CHOCOHOLICS’ DELIGHT

I remember the close up in the French film, “CHOCOLAT”, of a bowl full of chocolate being mixed by hand. I still recall my desire to push my finger through the screen and get a lick from the bowl. (Marty said, “That’s you alright.”) MV5BMjA4MDI3NTQwMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjIzNDcyMQ@@._V1_SY317_CR1,0,214,317_AL_

My husband and I are chocoholics. Our tastes include chocolate ice cream and cake, but not to the same extent as our love for chocolate candy, and we rarely pass up a chance to watch the manufacture of chocolate.

When our children were young, we visited the Hershey plant and museum, in Hershey, Pennsylvania. The exhibit ended with preparations of mouth- watering pies, using fresh butter and eggs. We had our camper, then, and didn’t hesitate to pick up a pie for dinner.

In Melbourne, Australia, we joined a group on a Chocolate Tour. Can you imagine touring the city on foot, and sampling all kinds of chocolate and other confections along the way? The tour included an ice cream cone. We finished at a lovely restaurant with a great chocolate cake and a beverage.  Although we were exhausted after the walk, we didn’t experience any discomfort from our “lunch.”

It was cold and damp on the day that we witnessed a demonstration of processing chocolate in Bruges, Belgium. What could be better than hot chocolate, to chase away the chills? We were served a soup bowl- sized cup of hot milk and a bar of chocolate, which we added as much as we liked to the milk, to achieve the desired strength of hot chocolate. Marty and I used all of the chocolate for a nice rich beverage, but we had the option of saving all or some of the chocolate to nibble later.

We narrowly escaped getting a speeding ticket on our way to Lubec, Maine, not far from Campobello Island. It was unchartered territory and we were anxious to reach Lubec before dark. Monica, the proprietor of Monica’s Chocolates,  creates wonderful European -style bonbons: two inch round delicacies of chocolate, filled with caramel and nuts or fruits, and wrapped in brightly colored foil and contrasting ribbon. Definitely worth a trip to Lubec, but don’t speed to get there! bonbons-grouping

We’ve been anxious to visit the renowned Cowboy Chocolatier in Meeteetse, Wyoming, but the owner, Tim Kellogg  travels in January and we’ve always missed him. This year we left later than usual, and spend most of February in Thermopolis, enjoying the outdoor hot springs. So we were able to visit.

Meeteetse is a quaint western town, on route 20, about halfway between Thermopolis and Cody with a population of around 300. The sidewalks are wood. The town has a beautiful high school, a few nice restaurants, a post office, a fine museum of the locality, and the Cowboy Chocolatier. Tim doesn’t put on cowboy boots for effect; he does make a living by roping steers. But he is also recognized for his candy making. He competes internationally, and has received awards for his quality chocolate.

We were not allowed to take pictures of the candy production. We were informed that the sweets only have a shelf life for about five or six days and were advised to keep the chocolate away from heat, strong light, and not refrigerate or freeze. The candy is organic and gluten free. Naturally we’ve kept the candy for more than six days and it was very fine and smooth. We sampled chocolate made with cocoa beans from Venezuela, Honduras, and Morocco. The truffles were without nuts but were flavored with spices and liquors.

On the way back from Meeteetse, I  felt like having some chocolate cream pie, which was not on the menu where we stopped. But the apple pie hit the spot.

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Attractions on the Interstate

Our usual trip to Thermopolis, Wyoming was delayed this year from December to late January. It is a long journey and each year we check out the possibilities of flying, and each year we opt to drive. The logistics of flying are horrible; the connections from one flight to another, disastrous. So we pack up our car and prepare for three and one half days on the road. We have our routine and manage to visit friends and relatives along the way and enjoy the ride.

Honestly, I look forward to stopping at the incredible rest areas on the Interstate Highways, funded by federal and state governments. The familiarity of these sites is “comforting.” These facilities have no concessions. Fresh food and fuel aren’t sold, but the areas around the buildings are landscaped and have shaded spots for picnicking. There are placards disseminating local history and geology, and travel information is available. I’ve heard it said that the most attractive room in your house should be the bathroom, where we spend more time studying detail. This applies to pubic restrooms as well.

Nebraska was one of the first states to modernize the rest areas on Interstate Highway 80. The lavatories include attractive blue and white tiles; the stalls are corrugated stainless steel, and there are built -in changing tables. unnamed-5

The windy hills on Route 26, in Wyoming are dotted with creatively designed rustic facilities. The stalls are covered with mosaics constructed from local stone and the painted trim on the stalls compliments the hues in the stonework. unnamed-6

Back on Interstate 80, in Iowa, the comfort stations are architectural achievements, more like museums, known as New Generation Rest Stops. The motorist needn’t wonder where he/she is; each unit is unique. Glass and steel are used extensively in construction. The floors inside the structures are mosaic tile maps of the locale. My favorite is a tribute to prominent writers from the state. The pillars at the entrance are designed to look like writing pens. On our recent trip, we didn’t stop at the facility with the pens. However, I did take a picture of a granite sculpture in front of the highway rest area in Council Bluffs, Iowa.P1000024-2

On the Ohio Turnpike, most of the rest sites have concessions with access to all services. Some of the facilities are large circular buildings and the concessions offer better quality food. It was at one of the stops on the Ohio Turnpike, that we discovered “The Panera Bread Company,” a chain we’ve come to like and look for in our travels. There’s comfort sometimes in knowing what we can eat.

The stop on the Garden State Parkway, near Oradell, New Jersey, and close to where the Garden State and Route 287 intersect is always bustling. Yet, I appreciate the fresh plants on display in the lavatory year round.

It’s hard to miss the palatial edifices designed like hunting lodges, invoking those of Teddy Roosevelt’s era, on the New York Thruway and on the strip of I-90 that runs through the state of New York. There are several styles of “lodges,” so the traveler has an idea which town he/she’s near on the highway.

Are you tired of the hassle of flying? My guess is that you haven’t visited such beautiful bathrooms in any of the airports like the ones on the nation’s highways.  So get the family chariot in good condition and see the U.S.A!