Monthly Archives: October 2013

Chocolate Monday: Disney World

Mickey treatI love Disney World. I have always loved Disney World. I will always love Disney World. The first time my parents took me, I was three or four years old and there was only one park in Orlando. I’m not really sure how many of my memories are my own and how many are just stories I remember my parents telling me. The one that sticks out the most vividly in my mind is the one about my Mickey ears.

I’m not going to try to claim that Disney wasn’t commercial during my childhood, but unlike the current theme park, when I was a kid, the souvenir pickings were definitely a bit slimmer. Every ride didn’t open up into a gift store which allowed you to buy not only Disney trinkets, but Disney trinkets centered only on that ride. No, when I was a kid, the prized Disney accessory was a pair of Mickey ears. I’m pretty sure that back then they only came in one color: black and if you got your name stitched on them (which my parents did for me), an actual person hand stitched it while you waited. Anyway, I wanted that darn hat so badly, so my parents, being the doters they were, bought me one. We were strolling through Fantasyland, somewhere near the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride (and this is why I think the story might be my own, because I very clearly remember the image of the ride as a child). As we were walking along, I felt a hand touch my head and then my hat was gone. Yes, that’s right a grown man, stole my hat, put it on his head and walked away, while I erupted in tears.

My father immediately took off after the man and with help from a Disney security guard who was dressed as a janitor (this part I’ll admit I didn’t remember), they got my hat back and the thief got rightfully booted from the park. Disney security does not truck with crime in their parks.

While my recent trip was not exactly without tears (mostly my daughter when we told her we had to get off of a ride and couldn’t immediately get back on it), at least my children arrived home with their Mickey ears unmolested.

As an adult, my Disney experience was very different. One of the biggest differences was that instead of having to pick from the rather limited kid’s menus andbe our guest being told “no” when I wanted a treat, I could splurge and eat whatever I wanted. While I generally tried to be reasonable, when the concierge at our hotel got us a reservation for Be Our Guest (which meant we got to avoid the thirty minute wait in the rain), I figured I should at take advantage of the situation by not only getting a really tasty sandwich, but also trying a chocolate treat. Since there was a chocolate option, I had to go with it. I picked the triple chocolate cupcake. I mean, who can resist not one, not two, but three types of chocolate? I’ll be honest, I didn’t even bother to read which types of chocolate it had in it. It wasn’t until I got home and looked at the menu to write this blog that I even saw it was a chocolate cake, a chocolate mousse filling and a chocolate ganache frosting. When it arrived, the cupcake was definitely pretty and I soon found myself fending off glances (and forks) from my children. I agreed to share, but only after they’d eaten their lunch. And, I made it clear that the raspberry was all mine! I gave my son the little chocolate square with the restaurant name on it. He declared it delicious, but he says the same thing about a Hershey bar, so I’m not taking that as solid proof it was good.

The cake itself was a bit drier than I like. Then again, I can only imagine these little beauties get made by the thousands each day, so that’s not really a surprise, just a bit of a disappointment. The ganache had a hint of bitterness from the dark chocolate, which also made this dessert a little less than perfect. The mousse inside was creamy, and tasty, but there just wasn’t enough of it. Tasty, sure, but not as stellar as I’d hoped.

My second chocolate indulgence came at Hollywood Studios. We found Sweet Spells. Since it was close to Halloween, the place was decked out with all sorts of Nightmare Before Christmas and Disney villain regalia. It was fun to look at, but my eyes were drawn to the refrigerated bakery case that had chocolate covered treats. After quite a bit of debate, I went with a brownie shaped like my beloved Mickey ears. It was dipped in chocolate and had bits of toffee stuck to the top of the ears. I’ll admit when the sign claimed it was a toffee brownie, I expected some toffee bits inside the brownie itself. Much to my sadness, the only toffee I got was decorating the treat. Once again, the brownie was a bit dry. This was due in part, to the fact it was a cakey brownie, not the moist, chewy ones I make at home. The chocolate it was dipped in was quality and not at all waxy like so many dipped treats end up being. The toffee on the ears reminded me of Heath and was a nice touch, but once again, not quite what I was hoping for. Good, sure, but I wanted better.

My final bit of Diseny chocolate fun came from the food court at our hotel: Port Orleans –French Quarter. Aside from our first and last nights at the hotel, we’d avoid the food court. Not that we had anything against it, but when there are so many interesting eateries in the park, why go for a food court? Turns out, this was where we got my favorite sweet treat. The Sassagoula Floatworks and Food Factory Food Court has a little ice cream/bakery section. I’d tried the beignets it was supposedly famous for and found them ok. A bit too much powdered sugar for my liking. However, on our final night, when I ordered the hand dipped ice cream cookie sandwich…well, it was heaven! My choice of ice cream (I went all meta with cookie dough ice cream) sandwiched between two huge chocolate chip cookies. Although they were a bit crispier than I like my cookies at home, they were rich and buttery and the ice cream helped soften them up. Even though I was sharing one with my daughter, we could barely finish it. We honestly should have gotten one for the entire table, but it was our last night and we were feeling a bit indulgent. It was the perfect end to a perfect vacation.

