African American cuisine, Chicago soul food suggestions

By Caryl Clem

Winter weather lingers during February while we look for ways to find comfort waiting for spring. I dig out the recipe books to look up  favorites. When it’s cold outside, I crave eating made from scratch macaroni and cheese bubbling under the bread crumb crust. If you think about Sunday dinner meatloaf or finger licking crusty fried chicken, warm cornbread smothered in butter followed by a tasty cobbler for dessert, all these originated from African American culinary ingenuity. Kentucky Fried Chicken won success with soul food staples as well as several other fast food chicken rivals. Getting the most for your money and taste buds has earned “soul food’ a place on our plates and in our hearts.

Several of our founding fathers all had Black African American chefs that were educated in Europe. In France, Parmesan cheese, butter and pasta was the new rage during the 1800’s. Thomas Jefferson sent his chef to France to learn how to prepare French delicacies. By February in 1862, Thomas Jefferson was hosting parties featuring this macaroni pie specialty. President, George Washington had a famous Black African American Chef Hercules whose clothing can be seen in an museum exhibit in Washington D.C. African Americans as chefs showcasing American food has been established for centuries. These chefs have shaped America’s palate:

Chef Hercules was an African American slave owned by the Washington family, serving as the family’s head chef for many years.

Chef Edna Lewis was a renowned African-American chef, teacher, and author of several cookbooks who helped refine the American view of Southern cooking.

Chef Joe Randall was a good friend of the late Edna Lewis, has been a veteran award-winning chef for over 50+ years.

Chef Leah Chase was an American chef based in New Orleans, Louisiana. An author and television personality, she was known as the Queen of Creole Cuisine. She passed away at 96 in 2019.

Chef Patrick Clark was an American chef. He won the 1994 James Beard Foundation award for “Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic Region” during his tenure at the Hay-Adams Hotel, Washington, D.C. and also competed.

The reputation of Southern wealthy families depended on offering superior feasts. The culinary feats were achieved by slave chefs from a variety of African regions. New to colonists dinner ‘s influenced by West Africa offered tomatoes, lima beans, onions, and chili peppers with peanuts, ginger and lemon grass. Natural sugar from dates, coconuts, sorghum and sweet potato lessen the need for granulated sugar. Garlic, cumin, and chili peppers for meat followed by allspice, cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon. Chili made with cinnamon was probably the result of African spice blends.  Africa has five regions that use the same spices and seasoning blends. Across America distinct African American influence is broken down into these categories: “Northern States, “ Agricultural South”, “ Creole Coast”, lastly, “ Western Range”.  Trivia fact, over 1/3 of cowboys in the west after the civil war were African Americans. Spices and flavors from a distant continent won new fans and changed the rather bland  fare forever.

Chicago offers several “soul food” restaurants, a phrase that started in the 1960’s and was common place by the 1970’s. Foursquare provides some great comments and pictures about several. Here are just a few with pictures above that describe their menus:

  1. Luella’s Southern Kitchen
  2. Wishbone Restaurant
  3. Big Jones
  4. Virtue
  5. Feed

Good Old Days: Valentines Day

Saint Valentine’s Day was a feast day in the Catholic religion, added to the liturgical calendar around 500 AD. The day was commemorated for two martyred roman priests named—you guessed it—Valentine. … Because of this legend, St. Valentine became known as the patron saint of love. No one knows exactly when the celebration began in sending cards but their is evidence that it took place as early as the fifteenth century,

It is said by the 18th century,February 14th became an occasion for people to exchange letters or small presents to commemorate love between lovers and friends. But back in the day, it was very expensive to buy Valentines cards and huge boxes of candy.

NJM Blog offers some information about Valentines Day candy. For example, the history of Sweethearts Candy Hearts began in 1866. Daniel Chase developed a machine that could press food dye letters onto the candy lozenges made famous by his brother, New England Confectionery Company (NECCO) founder Oliver Chase. Heart-Shaped Boxes of Chocolates: Richard Cadbury, son of Cadbury founder John Cadbury, created ‘fancy’ boxes of chocolates to increase sales.

