Happy Valentine's Day

Chocolate. The one word says it all. This is a celebration of it, Valentines day or not.

Her road trips have reaped the discovery of some of the finest handmade chocolate.  You can order Swiss chocolate (and she did merely for variety), but the best yet is from a tiny shop in Meetseetse, Wyoming and another in Deadwood, South Dakota.  And she’s had some fine chocolates as you’ll see.  Here, in her opinion, are the standards, the chocolate truffle go-to’s, some classics, and some not.  They’re anything but basic.  This post is all about taste and will run the gamut from some of the best handmade truffles in the world to a “flavored” chocolate syrup. And she insists Champagne to savor them properly is really a must (make it nice and dry, please).

Meetseetse Chocolatier

The Meeteetse Chocolatier is off the beaten path. During a tour of the West, a merchant in Cody, Wyoming tipped her off to the cowboy confectioner. Tim Kellogg is a real cowboy. And a chocolatier. Seems an unlikely combination of talents, but that did not deter her! He’s not been making chocolates for 100 years, or even 10, but it’s obvious at the first taste, it doesn’t take that long to perfect something divine.

The Meeteetse Chocolatier

The Meeteetse Chocolatier

From his website: “In June of 2004, my mother suggested that I make a bunch of truffles and brownies to sell during the Cody Stampede as a way to raise money for a new bronc saddle. I said Absolutely Not! My mom finally talked me into getting a booth at Art in the Park, and that was that.”  Ahhh, were it not for the advice of Mothers!  The world might be chocolateless.  She shudders.

Meetseetse Chocolatier

Meetseetse Chocolatier

Vosges Chocolate was inspired when Katrina the Chocolatier and genius behind these uniquely exotic truffles, had a life moment with truffle beignets at the Place des Vosges. Combining chocolates from all over the world with unique ingredients, such as dark chocolate infused with Japanese wasabi and ginger topped with black sesame seeds, lends a delightful twist.

She had eaten a few boxes of these before learning the correct pronunciation of “Vosges” and wants you to have that very important information so that when you call to place your order, there won’t be any confusion on your part about having dialed the correct establishment. Just say “Vohj” real fast, kind of drawing out the end a bit, with as much of a French accent as you can muster, and you’ve got it.  The factory’s in Chicago, so actually, any accent will do.



Coldplay designed the plate. Since the top two words are “Love and Chocolate”, she bought it. Besides, she likes Coldplay.

Here’s another of her favorites. Teuscher chocolates are imported  from Zürich, Switzerland where they’ve been making them for 70 years. Her husband bought the first box several years ago in New York on business. The Classic Champagne Truffles are the signature chocolate of Teuscher. There’s really a smidgen of Dom Perginon champagne creme in the middle!  So guys, this one truffle will meet your quest for chocolate and champagne all in one convenient bite.  Not.

Teuscher Champagne Truffles

U-Bet Chocolate Syrup

You didn’t think she was a total chocolate snob, did you?  Being a true chocoholic is not nearly as profound as some will lead you to believe.  No proper story about truffles, champagne, diets, wasabi, cowboy confectioners, and words she can’t pronounce would be complete without chocolate syrup.  And yes, it does say “FLAVOR”, as in, it’s not the real thing. Forget it. It’s good. Fox’s U-bet Original Chocolate Flavor Syrup has been made for 104 years in Brooklyn, NY. They know chocolate syrup.

Here’s the recipe for the famous egg-cream for which their syrup was originally intended.

The Original Brooklyn Egg-Cream
• Take a tall, chilled, straight-sided, 8oz. glass
• Spoon 1 inch of U-bet Chocolate syrup into glass
• Add 1 inch whole milk
• Tilt the glass and spray seltzer (from a pressurized cylinder only) off a spoon, to make a big chocolate head
• Stir, Drink, Enjoy

Chubby Chipmunk Treasure

Of course there’s a favorite. She won’t bore you with all the appropriate superlatives these truffles deserve.  You’ll simply have to order a box for yourself or someone you really, really, really love.  The Chubby Chipmunk was discovered on a winding road trip that found her in Deadwood, South Dakota.  She broke the law there.  Not over these, however. But mind you, they’re that good.

