My Favourite Things: Chocolate

I love chocolate. I don’t eat chocolate bars from the supermarket anymore. I go to specialty chocolate stores for my fix.

My favourites, hands down, anywhere in the world:

Chocolate makers:

Chocolate by The Shop, Phnom Penh. Who would have imagined there’s be a specialty chocolate shop in Cambodia and that it is really really really good?? It is so good that I bought boxes of them whenever I was in town to gift. The fact that it is easy on the pocket was a huge bonus. Expensive for Cambodian standard of living, but extremely reasonable for the American snob. My favourites are the dark, the white, and the passion fruit pralines. They just melt in your mouth, those chocolates, but somehow with being made in a humid climate, they don’t melt on the way home. Women talk about craving chocolate all the time; when was the last time you heard a man say so? I got my male colleagues hooked and they go for their fix as well!

Recchiuti Confections. I schedule flight layovers in San Francisco just to buy their chocolates. Pricey, but so worth every penny!! A lot of chocolate makers mix in unusual flavors- salt, pepper and cinnamon, rose, etc- but more often than not, the flavors aren’t blended into the chocolate and leaves a jarring taste in my mouth. This one has figured out how to fix that. No matter what flavour, it melts smoothly.

Hot Chocolate: 

Not to be confused with neighbouring Serendipity Cafe’s celebrity frozen hot chocolate, my favorite hot chocolate either order in or to take back home to brew myself is Dylan’s Candy Bar hot chocolate. Actual chocolate shavings melted in hot milk. Sadly, I haven’t been able to purchase any online lately. But should any be available, highly recommend you purchase some, after I have my turn..

Countries:

Belgium. Hands down. Don’t bother with the brands or the pre-packaged stuff. Just go to the mom and pop shops that have their various truffles laid out for you to admire. I would stop by a store each day, a different one as there is one every single block, and get a sampling of different flavors. That would be my chocolate intake for the entire day.

Switzerland. But, like Belgium, don’t go to the mass producers. The specialty shops are pricey, but often crowded. That should tell you something.

Just Chocolate in general:

CoCo Sala is the biggest chick pit in DC. It has got to be. Every time I go, the place is packed with women. The few men there who are not staff tend to be boyfriends/husbands humoring their lady’s desire. Their chocolate-inspired menu has changed considerably since their opening, but that’s the nature of a surviving restaurant/bar/lounge.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Fall

I realise I offer a more depressing interpretation. Bear with me as I use this opportunity to say: Lest we forget.

The fall of human dignity: Converting a former high school into a prison and torture centre, targeting the educated class. Pol Pot and Khmer Rouge regime in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

I recently finished a superb but terribly sad book, Life and Death in Shanghai. The author Nien Cheng survived imprisonment during the chaotic Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. Chairman Mao Zedong used the social-political movement to destroy capitalism and imperialism, in the charge of enforcing communism. The current Shanghai would have both saddened her as well as given her hope for her native country. I offer a symbol of the fall of the Proletarian Revolution demonstrated by the return of capitalism. Unfortunately, the revolution shattered so many lives, and tore part a country’s ancient history and culture.

Cambodian Tuktuks

I despise riding tuktuks in Thailand. But for some reason, I love the ones in Cambodia. Unlike the Thailand three-wheeled carts, these are carriages attached to a motorcycle pulling it. There are a couple single-vehicle units that are still made to resemble the pulled carriage structure.

The compartment is usually made of wood, sometimes so shabbily so we are afraid to really put our weight on the floorboards, in fear of our legs breaking right through the planks onto the asphalt below. There’s something about the carriage, though, that just feels rustic and old fashioned. Maybe it’s the poles supporting the hood that looks almost like a thin pillar. Maybe it’s the benches being not unlike the benches of the old horse carriages. Or the penchant for a lot of the drivers to hand up curtains around  the compartment, largely plastic rain shields, but an occasional fabric curtain or two.

As much as I am charmed by the vehicle, I vehemently dislike the process of being ripped off by the drivers. Fares generally are negotiated, especially when dealing with the mafia camped out in front of  the major hotels. There’s an organized element to the hoard of tuktuks that wait in front of the hotels. They follow a queue system, and they have a price point they try to maintain that is as much as four times the fair value. A gaggle stakes claim to particular street corner or hotel entrance and any one trying to join in will likely be bullied.

The tuktuk mafia hate me. Frugal to the fault, I believe in paying at fair value, not a penny more. It’s not that I can’t afford it.. but a lot of locals and NGO expats cannot afford raising tuktuk fares. So I don’t encourage the drivers.  Like taking taxis in Bangkok, I’ve learned flagging a tuktuk passing on the street is the best way. More often than not, the drivers don’t even haggle, they just accept what you pay at the end as long as it is fair.

The rides are not smooth. And often quite scary when weaving between huge SUVs in traffic that doesn’t stop for any light. With no suspension, riders have to be grateful the asphalt isn’t terribly potholed- yet.