School celebrations of Valentines Day consisted of making your own valentines in the early eighteenth century here in America. Teachers would help students make cards; passing them out to everyone in the classroom. Teachers would decorate classrooms with felt hearts and banners. As a Baby Boomer, we brought Valentines to school that were sold in a small red box with a variety of small, one dimensional cards to choose from that would fit the personality and gender of each child. You better pick something that was sports oriented for the boys…never kissing anyone. Your gifted valentines were stuffed in a plastic bag to bring home. The same was for my own children growing up in the 1990’s but Valentines were more theme-oriented celebrating famous toys, stars, or movies. I remember my son sending Spiderman cards. There was a collection of cards with Michael Jordon on them that said your cool and of course, Barbie or Pocahontas (celebrating the movie) was a favorite for girls 20 years ago.

Now, however, decorated Valentines Day boxes that are sometimes larger than the student, are brought to school. They represent mailboxes of all different themes with an opening ready for cards that may be a monsters teeth, a unicorn, a cat, a dog or a fairy castle with a magic door for cards. They are absolutely gorgeous and a great idea for parents to help decorate; bringing out how special and creative Valentines Day can be. Today, classrooms also celebrate Valentines Day parties usually hosted by volunteer parents. Though candy is an issue, the parents bring great snacks for the kids.

This year for the kindergarten students, my daughter and I made Valentines with two hearts glued together with a Tootsie Pop in the center that had attached googly eyes, Looks like a butterfly with glitter heart stickers since the parents agreed to the lollipop this year. Since we have a short week at school, I passed them out yesterday. There is something special about making your own creation and not one disliked the Tootsie Pop or the flavor they received since they were able to eat them in the classroom…all at once…following afternoon recess. Wow…maybe we should do this more often for it was much quieter than usual at one point. Their little mouths had something else to concentrate and couldn’t talk and lick at the same time.

Happy Valentines Day!

My favorite fast food hamburgers

Since childhood, it was always a hamburger and chocolate shake that was my faovrite lunch away from home. It began with Henrys.  In 1956, Henry’s, or as some old timers called it, “O’Henry’s” was running 35 locations in and around the city and suburbs. By the ’60s, Henry’s expanded to over 200 restaurants nationwide,  surpassing McDonald’s, White Castle, Jack In the Box, and Wag ‘s. Occasionally, I would have a white castle hamburger at a birthday party. The first White castle opened at 79th and Essex in 1929…my old neighborhood and the oldest hamburger chain.

My next favorite was Wimpy Grills always a place to eat when we took the Illinois Central downtown in my pre-teens and went shopping with friends at Carson’s or Marshall Fields. Though I did love the olive burger at the Narcissus room at Fields. The Wimpy brand was established in 1934 by Edward Gold, when he opened his first location in Bloomington, Indiana under the name Wimpy Grills.The name was inspired by the character of J. Wellington Wimpy from the Popeye cartoons created by E. C. Segar. Gold did not open his first Chicago area location until two years later in 1936, after opening units in five other Midwestern cities. The one I remember the most was located on the northeast corner of Randolph Street and Wabash Avenue which originally opened in 1940 and is no longer there. By 2011, Famous Brands had 509 Wimpy restaurants in South Africa no longer apart of the US.

But in 1973, my still favorite fast food cheese burger was established and will still eat it today when I am looking for something close to home, fast and affordable. Though I do love their chocolate shakes too. The quarter pounder with cheese, just had one yesterday, of course a McDonald favorite. In 1979, the Happy Meal for children was created followed by Chicken McNuggets in 1983; the latter still a favorite of my 30+ children

The first McDonald’s restaurant was started in 1948 by brothers Maurice (“Mac”) and Richard McDonald in San Bernardino, California. They bought appliances for their small hamburger restaurant from salesman Ray Kroc,who was intrigued by their need for eight malt and shake mixers.Seeing great promise in their restaurant concept, Kroc offered to begin a franchise program for the McDonald brothers.

On April 15, 1955, he opened the first McDonald’s franchise in Des Plaines, Illinois, and in the same year launched the McDonald’s Corporation, eventually buying out the McDonald brothers in 1961. The clown,Ronald McDonald, was created in 1963.  The corporation is still located in Oakbrook and today McDonalds is considered the largest restaurant chain.

 

 

Go Noodle…I’m Still Standing and Footloose

There called brain breaks in elementary classrooms which I have talked about before.  In our kindergarten, its Go Noodle kids videos and it varies from year to year what the kids really enjoy. GoNoodle is free for teachers, parents, and kids! In addition to energizing content, GoNoodle has 300+ dance videos, mindfulness activities, and super engaging videos for kids!

