ZEN CHOCOLATE PROJECT

live | play | create | eat chocolate | slay bullshit

Zen Chocolate Project Satori

This project has come to a close as I lived my way into the newest chapter of my life.

That doesn’t mean I’m done with chocolate (What are you suggesting?!!!)

It just means I won’t be documenting every bite of my recently-purchased-in-Paris Patrick Roger bars.

It means I won’t discuss my sadness at being in Paris in August when both Pierre Marcolini and Jacques Genin were closed. *tear*

And it means I won’t be reviewing the delicious chocolate I had at Fresson in Metz. (Go there!)

So, have fun exploring here, and, if you’re curious about my next steps in this world, check out: Rare Bird with Emily Silbert

There’s good stuff happening there: 70% dark humour, 30% sweetness & light. 100% Fun & Challenging.

Dark Chocolate Tasting Party!

If you can make it to the Hammer on May 4th, here’s a suggestion for what you should be doing from 5-7 p.m:

Click on the link below to see the flyer!

Mmmm…..

Chocolate Tasting Party

 

Jump!

I felt the rumblings of change, followed the cracks in the earth and have launched myself headfirst into the vast crevasse below: I’ve registered for Marie Forleo‘s b-school. It comes highly recommended by two people for whom I have immense respect. Both are women who have demonstrated authenticity and integrity – as much as can be ascertained via the medium of the internet – in their work and what they stand up for. (That’s you, Danielle Laporte and Bindu Wiles!)

What is b-school? It’s an online business school for women who want to build a business, getting and leveraging online marketing. It’s an 8-week interactive training program for women entrepreneurs. It’s an 8 weeks that promises to be a DAMN good time. Check it out: b-school.

Apparently the change coming was this, my next project. Er, it will overlap with the Zen Chocolate Project, but that is just fiiiiine. And I have a feeling this will be yet another thing that teaches me lots, but gives me even more to chew on for a long time. I was so excited, I made a really bad tribute music video for Marie & her partner Laura Roeder, who make superfun music videos for b-school. Theirs look like this. I mean, how fun is that? That is hilarious marketing for people who love to play but don’t take themselves THAT seriously. Plus, who doesn’t want to be in that alien bodysuit? Okay, maybe me. Here’s a spiel about their business.Again: they’re marketing with cupcakes. They are creating an image and a message people (I) want to be a part of.

So, yes, I will share my video tribute to them with you. You know it’s fo’ realz because I made it in the spur of the moment, in my above-happy mismatched workout clothing, in my mismatched living room with my dirty hair, no makeup and bad lighting. And 50 cent. WHAT WAS I THINKING?! Apparently this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b3V37EOtaXc

Ground rumblings; spring songs

As the earth begins to come alive again here, the crocuses and tulips blooming in their cupped happiness, I feel all the good rumblings of powerful change. I know change is coming, and what is super neato is that I don’t know what change it will be! I can just feel it. All my little electrons are bopping around, dance-leaping their virtuosic valence levels. They are in an excited state. They are charged. I am pretty frickin’ sure I am conducting electromagnetic energy through my nose pores as I type this.

And I don’t know why!

I mean, I know I want to leave teaching. And I know I want to continue building and enjoying my own dream life and business(es). But I don’t know how/who/what/where/when. And it doesn’t matter, because right now, I am good. I am enough. And, I am confident – the root of that word is faith – that fun stuff is going to happen. Because it already has. I’m taking good small steps reading about other people doing radically different things with their lives, connecting with some, learning from others. And the earth is alive with my soul singing. Aaaaoooo!

Certifiably nuts?

Absofuckinglutely.

p.s. 100% Eco-Certified puke bag made from recycled materials included for those who find this optimism repulsive. Sometimes I would, too. Right now, I wish you were here!

I’m on FIYEAAAH!!!

Today I woke up and I was here. Like really here. I’ve felt de-centred for the last week, like the point of my compass was craaazy jumpin’ and today it reset itself. So, to celebrate, I had a dance party in my kitchen. My cats witnessed it with slightly bemused expressions on their faces. I have decided it was bemused benevolence and not abject horror, because I am allowed to project feelings on my cats.

