Thinking Outside the (Heart-Shaped) Box

I kind of hate Valentine’s Day. In a world where we should all be saying “I love you” any chance we can get, or where buying a partner flowers or candy should/could be a regular occurrence, there’s just way too much pressure to fill one particular day with a year’s worth of romance and caring. And because most people are out of practice when it comes to showing others that they care about them, they fall back on “tradition” (aka. the tacky and clichéd). So while, in truth, I don’t have too much problem with a heart-shaped box of assorted chocolates (I actually like the orange creams), so much of what falls into the standard Valentine’s Day gift list (a dozen red roses, champagne, romantic dinner for two) sort of makes me retch. Or at least roll my eyes and groan – and not in a good way.

Now while I can’t help readers with the other issues aside from advising that a gift that suits the recipient’s tastes is better than a gift that is simply “traditional” (ie. buy a cool plant or a bouquet of their favourite flower instead of those tacky roses; skip the teddy bear unless the giftee is under the age of 10; and wait until Sunday and go for a lovely brunch instead of getting shafted on an overpriced V-Day dinner…), I am able to recommend some non-traditional sweets and candies that show a lot more thought and creativity than a gift picked up at the gas station.

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Standing in the Dark

I’m a sucker for dark chocolate of just about any type, but I tend to avoid the stuff found in supermarket aisles or drugstore shelves. One of the only brands I will buy is Lindt, and then usually only when I know my stash of high-end stuff is getting low and I won’t have a chance to stock up any time soon.

I was in a drugstore last week and was lured to the fancy chocolate bar section where I grabbed a Lindt Creation 70% Caramel. Lindt’s Excellence Toffee Crunch milk chocolate bar with the toffee pieces is one of the few milk chocolates I’ll eat, so I figured the dark bar was probably just as good.

One shelf down was another display of dark chocolate bars; a selection of Nestlé Noir. I had heard good things about the Nestlé bars, but hadn’t thought of purchasing any myself, as I try to avoid Nestlé products whenever possible, just out of principle. But just for the hell of it, I grabbed the Nestlé Noir Eclat Caramel.

First of all, it wasn’t a real comparison, as the Lindt bar had more of a soft caramel filling, whereas the Nestlé bar was chunks of hard caramel, very similar to the Lindt milk chocolate bar.

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Beer and Chocolate and the Yeti Bo Betty Song

I know, I know, I know. There’s no excuse for the negligence. Not even that I was busy, because I wasn’t (not that “busy” is a real excuse for anything anyway – no one is too busy to attend to their priorities), I was sitting on my butt in front of the tube, watching People’s Court. Yes, for the past four days.

See, I got a new desk chair. The old one is a ten-year old piece of crap from IKEA and it was time for it to go. Except the new chair is aligned much differently, and while in the long run it might actually be a lot better for my back, in the short term, my back and neck were not appreciative, and responded by mostly seizing up and not really allowing me to move without pain from the waist up.

Thus, I stepped away from the computer for a few days, and armed myself with pain killers, a heating pad and a tube of Rub A535 and hung out with my gals, Judges Judy and Marilyn. Others get sucked into soaps and talk shows when forced to watch daytime TV, but for me it’s all about the small claims court.

What has this got to do with beer and/or chocolate? Not a damn thing, I’m just explainin’ why I’ve been gone.

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Sheryl & the Chocolate Factory

Every year, Toronto holds a city-wide festival during the last weekend in May called Doors Open where the public gets to go on free mini-tours of places they might not otherwise have the opportunity to see. Many of these buildings are ones that the public can get into if they have a reason to be there, either because they’re on a paid tour, or because they have business of some sort in the place. Few people have reason or opportunity to wander through a chocolate factory, though, so when the news came out that Cadbury was going to open the doors of its Toronto factory as part of Doors Open, people were excited. Unfortunately, while the concept of Doors Open is a good one, designed to encourage an appreciation for historical and architecturally unique buildings, what we got at the Cadbury’s factory doesn’t really even count as a “tour”.

Now I didn’t go expecting to see Oompa-Loompas. I didn’t expect to be greeted by Johnny Depp in a top hat. I didn’t figure there would be a river of chocolate. But on a “tour” of a chocolate factory, I do kind of expect to see some chocolate getting made.

At least put in a nice plate-glass window so we can watch the bars of chocolate whizzing by.

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