Monthly Archives: December 2009

A trip to the dentist

Today was my bi-annual trip to the dentist to get my teeth cleaned. Since I’m on Christmas break, I sort of lost track of my days. I thought my appointment was tomorrow, but at about 4:05 today, I realized I had to haul ass to the dentist to make it. I had just enough time to call my husband away from his video game to watch our son so I could head out.

I made pretty good time on my way there. Despite the traffic and my forgetfulness, I was only about 8 minutes late. But, I made sure to call ahead so they knew I’d be late. I hate being late.

Now, I’m not one to get anxious about the dentist. I haven’t exactly had great experiences, but cleanings don’t freak me out, especially since I switched dentists. At my old one my cleanings were done by my actual dentist and I swear, despite being the sweetest (and geekiest) lady in the world, she was a real butcher with those instruments. At my new one I see the hygenist, but it only hurt once, so I was good with that.

But pain wasn’t even the issue today. At least not dental pain. Since I’m 28 weeks pregnant, I was far more worried about the tilting. During my last pregnancy, I had two cleanings, one when I was only about two and a half months along and the other when I was about three weeks from my due date. The first was a breeze. The second was a nightmare. As soon as she tilted that chair back and started room, the room started spinning.

Since I wasn’t as far along this time, I’d hoped it would be easier. And at first, it seemed like it would be. I even warned the hygenist about my last pregnancy cleaning. She was very sweet and asked me to let her know if started feeling at all bad.

She got through the first round of my top teeth before I started feeling woozy. She sat me up and got me a cup of water. I thought I was going to be ok, but about two minutes after she started working again, my world started getting all wonky. This time I felt really hot, so she got me a cool towel to put on the back of my neck. She also sat me up and did the rest of my cleaning standing up. I felt so bad for her because she’d just been telling me about working 12 hour days. She was kind though.

Even sitting partway up, I was feeling bad. I kept trying to shift ever so slightly so that I wouldn’t disturb her work. It didn’t help. I still felt cruddy. I had to make her stop yet again and sit all the way up, taking, quick, breaths to try and get it under control. She only had a little more to finish, so I decided to suck it up. I could tell she was hurrying.

A few minutes later she was done and my dentist took over. He had me sit all the way up, which really made things easier on me. I started to cool down and breathe regularly.

This is just another way in which this pregnancy is kicking my butt.

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Chocolate Monday: York Peppermint Patties

Ok, so I know it’s a bit of a cop out. Who hasn’t had a York Peppermint Patty, right? I’m not going to say this isn’t a bit of cheat, especially since I do have tons of neat chocolates, but at this point I’ve hardly tasted any of them yet, so I need a little more time to give a fair evaluation.

In the meantime though, I had to stop at the grocery store to buy a last minute present for my grandmother (she has everything, so I always pick up a plant). As I entered the store, I couldn’t help but notice that there was a large clearance table full of holiday treats at discount prices. As I can’t pass up a tasty chocolate treat when they aren’t on sale, there was no way I could walk past the table and not pick something up.

As soon as I saw the package of peppermint patties, I knew I had to have it. Last week I saw a series of commercials for them and suddenly had a real craving for them. I suddenly had flashbacks to my childhood, begging my mom in the candy aisle for a treat and trying desperately to decide between the York and the Chunky bar. Even as a kid I had a penchant for the “stranger” chocolates. Yeah, I could have gone for the Snickers, but I almost always went for the slightly more exotic choice (including in this was Toffifay).

I don’t usually pick up peppermint patties of any sort. My husband has a real hatred of peppermint, even when combined with something as delicious as chocolate. Since I often like to share my treats with him, I sometimes forgo old favorites so I can share. But this time since I am pregnant and they were on sale, I figured what the heck and grabbed the bag.

As soon as I was in the car, I ripped that bag open. I was a little disappointed that the peppermint filling wasn’t quite as creamy as I’d remembered (or as the commercials made it look). It was definitely refreshing, but in a sort of toothpasty way. I think I was expecting a bit more of an Andes minty taste. I wanted the crispness of mint without the feeling that I just didn’t rinse my mouth all the way out.

