Category Archives: married life

Chocolate Monday: World Market Dark Chocolate with Fig Pistachio Filling

fig and pistachio whole barOne of the many reasons I love when my best friend comes to town is that she gives me a good excuse to go to stores that I love, but don’t often go to. World Market is a perfect example. Although there is a store located about 20 minutes from my house, it’s in another town and about the only time I go up there is when my kids have swimming. Since swimming nights are always such a rush, we really don’t have time to just pop into World Market to browse. Especially not when my kids love it and always ask for, well, just about everything. Trying to convince my daughter that she does not, in fact, need a bottle opener, even if it is shaped like a monkey, can be difficult.

But when my best friend wanted to go, it was the perfect chance to get out of the house and visit a favorite store.

Although I love the fun furniture and housewares at WM, my favorite part of going is always checking out the food aisles. I love all the international offerings as well as the funky, fun snacks they always have.

And I simply adore their chocolate selection. No visit to World Market is complete unless my basket has at least half a dozen different types of chocolate in it. On this particular trip I found a few tasty looking new treats to try.

fig and pistachio wrapperThe first one I grabbed was a World Market brand dark chocolate bar with fig pistachio filling. Although I am not a huge dark chocolate fan, I am trying to expand my horizons and find more dark chocolate I enjoy. Buying dark chocolate is always a risk for me. If it is paired with something super tart, like raspberry or lemon, I generally enjoy it. However, when it is paired with merely sweet or nutty flavors, I am often not a huge fan. Although neither figs nor pistachios are particularly tart, I love them both, so I figured this might be a risk worth taking.

The chocolate itself has the usual bitterness of dark chocolate. It is not so dark that I cannot eat it, but it is dark enough that I wouldn’t want to eat more than a small square of it on its own. The filling, which is supposed to be a mix of figs and pistachio has a very slight sweetness to it, which does offset the dark chocolate, but only very mildly. The filling has the grittiness of figs, but I had real trouble tasting any pistachio in it. There is a very slight creaminess to it that reminds me a teeny tiny bit of pistachios, but I’m not sure if that’s really there or if I’m trying to make some sort of connection.

fig and pistachio close upI gave my husband a square of the bar as well. He is the biggest pistachio fan I’ve ever met (he once even owned a pet chameleon named Pistachio). Without even a word from me, he commented, “Well, I can kind of taste the fig, but I don’t taste any pistachio.” My husband is not really a chocoholic, but he does like dark chocolate more than I do. He liked the piece but said he couldn’t eat an entire bar. Neither could I.

My kids both really liked it, but they also go gaga over plain ol’ Hershey bars and those cheap gold coins Santa leaves them in their stockings each year. My son has also eaten chocolate covered insects, so I’m not sure his love of it is quite the ringing endorsement it may initially seem.

Overall:

Taste: 4/10 (the flavors were too subtle for me)
Appearance: 6/10 (the packaging was very pretty and the bar was appetizing)
Value: 4/10 (the bar is about $4 for two servings, but I know I won’t eat any more of it)

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Teaching Tuesday: Back to School

It’s official, we are back to school. While I was completely ready for my children to go back–they were extremely argumentative that last week–I was not ready to go back.

Ok, technically I was ready. My lesson plans were done. My courses were set up in Canvas, our classroom management system. My room was clean, in order and even had new posters and bulletin boards up. I had student books ready for distribution and class lists printed. My new grade book was sitting on my desk (although I can’t put names in it until the end of the second week as students are still dropping and adding classes now).

Anyone looking into my room on Monday morning at 8:00 am, would have seen a very prepared teacher.

Except, of course, I wasn’t. Not mentally anyway. My daughter woke up in the early hours of Monday morning. At 3:45 am to be exact. She had a nightmare about a zombie apocalypse. Despite not watching any shows/movies with zombies or playing any games with zombies, she has seen her older brother’s Plants vs. Zombies books and so bad dreams ensued. Even as I tried to console her and tell her zombies were not real, all she could do was cry, “but what if they are?!?!?!” There was no reasoning with her. So, I made the mistake of letting her spread her sleeping bag on our bedroom floor to finish out the night.

Not that either of us slept. I dozed off for just long enough to have not one, not two, but three dreams about sending her back to her room to sleep. Each one was interrupted by her making lots of noise. First she was “whispering” to the cat to come down and play with her. Then, she woke me up to tell me she heard some kind of buzzing noise in my room. Next, she woke me up again to tell me about the mysterious buzzing noise. She had a string of coughs that sounded decidedly fake. There was also general tossing and turning…all of which my husband slept through.

