Uncle Orson Reviews Everything
May 24, 2012
First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times
, Greensboro, NC.
Guittard Chocolate, Dark Shadows
There are things in the world more important than chocolate.
But most of those things are a lot harder to get. So when the chocolate is good and pretty easy to
get, I say go for it.
The problem is that not all chocolate is equally good. There are chocolates that are good in the
delicious sense, that aren't good for you in the healthy sense, because they fall well into the
weight-gain, bad-for-teeth territory.
Basically that means all milk chocolate and all chocolates wrapped around caramel.
Then there are the good-for-you chocolates in the healthy sense -- dark chocolate with its anti-oxidants and other magical ingredients, without so much sugar, so your teeth stay pretty and,
The trouble is that the really dark chocolates tend to be bitter and only self-punishing women
like them. Absolute fact: Women are far more likely to like dark chocolate than men. (True in
both senses of the sentence, according to authoritative sources.)
So I'm happy to tell you about a chocolate that's dark enough to be good for you and tasty
enough for men to like it. Though women will still like it better than men. (Clinically tested
with a scientific sample of three different chocolate-loving women.)
I'm speaking of the 61% cacao semisweet chocolate from E. Guittard. When they sell it as
chocolate bars, they call it "Tsaratana." (Their milk chocolate [38% cacao] is "Orinoco"; their
bittersweet [72%] is "Quetzalcoatl"; and the suicidal extra-dark chocolate [91%] is "Nocturne.")
I've tried a lot of chocolate lately, in search of a really delicious dark chocolate, and I can tell
you, there are other decent dark chocolates, but none that come close to beating the Guittard
And while the bar is very good, the best way to eat it is in the form of "chocolate wafers for
baking and eating."
This is a pretty big box that contains a plastic bag full of what looks like non-pareils without the
little white sugar dots.
We open that plastic bag and pour the contents into an extra-large Ziploc sandwich bag. Then
we seal it and keep it in the fridge.
When the impulse strikes us, we open the Ziploc bag and take only as many wafers as we want.
We don't have to commit to a whole bar. (For me, putting away an unfinished chocolate bar
makes as much sense as parking your car two blocks from home instead of pulling into your own
Because they're cold from the fridge, they don't melt in your hand. And the coldness sharpens
the flavor. You can either hold it in your mouth and savor it as it gets melty, or you can chew it
up and get just a little bit of fridgy crunch.
This is hedonism at its finest.
Where do you get Guittard chocolates, since there is only a remote chance you'll find it at your
ordinary grocery store? If you don't live in Greensboro, you can go online:
The trouble is that we're heading into summer, and that's really not the best time to have
chocolate shipped to you, since it's likelier to arrive in melted condition.
Fortunately for those who live in Greensboro, Loco for Coco carries a fine selection of Guittard
products -- including those big boxes of wafers. It's one of the rewards of shopping at local
It has long been a frivolous family doctrine that chocolate will only be available in hell. This
will motivate the people in heaven to come and visit the rest of us, so we'll have company now
I'm telling you now, when I get to Hades I'm going to lay in a supply of Guittard 61% cacao
semisweet chocolate wafers for baking or eating, and keep it in the devil's own fridge (no way
he'll refuse), so people will come to see me.
Not that I'm promising anything. If I were the kind of person who shared his chocolate with
others, I probably wouldn't be in hell.
Guittard isn't the only chocolate I tried in my extensive, selfless research project. If I had to
make a second choice of dark chocolate right this moment, I'd probably go for the Whole Foods
72% dark chocolate bar.
And if you just give up on dark chocolate and are looking for a healthy-seeming milk chocolate,
why not try Seeds of Change Milk Chocolate with Crisp Whole Grains? Because it isn't all
crisped rice, as in most crunch bars, there's an unusual mix of flavors, but I liked it a lot.
While I was visiting the Whole Foods chocolate department, I also tried Sinless Raw Food
vegan sugar free chocolate. This is what can only be called "ideological food." It's supposed
to have all the good stuff from dark chocolate, without any of the bad stuff.
The flavor is strange but good. However, it has a different mouth-feel that might not bother most
people, but it makes it unlikely I'll go back for more. I'm sure this is yet one more reason why
I'll be passing out Guittard wafers in hell.
And to carry the whole chocolate theme to its logical conclusion, the best frozen fudge bar in
town is at Whole Foods: Whole Treat Organic frozen fudge bars.
