The CIA rises from the valley floor like a haunted Gothic castle in a Shirley Jackson novel. But Christmas decorations soften its stark exterior.
And once inside, a quick left puts you in The Spice Islands Marketplace & Campus Store, and several more steps and you're in the Flavor Bar. Here the angels are singing. Here "The Chocolate Experience" is supreme, sublime, beyond imagining. It is so grand the idea of eating any of it, for me, paled in comparison to taking out the camera and shooting it. I did, just for you, dear follower - look!
And on and on. I was surprised you could build your own box for $1.90 per, but there you are. Reasonable, I think, however fleeting the moment. But to imagine sitting down leisurely, intentionally, with wine and chocolate, to savor each sip, each bite. Of THESE. Wow. A holiday gift supreme.
The only experience that can rival the CIA is driving into St. Helena to visit Dean and Deluca. A second Food Palace experience in one day could almost be considered sensate madness, except that I was intent on and ready for anything. The Halelulah Chorus swells as the doors open. I turn into Eloise as I zimber past the cases of goodies, one by one. After the usual unusual,
I spot something glowing in a case, the color so intense I have to shield my eyes. I approach and discover Christopher Elbow, a chocolatier from NEBRASKA, of all places. His chocolates win the 2011 Four Eyes 5-Star GASP Award. Can this be REAL?
This? Cinnamon Black Tea.
Or this? Passion Fruit --
My god, give me oxygen!
Who IS this newcomer?
This one's called 'Champagne'
Where to go from here? Nowhere but to race home and Google his website. Do you believe this? Well, it is the Christmas season, a time of miracles. And his talent is miraculous, in my view. I won't be surprised if he appears at the World Chocolate Masters Competition next year. That is, if he's into that kind of thing. And the price? Reasonable! I was amazed. Well, here, I took a screenshot from his website.
Money is just talking here, not screaming, and the chocolates are singing.
May the holidays find you contributing a verse.
The very best in the new year to you and yours.