May 26th, 2008

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Chuao ChocoPod - Modena

While I was over in Shirlington yesterday, I stopped in at The Curious Grape, which sells both wine and high end chocolate. I stocked up on the latter. The only thing I bought that I already knew was a 5-Star hazelnut bar from Lake Champlain chocolates. I discovered those because of Steve Almond's book, Candyfreak and they are fabulous. Assuming, of course, you like chocolate with hazelnuts. It's a good thing they're expensive ($2.99 for a 1.9 oz bar) or I'd eat them more often. (As it is, I end up having one about every 4-6 weeks.)

The first of my other purchases that I've tried is the Modena ChocoPod from Chuao Chocolatier. This is a dark chocolate (60% cacao) shaped like a natural cacao pod, filled with strawberry and balsamic caramel. They say it is single origin cacao, but I had to figure out for myself that it is Venezuelan.

The chocolate shell is fine, but I found the filling to be a bit too sweet. I suspect that is because of the corn syrup in the filling. (I should note that I do not believe corn syrup is worse for you than any other form of sugar, but it does tend to be particularly sweet.) It had a nice strawberry flavor, but just a hint (barely detectable and probably unnoticeable if you don't know it's there) of the balsamic vinegar.

Overall, this was good, but not good enough to justify $6.99 for a box of six pieces (11 grams or less than a half ounce each).
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How to Promote a Country

Like many people who travel, I love travel brochures. Even if I wouldn't take an organized tour somewhere, the tour brochures are often a good source of itinerary ideas. Then there are the brochures that various national (or local) tourism organizations put out.

A lot of those are very commercial and a bit shabby, full of seaside casino / spa offerings. But a few countries do a notably good job. In the process of cleaning out my stack of accumulated brochures, I came across one from Korea. With a brochure like theirs, you wouldn't even need a guidebook. It lays out suggested itineraries for neighborhoods in Seoul (and for entire other cities), describes regional foods, and has what look to be highly usable maps. I suspect they are taking lessons from the Japanese, who have great walking tour maps in major cities and who have some of the most helpful tourist office staff workers in the world.

Korea doesn't seem to be high on the tourism agenda for most Americans, but this brochure should help.
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Young at Heart

I got enough household stuff done to feel somewhat justified in going out to a movie. Young at Heart was playing conveniently nearby (at the Cinema Arts Theatre in Fairfax) and proved to be a fine choice.

This is a documentary about the Young at Heart chorus of Northampton, Massachusetts, a group of senior citizens who have performed all over the world. What makes them interesting is that, instead of performing the old standards you might expect from a group of people in their 70's and 80's, they sing a mix of rock, punk, and r&b songs. The movie traces their preparation for a concert, as they struggle to learn new songs and cope with the deaths of two members. Their director, Bob Cilman, is sometimes frustrated but you can tell how much he loves working with the group - and how much they love both singing and one another.

One common problem with documentaries does rear its head, as director Stephen Walker's interaction with the people he is filming sometimes feels intrusive. I'm also not sure why he so often films members in cars and has so much footage of traffic. But those flaws don't keep this from being a warm and inspiring movie, full of laughs and tears.