Finally, five minutes before my alarm clock was set to go off, she shouted out “YES!” so loud I almost fell out of bed. It seems it was close enough to wake up time, so she thought we should all just get up and get ready for our first day of school.

I did, but boy was I unhappy about it.

It doesn’t help that I don’t drink coffee and all my school teas are herbal, so there was not even an artificial pick me up for me.

I made it through the day though. My students all seemed fairly alert and as I looked out over my classroom to gauge how well they were handing the first day back, I got several enthusiastic head nods, a ton of smiles and even some laughter.

Although I was exhausted by the end of the day, I made it. And, when I picked my daughter up after school, even though we still had to get through some pretty major traffic and swim lessons, I liked her a lot more that afternoon than I had in the morning. At 4:00 her enthusiasm about her good day was endearing.

Despite a rocky start, I think it may be a good year.

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Chocolate Monday: DeBrand’s Tart Raspberry Tasting Bar

full debrandsIt gets really hard to deny that you have a chocolate addiction when you find yourself asking for chocolate for your birthday.

Who am I kidding? I’m not really trying to hide the fact. I have, in fact, asked for chocolate on several birthdays…and Christmases…and anniversaries…and Flag days…and, well, you get the picture. What can I say, I’m a simple girl. I don’t need expensive jewelry. I don’t want a closet full of shoes. I delight in school supplies and truly tasty cocoa treats.

That’s why this year for my birthday, I took out the recently arrived DeBrand’s chocolate catalog, circled several different items I’d love to have and handed it to my husband. I know to some people this might seem rude, but my husband is generally bad about picking up hints and really prefers me to just flat out tell him what I want. He enjoys getting me what I really want and I enjoy getting what I really want. He does the exact same thing for me. Anytime he sees something he really wants he sends me a link, so that when a birthday, anniversary or Christmas approaches, I go through my Facebook Messages and start ordering.

DeBrand Fine Chocolate is a fairly new find of mine. Last year, after writing a series of college and scholarship recommendation letters for one of my seniors, she got me a 14 piece box of their Classic Collection to thank me. It is a well-known fact in my classroom that I am a chocoholic. Students often bring in exotic chocolates they find for me to try. There is also an ongoing joke about how many different types of chocolate I have stashed in my classroom cabinet (the record, if you are curious, was 10 different types).

I fell in love with pretty much every piece in this collection. Even their mocha cream, which is usually my nemesis in any box of chocolate, was pretty tasty. I was equally amazed at how much I liked the gourmet PB&J piece. I have had exactly one PB&J sandwich in my life (my freshmen year of college) and did not care for it in the least. As a result, despite my love of peanut butter, I usually stay far away from anything PB&J flavored. DeBrand’s version, however, was tasty. It’s really hard for me to name a favorite in this collection as I really liked so many of them. The salted peanut butter, strawberry rhubarb caramel, raspberry and cream, caramelly coconut and vanilla buttercream are all top contenders. If you get the chance, I highly suggest you try this collection. It gets a A++++++ rating from me.

debrand's packagingFor my birthday, however, what I really wanted was to try some of their Tasting Bars. Despite circling several items in the catalog I would have been thrilled with, after all these years, my husband either really knows me or got really lucky, because he got me a nice selection of them. Knowing that I am more of a milk chocolate gal, he got me the Hazelnut Sea Salt Crisp bar, The Very Cherry bar, the Sweet Potato Pie bar, the Pina Colada bar and the Tart Red Raspberry bar.

 

Even though the Tart Red Raspberry bar is dark chocolate, I have a passion for any kind of chocolate combined with raspberries. My absolute favorite chocolate on the planet (to date) is Godiva’s raspberry cordials. I am still bitter they no longer are sold individually in the display case, especially since they are nearly impossible to find. So even though this bar did not offer the ooey-gooey promise of a cordial, I was hoping it would live up to the TART portion of its name.

Oh my goodness does it!

Debrand's up closeI LOVE this bar! I cannot stress enough how great I think it is. Even though it has the slight bitterness of dark chocolate, it is so flooded with tiny pieces of amazingly tart raspberries that I don’t even care. Just like the Godiva cordial, I can completely ignore the dark chocolate and simply love, love, love on this bar. Ok, so that’s not quite true. There is no denying the dark chocolate. And for those of you who actually prefer dark chocolate, don’t worry, the taste of the dark chocolate is not lost. Not even for a minute. However, it is so perfectly balanced by the raspberry that I, an avouched dark chocolate hater, LOVE it! Just glancing at the picture you can see how this bar is packed full of tart raspberry goodness.

