Shopping for Chocolate
Shopping for chocolate is, at best, a challenge. At least for me it is. I really don't know all that many places to get good chocolate so when I set out on a shopping expedition it is always some sort of crazy crap-shoot as to what I'll end up finding. More often than not the thing I'm looking for is not to be found, but instead I'll run across some other cocoa-infused wonder that I can't pass up. It's great stuff that I'm pleased as punch (as the phrase goes - personally I question how pleased punch actually is - it is a beverage after all) to have found such treats but it isn't that one special, magical, chocolate artifact that I had set out to find.
Yesterday is a good example of this. I was in need of a roadtrip to kill off some lingering stress so I jumped in the car and headed down to Cincinnatti and, of course, Jungle Jim's. I had high hopes of finding if not the new Kumasi Sambirano from Scharffen Berger then at least some of their chocolate-dipped matzos. I was also hoping for the organic Chocolove bars and an E. Guittard single origin tasting box but, alas, such items were not to be found. Of course this was a trip to Jungle Jim's and there are always interesting items to try there. I can always find something to buy.
I entered the store planning to resist temptation and not buy a dozen chocolate bars like when I'm on safari and I stuck to it pretty well. I was there for the trip and some power-browsing, not to buy up all the chocolate in the store. So, at the end of the day I walked out with some Mexican Coke (theoretically made with sugar and not corn syrup), some Moxie, an organic Valrhona bar (which I've been curious about for a while - the price has kind of kept me away from it - and for some reason I can't find it on their site), some dark chocolate covered ginger from Scharffen Berger, and - the grand prize of my little trip - a Dolfin Pink Pepporcorn bar! They had a lot of other wonderful things that I resisted the temptation to buy (a cache of Chocolatour bars, the entire selection of Dolfin bars, more Vosges bars) and I left the store having spent less than $40, which, for me, is a rarity.
Anyway, a trip like this illustrates a problem I have. I love to shop for chocolate. In town, out of town, it doesn't matter so long as I can get out and put my hands on some bars. The problem is that I have yet to find a good source of chocolate that I can count on to have pure gold on every trip (Jungle Jim's comes close and delivers on many other fronts in addition to chocolate). Without the ability to simply run out to the store and buy whatever I want I'm beginning to think that I'll have to start ordering my chocolate online which really isn't the same experience. I might never have tried Dolfin if I hadn't been able to see the pouch-style packaging first-hand. I'm very much a hands-on type of shopper and buying things online takes so much away from the experience. Of course you end up with exactly what you set out to get but that leaves out the option of the pleasant surprises you find on the way in the course of shopping.
This is having an effect on my long-term plans. I had been planning on a chocolatier/cafe style of business, similar to the chocolate lounge concept that Ethel's and Vosges have. The original (and long since changed) plan was to have a store with an wide assortment of chocolate nick-nacks and books. Now I'm thinking that maybe I want to add the store back in and carry an array of third party chocolate products, especially bars. A chocolate lover's candy store and cafe. It's still a few years off and will probably see more changes along the way, but I really like the idea of carrying a nice wide array of fine chocolate bars along with my own creations. Of course somebody else will probably do it before me, but that's my happy little vision.