Also, I tempered my chocolate again today. For several hours. Accompanied by Rihanna, Ke$ha, Usher and many other highly inspired evolved beings; I mixed and melted and stirred and scraped and checked temperatures on granite on glassware on metal on blitzen. Okay. No reindeer were involved. But, I managed to get my chocolate in temper both using the tablier (granite) and seeding (using chocolate pistoles) methods.

I felt much better as a human being after that. I am quite sure I contributed to the relief of suffering of all sentient beings. Okay. Not really. But I did send a prayer out for the relief of suffering for all, as I was spared my own little overtempered hell.

Grounded, covered in 58% Felchlin couverture and wearing a Juan Valdez Cafe apron picked up from Colombia, I’ve got nowhere else to be. I’m on fire here, burning up the universe. In fact, in my mind, I’m in Rihanna’s S&M video, and my apron is made out of nylon, and I’m carrying a whip yelling, “Gloss and Snap! *whip* Gloss and Snap!”

The moon!

Looking up at the moon tonight – pregnantly full & glowing – I was taken back to other times when I looked up at the moon and felt deep connection. Vienna, summer of 2000. Paris, 2003. Colombia, 2010. She is always there. I am grateful to the moon. And as I sat there thinking, I changed my mind. I think I was wrong about some conclusions I made about my teaching. Yes, I intend to continue to do my best with my teaching. But I think my Major Gut Truth wasn’t right. When there is a Major Truth, there is expansion and joy at discovery. Not dread and fear. My feelings of compression are ones that lead me to believe they come from the deep, primitive, fear-based part of me. Yes, I could be a better traditional teacher. But that’s not what I’m interested in being. And I do face my failures when they occur. I reflect and I change what I can. If it involves more planning for next time, I make a note of it. I might not do it, and then I fail again. I think I need to be nicer to myself.

That being said, I could definitely use more humility. Ambition and humility are not mutually exclusive. Nor are arrogance and humility. This brings me back to the moon, who is there, humbly changeable.

Lalla said:

The soul, like the moon,
is new, and always new again.

And I have seen the ocean
continuously creating.

Since I scoured my mind
and my body, I too, Lalla,
am new, each moment new.

My teacher told me one thing,
live in the soul.

When that was so,
I began to go naked,
and dance.

zChocolat.com review

One of my cats is sick.

What does that have to do with a review of zChocolat.com? Everything. I ordered chocolates from the site as a gift to myself before starting the course, but really because I wanted to try this Forbes recommended, Meilleur Ouvrier de France helmed online-only chocolate. The chocolates are pricey, but the real cost is in the shipping, which was not unreasonable ($20 from France to Canada). That being said, my shipping only 12 chocolates from France, one could argue, is already unreasonable!

I thought I would eat them slowly, one every couple of days until they “expired”. And then my cat got sick. Which stressed me out. And made me need comfort I would normally take in my cats. Thus, there are now only a few left, and I must write this review before I can no longer recall these sublime pieces!

Not every one of the chocolates I ordered were peak chocolate experiences, but I can say that I ate the best chocolate I have ever had in a few from this box. First, let’s start with the ordering experience: I found the website fairly easy to navigate, though I wanted to pick specific chocolates for my ballotin and not others, as I wasn’t interested in eating any white chocolate. Trying to figure out how to be able to pick my own was a little confusing, plus there are several customizable options that may add to your price. Each gift includes a card, and of course there are upgrades for nicer cards, added teddy bears or alternative wrappings, etc. I finally figured it out and decided on three of each of the flavours that interested me the most in order to have multiple tastings. Most of zChocolat‘s products are numbered, from 0-15, plus their signature Z. As I’m not a fan of coffee or pistachios, was not eating white chocolate, my order might seem fairly sedate:

Z – Sweet and salted caramel on top of a layer of crunchy Piedmont hazelnuts w/70% Venezuelan couverture

0 – Gianduja praliné with milk chocolate 40% couverture Ivory Coast (mixed feelings about this couverture)

1 – Raspberry ganache with violet, 70% Venezuelan couverture

3 – Caramel passionfruit mango, 70% Venezuelan couverture

13 – Lemon purée with dark chocolate and cocoa butter ganache, 70% Venezuelan couverture

When I reread all the options after receiving the chocolates, I regretted not choosing more. But, with my budget, it was either have a few and know which were my favourites to save, or try many and have my favourite gone after I eat it. Yet again, I was afraid a moment would pass by and be gone forever. Proust forgive me.