Last year, the popular, always requested number was Boom Chicaka Boom-Moose Tube.  A favorite both years is also Koo Koo Kanga Roo, a comic team that does a variety videos that include a funny ride on a roller coaster and weird sounds, just to name a few. This year, right before the next animated movie came out, it was Snap Along with the Addams Family. But now a new hit has become the winning choice.

As the teacher selected the hit and it began to play, I wasn’t paying attention to the kids dancing on the screen. It was the music, the song that hit before I looked up. It was Elton John from 1982 when I’m Still Standing was released and played over and over…yeah, yeah, yeah. In fact when I hear the song one time, I can’t get the lyrics to stop playing in my head. And now I’m Still Standing is recorded by Go Noodle; a top hit in another decade. But it is the dance troup that the kids follow which is two girls and a boy that perform a variety of dance moves that the kids truly take the time to figure and follow. It is amazing to watch the kids become better after each time the video is played.

After researching Noodle Television, there are more from the Baby Boomers era from this kid trio including Footloose. Footloose is a 1984 American musical drama film directed by Herbert Ross. It tells the story of Ren McCormack (Kevin Bacon), a teenager from Chicago who moves to a small western town where he lives with his mother, aunt, and uncle. Throughout the movie, McCormack is seen attempting to overturn the ban on dancing, which resulted from the efforts of a local minister (John Lithgow).

The movie received mixed reviews but the song by Kenny Loggins has been popular. Another Footloose movie came out in 2011 where city teenager, the same Ren MacCormack moves to a small town where rock music and dancing have been banned, and his rebellious spirit shakes up the populace.

Lose your blues, kick off your Sunday shoes. The video has a row, top and bottom, of dancing shoes. When it first came out in the early 1980’s, many rock and roll fans thought it was a stupid song. Not anymore. Not for the elementary students today following their favorite dance troupe.

Backwards Day…January 31,2020

By Caryl Clem:

Recall old sayings,” Absence makes the heart grow fonder “or “You don’t miss it until it’s gone.”   Try turning back the clock and live Backwards Day on 1/31/2020 in a different decade.  Pick a time period before cell phones, or the internet.  Remember the 1970’s when a phone call could still mean being put on hold and you were trapped to a phone plugged into a wall? Your fingers went in circles or pounded on numbered squares.  Advertisements chanted, “Let your fingers do the walking”.  Convenience offered by a touch screen wasn’t available before the IBM Simon in 1992.  Phones did not fit in your purse or pocket.

If you want to feel out of touch and out of the loop, try surviving your day without the computer. The driving force behind most activities today is the computer. Computer data use did not include the World Wide Web until after 1991. If email and social contacts rule your day, pretend you are living before 1993.  Two giants that dominate sales by using the internet both started in 1995, EBay and Amazon.  Facebook’s debut was in 2004 followed by You Tube in 2005.  Online grocery service originated in the Chicago area with Peapod, Inc.  formed in 1989, aligning services with Jewel and Safeway Food supermarkets.  Online shopping is causing 50 year old stores to crumble.  I still prefer touching and feeling a product before I buy it, something the younger generations feel comfortable skipping.

A myth exists that the “good old days” were better.  Planning healthy meals depends on product information to reach nutrition goals. I love the fact I can identify what is in any package I purchase. I would never want to go back to guessing what was about to be eaten.  After reading the contents of “Spam”, I lost all desire to reconnect with a previous food favorite.  I used to special order information that I can search on the 24/7 internet.  The library offers family services, workshops imparting knowledge in so many areas beyond books.  Going back in time is an exercise to renew your appreciation for what today offers.

Depending on your job environment, encourage a group to join you to choose a style from the past.  Explore ways to break your routine, put it in reverse. Show your backbone, another part of the definition of backwards, reference your backside. Carry a sign, “Back Is Back”.   Backwards Day is a chance to see the world from a different perspective. The birth of a new idea is often stimulated when you break the “norm”.  Let ingenuity guide and renew your mental energy!

Dan Ryan Woods/Swallow Cliff Tobaggon

As the winter has finally arrived with snow, I thought about playing in the snow. I did not ski or ice skate but as a child, there was sledding and the closest tobaggon slide was at Dan Ryan Woods in Auburn-Gresham/Beverly. I did not have a toboggan but other friends and parents of friends did. I followed; all bundled up, mainly to watch, but I do remember how terrified I was taking a fast trip down one of the wooden shoots.

