Sunday 2 PM.
With this morning’s breakfast I’m only two cups into National Coffee Day, so by this afternoon I’m feeling guilty that I’m not doing my part to mark the occasion with the requisite enthusiasm. I find a half pound bag of Oso Negro organic medium roast coffee beans from the Janzen’s care package that we opened yesterday, and stuff a handful of them into my mouth, and chew. The grit is sticking to my molars and I have to get up off the couch and wash them down with warm water. I lament not having had the determination to actually make a proper pot, but the house is empty, there’s football on, and I really just want to act the sloth.
Fred emails me the tracking number for a shipment of Biscoff cookies he’s having sent to Pt. Roberts. I’ll pick them up this week when I go get the clear totes I’ve ordered from Seattle to package the Arts Umbrella bonbons in for their upcoming annual Splash auction. I send him a text and question his judgement.
Me: You trust me to pick up cookies?
Half time in the Denver game is over, and I’m caught up with the all the scores and highlights. I rock, paper, scissor myself to choose between ice cream with milk chocolate ganache or ice cream with dark chocolate ganache. I throw the contest and choose milk chocolate ganache, because the dark, coming out of the fridge, would need a few minutes in hot water to soften up.
I settle back on the couch for the second half. In a test of my physical sensitivity, I reach down under the cushion and find a bag of expired airplane peanuts. I rip it open with the manliest of gestures, and pour the contents into my mouth, and chew. The grit is sticking to my molars and I have to get off the couch and wash them down with warm water.
Lying around all day is exhausting, and I contemplate a nap. There’s still half an hour until the Sunday night game starts, and the dog is giving me the stink eye. It wouldn’t be a weekend in Vancouver without two straight days of rain. I spend about ten minutes fantasizing about a canine walking version of the Roomba, then get up, open the back door and send her out.
I shuffle back to the living room, and contemplate opening a bottle of wine, or taking a shower. I wonder to myself if this is how Matthew McConaughey spends his weekends. I’ll bet he does, but shirtless. I opt for neither the vino nor the ritual of bathing, and instead, settle in for another three plus hours of the NFL. I make a mental note to myself to be better prepared for the next important holiday, National Chocolate Day.
Mink Chocolates is coming up on its sixth year anniversary. Not a week goes by without us hearing from someone that, had it not been for insert name of person here bringing our chocolate to insert name of event here they never would have known we exist.
This is not surprising given that, as a general rule, we don’t advertise in conventional channels. Our marketing dollars, for instance, support a robust program of community sponsorship through our Mink Cares initiatives, but otherwise, we rely on word of mouth.
Lately I’ve been thinking it may be time to jump on the celebrity endorsement bandwagon. Here are my top picks for potential spokespeople:
Now that he and his giant hat are retired, he may want to supplement his pension with a little something less onerous than his papal duties ever were. If I can convince him not to encourage the worlds one billion Catholics to give up chocolate for Lent, the advantages for him are plenty. He doesn’t have to clear it first with Mrs. Pope. The dress code is casual, he can work in his robe. The hours are sensible, no more midnight mass all-nighters. And most importantly, it’s an easy commute now that Virgin Atlantic flies into Vancouver.
She’s Canadian, and may not be as averse to working in Canadian dollars as other celebrity endorsers. She needs the money, having just listed her house in Malibu for sale as part of a strategy to generate cash to pay a tax bill. Granted, she may skew more male in her demographic reach, but when she fills out an “I Eat Mink” t-shirt, she won’t raise the ire of PETA or alienate any of her vegetarian friends.
Conventional wisdom has it that the current premier of British Columbia will be looking for work after the provincial election in May. In the same way that Glen Clark’s career was resurrected by going to work for Jim Pattison in the private sector after his sudden resignation from politics a decade and a half ago, capitalizing on her previous stint at CKNW and becoming a radio pitchman for a small local business might be a worthwhile entry point back into the real world for Ms. Clark. It might be necessary, however, to run a few focus groups and do some polling first.
My Buddy Fred
Because Lance and Tiger have lost their credibility, Chumlee’s loveable but not exactly a role model and William Shatner is over-exposed. Fred’s in the fashion business, and has been known to hang with hipsters. He has that sort of je ne sais quoi and quirky sense of humor that helped land Seth MacFarlane the Oscars hosting gig, without the misogyny and sexism that will unland him any chance of future Oscar hosting gigs. And if I was a gambling man, which I am, I’d venture to say he’d work for chocolate, which is about the extent of this year’s advertising budget.
Mink Chocolates Inc.,
Mink A Chocolate Cafe Ltd.
Call toll free: 1.866.283.5181
Friday. I meet Fred for lunch. For the fourteenth year in a row, he’s not eating cheese for the entire month of January. With limited options, we settle on a neighborhood salad joint. Personally, winter makes me more pre-disposed to pressed curds of milk, but after two helpings of lasagna and two pieces of Shecky’s pumpkin pie the night before, there’s some virtue to a meal of plants and roots.
