Chocolate Advent-ures

Stephanie as a child at ChristmasLet's face it -- Christmas is not about the joy of giving and receiving. It's not about the much-disputed birth of Christ, or miracles, or even the tarting up of pagan trees while singing Songs of Cheeses.

It's about whether you get your chocolate on odds or evens this year. It's about whether your older sister will force you to give her your day's haul of chocolate. That's right my friends, this month is ALL about Advent calendar chocolate.

(Sidebar: remember non-chocolate Advent calendars where the only reward for us kids was first, the sheer pleasure of finding the tiny digits in an almost Where's Waldo of numbers, and second, the excitement of opening the perforated hatch to expose what lay beneath? Sigh. Simpler times. Simpler pleasures.)

Okay, so since we're currently over, um, two weeks? Into Advent, this post is a skosh late, BUT forewarned is forearmed for next year.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Advent calendar chocolate tastes no better than the cardboard doors they hide behind. To wit: last year, the chocolate in our Andronico's-purchased Advent calendar was so horrific that by Christmas Eve, I had been handing over my "turns" to my husband for at least a week.

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Finally, my ire over the paucity of good chocolate sent me scurrying to the Wide, Wide World of Web. If we live in an era of artisanal cheese, specialized olive oil, rare vinegar, and DIY flour, quality Advent calendar chocolate MUST exist, right?

Eh. Sort of.

After scouring the websites of my favorites -- Burdick's, Scharffenberger, Reciutti, and Cocoa Bella -- and coming up dry, I widened the search.

I hit pay dirt when I turned up a link to Godiva's Advent calendar, but of course it was sold out, so I filed the information away in my brain, and the link in my bookmarks, and I found it again this year. (Okay, so it's sold out again, it's not like you were going to buy it now, right?)

At British Delights, I also discovered a Cadbury Dairy Milk Advent calendar. Well, of COURSE the same ingenious Brits who have the foresight to install refrigerated Cadbury chocolate dispensers in the Underground would stuff their Advent calendars with Cadbury chocolate!

While Godiva and Cadbury are clearly a flavor step above the usual Advent calendar chocolate, I still think there's room for improvement.

The Godiva Advent calendar is very sophisticated, very adult, in that there are no Christmas-themed pictures of angels, presents, teddy bears, or Santa Clauses (Clausi?) on or behind the little doors. The calendar is illustrated by a big, stylized tree made up of green ornaments on a red background; white snowflakes and gold strings of beads provide additional decoration.

Basically, it's the chocolate Advent calendar equivalent of those special jacket covers that some adults buy to hide the fact they're reading Harry Potter.

The Godiva chocolate is...fine. You get thick green, red, and blue foil-wrapped coins of milk, dark, or white chocolate with a bas-relief of Lady Godiva molded on them. Not Santa Claus or Jesus or a Wise Man, just a naked lady on a horse. Very adult.

The Cadbury Dairy Milk Advent calendar is clearly aimed at kids or the young at heart. The doors have little pictures on and behind them, and the chocolates themselves are molded into Christmassy shapes that can only be deciphered if you squint at them after several glasses of ruby port. Again, the chocolate here is just middling, but "middling" is a giant step above plastic cardboard, so I'm not really complaining.

In the next few years, I want to see Burdick's, Scharffenberger, Reciutti, Cocoa Bella, or even Dove step it up, Advent calendar-wise.

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What, you think they won't sell? Aside from the adults who would kill to find orange pekoe truffles or fleur de sel caramels behind the little doors, are you telling me that the parents with kids who ask, "Is the beef local?" wouldn't brag about those same kids lisping, "Is the chocolate artisanal?"

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