Thursday, September 27, 2012

Chocolate!

I was going to write a post about running and how I get overwhelmed reading or seeing other people's training logs. Maybe it's a frustration thing, realizing that I'm not doing the huge mileage that other people can handle. Rather than dwell on that, I'm switching gears and writing about chocolate instead.  MMMmmmmmm Chocolate!

Recently, I had planned to write a cookbook about chocolate. I wanted to make it a fun thing, so I invited people to contribute recipes. It didn't pan out the way I had anticipated. I will share recipes I was given here and give links to the websites of people who were kind enough to contribute. The book is on hold indefinitely, though. Before I got this idea, I had been toying with the idea of starting my own line of chocolate bars. I made a few prototypes that went over really, really well. People loved the concept, and I think I have something there. Unfortunately, it came down to a time and money problem. Despite having someone offer to back me, I couldn't see where I was going to find the time to pull off starting a new business. There were some other things holding me back too. You see, the chocolate world isn't as sweet as one would think. On the other hand, I do have a long and lovely history with chocolate.

Some history...


Years ago, I took a French pastry class here in Boulder, given by Bruce Healy, author of "Mastering the Art of French Pastry." It was a wonderful class, though there was a lady from Dallas who drove our teacher crazy with her long fake nails. To be honest, it kind of grossed me out to see those bright-red things in the pastry dough.

In the class, I learned more than simply how to create desserts. We attended five morning sessions, each ending with lunch and samples of what we had created.  I was injured at the time and couldn't run, so I would ride my bike to class as part of my workout. The teacher taught us about the chemistry behind the recipes and about passion. There's no doubt that strong emotion in creating food translates into a better end product.

Shortly after the class ended, I planned a trip to France with my mom. Knowing how much I love chocolate, Bruce told me that a stop in the chocolate shop LeNotre was a must. He gave me the address in Paris, and told me that he knew the head chocolatier. Of course, finding this place became my mission once I got to Paris, but I couldn't seem to locate the store, even with the address in front of me. Nobody was able to help us, because the address apparently wasn't correct. LeNotre had probably relocated. My mom was behind me on this mission, so while seeing the other sights, we continued to search for LeNotre for three days.

Late in the afternoon of the third day, we decided it was pointless and aborted the mission, electing to go look at antiques instead. We wandered down a narrow little street, admiring the charming little shops. At one point, I found myself peering through the window of a very tiny pastry shop. I could see a display of chocolates inside. Just as I stepped back and said to my mom, "Look how cute this place is," I noticed the sign above: LENOTRE! We dashed inside in order to buy some of the most amazing chocolates I have ever eaten.

LeNotre

My love affair with chocolate continued throughout the years. I was much more involved in cooking and baking when I was younger, and I even entered some competitions, winning the chocolate Lover's Fling one year and getting a recipe endorsement from Better Homes and Gardens another year. I eventually worked in catering, made wedding cakes and also spent time cooking in a few restaurants. Probably my favorite job, even though I endured long, hard hours, was as the assistant chef at a little Italian restaurant in Boulder. I eventually took the role as their pastry chef, creating some wonderful ice creams including a deep, dark chocolate truffle and also a lemon-mint chiffon flavor. When I got really sick with the eating disorder, though, I stepped out of cooking completely.

Looking back, I know that I was baking and cooking, in part, because it gave me a way to be around food without eating it. There's no doubt that I had a passion for cooking, but my illness was a big factor in why I was involved at all. When I stepped out of it, I didn't know it would be for so long, and I eventually got to the point where I didn't even like to make an effort to cook for myself. For close to 10 years, a stir-fry was about as complicated as it got in the kitchen for me, no longer creating fancy 5-course meals for people.

Everything changed when I went to a little chocolate and wine tasting at a local shop here in boulder last year. I realized that the passion I had experienced being involved with food years ago had been squashed. A taste of something sweet in a crowd of people who were visibly enthusiastic about chocolate reawakened something inside me. Suddenly, I was thinking about jumping back into the chef's scene. I wanted to do something chocolate related.

After years of sampling chocolate as part of a fun radio show called "The Sex and Chocolate Show," I knew whatever I did had to include chocolate. An idea for a chocolate bar had been floating around in my brain case for a long time, but I hadn't thought about moving forward with it until after that chocolate and wine sampling event. It was time to see where it could go. Unfortunately, I would find that some dreams are more complicated to achieve than others. There's a lot to consider when it comes to starting a business, and I was about to find out that not everyone is supportive of newbies in the chocolate arena. On the other hand, I've met some amazing and kind individuals along the way too, and even though my bars may never make it onto any shelves, I have learned a huge amount on this bitter-sweet path.

Considering all my past posts about vegans, some may find it a little bit odd that I make some killer vegan truffles. The other day when I served them at an event, someone told me I should quit my job and go into making chocolates. He didn't know at the time that they were vegan. Perhaps I should put the bar idea on hold and focus on the truffles, but again it comes down to good ideas without the time to get things going...or is it more about fear?

Lize's Vegan Truffles


Someday I might go more into the specifics of all that happened to me, the good, the bad and the not so pretty. I won't name names, but I will put out a warning that if you have a good idea, be careful about who gets to hear it. It only takes one bad experience with someone to sour something that could be so wonderfully sweet.

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