Thursday, March 6, 2008

Choco Loco

“All you really need is love, but a little chocolate now and then won’t hurt!” (Lucy Van Pelt in Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz)

A gift is not just a gift. Too little and too generic equals a thoughtless act. An extravagant and very expensive gift can not only seem an over the top inducement but a warranty for favors.

All year long, we are faced with a dilemma on what gifts to give- birthdays, thank-you-presents, get wells, hostess gifts, holidays and most of all Valentine’s Day. Do we give only our “significant someone” or everyone we love? After all, it is the day of hearts- L.O.V.E!

That’s where chocolates come in. Give me one person who despises chocolates and I’ll give you a hundred chocoholics. From time immemorial, chocolates have been lifting our spirits, stimulating our senses and exciting our passion. And now, recent studies have even suggested that cocoa or dark chocolate contain helpful ingredients good for our health; setting off the "Chocolate diet", that highlights 2 ounces of dark chocolate per day (100 calories). That’s a diet I would love to undertake!

If that is not tempting at all to rush to the store and get this precious pieces of heaven, why not experiment it on your significant someone. Hand your lover a box of fine chocolates, light a candle, put on some soft samba music, start the chocolate tasting and see where the mood takes you! It may be the best experiment you have ever endeavored.

“The best way to degust a piece of chocolate is to put it in your tongue, close your eyes and let it slowly melt in your mouth”. Chocolate expert Stephane Dabazach of Gallothai’s Duc de Praslin is passionate about chocolates. Chocolates, he further adds, “… is a sensual experience involving sight, touch, sound, smell and taste. The evenness of the deep dark brown color, the snap as you break it, the delicate aromas accompanied by the sycophantic melting in the mouth arouses the taste buds, as the sweetness and bitterness explodes into a silky consistency that brings the pleasure”.

Duc de Praslin may well be the best place for chocolates in town with some 30 varieties of pralines (16-18B/piece) in many shapes and sizes apt for all occasions and festivities; including chocolate coated fruits and nuts. Evidently the only manufacturer of fine chocolates in Thailand with 9 outlets in Bangkok, Phuket and Chiangmai, they have paved the way in opening the palates of local gourmands to the joys of chocolates.

The best place to hang out and taste the rich cocoa drink to wash down a praline or two is at Duc de Praslin Café House at Fenix Tower (Sukhumvit Soi 31, Tel: 02 2583200). The powder blue façade stands out, so it is hard to miss it. Inside are comfy seats to enjoy a set of: fine cocoa drink, a croissant, a glass of orange juice and a praline (95B); for a midday boost or a treat after work (open 7:30am- 9:00pm). The stock is plenty for a quick stop for some presents, like when you are late for a date or did something thoughtless (right?); or even nice truffles for you to cuddle with by the sofa to end the day- why not?

Chocolates, like wine, has some intricacies to ensure its utmost enjoyment: store chocolates in the refrigerator in the middle section, too cold will make the cocoa butter rise to the surface; eat chocolates at room temperature to ensure the maximum sensation of its taste; only indulge in the best chocolates you can get your hands on, for the real pleasure of it; and eat chocolates moderately, dark chocolates for health benefits and a creamy praline as a rewarding treat.

It makes me wonder what magic these balls of cacao really have. Casanova referred to chocolate as the "elixir of love” and is said to have enjoyed a mug of cocoa drink before embarking on one of his conquest. The ancient Mayans took sips for fertility, and the Aztecs were convinced that chocolate was an intoxicating aphrodisiac. King Montezuma, who kept a harem, consumed fifty cups of chocolate per day.

It was hard to pinpoint at that time why the brown potion worked. Recently studies prove chocolate have shown the presence of phenylethylamine, called the “love molecule”, causing a high and state of being in love. Some behavioral effects include greater confidence, unexplained joy, diminishing fatigue, and general sense of well-being. Sounds familiar?

Chocolate also contains serotonin, triggering feelings of pleasure; while testosterone levels of ladies have been shown to increase after eating chocolate. How’s that for a mojo!

A nice box of chocolate as a gift will never get old; it gives anyone a good reason to indulge in the glorious orbs of melting pieces of pleasure.

An age old joke says: a man found a bottle on the beach, opened it and out popped a genie, granting him three wishes. The man wished for a million dollars, and poof! Wads of dollars came falling from the skies. Then he wished for a convertible, and poof! A Porsche appeared. And then, he wished he could be irresistible to all women... poof! He turned into a box of chocolates. Need I say more?

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