The Lemon was the least impressive, simply because the others were so spectacular. It remained a superlative chocolate experience. The ganache was tangy, but, not yet having learned exactly what all ingredients do, I have to guess the cocoa butter is what made it so creamy-smooth. The extra fat was a welcome addition – the filling melted in my mouth.

Next up was a chocolate I gave my sister when she was feeling sad. She was so in the moment with the chocolate, she did succeed in dropping her troubles for that time. The Gianduja praliné was outstanding again for its play with texture. The couverture has a nice strength to it and the ganache was smooth with tiny little gritty bits of hazelnuts. I can’t tell you how important that grittiness was to the quality of the piece. Somehow, a quality one would associate with mouth annoyance became the feature of the piece. The taste of hazelnut in abundance, with the little gritty pieces, made for my sister’s new favourite chocolate moment, ever.

I love salted caramels. So I knew it was game over when I ordered one here. It did not disappoint, creamy crunchy with a lovely liquidy caramel, it satisfied every tastebud in my mouth. My only complaint? And this goes for all of the most liquid centers especially: the chocolate’s shape. Each chocolate could be placed on display on a rack and lined up with its brothers and sisters and look perfect, but when bitten into, the bottom yields far before the top of the couverture. For the drippier chocolates, I had to bite into them upside down so as not to lose any of the filling. This seems rather important in the overall experience of the chocolate, and was my only disappointment.

The pinnacles for me were the caramel passionfruit mango and the raspberry violet. The exotic fruit caramel was so packed with flavour it put any other citrus fruit caramel I have had to shame. I have not had a Patrick Roger exotic fruit caramel, so I can’t speak to that. Otherwise, bar none, the best. SO POTENT! My mouth sang the calypso of the caramel and danced the mamba of the mango. Good God was it good.

And yet, the raspberry, with its hint of violet, was better. I’ve had other flowery chocolates, often paired with tea flavours (earl grey or bergamot with lavender or violet or rose) and each time I felt like I was eating the equivalent of Sunday tea at grandma’s. Including the flower centerpiece of the table. This chocolate was all raspberry with a hint of violet. It was like eating raspberries you picked yourself while sitting on a picnic blanket in a fragrant park. All your senses are alive, and you are quite sure they are the best raspberries on the earth. The trick to this chocolate is that somehow, the violet seems to enhance the raspberry-ness. At no time did I feel like I was eating a flower or licking someone’s perfumed neck. I figured the salted caramel would be my highlight but I was wrong – new pinnacle chocolate experience: zChocolat’s number 1.

Unsurprisingly, their customer service is impeccable. They make it very clear on the site and in their emails that they aspire to the highest of customer service standards. I was informed of every movement my chocolates made from Marseille to My Door. I was even informed when they were delivered as well as who signed for them. There are so many bells and whistles you can add, it’s almost overwhelming. Concierge service if you are sending a gift and are late and worried it won’t arrive for a special date: they’ll call and tell the person receiving the gift that a special gift is arriving from France. Laser engraving on mahogany boxes. Anonymous giving. The list goes on.

Frankly, I’m unlikely to get any of the biggest bells and whistles, but I did appreciate being able to pick my chocolates and knowing exactly where they were and when they would arrive. I set an arrival date, and they arrived on the date specified. Not only am I impressed by their service, but they are DAMN good chocolates.

My cat may still be sick, but I am feeling muuuuch better.

Reflection and Gratitude: The back bookends

If the front bookend in living your best life is mindfulness and intention, the back bookend is reflection and gratitude.

Mindfulness and Intention really do front-load your life. They put you in the right place to reap the benefits of a positive mindset and catching yourself before you fall, or letting you laugh as you do fall. Both are open-minded in the broadest sense of the word, and oriented toward possibility.

Reflection and Gratitude close the circle. After you have opened yourself to possibility, cast your net into the sky, reflection allows you to sort the stars you’ve caught and decide which ones are keepers, and which ones should be cast back. And once you find your keepers, gratitude is like a polishing cloth that keeps them shiny and reminds you how lucky you are to have those stars in your life. The brighter they shine, the easier it is to be open to new possibilities.

The Bookends of Practice

1. Mindfulness & Intention

2. Reflection & Gratitude

1. What is mindfulness? Instead of describing or defining it here, I’ll point you here, to Pema Chödrön, and let the pros do the work.