When my children were young, it was not Dan Ryan Woods that we visited, it was Swallow Cliff in Palos Park watching my children use the slide. My husband was a skier and he helped them down. Unfortunately, I was too terrified to try. My first time skiing I was in my early twenties before children. I went down a steep slope with a friend at Alpine who tried to show me what to do but I had problems going way too fast and broke my ankle. I never went skiing again. With the exception of building a snowman, winter sports were just not my thing though the hot chocolate and a fire in our fireplace was always appreciated.

Swallow Cliff slides were officially closed down in 2004 but were operable for decades. However, weather had to be cooperative for them to be used with enough snow (at least 4 inches) and temps of 25 degrees or under. The cost to keep them safe was expensive. Constructed in 1930 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, 125 limestone stairs lead to the top of a former toboggan run on Swallow Cliff’s 100-foot bluff.  So in 2016, the Forest Preserves added another set of stairs with an additional 168 steps, creating a full circuit. They do have an active sledding hill during the winter. Just north of the 100-foot bluff and popular fitness stairs, the Swallow Cliff Pavilion is perfect for any occasion and was also built in 2016 with a cozy fireplace during the winter and a kitchen prep area with refrigerator.

Dan Ryan Woods Commissioner found out how popular the stairs at Swallow Cliff was and he actually polled walkers in Palos. He decided to do the same and the project was approved recently. The Dan Ryan Woods now has a brand new set of outdoor concrete stairs made for walking just last year. The 63-step fitness stairs are officially open near the northeast corner of 87th and Western in the forest preserve near Auburn-Gresham and Beverly.

It was just a year ago that I wrote about the storm of 1967 called We Share Our Memories that actually happened this day, over 50 years ago, which was January 26th. We missed school which was the good part, the bad part is the city was not prepared for the disaster. Then there was the storm of 1979. Between 7 and 10 inches of snow were already on the ground, after an earlier blizzard the previous New Year’s Eve. More snow began to fall with a vengeance on the night of Jan. 12, and it kept piling up until 2 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 14. The new snowstorm alone topped out with 18.8 inches on the ground. My mother had taken her first vacation to Hawaii and was scheduled to land at OHare on that Sunday. I was going to pick her up. Fortunately, she got to stay away for a few more days since her flight was re-scheduled and one of the first to fly into O’Hare. The storm of 1999 had wind gusts over 60 miles per hour and 2013-2014 saw its share of snow that totaled over 60 inches.

I have seen enough winter storms over the decades.  As the winter slowly disappears into spring, I am going for a trip on the stairs.

 

Hall monitors and crossing guards

Beginning over 50 years ago, I am still in the position of hall monitor..at the main door of an elementary school….something that was a dream of mine at the age of 12. I took my first job in 1967 at Joseph Warren School which was an older building at the time in the south side of Chicago and I got to stand in the middle of a stairwell…three floors and two set of stairs. Students were in junior high and literally had to square their corners, walking all the way to wall and staying in a neat, quiet line when they reach the floor threshold. If they didn’t, they were immediately pulled and sent to the principal. There was always teachers in the halls to double check on your hall monitor duties. You better being doing your job and this wasn’t Catholic school. This was part of the Chicago Public School System. We need those monitors today.

Back in those days, outside crossing guards for neighborhood streets used to be patrol boys from school; many getting to wear orange belts that were place across their chests and some wore caps. The first school safety patrols were formed in the 1920s, because of growing concern for the well-being of students walking to school because of increasing accidents and injuries. Some had tennis rackets that was covered with a sign that said stop. Hammond Police offers some wonderful photos of the crossing guards popularity in the past.

Today, no universal regulations exist that describe who may be a crossing guard, where crossing guards are stationed, or for what purposes a crossing guard may be employed. This person may be paid or volunteer; the person may be a school employee, a member of local law enforcement, a city employee, or contracted privately. Many elementary school crossing guards are assisted by older students, known by a variety of titles such as “safety monitor” and “safety patrol.” These do not have legal responsibility for the safety of children. Junior safety patrol is a voluntary group of crossing guards involving older students helping younger students cross streets in elementary and middle schools across the United States.

Many now wear vests which is the most common. We were the same vests when we are directing buses and monitoring recess at our school. But my favorite position is inside at the main door hallway, though when buses come early, we have grades kindergarten through second grade sit in our large multi-purpose room just beyond the main door. Not, however, squaring corners, making perfect lines and being quiet. My position is giving hugs, high fives, and taking deep breaths to those who are just beginning their day and know that there is always someone they can trust. Much better than my first job in 1967.

