined the road up to Sacré-Cœur.

There were even enough patisseries and chocolate shops to keep even the most afflicted chocoholic content. (Those, of course, fall into the “essential” category.) Chocolatier Maison Georges Larnicol fell into the quirky category as well. Along with its many treats and specialities, it featured exquisite chocolate sculptures, including a replica of Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Paris.

A Room Full of Chocolate

My daughter and I ventured down to Zurich last weekend for the Salon du Chocolate. I hadn’t heard of it but once a friend alerted me to its existence, and knowing it was just an hour away, how could I resist? The pull of chocolate was just too strong.

I suppose as exhibitions and conferences go, this was a relatively small one, but there was plenty to see – and taste – during our time there. There were booths from some two dozen boutique chocolatiers, most of which I’d never heard of and some I will now never forget. Yum!

My favorite taste of the day was a very dark chocolate from Suteria. We also enjoyed the Swiss Moments collection from Nobile Cioccolato. This is a sampler that uses a variety of typically Swiss ingredients, including hay! Like fresh cheeses where you can really smell and taste the grass, this treat brought you out to the meadow.

We spent a good amount time chatting with a representative from CBI, an EU organization that helps companies in developing countries find European markets for their products. Of course, cocoa is a perfect example and several growers from Central America were there with them.

Le Salon du Chocolate is a world-wide event. While I am still living in Europe, I shall just have to get myself to the editions in Paris, or Brussels, or Lyon….

 

 

 

I May Need to Move to Milan…

There is some serious chocolate in Milan. It’s been a while since I spent any amount of time in Italy—my last visit was well before my chocolate addiction reached its current level of intensity—so for all I know the rest of Italy would be amenable as well, but for now, Milan would be pretty high on my list of places to live. For now, I need to be content knowing it’s just a four-hour train ride away!

chocolate shop in MilanThere are chocolate shops everywhere, it seems like there’s one on every block. The shops have absolutely gorgeous window displays, each one more tantalizing than the next.

From the little (relatively speaking anyway) that I tasted, it’s all good. And it’s a good thing I only sampled a bit. With all those shops, if we’d stopped in each one, we woudn’t have had time to do anything else. We did of course visit the Duomo, and afterwards we visited, as a friend suggested, the cafe at the top of la Rinascente, Milan’s equivalent of New York’s Bloomingdales or Macy’s. The chocolate there was absolutley over the top – I had never before seen chocolate shoes!

But the best is the hot chocolate (cioccolata calda) which is smooth and rich and very much like drinking warm pudding. There’re only two places I know of in Basel that serve it that way, and only caffe HABITU had it in Hong Kong, so it’s not often I can pop into any cafe and order a hot chocolate and get this thick, delicious creamy treat. For that alone, Milan is well worth visiting, even if I can’t live there.

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Traditional Cookies

Today is the first day of school and, as is tradition, there will be homemade chocolate chip cookies ready for the first after-school snack of the year. I have been making chocolate chip cookies for years. As a child I made them using half a bag of chips to make each bag stretch further. As I got older, CCC’s, as we called them, were key in celebrations with friends. Over time, I adapted recipes to come up with one of my own and now, I am happy to say, I am internationally known for my cookies — in certain communities in Basel and Hong Kong anyway.

cookies!As I moved I have had to adapt the recipe slightly to accommodate different ovens and different ingredients in different countries. It took me a long time initally to figure out why the recipe I’d used for years created cookies that tasted good, they were different in both tastse and texture.  Turns out, the water content of Croatian butter was to blame. Now when I change countires, and therefore butter, I adjust the amount of oatmeal to reach the batter consistency I like.

At first I would import bags of Toll House Morsels and ask people to bring them when they came to visit. Then someone introduced me to Baker’s chocolate chunks, and I had friends bring those. In Hong Kong I could buy Guittard 60% chips (yum!). I recently learned that the Toll House morsels have ingredients in them I don’t want to be eating (not to mention they’re made by Nestle) so I have switched entirely to the local Schokoladewrüfeli, tiny cubes of a delicious, dark chocolate.

Brown sugar is another challenge and bringing it back with me is still the easiest solution. I understand that in France it’s possible to buy it, so that will take some investigating. Guess I will have to check out a boulangerie or two while sourcing my brown sugar!