The chocolate wasn’t quite as powerful as I remembered. I don’t expect tons from mass produced inexpensive chocolate bars. I know the chocolate is cheaper and not nearly the quality I’m used to, but that usually doesn’t matter to me. I have an amazing soft spot for the cheap chocolatey taste of my youth. I am just as likely to crave the cheap crunch of a Heath bar as I am the gourmet toffee from Vosages Haut Chocolat, even though I acknowledge that one is clearly better than the other.

I won’t say I hated my peppermint patty, but I didn’t love it quite as much as I thought I would. I wanted the bite and excitement of my childhood, but kind of got bitten instead. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll finish off the bag eventually, but it will not be with the initial excitement I had anticipated and I doubt I’ll get another bag again. I’ll probably still grab one if it’s sitting in a candy dish, but I’ll never debate between a York and a Chunky again.

Taste: 4/10

Appearance: 3/10

Value: 5/10

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Chocolate Monday: Godiva Holiday Star Collection

Ok, so I’m gonna admit right now that I don’t know if this is the actual name of the collection or not. I threw the box away without actually paying any attention to the name, and despite a good five minutes of searching on Godiva’s website, I couldn’t find them for confirmation. So I’m calling them the holiday star collection. After all, they are only around for the holidays, are shaped like stars and are sold in a cute little box, which I’m pretty sure qualifies them as a collection.

In the past year or two, as a sort of supplement to the G Collection, Godiva has been offering seasonal pieces that look and kind of taste like some of the G Collection favorites. They are usually quite pretty to look at and of a less truffley or praline variety, and more of a creamier, smoother consistancy. Around Halloween they had some bats, ghosts and tombstones. For the Christmas season there are stars.

Each star is painted with the metalic looking paint the G Collection is famous for. I get the feeling sometimes that more time is spent trying to make them look nice on the outside than to be flavorful on the inside, which is kind of a pity. Sure, they are pretty to look at, but I have to admit that after trying each flavor, I sort of felt “eh.” They weren’t bad by any means, but they weren’t something I could see myself buying again, even if they weren’t around for a limited time.

The four flavors are: almond shortbread, chocolate mint, Mexican hot chocolate and holiday spice. Despite the fact there are only four pieces in the collection, it does come in a cute 5 piece box, which includes one of each flavor and an extra almond shortbread piece.

So, since it was the first one I tried, let’s go ahead and start with that shortbread piece. It was pretty too look at. It was a bright white star with splashes of dark blue. Even though there was no red, it seemed like a very patriotic candy to me. Since the piece has a white chocolate base and is covered in white chocolate, it has a very creamy texture. However, it didn’t not really taste like almond or shortbread to me. It was far more vanilla than nut or cookie. It reminded me a bit of French vanilla ice cream, which  while good, is not the promised almond shortbread.

The next piece was the chocolate mint, which was painted a gorgeous green with gold splashes. I loved the shade, but wasn’t quite as thrilled with the taste. It was definitely a dark chocolate piece. The mint mixed with the chocolate was a little bitter, but it did remind me of a candy cane. I think I was hoping for a little closer to a Peppermint Patty. I mean candy canes are ok, but they aren’t my favorite way to eat mint.

The Mexican hot chocolate piece was by far the prettiest. It was a deep burgandy red with gold splashes. When I held it up, the metalic hints sparkled in my living room lamplight. The piece didn’t have the spicy kick I’ve come to expect from a Meican hot chocolate piece. It was creamy, and not at all bitter, which I have to admit was refreshing. Mexican hot chocolate often has a sligthly bitter taste. This one actually has a bit of a pudding after taste, which was rather pleasant.

The holiday spice piece was a bit like pumpkin pie. Not as good as Godiva’s pumpkin spice truffle, but it did have a nice spicey taste. It reminds me a bit of a spice cake and that is nice.