They don’t look the same as other truffles. Kind of lopsided and mishapen and a bit alarming when the lid is raised, you slowly realize as you’re examining them, they’re handmade.  As in no machine touches them, ever.  They’re so beautiful you feel sad at first to bite into one. That passes quickly. They’re about an ounce-and-a-half of exquisite chocolate sublimity.  She’s addicted to the darks and feels certain the diet will be breached over one, or more of these.

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Champagne. Whoever said champagne was meant for celebrating didn’t drink much of it. She doesn’t know about you, but it’s made for drinking, and with anything you like. She overwhelmingly prefers it accompany chocolate.

” Champagne! In victory one deserves it; in defeat one needs it”– Napoleon Bonaparte

Technically, as you’ve likely heard, “champagne” refers to wine from the Champagne region of France. Practically, it refers to any bubbly you want, but if it’s not from France, the correct term is “sparkling wine”.

She dislikes the rule, and never says “sparkling wine”.  She’s yet to be arrested for that. Brut Natural is the most dry, Extra Brut, Brut, Extra Dry, Sec, Demi Sec, Doux, follow. She prefers dry champagne, but claims Brut Natural, Extra Brut are difficult to find, so she drinks Brut. Here are her favorites from the least expensive up:

P.S. She’s actually had a glass of Dom Perignon and was disappointed, a real blow. Maybe her expectations were too high. Her taste buds too low.

Korbel Brut $11
Piper Sonoma Brut $14
Roederer Estate Anderson Valley Brut $22 ** Best champagne for the value
Louis Roederer Brut Premier $53
Bollinger Special Cuvee $55

Website Information

Diner Divine

Lots of things make a travelers’ heart palpitate. For many of us it’s a great diner.  One you discovered when you just wanted a cup of decent coffee and something with egg but with one thrilling glance realize you can have a Bloody Mary and artisan bacon to boot. One that makes you wonder why your hometown can’t be cool enough to have a diner like that and causes you to consider taking out your life’s savings to start one (a frighteningly strong urge after a couple of Bloody Mary’s – I’m not saying I had a couple…).  Sadly, discovering them doesn’t happen all that often. Oh they’re out there but passers-through seldom have such luck.

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Blue Moon Diner, Charlottesville Virginia

Near the University of Virginia we stumbled upon just such a diner. A tiny place on the corner of West Main, heads bobbing at the bottom of the windows were the only indicator of life (we beat the crowds).

With a front window full of LPs, blues music coming from the turntable, a tiny dining area with carefully tucked tables, a bar area with nostalgic barstools, the gleaming chrome topped by black leather, fun little touches of moons and ambiance strategically placed,  my mind was only on one thing – coffee. Okay, two things – coffee and bacon.

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A bottomless cup of coffee served in weighty blue speckleware, just like all coffee should be served.

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My brain sated with the coffee I thought I’d better see what they had to go with bacon.

  • Apple Omelette with sausage, blue cheese and granny smith apple slices
  • Mediterranean Omelette – spinach, feta cheese, tomato, red pepper, and capers
  • Huevos Bluemoonos
  • Blue Moon Monte Cristo with french toasted Surryano ham, turkey and swiss on sourdough
  • French Toast with cinnamon swirl bread and house vanilla-ginger syrup
  • Grilled Peanut Butter and Jelly

With great pain I chose and ordered the Mediterranean omelette with the side of artisan bacon, then opted to extend the torture and began to check out the rest of the menu. For dinner, how about starting with Portobella Mushrooms stuffed with local organic andouille polenta topped with sweet jalepeno relish followed by Chicken Pot Pie with organic chicken, carrots, celery, onion, peas, and corn served in a dutch oven topped with puff pastry?

Look! I never said this was your everyday diner!

For dessert, how ’bout a Grills-With, a grilled Krispy Kreme glazed donut with Vanilla ice cream and Hershey’s syrup? Or an ice cream sandwich with black raspberry ice cream on an oatmeal cranberry cookie or “Elvis” banana ice cream with chocolate dipped peanut butter cookie?

