Monday, August 24, 2015

BEVERLY HILLS PART I: CHOCOLATE TOUR

We interrupt the scheduled streams of post about travels in the Middle East with a breaking story that just can't wait. Yesterday Bob and I went on a CHOCOLATE TOUR of Beverly Hills. You read that right: a chocolate tour of Beverly Hills. Yeah, I'm living the sweet life.

Believe it or not, I had to drag Bob along. I'd purchased the discounted tickets last fall through Travel Zoo, and they were set to expire the end of August, so I told him he just had to come. Beverly Hills is a scary place, right? (At least to the pocketbook.) Also, if I took one of my friends, all the others would be jealous. It had to be him.

The tour was organized by BestTours.com.

#1 Sprinkles Cupcakes
We met our tour guide and the other members of our group in front of Sprinkles Cupcakes at 9635 S. Santa Monica Blvd. This store claims to be the first exclusively cupcake bakery in the world. There are lots of cupcake places now (there are even sixteen more Sprinkles shops), but this is the mother ship:
I am not a huge cake person. I generally find most bakery cakes dry and unimaginative. A Sprinkles mini cupcake changed my life forever. Let me tell you about the shock this little dark chocolate triple fudge gem was to my tastebuds. It was moist. It was rich. It was heavy. I was ready to forego the rest of the tour and just eat cupcakes. Wow. It was something worth going back for. If I lived close to a Sprinkles, I would be in serious trouble.
 

On the outside wall of the shop is a little innovation would add to my demise. Usually I am saved by early bakers' hours. If you don't get there by 4:00 PM or so, only the dregs are left in the display case. Not so at Sprinkles. Slide your ATM card, and instead of cash, this baby dispenses fresh cupcakes and cookies 24/7.
Did you notice the word "EAT" buried in the letters "CUPCAKEATM"?
It's centered right over the word "Sprinkles." Very subliminal.

#2 Sprinkles Ice Cream
Do you like a little ice cream with your cake? No problem. Right next door is Sprinkles Ice Cream.
 We each got a scoop of their double dark chocolate ice cream.
I rate it Double Yum. Rich (yum) and creamy (yum):
 
They have lots of flavors. I'll have to come back about fifteen times to try them all.
They also sell cookies and brownies. I'll have to come back five additional times to try each one of these.
 Or maybe next time I'll just order one of everything. Why waste time and gas?

A fun decorating touch is this scroll wrapped around the dome in the ceiling. It's Thomas Jefferson's ice cream recipe. Yeah, they are patriotic. Just another reason to go for a visit.

#3 Beverly Hills Brownie Company
Close your eyes and imagine a shop that sells twenty-six unique varieties of amazing, rich, dense, fudgy brownies. Think of what it must smell like. Envision the happy employees who work there. Open your eyes. You are at Beverly Hills Brownie Company at 315 N. Beverly Drive. 
The owner of this shop said when she couldn't sleep at night, she'd go downstairs to the kitchen and whip up a pan of her grandma's brownies. One thing led to another, and this is what she ended up with:
 Here's another shot, just in case the first one wasn't enough:


Unlike cake, I rarely meet a brownie I don't like. I've had more than my fair share of this delectable dessert, so when I say these two brownies are among the best I have ever eaten, that's really saying something:
They were so good that my normally chocolate-reserved husband stayed behind after the group left to buy six more brownies to take home:

Ahhhh. 

Three shops down and halfway through the chocolate tour, we needed to sit down and savor the remaining molecules of chocolate lingering on our palates. Our tour leader Lyndia (A+ guide--enthusiastic and fun) found us a nice shady spot where we could contemplate the mysterious beauty of the cacao bean. To help our meditation, she gave us some background information about Beverly Hills, rich people, and rich chocolate.
I was entering into Phase 1 of my chocolate coma, so I missed what she said this building was, but it's beautiful, isn't it?
 It was ringed by a series of wonderful hand-painted tiles:
 "Danger! Danger! Don't lose your chocolate focus! Who wants wine when you can have chocolate?"

#4 Le Mervetty of Beverly Hills
 I almost had the withdrawal shakes by the time we got to Le Mervetty on 319 North Canyon Drive:
 And then the window display just about put me under:
 Bob, my birthday is only 7 1/2 months away. This would make a great birthday cake:
Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore:
 One of the employees described what we were about to eat: a merveilleux. Marvelous.
A merveilleux, a popular confection in Northern France and Belgium, has a whipped cream and meringue center and a Belgian chocolate shard exterior. Oh my holy sweet tooth, Batman! These were divine.
 There are many other possibilities that demand a return trip:
We had a bite-sized merveilleux, but they come super-sized as well:
Gluten free! (As if that matters when you are consuming 4,000 calories, 2,000 carbs, and 393 grams of fat.)
 Just a few more cake close-ups for your viewing pleasure:
 Le Sigh.