Overall, not a bad collection, but definitely not one of my favorites. I’m often disappointed by the G Collection, which is sad because the pieces are so pretty to look at. However, at $13 for 5, they are not worth the investment.

Taste: 6/10

Appearance: 9/10

Price: 4/10

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Chocolate Monday: The Flying Cupcake

Last Sunday, I had a girls’ day out. It was much needed since I am trying desperately to avoid the fact that I have piles and piles of work I’m about to be burried under, a toddler who is in a really vocal “no” phase and have been sick for about three weeks now. The promise of an afternoon of lunch, a movie (even a bad one) and a trip to a new cupcake store, thrilled me.

I didn’t quite know what to expect from The Flying Cupcake. My bff had been once before and really liked the cupcake she got. And as I’m always up for a new cakey treat, I was all in. I’ll admit, in some ways I’ve been a bit disappointed during my trip to cupcake stores. Cake Love was quite good, but by the time we got there (both days), there were only a few types left. At the Cupacke Camper there were only four to choose from. The Flying Cupcake, however, had over a dozen varieties available, which amazed me since we got there an hour before close on a Sunday.

They all looked so good and the flavors sounded so enticing that I couldn’t stop myself. I had to get a dozen. Sure, I rationalized it with this blog post. After all, I’d need a good sampling to make sure I could give a fair and decent review. That being said, so far my Flying Cupcake experience has been great.  

The first one I tried was the Black Forest cake. The buttercream icing is a bit grainy. I personally like a creamier buttercream, but this seems to be pretty typical of decorative cake makers. The flavor of the icing was a bit bland, but luckily didn’t detract from the cake which was quite good. Unlike some cupcake plalces, they don’t pile on the frosting. Most of the cakes I tried had only a dollup or so of frosting. In addition to having what appeared to be cherry pie filling in the middle, it was topped with a marachino cherry. That wasn’t the best part though. The actual cake seemed to be infused with cherry. Although I was a bit snuffly, my friend commented that she could smell the cherry and it smelled wonderful. The cake was moist and quite flavorful. The chocolate and cherry were tempered perfectly, so that neither overpowered, but both flavors were able to shine.
 
The Happy Birthday To Me cake (vanilla) I got as a gift for a work friend. I only had a bite of this one, but my friend also commented the frosting was a bit grainy. The cake though was superb. It was moist and tasted like real vanilla, not the cheap fake stuff so many store bought mixes end up tasting like. It reminded me of my vanilla cake and I selfishly wished I’d kept it for myself.

Later that night, my husband and I decided to split two cupcakes in half, each eating half of one. He picked the Pretty in Pink, which is a strawberry cake with strawberry cream cheese icing. I tasted the cake first since some of it was left on the knife (yes, I couldn’t help it, I licked the knife). The only word I can think of to describe the cake is fantabulous. It actually had small bits of real strawberries swirled in to the batter. Unlike the buttercream, this frosting was not in the least bit grainy. It was amazingly creamy with more bits of real strawberry in them. The cake is moist and, actually started to melt in my mouth. At this point, it was my favorite.

My choice was the Red Velvet Elvis. Now, I am always on the look out for a good red velvet. I have so often been disappointed. I get the bright red and a good frosting, but no real cocoa taste. Or I get a cocoa taste with a frosting I want no part of. This cupcake had something I’ve not had before in a red velvet cake: chocolate chips. It was also GIGANTIC! And, far more cake than frosting. There was really only a dollup of frosting on top of the cake. The cake is always my favorite part, so I can really apreciate the extra cake. This red velvet definitely had a chocolate taste. Granted, that was mostly due to the actual chocolate chips in the cake, which could probably be described more accurately as chunks. The frosting was a slightly sweet cream cheese. Not too sugary. It was hard to get a bite of the cake without chocolate chips in it, but the cake itself isn’t too chocoaltey. It was good, but the chocolate chips were a bit distracting. About half the chips would be better.