The barstools give an indicator of how cool this place is.  First, there are barstools, a very important component of diners, secondly, the floor is a retro black and white check, not so much a requirement, but very cool.

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There are no food shots. Why you ask? Because by the time my food was served, I was way beyond photography. Here however, is the exterior of the place. I had my wits back by the time we left.

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** For more food related travel experiences of note, check out Wanderfood Wednesdays at Wanderlust and Lipstick.

Blue Moon Diner
512 West Main Street
Charlottesville, VA 22903
Mon-Fri 8 am to 10 pm
Sat 9 am to 10 pm
Sun 9 am to 3 pm

Blue Moon Diner on Urbanspoon

South Dakota’s Chocolate Mine

Just after exiting Highway 385 towards Deadwood, South Dakota on my meandering ten day SRT, a sign “Chocolates & Ice Cream” grabs my attention. An old gas-station-turned-grocery-store-turned-whatever over the years, there’s a large, whimsical statue of a Chipmunk guarding the screen-doored entrance.

Hungry, I pull over, get out, and walk to the door to see a scrawled note “closed Monday for nut gathering.” Intensely disappointed, my plan was to quickly tour Deadwood and head North towards Cody, Wyoming as it was only 3:00 in the afternoon.

Like any addict, the chocolate shop took up residence in my thoughts and my brain began to pander and plot as I caught a glimpse of Deadwood around the corner. Firmly believing I chose to stay the night in Deadwood for Deadwood, every time I see a box of those chocolates, my commitment to that belief wavers. Deadwood was a memorable town, regardless of my feckless attempt to justify spending more time there than I’d planned.

Here’s the story of my actual encounter with The Chubby Chipmunk. The establishment is incendiary, the story idyllic, like my memories. And it was work to get this to read for you in a way that will convey my experience accurately. No ordinary words would do. I hope you enjoy it!


Driving there I’m overcome with a sense of portentousness. I arrive fixated, obsessed really with only one thing – to dulcify my addiction. Well before I get the screen door open my nostrils widen, intent on the pursuit of a chocolate high. Sensing the anodyne for my road dog weariness within, with a hand on the handle and a twist of the wrist, I’m inside.

The shop is redolent with the lustiness of ingredients reserved for royalty in days past – chocolate, sugar, butter, nuts, all of the finest quality. With a cozy sitting area on the left to encourage the instant enjoyment of their salubrious ware, the counter on the right is laden with tall, dark, exquisite, yes, scintillating truffles. Taking it all in, instantly I know I’m in for a sybaritic experience.

It took on a fantastical, dreamy quality. Time stopped. I had no thoughts of writing about this discovery later; no idea of the convoluted word freefall I’d later work so hard to produce because my memories of it would make me maudlin (and there’s only one thing to do when maudlin – write).

Nothing went through my mind other than the in-the-moment, fully engaged, sensory overload I was smack in the middle of. I was Alice in Wonderland, or the child who opened their eyes to find they were standing in the middle of FAO Schwartz at Christmas.

The front of the shop is lit from only the light of the front door and a few well placed, ambiance inducing lamps. But the shop’s counter of chocolates is backlit by a window in the kitchen, directly to the back left of the counter. The rays of the morning sun spread like gossamer over the display counter and its contents, over the cookie sheets cradling naked, dark, hand formed ganache centers, over the lady’s face who appears from the kitchen to help me. She’s beautiful. The truffles are gorgeous. Some appear to have a nacreous glow which later, in my recovered state I saw was an actual coating, not attributed solely to my nimbus covered eyeballs. I digress. Back to gorgeous. The truffles are gorgeous. Like all gorgeous objects, you want to touch them. Well I can’t touch them yet, but I can take pleasure in watching her touch them. And so I begin ordering, watching her carefully pluck each one as she adds them to one box after another. She appears to enjoy the haptic experience more than she should.

At three five boxes, I stop. Pay. Congratulate myself with the sagacity of my decision to spend the night in Deadwood, and gingerly carry my treasure to the truck. Then with deliberation incompatible with my impassioned state, I indulge my tactile desires by removing two of the truffles from the box and lovingly and appreciatively inspect them. Eating one is beyond my capacity at this moment. My addiction sated, I store them away for the forthcoming ride into Cody, crawl back through the rabbit hole, and drive.