As much as I loved this bar, believe it or not, it is actually not my favorite of the bars I tried. That honor goes to the Very Cherry. Since it is mixed with both dark and milk chocolate, any hint of bitterness evaporates. It is actually the perfect blend for me. However that bar was gone long before I started writing my blog again, so I decided to focus on this one instead.

If you are a chocolate fan and have not yet tried DeBrand, I highly recommend them. I was not quite as impressed with their truffles, but they are HUGE truffles. And they are definitely tasty, just not as tasty as their Tasting Bars, Classic Collection or Connoisseur Collection.

Overall:
Taste: 10/10
Appearance: 9/10
Value: 9/10 (each bar is $7.25, which is pricey, but they are delicious. And although the label says they are 3 servings a piece, they more easily break into 4 servings. When you compare that to the cost of 4 truffles, these bars are a value).

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Chocolate Monday: Godiva eclairs

Godiva eclairs 2After returning rather late last Saturday from a week long beach trip in South Carolina, I found our house pretty empty of food. So, bright and early Sunday morning I set out for the grocery store to stock up on all the basic necessities for my family. While food was once again plentiful in our pantry and fridge, I was down to my last few scoopfuls of loose leaf tea, which meant that Monday required a trip to the mall.

For the first 30 or so years of my life I despised tea. No matter how hard I tried, and believe me, I desperately wanted to be British as a child, so I tried and tried and tried to like tea as I knew it would be required of me. When I was sick, I tried the whole tea with honey trick, but alas it could not soothe my throat as I could not drink it. Then one day, almost as if a switch had been flipped on my tastebuds, I found myself actually liking tea. Now, I drink it every single day, but only if it’s hot. Yes, that’s right, it was 90+ degrees at the beach and I was drinking hot tea.

Since tea is now part of my daily ritual, my lack of it meant a trip to the mall, as I have developed not just a taste for tea, but a taste for hoity-toity fancy teas. I used to be a strictly Teavana girl, but once discovering David’s Teas at my local mall, I’ve been converted. I actually stumbled upon David’s Teas only because it is two doors down from my favorite mall shop: Godiva.

While I set out for the mall in search of tea, I knew there was no way I’d miss out on a side trip to one of my favorite chocolate shops, especially since I was due for my free June piece of chocolate. Plus, I my kids were tea shopping with me and I knew bribing them with chocolate would ensure their good behavior.

To my delight, I found new treats available to try. I was immediately pulled toward the thin, lady-finger shaped chocolates in the main case. I loved the vibrant colors painted on each one. The white one with the pale pink, bright pink and dark mauve circles was the real stand out to me. Turns out these are not lady-finger inspired, but rather fashioned in the image of another dessert favorite of mine: eclairs.

I was a bit disappointed to see that only two of the eclairs were flavors I knew I would like. Since I am lucky enough to have a Godiva store less than 10 minutes away, I am able to buy individual chocolates, so I don’t have to spend money on pieces I might not enjoy. I bypassed both the dark chocolate and the coffee eclairs as I’m rarely a fan of dark chocolate on its own and I’ve yet to meet anything coffee flavored (including actual coffee) that I enjoy.

eclaire close upThat left the white chocolate strawberry eclair and the chocolate almond praline eclair for me to check out. Godiva’s white chocolate is not overly sweet, which I greatly appreciate. However, I was a bit let down by the strawberry filling inside. Godiva makes several fantastic strawberry pieces, but this filling did not have the bright strawberry flavor of their truffles. It reminded me a bit of strawberry yogurt, both in texture and in taste. It actually reminded me quite a bit of the Lindt Berry Affair stick I reviewed a few years ago. This eclair was much smoother as it didn’t have the flavor crystals Lindt had, but much like that filling, the Godiva one didn’t really stand out.

The praline almond stick definitely had a more pronounced flavor, but sadly, that flavor was coffee. In the display case, no mention was made of coffee. It was only listed by its name. Considering it already had almond and praline, I didn’t imagine for an instant there would be a third flavor in the mix. But there is and it is very pronounced. Even though I expected the dark chocolate shell to be a bit bitter, I was not quite ready for the double whammy of bitterness that comes with the infusion of coffee into the almond praline filling. For coffee lovers, this piece is probably pure heaven as the center is a bit liquidy and has a velvety texture.

This collection is definitely not one of Godiva’s best in my opinion. Lucky though, they also have some fun icon pieces for me to try and review. Hopefully those will be redemptive.

