“The first thing to do is look at the chocolate,”advised Pierre. “Study its appearance.” Everyone unwrapped and carefully scrutinized their squares. The woman to my right gaped as though she’d just borne witness to some astounding magic trick. Hey, that’s not a chocolate! That’s my card, the Ace of Clubs! “Now, break the chocolate.” Pierre demonstrated. “A good chocolate will snap.” Snaps all around. “Now, put it in your mouth.” I was already there, having skipped chocolate-tasting steps #1 through #5 and gone straight to steps #6 and #7, chew and swallow. “What do you taste? Licorice? Green olives?” Nods and murmurs of assent from the gathering.
“Woodiness?”someone piped up.
“That’s licorice,”Pierre set them straight. And then, without missing a beat: “Apricots? Currants?” My unrefined palate tasted chocolate mostly. Well, chocolate and an underlying sharpness that may have been currants but could just as easily have been the tiny corner of foil wrap I’d unwittingly ingested.
It was a little after noon and I was at Monde Chocolat on Burrard. The shop was hosting Pierre Cluizel, son of Michel Cluizel & operations manager of the Michel Cluizel company, who was in town to promote the high-end chocolate line. Of course being the chocolate veteran I am, I already knew Cluizel from A to V (A for their Los Ancones plantation in Saint Domingue and V for their Vila Gracinda plantation on the island of Sao Tome), and Fondy in particular is more than familiar with their Grand Lait 45%, her very favorite milk chocolate bar. Still, Monde Chocolat co-founders and owners Karlo and Fabiana were kind enough to invite me and a dozen other lucky regulars for this early afternoon chocolate tasting.
“How would you approach tasting if you were pairing chocolate with wine, cognac, or porto?”asked one eager beaver. Then, another participant inquired about the conching process. As Pierre fielded their queries, my inner voices kept screaming: “Come one! Come on! Let’s get back to the tasting!”
And eventually, we did, making our way through each of the squares in our complimentary chocolate kit. This one redolent with caramel aromas. That one possessed of herbaceous notes. That other one boasting a subtle spiciness and the flavor of green bananas. I took time off from my chocolate appreciation to take pics of the gathering. Across the room, some unidentified young woman was snapping photos of her own a with much, MUCH better camera – one of those fancy ones with the removable lens! As she lined up her next shot, I sidestepped clear. “Sorry.” I felt the need to apologize. “I’m notoriously un-photogenic.” She smiled sympathetically. I redirected my attention back to the chocolate lesson. From the corner of my eye, I caught her lining me up and snapping a pic. She checked the result and frowned, lined me up and tried again.
The demonstration wrapped and, while everyone else worked the room, I redirected my attention back to my chocolate kit and its remaining contents in a bid to further educate myself on its tastes and textures (a.k.a. tide myself over as it was well past lunch and I hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast). As I polished off my complimentary snack box, the mystery photographer stepped up and snapped another photo of me. “I taste licorice and green olives,”I expounded, “with just a hint of the migrant farm worker who was murdered and buried near the cocoa plant where the beans were harvested.”
She nodded, casting her mind back to the chocolate’s multi-layered essence. “I think his name was Manny…Manuel…”
“I’m getting more of a knifing undertone than bullet notes.”
“Yeah, sort of one of these,”she concurred, shanking me in the gut with her invisible shiv.
She introduced herself as Mackenzie and it turned out she wasn’t there to snap photos for her own blog after all. She was documenting the event for her mother, Hodie, who is a partner in the chocolate shop. Over the course of our ensuing conversation, I learned that she not only dabbled in photography but acting, prawn fishing, and zip-line operation as well. Just the thought of the latter – screaming down an angled cable hundreds of feet above a forest canopy – was enough to make me shudder. “No way,“I confided. “I don’t even like it when someone I know is on a balcony.”
“You’re afraid of heights.”
“It’s a medical condition,”I explained and then, glancing down at the time on my blackberry realized I had twenty minutes to get downtown. I excused myself. “I’ve got a meeting with my accountant and then another meeting with my financial advisor.”
Mackenzie threw me a sideways glance. “Are you going in for a root canal too?”
“Actually, my dentist appointment is next week.” And with that, I was out the door.
About an hour later, once my sit-down with my accountant wrapped, I walked up the street to Japa Dog, Vancouver’s one-of-a-kind Japanese hot dog stand. In addition to the standard fare (turkey, bratwursts, and jalapeno and cheese smokies), Japa Dog offers some unique menu items like the Terimayo (an all beef smothered in Japanese mayo, nori, teriyaki sauce, and fried onions) and the Oroshi (a bratwurst laden with special soy sauce, green onions, and daikon). Its tiny set-up is plastered with photos of celebrities enjoying their Japa Dog dogs. “Hey!”I was tempted to say. “I’ll have what Ice Cube had.” But instead, I went with the latest addition to the menu: the Kurobuta (Japanese black hog) dog smothered in grilled red onions, wasabi mayo, and hot sauce. Wow! Totemo Oishikatta!
