Saturday, February 05, 2011

Chocolate Capitalization: Notes on Vientiane, Bangkok, and DC

Yesterday, I heard essayist Kyoki Mori say that "if I were to do a blog, there would only ever be one post every three months." The material of her work, threads that stitch themselves together in patterns of recollection, association, lyric, and punctuation, don't lend themselves to brief excerpts, daily updates. My approach to my own blog in recent months has been temperamentally--as well as temporally--similar. I have spent my winter holiday in quiet corners in Thailand and Laos thinking and thinking and thinking over the essays I'm writing about Guatemalan chocolate, content to walk along the quiet Mekong river to find something constant in the quality of the light, or to consider, at great length, a single comma.

But back in the States, the day after I saw Mori speak at the annual AWP conference, I took myself from the Marriott in Woodley Park to Biagio Fine Chocolate in Adams Morgan and interviewed the oft-praised proprietor, Biagio Abbatiello. Still, the bean-to-bar-to-curated-chocolate-boutique narrative and its scene-setting eccentric details (a wooden mask of a garuda from Indonesia representing the geography of cacao, a location set back from the street to ensure that the sun doesn't peak through the window and send the temperature indoors above seventy degrees) is familiar enough, to me, to chocolate enthusiasts, to the ever-growing industry created by that ever-more-common narrative. Even in Biagio's words, "we've hit a comfort level in terms of what people like." I will celebrate that comfort. Today, I prefer the looser weave of idiom and idea to the allure of the new. I offer suggestions in this mindset, this context:

In Bangkok, buy the Essential Bangkok iPhone ap and Nancy Chandler's illustrated Bangkok map, and notice the lemongrass, the galangal, the ginger, the chiles that traveled here from the Americas half a millennium ago, everything that is phenomenal in shades of saffron and ochre, before occupying yourself with the mediocre chocolate.

In Vientiane, buy the pear and chocolate tart at Le Banneton. Go to the Phimphone Market for ice cream every day, always looking at the dessert counter to see if the Mexican chocolate cake will appear. Stay at the Hotel Khamvongsa, open the windows, walk down the street to Makphet for dinner one night and Le Vendome the next.

In DC, buy a Potomac chocolate bar at Biagio, possibly the only store that sells it. Then save it for after dinner at Pizza Paradiso in Dupont Circle, revered by Steve DeVries and no doubt better than the dinner I had last night.

Read a book published by Essay Press or Welcome Table Press.


Blogger Unknown said...

That Marriot's around the corner from my brother's apartment. I shall have to try Biagio next time I visit him!

5:01 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Sofie said...

Nice blog

12:24 AM GMT-5  

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