Taste: 4/10
Appearance: 10/10
Value: 4/10 (these run about $2 a piece–not nearly the value of their more substantial and cheaper cousins, the truffles)

Godiva eclairs

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Chocolate Monday: Back in play with Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate

3 C close upIt’s been a while since I wrote anything in this blog….a very long while. For about two years I was caught up in work, writing a novel and raising kids. I’m still doing the whole parenting thing, but I finished that novel…or the first and second drafts of it at least and it’s summer break, so I have a bit of time at that moment.

On a VERY long drive back from vacation at Isle of Palms, SC, I realized that since I finished my novel nearly a year ago, I have been lax about writing. Not lax exactly, more like just avoiding it. I don’t really have a good reason. In fact, I know that I really need to do another editing pass on my novel and then send it out to some more test readers so that maybe, just maybe, this dream of being a writer that started back when I was about 10 can come true.

But I’ll admit it, I’m scared. I’m scared that no matter how many editing passes the book goes through or how much positive feedback I get from very kind friends (so far 3 out of 3 readers have liked it and had a few very helpful suggestions), that it won’t be good enough. I’m not even sure what good enough means, but I fear it. Really fear it.

So, before I take the really gigantic plunge, I thought I’d get my feet wet by restarting this blog. Seems rather fitting as I just finished dipping my actual toes in the Atlantic Ocean every day for the last week. Well, every day except Wednesday when the sky kept opening up and making the outside world pretty unenjoyable. Of course, the inside world wasn’t much better as I was trapped in a house with just about every member of my husband’s family. And while most of them are very nice people, it’s pretty close quarters when there’s no way to leave.

Since my husband and I, like most Americans, are glued to our technology, we knew the day we arrived at the beach that we were in for some nasty weather later in the week. That meant that instead of saving our annual trip into Charleston for midweek when everyone would be getting more than a little sick of sharing the same few hundred square feet with each other, we had to move our trip to our very first full day in town.

Thankfully, it was a truly glorious day. It was warm, but even in town there was a nice breeze that mean walking from the Charleston Crab House, our favorite lunch place, through the open air City Market and then back to our car was actually pleasant. Some years temperatures in the 90’s along with dehydrating levels of humidity and a complete lack of breeze makes downtown Charleston a beautiful, but intolerable place to be. This year our ice cream from the always amazing Kilwin’s didn’t even melt before we’d made it back to our car.

One of my favorite stops in City Market is Sweet Charleston, which is wonderful not just because it is located in the small portion of the market that is actually full enclosed and air-conditioned, but also because it sells my favorite treat on the planet: chocolate. I always find fun new cocoa bites to try out.

3 Cs containerThis year I was drawn to Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate, a company I’d never heard of. I’m always excited for new chocolate finds and the picture on the package really made my mouth water. Gooey caramel pouring over a chocolate dipped waffle cone? This sounds pretty much like Nirvana to me. The company is at least 20% Fair Trade Certified by Fair Trade USA and proudly proclaims all of their Fair Trade ingredients on the back of the package, including their milk chocolate which is made from FT cane sugar, FT Cocoa butter, and FT chocolate liquor. They also list using grade AA butter and fresh whipping cream. I had to give this a try.

At first glance it’s pretty fun to look at. Pieces of waffle cone are pressed into the back side of the chocolate. They are scattered randomly, but there are definitely a lot of them. Inside the chocolate is a thin layer of caramel which actually stays inside the chocolate, unlike runnier caramels that pour right out after the first bite is taken. The caramel definitely has hints of vanilla. It’s not over powering though, just a light play on the tip of the tongue. The caramel is rather rich and definitely buttery as well.

It’s a bit hard to get the full flavor of the chocolate itself because it gets drowned out, not so much by the caramel, but by the waffle cone. The chocolate is creamy, but doesn’t stand out. I love the smell of waffle cones, but rarely get them because I always feel just a little let down by them. The taste rarely lives up to that wonderful smell, at least not for me. This waffle cone is no exception. I like the taste, but without the crisp of a fresh made waffle cone, the slightly soggy texture of the pieces on this bar make it fall even shorter than its larger, ice cream holding big brother.

Despite some texture flaws, the three flavors work well together and I will definitely be finishing the rest of the bar…it just may take me a few days.

Overall:

Taste: 7/10
Value: 6/10 ($4.95 per bar online although I paid an additional mark up of about .50 for it)
Appearance: 8/10

3 Cs bar and container

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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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