The What’s Up Doc had a lot of icing on it. More than I generally like, but at least it was a sweet cream cheese frosting, so it had none of the grainyness of the other frostings. I’m not sure how anyone could eat the cake with the frosting piled so high. The cake was fairly moist and full of nuts and real pieces of carrots, which made me feel almost like I was eating something healthy. Not the best carrot cake I’ve ever had, but not too bad. While it wouldn’t be my first choice, it was tasty, and I would eat it again.

Koo Koo for Coconuts was my next one. The frosting was once again the cream cheese variety, which I prefered and it was full of coconut flakes, another favorite of mine. The cake had a great vanilla taste. It was moist, and although I know this sounds odd, it was creamy. I’m not sure how cake can be creamy, but it was! This was surprising since it had been sitting in the fridge for a few days, which gave it a moistness which reminded me of my husband’s grandmamma’s coconut icebox cake. This was a hit to say the least.

I feel it’s a little unfair to comment much on the other cakes I tried since it’s now been a week and I’m just finishing them up. It took about a week before the cake started to get a little stale, which I think speaks highly for the product and me…I didn’t devour them all nearly as quickly as I could have. Next time I’ll let my brain do the buying and only get 1/2 a dozen.

However, I should say that the Peanut Butter Blackout, which is a chocolate cupcake topped with peanut butter icing does have very peanut buttery icing. It’s a buttercream, so it does have that slightly gritty texture, but only slightly. It was so slight I almost feel bad mentioning it. It did have a nice, sweet peanut butter taste I liked. It reminded me a bit of the peanut butter I use when I make my homemade peanut butter cups, which did make me smile.

Here Comes the Bride’s frosting was grittier and by the time I ate it, came right off the cake (again, my fault, not the bakery’s). It had a wonderful almond flavor though. The cake reminded me a bit of one of the layers of my sister-in-law’s actual wedding cake (which was almond). While the top may have gotten a bit hard, the center of this jumbo cake was still very moist, which surprised me. The cake was fluffy and a perfect white in color (like a wedding cake should be). It reminded me a bit of an angel food cake in texture and fluffiness! The almond flavor was very natural and didn’t taste like fake almond extract, like some almond flavored products I’ve tried.

The Flying Cupcake has three cupcake sizes: regular, filled and jumbo. The regular and filled cupcakes are $2.75 per cake. The jumbos are only 50 cents more, even though they are quite obviously bigger, especially the red velvet. The regular sized cakes do seem a bit pricey, but the jumbo ones are definitely worth the price. According to their website, they have about 35 flavors they rotate between, and I plan on going back many times over the years and trying each, and every one. I’m particularly excited about the Auf Wiedersehen (German chocolate), Gimme S-More, Boston Cream Pie, Pineapple in Paradise, and Bee’s Knees.

Taste: 9/10

Appearance: 9/10

Value: 8.5/10

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Chocolate Monday: Vosges Haut Chocolat

Last summer, my husband and I decided we needed a little break from the real world. As much as we love our son, we needed a bit of a vacation and decided to spend it in the ultimate adult playground: Vegas!

Now, neither of us are gamblers, so it seems a bit of an odd choice, but my husband had never been and I remembered having a blast when I went right after college graduation with some of my friends. We figured the money we saved not gambling could be spent on Cirque du Soleil tickets, fancy dinners and shopping…lots of shopping.

We stayed at Bally’s, right next door to Paris and across the street from Ceasar’s Palace. We spent our mornings sleeping in, eating leisurly late brunches and walking along the strip. Since it was June and hot as hell, we found ourselves ducking in to every casino along the way in order to cool down, see the sights and get a drink or two.

One day we ducked into Ceasar’s. We almost didn’t go in since we’d gone over there the first night and thought we’d seen it all. But we found another “mall” section and thought some window shopping might be fun (as most of the shops were just a tad out of our price range). Once inside, I honed in on a little chocolate shop all decked out in purple and white: Vosges Haut Chocolat.

Eager to try anything new and chocolatey, I headed in. I’d already made my husband stop in Ethel M’s and M&M World, so he was not quite as thrilled with me wanting to stop in and sample more sugary treats. I was a woman on a mission though.

