A couple years ago, back in the days when I didn’t spend all my money on obscure vegetables and Bar Method classes, I loved shopping at Em & Co., an eclectic boutique on West Third Street whose funky clothes are somewhat reminiscent of Anthropologie. I’d walk over on Saturday mornings, chat with the obscenely friendly gals who work there, and prance about the shop selecting armfuls of dresses to try on. I didn’t have any intention of buying any of them, but liked to pretend that I was like the other girls who shopped there – a trendy twenty-something with fabulous places to go and important people to see.
The only problem with my fantasy was stopping it once I left the dressing room. My favorite sales gal would gush over how great a certain dress or top looked on me, and I, the perpetual people-pleaser, couldn’t bear to tell her that I didn’t actually have any use for a short, skin-tight black dress with bright purple and red strips across the skirt.
“I’ll take it!” I’d say instead, thrusting my credit card forward with purpose.
She’d grin at me, I’d grin back, and all would be well and good until I got back to my apartment and realized I’d just spent $100 on a dress I would never wear.
So I stopped shopping at Em & Co. Not because I no longer liked their clothes, but because I couldn’t afford to shop at a place where I always felt compelled to buy something.
My people-please-or-die mentality has not served my sanity or bank account well during the course of my life, and continues to prove problematic for me today. I can’t say “no” when my friend asks me for a bite of a dessert that I would really prefer hording to myself, and I can’t say “no” to the pleasant servers and restaurant staff when they tell me I have to have something.
Such was the case when my beloved West Hollywood café, Joan’s on Third, told me about their new line of chocolate bars that are produced specifically for the café and marketplace by one of my favorite chocolatiers, Valerie Confections.
The call to action came via a simple tweet from @joansonthird that said they thought I’d like their new Crispy chocolate bar with salty caramel, crisped rice and darkened milk chocolate. I replied a moment later that I thought I’d like it too and assured them that I would most certainly love to try it.
Yet every time I visited Joan’s on Third for my container of tuna salad and pickles to-go during the weeks that followed, I couldn’t bring myself to spend the $5.95 on the indulgent chocolate bar. “I don’t need more chocolate.” I’d tell myself, casting my eyes away from the neat stacks of bars lest I succumb to temptation. “I have plenty of Trader Joe’s sea salt and turbinado sugar chocolate covered almonds at home.”
I held strong for two months before the guilt started to wear down my resolve. Joan (or whoever is tweeting for Joan) wanted me to try the Crispy bar. I was letting her down by turning my nose up at the gourmet chocolate bars. And, in the interests of full disclosure, I wanted to try it too. I love caramel. I love chocolate. And I love Valerie Confections. $5.95 is a small price to pay to make Joan, Valerie and myself happy.
Or at least that’s what I told myself when I finally bought one last week. Never mind that Joan and Valerie probably weren’t waiting with bated breath for me to try it. Never mind that it probably wasn’t even Joan who wrote the tweet. Never mind that whoever had told me about the bar had probably forgotten about it. In my fantasy, they all cared deeply, so I was completely justified in making the splurge.
The next day, I excitedly extract the decidedly lumpy and bumpy chocolate bar from the protective box and cellophane wrapping. At four and a half inches long, and a good inch and a quarter thick, I am pleased to see the Crispy bar is easily large enough to enjoy in two sittings. I smile to myself, thinking, “$3 is so acceptable for a post-lunch dessert!” and then promptly saw the dense bar in half.
The first thing that hits me when I tear my teeth through the thick darkened milk chocolate casing is the distinct toffee notes. This crisped rice didn’t originate from a cereal box – it is clear from the flavor that this is Valerie’s work. While the interior rope of caramel is a touch chewy, the slightly salty, burnt quality is spot on. The varying textures and juxtaposition of salty/sweet flavors create an addictive combination, and I can easily see why Joan (or the person tweeting for Joan) thought I might like it.Fortunately, since I am about to give up chocolate for Lent again, I only have two more weeks to pretend to be the girl who uses guilt as justification to buy herself $6 chocolate bars. This is a role I don’t mind playing at all – especially when the result is so delicious (and doesn’t end up hidden behind my ugly winter sweaters in the back of my closet).
Joan’s on Third
8350 West 3rd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90048
3360 West 1st Street
Los Angeles, CA 90004