take me to haarlem(merstraat).

God, when I come up with a post title like that, it's a definite sign that I should not be writing right now. But I really am quite busy at the moment, so we have to take what we can get in terms of inspiration.

Speaking of inspiration, I needed some yesterday. So I spent a little extra time on the Haarlemmerstraat on my way home from the gym. These seem like dialectically opposed forces, don't they, the gym and Haarlemmerstraat. Fear not: I haven't touched any of this stuff since I bought it.

Well, OK, I had a few crumbs of this:

Which I got at a croissanterie called Jerusalem on the Haarlemmerstraat. It's a Middle Eastern or North African semolina cake called haresa or basboosa (recipe here), and it's part of the great Middle Eastern tradition of taking a cakey dessert and then soaking it in rose-scented sugar or honey water. And then eating it. BTW, I can't recommend Jerusalem for anything but sweets (they do falafel and shoarma as well)...not b/c it's bad, I just haven't tried it.

And the Valrhona above is from Unlimited Delicious, which is really one of my favorite places to shop. The staff is extremely friendly and knowledgeable, and they really seem to love what they sell. Which maybe isn't so surprising.

About the chocolate: this is probably the best chocolate bar I've ever tasted. It's kind of like the difference between the house wine and an "actual wine" at a European cafe: instead of just tasting "wine", or "chocolate", all of the sudden you want to start using adjectives like "supple", "vibrant", and "woody".

Just like with wine, this has to do primarily with careful selection of inputs (beans) from specific growing regions and a painstaking manufacturing process designed to emphasize the best qualities of the beans. Wikipedia says that as of 2008, "Valrhona is currently the only company in the world that produces vintage chocolate made from beans of a single year's harvest from a specific plantation." I don't think this is true anymore, if it ever was: it looks like Michel Cluizel has been doing single origin cacao bars for a couple of years now. BTW, The Nibble has some seriously deep articles and reviews about this stuff if you're interested.

The big, big bar pictured above (more than half a pound) is made from beans grown on a single plantation in northwestern Madagascar. It's still here after 4 days, though we're down to the "L".


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