I returned home to various household chores and a veritable ant invasion. Apparently taking advantage of Fondy’s absence, they’ve elected to bivouac in the front room. “I had the same problem,”my mother revealed when I spoke with her tonight.
“What did you do?”I asked.
“Put down the cucumber skin. The ants don’t like.”
So I put down the cucumber skin. I can’t be sure whether the ants liked it or not, but I do know that one of my pugs certainly did. Five minutes after carefully lining the perimeter of the back porch, I stepped outside in time to catch Bubba snapping up the last of the thinly sliced English cukes. If he could speak, I knew exactly what he would have said: Slightly herbaceous with earthy notes and an undercurrent of formicidae.
Our continuing discussion of The Etched City –
Thornyrose writes: “The Authorities probably saw it as a way of ensuring Horn Fan’s destruction, given the three to one odds they were granted. And I attributed the victory of the Horn Fan less to supernatural explanations than the simple fact that every man on that side knew that they were dead men anyways, and they fought accordingly.”
Answer: Maybe, but I found it odd that given the nature of the battle, the Society of the Horn Fan suffered no significant injuries. This would seem to suggest more than sheer luck was at play.
Aqualegia writes: “Thoughts on The Etched City: I thoroughly enjoyed the first part of the book where they were escaping, it was a rollicking adventure. Unfortunately it went downhill from there. Once they were in the city it was hard going, and not very interesting. The final straw as far as I was concerned was when the religion/religious discussion got to be the main focus of the story….”
Answer: I’ll admit that the story slowed down for me too at this point but then quickly picked up with the developments in the Horn Fan camp. With the introduction of Elm’s son, events took an even darker turn and I fairly sailed through the rest of the book.
Finally – Heard from Janina who wanted to express her appreciation for all of the great feedback on her appearance here. She asked me to pass along the following links if you’d like to keep up to date on with her and her ongoing projects…
SG1Fan writes: “On various places on the web, a few people have claimed to be involved in Stargate behind the scenes in some form or another, and have mentioned a number of times that the fans shouldn’t be looking at Continuum’s success (which it will have I am sure!) to bring about a third, or even more movies…but in fact, an eleventh season.”
Answer: People who are making such claims have no idea what they’re talking about and I seriously doubt they are in any way involved in the show’s production. As much as I would love to see an 11th season for SG-1, it aint gonna happen.
Sarah writes: “In a recently published interview with yourself and Mr. Bob Picardo, Bob was quoted as stating in reference to Kanan: “…Teyla’s husband–the father of her child…” Can you let us know if this is a major spoiler or just a slip of the tongue error?”
Answer: Slip of the tongue. Teyla is not married.
Narelle from Aus writes: “Do you have wine preference to go with all of this food?”
Answer: Believe it or not, I’m not much of a wine drinker.
RangerOne writes: “Do the people who do the commentaries get paid to do them?”
Answer: Those who take part in the commentaries do so on a voluntary basis. They do not get paid. As much as the production would love the secure the participation of the various actors, producers, and directors, it comes down to availability. The commentaries are done in Vancouver during the show’s production and it’s often very difficult for an actor to find the time to do them. As for what is discussed – it all depends. The directors will discuss the technical aspects while the producers will probably discuss both the story and production aspects. We try to cover a variety of topics. What you find boring, others fans may find interesting – and vice-versa.
Big J writes: “When Ronon was introduced to Stargate Atlantis, he remarked that he couldn’t be fed upon. The new info (a teaser for the episode) says that Ronon is fed upon and given life over and over as torture. How can this be possible?”
Answer: Ronon never said he couldn’t be fed upon. He told his story to Teyla and we witnessed a flashback in which the wraith was about to feed on Ronon then stopped, reconsidered, and made him a runner. We discussed this scene with the writer, Rob Cooper, two years ago and, in his mind, the wraith didn’t stop because he was unable to feed. He stopped because he was so impressed with Ronon’s defiance that he realized he would make for great sport – and thus made him a runner.
Cheeky Lil Devil writes: “Thanks for keeping us up to date, I just hope, you know that Remnants will be everything we hope it is, because you know what the whumpers are like. You know especially how much we adore the character development. So any news on what the network said about some of the scenes?”
Answer: Well – y’know – we’re still on hiatus and I – well, y’know – just got the script in a little while ago so I expect notes – y’know – hopefully sometime before we start shooting.
Jm writes: “I was wondering how you felt about that juxtaposed to the success of shows such as “Lost” where the audience inherently *doesn’t* get it, especially on an episode to episode basis?”
Answer: Lost is heavily serialized. At the heart of its premise is an intriguing mystery that is explored and revealed over time. It’s a completely different show.
Shadow Step writes: “Well, needless to say I disagree – there are always rules and limits, they can just be harder to see sometimes. If you have a transporter which can beam the heroes to safety – is easier to write a “good” story with it working or would it be easier if one was to contrive a malfunction?”
Answer: I don’t think you can make the same comparison with time travel. You need to be consistent with what you can and cannot do. Simply saying “Hey, anything can happen” and then writing a story that suits your needs, creating contrivances to patch up spotty logic is, in my opinion, lazy writing.