#5 Edelweiss Chocolate Factory
Who can pass up a shop with a name like Edelweiss Chocolate Factory? Not I.
Located at 444 N. Canon Drive, this is one of the oldest confectionaries in the United States that still makes its chocolates by hand.
Established in 1942, Edelweiss has been around for so long that it's an institution among Hollywood stars. Its loyal clientele have included Frank Sinatra, Nancy Reagan, Lauren Bacall, Katherine Hepburn (who, we were told, even mentions the shop in her autobiography), and Madonna, whose favorite treat is their chocolate-dipped marshmallows, which is what we had as a sample.
 This is another "I'll Take One of Each, Please" place.
To quote a famous Hollywood actor who has probably sampled these wares, "I'll be back."
 Chocolate is this girl's best friend, and it's cheaper than diamonds:
 I could get really excited about a basket of chocolates where even the basket is chocolate.
Another one of their celebrity clients was Lucille Ball, and one of the shop's claims to fame is that they inspired the famous Chocolate Factory episode.

(Note: I've tried embedding the YouTube video about four times, but it won't let me. You'll have to go here to see the original I Love Lucy episode.)

Edelweiss Chocolate still has the two-room assembly system described in the I Love Lucy episode, with the chocolates being made in this room and placed on the conveyor belt:
. . . which takes the chocolates through an opening in the wall to a second room, where they are packaged:
This machine is still used, and if you visit on M-F during business hours (we were there on a Saturday), you can see the chocolatiers at work.

We had one last stop before our chocolate tour was done. As we walked towards our destination in a chocolate/sugar/carb haze, I imagined what it would be like to live in Beverly Hills.
It would be hard to decide whether to drive a white or a yellow Bentley convertible.

Cartier or Chanel? I just can't choose!
I'll just have to content myself with being one of the gawking paparazzi and choosing between chocolates. A much better dilemma, if you ask me.

#6 Sugarfina
Sugarfina, 9495 South Santa Monica Blvd., isn't so much a chocolate shop as it is an all-around candy store, but like all good candy stores, there is plenty of chocolate.
Visually, this is a confectionary boutique more than a candy store:
 


They sell Apple Frogs, "a flavor that will get your taste buds hoppin'," and Mama and Baby Pigs, "fresh from the farm."
  



Oops, I got so caught up in the sheer beauty of this place that I almost forgot to mention what we ate here.

First we had our choice of some special maltballs (can't remember the flavor) or champagne-flavored gummi bears. I, of course, had the maltball. I love maltballs, and I can assure you that these were several steps--miles, even--above Whoppers.
Then we were offered a bag of our choice of about twenty-five varieties of candy sold in the store:

I chose a bag of Dark Chocolate Chipotle Almonds. True Confession: For perhaps the first time in my life, I had hit my sugar limit. I dropped my bag into my purse for future consumption. I dug them out the next day on my way home from church. They were delicious--just a tiny hint of heat in the back of my mouth as I consumed eight in quick succession, the ninth one being given to Bob. (I'm generous like that.)
  

And so ends our foray into the dark (chocolate) underbelly of Beverly Hills. If you decide to go, take some water along; you'll need a neutral palate cleanser. Smelling salts might come in handy if you are prone to swoon because this is a swoon-worthy tour. Plan for plenty of walking, which includes a bit during the tour, but then a few hours of walking afterwards just to work off a few of the calories consumed. Beverly Hills is a lovely place for a stroll, and that's what is coming up in the next post.

9 comments:

  1. Yeah, the tour was much better than I could have imagined. But of course you didn't mention the cheese shop which puts much of the chocolate (not all of it) to shame. I'm still savoring those brownies and I have to admit the little chocolate cupcake and the French thing were pretty darn good too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The cheese shop wasn't part of the Chocolate Tour. That was part of the Bob and Judy Tour that happened AFTER the Chocolate Tour.

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  2. You have me salivating and I don't anything in the house to bring relief.

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    Replies
    1. NO HIDDEN CHOCOLATE STASHES? How do you survive?

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  3. Excuse me while I wipe the drool off of my computer screen. That looks like a bucket list adventure to me!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Come for a visit and we'll sign up for a tour. I'd make the sacrifice of going again (and again and again).

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  4. Very cool if I ever convince you to come to Ensenada with us I will take you to one of my clients who makes chocolate the Mayan way.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ensenada with you is totally doable. Maybe in October?

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  5. Okay. I want a repeat tour. Name the day--anytime after Week Eight (which is in two weeks). Delicious!!

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