This is a Whole Foods Market brand (like 365 and 365 Organic). We still like Julie's Organics,
our previous favorite, but "brand loyalty" isn't like marriage -- for better or for worse. When I
find something clearly better, I switch brands.
(I don't know what I'd do about marriage if I found someone better. After 35 years with my
wife, I haven't found anyone better, and by now I'm pretty sure I never will. So the choice just
isn't going to come up.)
I loathe vampire stories. I have never been enthusiastic about Tim Burton movies. And when
Johnny Depp performs in whiteface, the result is usually faintly repulsive, even though he is
always a good actor.
So why in the world did I go see Dark Shadows?
I have no memories of the soap opera from the 1960s. I never watched even a single moment of
But the promos for the Dark Shadows movie were funny and it didn't look seriously scary. It
also didn't look as though it was going to glamorize vampires, a trend which has made me
faintly sick since Anne Rice began it.
And then there was the fact that my wife did rush home from school to catch the last few minutes
of Dark Shadows on television. So she had memories of the original series. Did I mention those
35 years of marriage? Well, we reached that milestone this week, and our anniversary date was
watching Dark Shadows.
The premise is every bit as unbelievable as the premise of The Avengers, and Dark Shadows has
the same everybody-has-a-weird-power problem. So why did I like Dark Shadows much more
than I liked The Avengers?
I'm not saying you'll feel the same way -- I know my responses are odd! Dark Shadows has
nothing like the thrill ride of The Avengers. But to me, it was more interesting, more likeable,
from the first moment on.
Some terrible things happen in the movie. But at least the motives are clear. Lust and jealousy
-- very normal human motives. And it isn't the whole planet at stake -- just the fortunes (and
the very survival) of one family.
For me, that makes it so I care much more.
It's not that planets can't blow up. After all, it seems now that the Moon was built and put in
place when a big old planet crashed into Earth a few million centuries ago.
And there have been enough big species-killing asteroid strikes in human history, not to mention
climate-change extinctions (the real, cyclical climate change that actually happens, rather than
the fantasy human-caused "global warming" which is really just good weather), for me to believe
in planet-destruction as a genuine thing.
Whereas having a witch turn you into a vampire and then put you in a box for two centuries
because you fall in love with somebody else -- I don't think that's really likely.
However, planet-wrecking events are relatively rare -- I can't remember the last one, personally
-- while family-threatening events are tragically common, and this "witch-is-out-to-get-us"
scenario is just an exaggeration of stuff that I've seen tear families apart in real life.
You know, where the husband or wife runs into somebody else who tickles their "true love" itch
(which usually goes away in about six months, if you just don't scratch it) and families are torn
apart, leaving children devastated and trust shattered.
I think that's why I liked Dark Shadows so much. Because behind the wonderful special effects,
and Johnny Depp's genuine and hilarious apologies to the people he's about to slaughter and
drain of blood, and the terrific acting, there's something deeply true about the story of Dark
At the ripe old age of sixty, I care about that kind of truth way more than I care about thrill-ride
movies. I'm not criticizing you if you prefer the thrill ride. I don't go on roller coasters or other
nausea-and-terror-inducing "entertainments," either. I'm a wimp. I walk out of actual scary
So no, Dark Shadows isn't really scary. If you're nine years old then yes, it's terrifying. But
even then it's probably not so much because of witches and vampires -- the scariest thing about
the witch (the wonderful Eva Green) is the very real possibility of getting trapped in her
prominently displayed cleavage and never getting out.
No, what is really terrifying is that in this story, children lose their parents -- to murderers who
are never caught. A child who sees ghosts gets sent away to an insane asylum. A man stands
helplessly at the top of a cliff watching the love of his life die. Father-figures abandon the
children who depend on them. Even the most devoted mothers can't protect their children from
This is really disturbing stuff. Especially because it all happens in the real world, too. So I'd be
very careful about bringing pre-teens to this movie.
But I think many adults will love this movie.
I don't expect ever to watch The Avengers again. Why would I?
But when Dark Shadows comes on television, I expect to get sucked into watching it more than
once, the way I have been with movies like He's Just Not That Into You and Twister and Knight
and Day, where good writing and good acting make some movies irresistible to me, while other
movies, with much better reputations, I flip away from and conclude "there's nothing on."