 

Conversations in the den

It all started in the den. That was the only phone we had that sat on a desk with an old fashioned printed Rolodex of phone numbers that sat next to the phone so that we did not forget. Sometimes when you would pick up the receiver, there would talking on the line though you always hung up quickly….never listening to the party line. Or the obnoxious busy signal that could go on for a long time. You would have to hang up and try again later. There was no leaving messages and it would ring and ring and ring if nobody picked up the phone. Presumably, no one was home. You couldn’t be sure what number you dialed either. No screens, no caller id. You didn’t have to dial….that is right…dial the area code but in Chicago it was BAYPORT 5-5936 which was actually BA that you dialed or Essex 2-7390 which was ES. Some were three letters with four numbers.They were considered different automatic exchanges  That was the phone of the 1960’s. And in some small towns in Illinois, there was actually an operator that you talked to first and she would connect you to who you were calling.

I always wanted a princess phone when I was 12. Never did get one as a pre-teen or high school student but actually found one at an antique store that my daughter wants.

Hand held mobiles were introduced in the 1970’s but very expensive and seldom used. A traditional landline telephone did become push button phones instead of dial and it was the answering machine that you bought to attach to your phone still available today but much more streamlined. My Panasonic was large and ran on tapes that would sometimes run out of room to record calls if I got too many. You had to record a message and again, no caller id.

In the early 1990s, I did have a business cell phone that was huge and plugged into my car as well as a pager. And it was then that voicemail became popular. In fact, I actually worked for company called CommuniTech in which I traveled to businesses throughout the United States to train them on the use of voicemail. No emails then… just voicemail and people were excited. They could leave a message through their company voicemail. They could set up their own voicemail message on each phone and I would train them on how to do this. I would train company users on the type of messages they could record and keep. I would also train administrators how to run the voicemail system helping recording many company greetings that included. Eli Lily, Center for Disease Control, and United Airlines to name just a few. Voicemail etiquette was extremely important to emphasis.

Today, people cannot live without their cell phone. Mine died one night and we had one hour to check it out and buy a new one before the store closed. An early Christmas present this year. And we don’t have a land line anymore and I do like my phone. If I am bored, waiting for something….I can play Solitaire easily. Solitaire truly helps me remain patient.

I can take pictures without having another camera device. And with a cell,there is no reason for someone not to get back to me.  As I age, that is important to me and I love texting. Never was much of a talker on the phone so texting is the best for the writer. I like not being tied to a cord attached to a wall. And my phone goes with me whenever I leave home. It is my map on the road and has made my life easier. As someone said, it is a guardian angel in case of a friend, family or me emergency. Yes, there are many that are too addicted to technology but what a different world we have now.

We don’t have to pick up a receiver in only one room in the house and wait for our neighbor to stop talking.

 

Popcorn gains from Chicago Connections

By Caryl Clem:

Popcorn’s early history dates back to worshiping the Maize with popcorn adorned headdresses and rain gods.  Today’s mass consumption of this snack is a combination of ingenuity, determination and old fashioned hustling.  January 19th is National Popcorn day.

Early popping corn was risky, often greasy, or partially burned and inedible until Charles Cretors invented a steam popcorn machine wagon. He moved his family to Chicago in 1885 to expand his business.  During the Columbia World Exposition in 1893, fresh popcorn vendor wagons were introduced. C Cretors and Company of Chicago featured popcorn flavors that won instant approval. Charles previously sold peanuts before the popcorn venture, his recipe combined molasses, peanuts and popcorn. The cheery red wagon that popped fresh popcorn could be pulled by a boy or pony was open for business anywhere a crowd gathered.

Two German immigrant brothers were determined to obtain financial success in Chicago. After their first business burned to the ground that was located South Clinton Street in 1885, they rebuilt and expanded their business using wagon vendors.  Again the combination of popcorn, peanuts and molasses from a recipe they construed in 1871 became a staple of their success.  A box decorated by a patriotic sailor with a slang term meaning the best, “Cracker Jack” originated their popcorn snack.  The Chicago Tribune on March 8, 1896 featured an article proclaiming that to taste the Rueckheim Brothers popcorn would lead to an obsession, “Do Not Taste It,” read the ridiculous headline. “If you do, you will part with your money easy.”   Expanding the popularity of the product, jobbers went to grocers, drug stores and retail merchants to obtain orders.  By 1908 a song embracing the joy of baseball, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” quoted, “buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack” cemented the bond between games and snacking.