Mindfulness is necessary for maximizing the amount of time you are truly alive to your life. It allows you to see the clear background of sky behind the mess of thought clouds, and allows you to compassionately detach yourself from identifying with the mess in the first place. In order to apprentice myself to work at which I know I will come up against myself – as a perfectionist, as an artist – I need to be mindful of the script I have playing in the background of my head. The one I don’t seem to notice, like a television left on all the time, the background noise becomes part of the space. I will NEVER be able to stop the thoughts. Never. But I can stop identifying with them, I can stop believing in them. And that makes me free. Free to set my own path for my own personal enjoyment. A bespoke happiness.

When I drop my identification with previously held ideas of self or outcomes, I will be free to suck royally and still have a good time. To some, this may be really easy. To me, not so much. As a result, I set the intention of going into my work with chocolate as a scientist – the goal? To create the most delicious experiments possible. To be mindful of when I get down on myself and report it here, as well as look at what false beliefs are sabotaging me. In the meantime, more to come about the other bookends…

Intention vs. Expectation _or_ Everything I needed to know I learned from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

One of my favourite moments in children’s literature is the build-up to the discovery of the golden tickets in Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. We all know, while reading, that somehow Charlie is going to get to that factory, but we don’t know how it’s going to happen. The pleasure of that anticipation – the suspense – is delicious.

Anticipation is a complicated thing, though. It’s connected to expectation. When we anticipate or expect something, it can surpass our expectations, live up to them, or disappoint us. We know, when reading about Charlie Bucket, that Roald Dahl is not going to let us down. Real life doesn’t always work that way. The problem is when we expect something to happen, even hope for it, and are let down. The spoiled Augustus Gloop gets a ticket,  the obnoxious brat Veruca Salt gets a ticket … Why not the virtuous and hard-working Bucket boy, we ask ourselves? The beauty of children’s literature is that it constructs a world where often the virtuous are rewarded. However, in reality, when an expectation does not get met, when hope is lost, it is a little death. Yes, there are many pleasures that surround anticipation, but getting caught up in the future keeps us from enjoying what we have now. Like a Michel Cluizel 45% Lait bar in a golden wrapper.

I grew up as a pleaser, naturally competitive, and determined to succeed. I was smart, but always felt like I wasn’t quite smart enough…so I was always mentally playing catch up. And then life sent me a series of curve balls. Nothing that bad, compared to some: I developed a shape-shifting eating disorder that I fought acutely for over a decade. I developed intense anxiety and depression. I dropped out of high school. I failed at things I loved, came up against my own limits. I lost confidence in myself. I fell in love, had my heart broken. Many of these are typical adolescent experiences. Each time I tried to raise myself up, I felt as though I was beaten back down, swatted by the giant hand of God. Or something equally melodramatic. To cope, I started reading Buddhist texts and realized the destruction and suffering I caused by the frameworks of my own thinking. Why did I need to ‘raise myself up’? I was fine right then, but couldn’t see. The duality of this hierarchy reminds me of Ross’ line in Friends after Rachel drunk dials him and tells him she’s over him : “Wha? You’re, uh, over me?…When were you… under me?”

I was a Violet Beauregarde minus the gum-chewing abilities: this former valedictorian and competitive singer apparently thought there were plaques and trophies growing out of my ass. While I worked my butt off, I still realized I felt entitled, or at least believed that there would be some pay-off – a prize, some external validation – for my hard work.

There is no prize.

Or at least not where you may expect it.

We need to create our own lives, cultivate our own happiness. Lately, this has led me to the idea of intentions. When you expect something, the results are out of your control. If you set an intention, and let go of any attachment to a specific outcome, you control where you put your energy, and cultivate a mindfulness of where you are getting unhealthily attached to something. Naturally, the practice of mindfulness has taken me years, and I will continue to work on it for the rest of my life. But it has been so worth it. To wit: I have become so much less stressed since I have stopped taking myself so goddamn seriously and started laughing more. Since I have started setting intentions for myself I feel less out of control, and more willing to accepts the slips and bumps of “failure”.

Mindful intentions are one of the two steps I think is crucial to cultivating happiness and to following your own path.

Less stress? More laughter? A trust in myself and what I’m doing?

That’s a pretty shiny motherfucking prize.

Now, back to that square of Michel Cluizel….

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