The shop was sparse. The simple white cases were not brimming with their wares, which was odd to me. I’m used to Godiva, where the cases are packed full of several dozen of each type of chocolate bauble. Instead, these cases held a single sample of each of their truffles. Posed two to four truffles to lucite pedestal, the store definitely fit the Roman theme; it was quite spartan. I didn’t quite know what to think of odd names like “wink of the rabbit,” “naga” and “wollomooloo,” I felt out of my element. I don’t exactly remember what I tried. I do remember I bought two of the spicy Aztec collection for one of my friends.

I didn’t think much else about Vosges until I was in Chicago on a shopping trip with my best friend. As we were walking down Armitage, I passed a door that looked just a bit familiar. When I walked back toward my car, I realized it was another Vosges store. Since I was on a shopping trip, I figured I might as well stop in and try something new.

Now, this is a rather long build up to my current review. One of their products I tried early on was their Exotic Caramel collection. There are actually 8 exotic caramels, but since 5 of them are dark chocolate and I’m usually only a fan of the dark stuff if it contains something really sweet, I went for collection flight B, which is mostly a milk collection.

There are four rectangular caramels in each little purple box. My first caramel was the Sunshine which is described as “tupelo honey + milk chocolate + bee pollen.” There are little clumps of bee pollen on top of a milk chocolate shell. The pollen is a bit grainy, but it’s a neat taste. The caramel has a hint of honey, which I really like. It’s not so overwhelming that it loses the caramel taste. It’s a chewy caramel, but not the tooth breaking kind. I am usually a fan of the liquidy caramels, but sometimes those can be too sweet. This one is a nice blend. It’s not overly sweet, but tempered perfectly.

The second one was the Maple, which Vosges describes as “Canadian maple sugar + maple syrup + walnuts + dark chocolate.” Since this one is a dark chocolate piece, it does have a little bit of a bitter after taste. This one has a bit more texture since the caramel has walnuts inside of it. Personally, I don’t walnuts have that much flavor, so the inclusion of them inside and the dusting on the top seem more for texture than anything else. Much like the honey piece, this one has subtle hints of maple to it. It’s fairly tasty, but like just about all non-tart pieces, I think it would be better in milk chocolate.

The third piece was Crema, which is “Argentinean dulce de leche + Costa Rican cashews + milk chocolate.” This piece actually has a cashew on the inside, which give it a slightly salty tasty. But since it is a cashew, it is also a bit sweet. At room temperature, the caramel is the perfect consistancy. Since it’s a soft caramel, there’s not risk of breaking your teeth like with the cheap Brach’s version. It also doesn’t have that overly sugary sweet taste many caramels ahve. The sweetness doesn’t come from an abundance of sugar, but rather from the flavors paired with the caramel.

The final piece, and my favorite, is Tarte, which is “blood orange + Campari® + dark chocolate + hibiscus powder.” The dusting of blood orange is, in fact, tart and oh so tasty. I first discovered blood oranges about three years ago and have been obsessed ever since. I would drench everything in this sweet powder if I could. Since this is a dark chocolate, the blood orange powder fits it perfectly. It takes any hint of bitter out of the caramel and replaces it with just a hint of sweet. I want to be clear, there is not enough of the powder to overpower the actual caramel taste. It is creamy and leaves a wonderfully sweet taste in my mouth. I would love to get an entire box of these to snack on, because three bites just isn’t enough.

Vosges packages these as bit-sized soft caramels, but I’m not sure I could pop them in my mouth in one bite, even if I didn’t want to savour the flavors, they might be a bit more than I can chew. They are caramels after all. And pricey ones at that. A box of 4 runs $9.50, which is about $2.35 each. When I get them at the store I never feel quite as bad since I don’t have to pay shipping. But since Vosges ships next day to ensure freshness, it makes them even pricier. Luckily I bought them during  a promotion and got 15% off which made them a bit easier to swallow.

Still, overall for taste, I’d say a 9/10

Appearance: 8/10

Value: 5/10

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