As America fought two wars, sugar shortages narrowed the choices for snack treats. The Great Depression brought poverty to the majority. A bag of popcorn was between 5 and 10 cents, a luxury most could afford.  Farmers and vendors were able to make a meager living off popcorn.  Cracker Jack started offering prizes inside their boxes to corner the market.

Movie theaters were against serving food to prevent littering the atmosphere of richness and prosperity that dominated the early movie houses.  After the Great Depression, movie theaters struggled to survive.  In the 1930’s from Glen Dickson  manager of a theater in the Midwest area, Julia Braden in Kansas City, Mo.,  and R. J. McKenna in the west: all  saved their businesses by selling popcorn inside the theater to increase profit margins.  Now a movie is associated with the smell of buttery popcorn. Children’s movies and suspense dramas sold the most popcorn.

Since the microwave introduced popcorn in 1981, popcorn starts to dominate the fix at home snack market. Orville Redenbacher in 1965 is selling his popcorn out of his car as he travels to supermarkets across the Midwest.  Family cooks can make snack foods . Options to make your own popping corn are at your fingertips. Range or stove Popcorn is easy to make and offers many flavorful seasonings.

If you want to buy, the top selling brand today is Chicago’s own Garrett Popcorn ShopsChicago, ILThe Cretors family has modernized its market to open Cornfields, Inc.  a healthy snack manufacturer and producer of the G.H. Cretors and Hi I’m Skinny brands.

No matter what your choice, Chicago offers the best popcorn!

Best places in Chicago to celebrate Bittersweet Chocolate Day on January 10th

By Caryl Clem

The first evidence of chocolate dates back to the Native Indians in Mexico. Earthenware mugs adorned with animal figures discovered at various sites had traces of cacao theobromine chemicals.  Early Mayan civilizations used chocolate in rituals; the Aztec murals feature chocolate as a delicacy available to kings and warriors.  Indigenous tribes in the Amazon rain forests used chocolate for medical reasons.

Cocoa beans were only served to the powerful, serving as money for common use.  The transformation of a bean into edible delights was entrepreneurial genius.  When an explorer first saw the beans loaded into a canoe, he thought they were goat droppings.  Exposure to the new culture’s methods for exchanging goods revealed that 200 beans would buy one turkey, 100 beans purchased one slave.  Chocolate was first sent to Europe in 1520 by merchant Christopher Columbus in hopes of building a chocolate empire.

A botanist and doctor were fascinated by a plant he was cultivating because it could double as a food or treatment.  He composed a collection of recipes. While practicing as a physician, Sir Hans Sloane, cared for 2 queens and 1 king. In payment, he requested a Chocolate Kitchen at thin newly renovated Hampton Court. Experimenting with chocolate on his Jamaican plantation he desired to establish chocolate’s reputation as worthy fare for royalty. King William III and Queen Mary II  welcomed the opportunity to be hosting the first modern Chocolate Kitchen in 1690 at their palace. Later, Sir Hans Sloane sold his recipes to Cadbury Brothers who built the world renowned chocolate business including Hot Chocolate, his creation.

The chocolate tree’s name as Theobroma  means “food for the gods” in Greek. Dark or bittersweet chocolate has less sugar and no milk, often preferred as an ingredient in baking for a richer flavor. I remember baking brownies in the 1960’s made with unsweetened Hershey cocoa powder, a recipe distributed by 4-H sponsored by University of Illinois, still my favorite for the best results! Chicago is home to a variety of great chocolate shops and manufacturers. The majority of these companies offer both sweet and bittersweet chocolate edibles. If you are feeling a craving for chocolate, below are a few popular places:

For more information, check out the National Day Calendar article about chocolate. As the New Year starts with paying attention to eating foods with “fringe” benefits, indulge with bittersweet chocolate and dump any guilt!

Cocoa beans contain up to 10% of phenol’s and flavonoids which are antioxidants potentially inhibiting cancer or cardiovascular diseases, as well as potassium, magnesium, calcium and iron. Additionally, they contain 1-3% theobromine and caffeine, alkaloids that stimulate the central nervous system. Caffeine has a positive effect on mental alertness, for instance when taken in caffeinated drinks.”