Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Every Day

Much chocolate is being consumed today. Special chocolate. But just as my mom was my first Valentine, she was also my introduction to special chocolate as an everyday treat.

Her favorite has long been Moritz Ice Cubes, which melt in your mouth to release a velvety chocolate hazelnut. Decades ago, she’d also surprise me with Russell Stover French Mints -- a chocolate smudge from one is still evident on page 14 of “Fifty Famous Fairy Tales,” the first book I ever bought.

Today, if the sky were the limit, I suppose I’d choose Godiva or Leonidas or Cova over most anything else I’ve tried. (Though I’ve lately been hearing about Mexican chocolates…) But I do have limits, both financial and caloric, so, with a nod to Mom, I’ve been on a mission to find a delicious everyday chocolate.

It seems like wine. A white wine is easy to drink and it’s quenching -- like a milk chocolate. But if you’re willing to try a little harder, to pay closer attention, there’s -- as with red wine -- a deeper and more satisfying payoff from dark chocolate. And it pays after a piece or two, not a handful. I’ve always preferred Mounds to Almond Joy, and thought (like their commercial said) that it was about the nuts. But now I think it’s about the dark chocolate. So I focused my mission to finding an everyday dark chocolate.

For a year, I sampled bags and bars of plain, high-quality product: Dove/Mars (too sweet), Hershey (too bitter), Starbucks (too pricey), others that were literally forgettable. My favorite? Ghirardelli 60% Cocoa – rich and smooth and 4 bites per 55-calorie, 25¢ square.

I know science is still out on exactly where the “health benefits” from chocolate’s flavonoids kick in -- at a product that’s 60% cocoa? 70%? 90%? Let me just add a caution that cocoa has a surprising amount of fiber -- enough in those higher-% products to, um, startle an unsuspecting colon.

Besides, I learned to love chocolate as a treat, not a medicine.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Mom.

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