Kate and Payal were the day’s lead baristas, languidly positioned at the espresso machine at the front of the shop, polishing cappuccino glasses, talking about things no one should overhear, when they noticed the stranger come through the double glass front doors. Hesitating slightly as he crossed the threshold, the man was broad shouldered, square jawed and almost seven feet tall. He was resplendent in a light blue seersucker suit, crisp pink shirt too tight at the collar, suede shoes, and white straw Porkpie hat. The girls weren’t sure, but the man may have been sporting a faded turquoise colored tattoo of a parrot on his neck just below his right ear.
The decibel level in the café dropped noticeably. The store’s playlist went eerily mute, yet no one put down their coffees; no one surreptitiously looked up from their mobile devices; no one cared to give the stranger the once over. The man’s face was hard as blistered asphalt and his soul patch black as coal. He carried a Louis Vuitton Président Classeur briefcase gripped tight in his left hand, almost as if he was expecting a fight.
Kate noticed in spite of all the jewelry his ring finger was unadorned. The stranger locked eyes with her, forcing her to take a deep breath. “I can help you over here,” she said, motioning towards the till. He wasn’t having any part of her instructions, and instead, pulled a wad of money out of his pants pocket. He deftly peeled a one hundred dollar bill off the wad with just two fingers, and let it float down onto the bar. Glancing first at Payal, then back to Kate, the man spoke slowly in a deep baritone voice, “chocolate, drinking chocolate.”
Out of habit, Kate answered, “for here or to go?” as she scooped up the money from the bar. Unfortunately, Kate’s accent caused the man to hear “for her or you go.” and that made the hackles on the back of his neck rise like an angry dog pissed at the postman for entering the yard without permission.
Working quickly to diffuse a potentially dangerous situation, Payal grabbed a newly polished glass and set it down on the bar in front of the man, and proceeded to make the drink. Kate instinctively knew to distance herself, and walked over to the till to ring it in and make the man’s change. With a fearsome shadow casting him from the door behind, the man took the now completed drink, and pounded it back with one swift tilt of his head.
He slammed the glass on the bar, causing it to shatter. “Hmmph, that ain’t no plastic cup!” he exclaimed, waving away Kate’s change as if to say a ninety dollar tip should cover its replacement. He turned towards the door, and strode out into the mid-day sunshine, disappearing in the bright mirage of swirling cherry blossoms, never to be seen again. Not as if anyone in the café ever saw him, except two gob smacked baristas.
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Watch: www.youtube.com search mink chocolates
Chocolate starts the year concerned with melting, and that remains a major theme throughout 2014. For some varietals trying to break into the Latin American or South Asian markets, it is proximity to the equator that poses the greatest technical challenge. Scientific modifications to cacao’s chemistry may be necessary to thwart disaster.
For others, concerns about proper storage, handling and shelf stability are secondary to packaging and new recycling rules. Here in the Lower Mainland, businesses that conduct trade in packaged goods will be responsible for the end user recycling that packaging. This loosely translates into new taxes and levies retailers will need to either charge or absorb.
Chocolate is a strong, independent sign, which does not make it easy to emulsify. Chocolatiers the world over will be working on developing new flavour profiles and deciding how quickly they can take them to market. Commodity prices will be rising, as bulk inventories remain downward trending. Foreign currencies used to hedge against rising prices will also be going up, causing much consternation at retail.
Surprises will be a theme for chocolate this year, especially small batch artisan chocolate crafted for Valentines and Easter. Expect a baby boom pre-Christmas as a result of the former.
Chocolate lives in a creative and artistic sphere, and dreams of putting its imagination and skills into concrete form. Many varieties will manifest this talent and find the appropriate outlet, while some might meet resistance. Don’t worry — consumers can get past that. If you are a bonbon, changes to your appearance are in the cards for the second half of the year. Romance for dark chocolate, 70% or higher, is the new black.
2014 sees chocolate break out of its reclusive cycle. There is a possibility chocolate could be put on a pedestal, and obsessed over. Chocolate refuses to be thought of as a co-conspirator, demanding unbridled affection. It is a force to be reckoned with this coming year.
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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.