I tell him I’m heading to San Francisco the next day to scope out exhibitor opportunities at the Winter Fancy Food Show. He tells me he’s also leaving town Saturday, heading to Houston for a Halloween costume trade show. I delight in telling him my short stay in the Bay Area coincides with the Niner’s playing in the NFC Championship. He casually tells me between mouthfuls of arugula his quick trip includes a stopover in Minneapolis to see Prince play a small club in Dinkytown.
He’s one-upped me so for the next ten minutes we eat in silence. I look at him and wonder how someone so hirsute can be so bald. I remember when he had hair. Has he invested wisely the money he’s saved on conditioner? Wax, shave or Nair for Men? How many sweater vests does he own?
Sunday Morning. The National Association for the Specialty Food Trade runs the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco, held again this year at the sprawling subterranean Moscone Convention Center downtown. Fresh off a buffet breakfast fit for a football team, I burn three calories walking briskly across the street and into the show. Before I can even pick up my attendee badge, I’ve been sampled a package of organic hazelnut spread with cocoa and milk, a squeeze tube of asiago cheese and a compostable bottle of caffeine free vitamin enriched caramel coconut water with sea salt that was allegedly scraped off the fleshy underbelly of migrating centenarian sea turtles.
I start in the smallest of the three halls with the portion of the show devoted to What’s Hot. By all accounts, it’s obvious gluten is no longer an expensive commodity, because everyone was advertising it as free. Gluten free this, gluten free that. Even the makers of pure gluten were advertising gluten free gluten. I wondered if gluten was getting an inferiority complex.
I consult the show directory to try and establish a strategy for navigating the 22 acres of foodstuffs when all I really want to see are chocolate companies. It seems they are interspersed amongst and scattered between all manners of fancy food purveyors. Poco Dolce Chocolates is next to a single barrel artisan pickle maker. Tcho Chocolates is in the grilling sauces section, all of which have cowboy themes and purport to be hotter than Megan Fox sunbathing nude in Hades. Recchiuti is sandwiched between shelf stable baby food and fair trade non-GMO nut-free nut butters.
What all the exhibitors seem to have in common are either large men in shiny suits with Jersey accents or young Russian girls in short animal print skirts handing out samples to throngs of people who by all accounts look like they would be stumped if asked how the Caramilk got into the Caramilk bar. I’m being diplomatic when I say they were handing out samples. It was more like the crowds were collectively channeling their inner Kirstie Alleys in the presence of unattended cheesecake. Someone was bound to lose an eye in the ensuing mayhem.
Sunday Afternoon. Rather than avail myself of the many on-site concessions in the pursuit of lunch, I become one of them, and unabashedly scarf as much free food as I can. Most of what I found appealing was either cheese, meat, or meat with cheese. Silly me thinking the nose to tail and artisan butchering trend was over. There was no shortage of Spanish heirloom pigs being carved into onion-skin thin slices of transparency wrapped around iPhone sized cubes of black cheese. Apparently there are goats that live on Ellesmere Island, tended to by toothless descendants of Norse seafarers who make exquisite colored cheese. Who knew?
George calls. He and Stacy and the kids are in the city, and have reservations at a new restaurant in the Mission district. He asks if I’m hungry, and I politely answer yes.
George: We’re vegans now.
Me: Is that the result of a head injury?
George: It’s been over a year.
Me: Where has social services placed the kids?
George: They’re vegetarian. It’s been easier than we imagined, although it is ironic we quit meat and dairy cold turkey.
I haven’t seen my god-daughter and her parents and brother in far too long. In all our phone and email correspondence, the issue of eating habits never came up. This is the densely populated Bay Area after all, so I’m not entirely surprised that they’ve lost the ability to hunt. I just didn’t think they would go so new-agey. They are, after all, architects.
George: There’s always something on every menu that qualifies as vegan.
Me: Is wine allowed?
George: More so now than ever before.
The vegan Mexican restaurant is packed. I see a lot of people with Fancy Food Show badges. We’re told by our server they are out of cauliflower. That renders a third of the menu unavailable. Even though they are across the street from a grocery store, it seems that run-of-the-mill cauliflower doesn’t pack enough Zen.
I order a dish of butternut squash and caramelized onions rolled in corn tortillas, glazed with “cheese” made from almonds. It’s very good, and I comment on its pleasing taste and appearance. I can tell by the way Stacy looks at George she thinks I may convert, but I secretly harbor suspicion. More important than the meal of course, is the chance to spend some time with the dearest of people I don’t see often enough anymore. Raising a family and running a new business has made our visits far too infrequent, and I miss it.
They may be vegans, but they’re not shy about driving their family of four into the city in two cars. I say goodbye to George and Graham outside the restaurant. Stacy and Ivy drive me back to my hotel, and we enjoy a prolonged goodbye, and briefly commit to figuring out how our kids can meet, preferably while on vacation in a mutually convenient locale. I head upstairs, intent on watching a bit of TV to catch sports highlights, and do what comes naturally. I order a pizza from room service, double pepperoni and double cheese.
Mink Chocolates Inc.,
Mink A Chocolate Cafe Ltd.
863 West Hastings Street
Vancouver, BC CANADA
Call toll free: 1.866.283.5181