Overall:

Taste: 6/10 (except that ice cream sandwich, it was a solid 8/10)
Value: 6/10 (again, except for that ice cream sandwich, which could easily feed all four and was only $5.29, so I give it a solid 8/10)
Appearance: 9/10 (making things look pretty is a Disney specialty)

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Chocolate Monday: Ghiradelli Fudge Caramel Sauce and Sea Salt Caramel Banana Quake Shake

ghiradeli hot fudge jarWhen I was a kid growing up in California, Ghiradelli was an every day name. No matter which grocery store my mom decided to visit, Alpha Beta, Vons or Ralph’s, at the check out line there would be a wonderful assortment of bright wrappers all with that familiar golden banner and eagle. As a kid my favorite was a bar with milk chocolate and raisins. I think it had a purple wrapper.

It wasn’t until I moved to the Midwest that I realized Ghiradelli wasn’t a household name. None of my friends had even heard of the confectioner, much less tasted any of their delectable goodies. For nearly 10 years those candy bars vanished from my life. Since I never saw them, I never thought of them. It wasn’t until a road trip to Vegas in my early 20’s that I stumbled upon a Ghiradelli candy shop. It was enormous (or so it seemed at the time) and was stocked from floor to ceiling with shiny wrappers, all beckoning to me. Unfortunately, I was finishing up my last semester of college, and since it was the indentured servitude known as student teaching, I was pretty broke. Instead of gobbling up just about every candy bar in sight, I had to settle for a few favorites.

After that trip, Ghiradelli once again disappeared from my life. It wasn’t until several more years that I stumbled upon bags of individually wrapped squares available at World Market. Fairly shortly after, I noticed similar, non-holiday flavored bags of chocolatey squares showing up on the shelves of Targets and finally once again at the corner grocery store. However, like all things from my childhood there’d been some changes. First off, the raisin bar had been discontinued. Second, I could no longer get candy bars anymore. Sure, I could get the squares, and they were great, but I liked finding the bars in the check out line right next to the Hershey’s bars (and not the King Sized ones either, just regular ol’ standard-sized bars). Now, it seems when I do find Ghiradelli, it’s either bite sized morsels or huge triple serving “tasting bars.” Granted, both will do in a pinch, but I do find myself waxing nostalgic every now and again.

Two weeks ago my husband and I took our kids to Disney World for the first time. It’d been just over 10 years since we’d been and I’m not sure who was more excited, our kids or myself. I think it actually might have been me (in all fairness, I knew the wonders they were about to embark on). We decided to keep this trip really casual. We had hotel reservations and tickets for four days at the parks, but other than that, we didn’t make any reservations or specific plans. Rather than get all stressed out over schedules, we let the kids wants and schedules guide us. Sure, it meant that we skipped Tower of Terror and Space Mountain, but we also avoided huge lines and everyone had a pretty darn swell time.

While looking over the guidebook during my daughter’s nap one day, I glanced at a map of Downtown Disney. To my eternal happiness, I spotted a Ghiradelli shop. I knew I had to go. I casually mentioned to my husband that since we weren’t going back to a park that night, it might be fun to take the river taxi from our hotel (Port Orleans) to Downtown Disney just to see what they had. I never once let on that I was dying to go to the chocolate shop, but luckily, he was all for the trip, so after a great romp in the pool, we took off.

While we definitely had a nice dinner and some fun shopping, the highlight for me was the Ghiradelli shop. Not only did they hand out samples of their pumpkin spice squares (very pumpkiny with a lovely hint of nutmeg and cinnamon), but they also had two new bars I really wanted to try (they will be reviewed very soon as I haven’t had the chance to try the coconut bar yet). But, more importantly, they had both ice cream and milk shakes. I was over the moon! I jumped in line and ordered the Sea Salt Caramel Banana Quake Shake, sans banana. It was heaven. Despite the fact that I could barely get it through the straw because it was so thick, everyone in my family was vying for tastes. I ended up sharing way more than I wanted to. If you are ever at an ice cream shop, I highly suggest it. Sure, it was about $7, but it was worth every delightful gulp.

As I was getting ready to leave, glass of manna in hand, I noticed jars of ice cream topping on a rack. I immediately yanked the one labeled fudge caramel sauce off the shelfghiradeli hot fudge and headed right back to the counter. Because we were at Disney and I had no way to heat it up (or ice cream to try it on if I did), I had to wait over a week to actually taste it, but the wait was worth it!

The sauce is really thick. So thick, in fact, that it has to be spooned out and placed into a bowl in order to be warmed up. After about 15 seconds in the microwave (I didn’t have the patience to follow the directions and heat it on the stove), it slowly poured over the side and directly on top of my vanilla ice cream. Warning: a little of this goes a long way. It is super rich and velvety. It only takes about a tablespoon to cover an entire bowl, but since I put too much on the ice cream, I had the job of eating straight caramel fudge, which I’m certainly not complaining about. It definitely had the thicker, slightly chewy consistency of caramel, although the flavor was far more fudgy. I only got tiny hints of caramel every now and again. Still, it was so lip-smackingly good, I’m not complaining that its real caramel claim is textural. All I know, is that I want another bowl….or 10.

Overall for the shake:

Taste: 9/10
Appearance: 8/10
Value: 8/10 (like I said, it was pricey, but so very delicious)

Overall for the fudge caramel sauce:

Taste: 9/10
Appearance: 4/10 (nothing special about the way it looks at all)
Value: 8/10 (at $10 per jar, it’s a bit pricey, but it’s also hard to find and TASTY!)

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