Incendiary: provocative, stirring, likely to catch fire
Feckless: weak, ineffective
Portentousness: momentous, prodigious
Dulcify: to make agreeable, soothe, to sweeten
Anodyne: something that soothes, calms, comforts; a drug that allays pain
Redolent: exuding fragrance, aromatic, evocative
Salubrious: favorable to or promoting health or well being
Scintillating: stimulating; to emit sparks
Sybaritic: self indulgently sensuous, given to or devoted to pleasure
Maudlin: tearfully emotional, foolishly & effusively sentimental
Gossamer: light, delicate, (the gossamer of youth’s dreams)
Ganache: a sweet, creamy, dark chocolate mixture
Nacreous: mother-of-pearl sheen
Nimbus: a cloud or atmosphere (as of romance) about a person or thing
Haptic: relating to or based on the sense of touch
Sagacious: keen in sense perception, of sound and farsighted judgment – noun: sagacity

Chip Tautkus, owner/chocolatier of the shop and I are pictured above.

Road Trip Locator:

The Chubby Chipmunk:
420 Cliff Street
Deadwood, SD 57732
Phone Numbers:
Phone: 605-722-2447
E-mail Address: [email protected]

If you don’t want to drive there, check out their website:

Deadwood is in the Southwest corner of South Dakota. Check out the state’s Department of Tourism site before heading that direction. There’s a lot to see here.

Other SRT posts about the area:

Of Rattlesnakes & The Geographic Center of the U.S.

Mt. Rushmore & Beyond

Aces & Eights


A Big Fat Persimmon Lie

I’m home tonight.  With no plans to work on any of my assignments due within the next few weeks, or even blog about the latest road trip, I sat down, propped up my feet, and opened the innocent looking package from my husband’s employer regarding medical insurance for 2010. This is not a comedic stand up routine folks. Despite the fact the American medical system is broke and front and center in the news, I plowed in. How bad could it be?

Really bad. Five minutes later, depressed at the knowledge the cost for our coverage would be increasing by one-third, with thoughts of an HMO flashing through my head like Boris Karloff with a flashlight under his chin, I made my way to the kitchen.

Tonight I’d make the persimmon bread from the recipe that accompanied my recent post about the fruit’s seed being a predictor of winter conditions. The persimmons purchased over a week ago have ripened nicely on the countertop and need some attention – as in a suspension of batter and an oven.

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fruit, pecans, whiskey, raisins, butter, eggs. Forget about mixing all this together with flour and sugar; the individual components would be a gourmet meal for me.

Cutting into the first persimmon yields a soft, fleshy, orange fruit, the color for which fashion designers would need a brown bag. It’s that glorious.

Only thing missing: ummm, seeds. Nada. Zip. Zero. None. Whaaatttt??!!  My post that spawned a rush all over the world to purchase persimmons, is a LIE?!

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no seeds!

Yes. And no. The trees that yielded the persimmons that yielded the seed that yielded the spoon indicating lots of snow this winter, were wild persimmons picked on my Dad’s ranch. Being the ranch is 3 hours from here and to achieve 2 cups of mash from the not-much-bigger-than-a-marble fruit would take a bushel, I opted for market persimmons.

Some desperate research indicates I purchased the most widely cultivated species: the Japanese persimmon ‘Hachiya’.  Another variety was also available (looked more like the ugly step sister of a tomato) for which I will return to the market tomorrow. I’m on a seed quest. And geez louise, so are some of you!

My advice if you’re looking to open a seed to shock and awe your friends and family with Farmer’s Almanac type winter predictions that are a bit more scientific than my beloved Magic 8 Ball, tell the person at your market what you want to do. They should be able to guide you towards a persimmon species with seeds, thereby rescuing my reputation as a, umm, as a highly regarded forecaster with a Farmer’s Almanac and a Magic 8 Ball sitting on her desk.

Tomorrow I’ll post about how the seed quest turned out. In the meantime, the bread is fantastic – my new favorite quick bread – better than banana nut bread, strawberry bread, or zucchini bread. It’s my new go to for gifts. Good thing we were low on milk.

