As it turns out, chocolate is the new black.
We all know that taste is subjective: the saying that one person's meat can be another one's poison can certainly be applied to just about anything these days. Some times, ones interpretive poison can actually be due to lack of familiarity.
A bevy of food items, from offal to entrails, can be considered awful one day, yet chic, intriguing, and in vogue the next. Once ubiquity kicks in, it seems that one is conditioned to accept something because everyone knows about it.
For years, I've been digging for needles through haystacks in pursuit of gastronomic excellence. In spite of enjoying countless savory repasts, my sweet tooth always prevails. I am drawn to trends in sweets, often frustrating fellow dining companions by ordering the same item repeatedly from different restaurants to compare preparations and interpretations. Sampling endless cessations-by-chocolate, tarts, tortes, and truffles had put me in a sweetmeat stupor.
It's the same story for as long as I can remember.
When I was at Red Barn Nursery School, and later Perrin School, my mum used to bring a huge assortment of cupcakes decorated with Halloween motifs to my class, as my birthday falls within that week. As orange-frosted golden cakes were quickly snapped up by tiny hands, I had my eye on my favorite: the devil's food with chocolate frosting, topped with a three-dimensional flying bat.
One of my favorite Halloween night memories back then was dressing up in my metallic aqua-and-silver genie outfit and slipping into the night under the watchful eye of my older siblings, who'd help me carry my plastic Blinky jack-o-lantern bucket as it would get heavier the further we'd venture from home.
Most kids in our neighborhood were wild about quantity; I, too, was excited by lots of candy (what kid wasn't?), but for me, selection trumped bulk every time. I wanted Reese's peanut butter cups, not petrified Tootsie rolls, not razor-rumored apples, and definitely not stale candy corn. I don't need a ton of black liquorice pipes, just give me some Razzles and a 100 Grand bar.
Flash forward a few decades: hardcore foodies join me for a serious sampling of single-origin chocolates. Wafer after wafer of graduating levels of cacao from Columbia, Venezuela, Madagascar, Dominican Republic, and Papua New Guinea left us surprisingly unfulfilled.
The world was spinning, and so were our heads.
I felt as I did when I was a kid when we were living abroad. There was no Halloween, and our cravings for the usual cache of fun-sized Hershey bars, Almond Joys, and Kit Kats were met with lurid-colored hard candies and cloying tutti-frutti.
Exhausted and with a numbed palate from all these samplings, I embraced a “hair of the dog” philosophy and soldiered on. I emerged from the pantry with a bowl filled with snack-sized Mars bars. Crisis over: the reality is that just a few items is what mattered. They'd have to be very good. Lots of 'em didn't seem to hurt, either.
Halloween, it seemed, was like the Warner Brothers cartoons of my childhood: it was only until I was older did I realize that they were actually aimed at adults.
Today, when pulling together my Halloween stash for the kids, I set aside some toothsome “adult” nibbles for their chaperons. The house is filled with Ferrero's delightful almond-coconut-creme bites called Raffaelo (try to get your hands on some -- they're fantastic), and Lake Champlain's impossibly delicious caramel-filled chocolates. Don't get me started: I can finish an entire bag in a single night. Wicked.
Are you trick-or-treating this Halloween? What goodies will you be nibbling on? Giving away? Post your comments below!
Wellesley resident Sally Khudairi is chief executive of communications/lifestyle consultancy HALO Worldwide, and co-owner/creative-director of Dorset Café in Wellesley Hills.