Henri falls in love with Chocolate Mystique Café
Chocolate Mystique Cafe788 East Ave.
Chico, CA 95926
For this was on seynt Volantynys day / Whan euery fowle comyth there to chese his mate.
Often considered the first occasional poem in the English language, Chaucer’s “The Parliament of Fowls” was written in 1381 to honor the engagement of Richard II and Anne of Bohemia. The 700-line poem also celebrates the mating season of birds and St. Valentine’s Day, a tradition linked with the Roman festival of Lupercalia, originally celebrated on Feb. 15. Some scholars believe that Chaucer’s poem was the first literary link between St. Valentine and romantic love.
In fact, very little is known for certain about the history of Valentine’s Day, although myths and legends and folklore abound—perfect for Henri, who has always subscribed to the adage, “Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.”
One story, frequently cited: St. Valentine was a priest who fell out of favor with Claudius II in 270. The emperor had forbidden young men from being married—claiming bachelors made better soldiers—but Valentine kept marrying couples in secrecy. Arrested and imprisoned, he fell in love with the daughter of one of his jailors, and then just before he was put to death, he sent her a note and signed it “from your Valentine.” Voila! The first Valentine’s Day card.
Of course, Henri has been, well, entre lovers for some time now and, tout seul again this year, has no one to spend a romantic evening with or send a dozen roses to. But he’s fine with that—a little wet-nosed kissy from Miss Marilyn is about all I ask. Not so for Colette, my dear soeur, whose mood will only be darkened by the embarrassingly crude and illiterate card she’ll no doubt get again this year from Spike, husband number three.
So I have a plan, in part to thank her for helping me out of my own post-holiday funk. Part I: A large box of mixed truffles, her favorite, from the Chocolate Mystique Café; and Part II: a cooking class from the Flambé Cooking School, at the Mystique.
We happened by the little shop quite by chance the other afternoon and were most impressed. Co-owner Joanne Girolamo is a certified chocolatier, her husband, John, a coffee roaster and barista. Candies are made on-site. We ordered a small box of six different truffles, which Colette selected, for $6.95 and a couple of cappuccinos from the espresso bar to go and headed home.
In addition to the wide range of truffles, toffees, fudges and other candies (boxes of 12: $15; of 24: $30), the menu includes spinach, artichoke, mushroom and dried-tomato quiche ($5.99); a variety of hot and cold sandwiches ($2.75-$5.99); assorted muffins, cookies and croissants ($.99-$2.15); and smoothies ($4.50) in a dozen flavors, including chocolate-dipped strawberry and pumpkin pie. The Flambé Cooking School, with a two-part series on Feb. 13 and March 6, includes instruction not only on desserts but on appetizers (lavender-and-chocolate shrimp), salads (arugula, blood-orange and shaved-white-chocolate) and main courses (chocolate-leek soup, seared pork tenderloin with a chocolate chili rub and fresh beets in a mole sauce). Cost is $80 for both days.
That night, I poured a couple of glasses of port, and Colette took a tiny paring knife, cut the candies into quarters, and we sampled all six. Correction. Finished all six. My favorite: the California gold (toasted almonds with dried apricot in milk chocolate, painted with gold dust). Colette’s: the espresso truffle (dark chocolate flavored with espresso, with an espresso bean on top). But all were delicious—Colette, the truffle aficionado, was très impressed.
I’m very much looking forward to her graduation from the cooking class.