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A Spoon In My Persimmon

Before we talk about the persimmon seed as a harbinger of winter, I just want to know one thing: Who was the first person to open a persimmon seed? Okay, two things: WHY?!

It’s a good bet no one has those answers, so let’s proceed.

persimmon seed

This “spoon” looks more like a Serv-All…Wonder what it means if I’d found a Spork??

On my various road trips this fall I’ve noticed an abundance of persimmons. A trip to my parents’ ranch this weekend brought up the discussion about the old-timers method of predicting winter weather patterns by what the seed holds within.

I plucked some of the small ripe fruit, brought them home and proceeded to open a seed for myself. I’d never done this. Surprisingly, neither had my Dad.  So he didn’t know to warn me I’d need my McGyver husband to help.


Persimmons were known to the ancient Greeks as the fruit of the gods.  There are several varieties, but most have this distinctive (and very memorable) quality – the unripened fruit is so high in tannins, your mouth will be welded shut upon the slightest nibble of the fruit (technically a berry).  It’s a common joke pulled on unsuspecting southern children, who will in almost all instances, eat anything.  Of course, this never happened to me.

Captain John Smith said it best: “If it not be ripe it will draw a man’s mouth awire with much torment. But when it is ripe, it is as delicious as an apricot.”


The seeds from my wild persimmons are a bit larger than a watermelon seed, hard as a native pecan shell, slicker than snot (I’ve actually written a story about snot), and as I wondered above, perplexing as to why anyone would have wanted to cut one open. But someone did and over the years predictions about winter were spun around the tiny, but perfectly formed, creamy white utensil in the center.

From the Farmer’s Almanac Blog: “A knife shape will indicate a cold icy winter (wind cuts through you like a knife). A fork shape indicates a mild winter. A spoon shape stands for a shovel to dig out all the snow.”

You want to see for yourself? Here’s how. Find or buy several persimmons and remove the seeds. You’ll need more than one piece of fruit because I lost several seeds down the drain and elsewhere in the kitchen when they shot from my hand during the cleaning process. Talk about putting your eye out! Under running, warm water, clear the schmaaz and seed covering. Eventually a dark, shiny seed will emerge. Now for the really tricky part. After some trial and error, we found the best tool is a utility knife. Hold the seed on a flat surface with a pair of pliers and CAREFULLY take the tip and insert into the seed, then rock the knife back and forth around the seed. Don’t get in a hurry! It may take a few times to do this without destroying the “utensil” within.

I’ve now cut open 8 seeds (with no trip to the emergency room!) and it’s a given, we’ll be shoveling snow this winter – the seeds all contain spoons.

So what’s in your persimmon seed?!

Persimmon Bread

Two 9-inch Loaves

Using the higher amount of sugar will produce a moister and, of course, sweeter bread.

Adapted from Beard on Bread by James Beard.

persimmon bread batter

The batter is a gorgeous kaleidescope of goodness.

3½ cups sifted flour
1½ teaspoons salt
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 to 2½ cups sugar
1 cup melted unsalted butter and cooled to room temperature
4 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
2/3 cup cognac, bourbon or whiskey
2 cups persimmon puree (from about 4 squishy-soft Hachiya persimmons)
2 cups walnuts or pecans, toasted and chopped
2 cups raisins, or diced dried fruits (such as apricots, cranberries, or dates)
1. Butter 2 loaf pans. Line the bottoms with a piece of parchment paper or dust with flour and tap out any excess.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
3. Sift the first 5 dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
4. Make a well in the center then stir in the butter, eggs, liquor, persimmon puree then the nuts and raisins.
5. Bake 1 hour or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Storage: Will keep for about a week, if well-wrapped, at room temperature. The Persimmon Breads take well to being frozen, too.

Persimmon bread

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The Grand Climb


Tammie DooleyAbout SRT... I’m a traveler, writer and photographer for whom the open road frequently summons. Adventurous solo road trips are a staple for me, and a curiosity. So I created this website to share them and inspire you to step out and give them a try. Welcome!

A soul that sees beauty may sometimes walk alone – Wolfgang Von Goethe

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