A gift of chocolate remains the ultimate in sensual and, as it turns out, sensible.
Science tells us we love chocolate because its melting point is slightly below the average human body temperature, creating a pleasant mouth feel. In the immortal words of Mars execs, the stuff melts in our mouths, not in our hands.
Chocolate intake is also linked with release of serotonin in the brain, which some say simulates feelings of pleasure and love. Maybe that’s why, 2,600 years after the Mayans mixed the stuff into their drinks for improved fertility, chocolate is still the go-to Valentine’s Day gift.
“It seems to make people extremely happy,” says Nicholas Govatos, co-owner and manager of the Govatos’ Chocolate empire in Wilmington, “especially women.”
“A lot of us women get cravings for it,” says Roberta Wuttke, owner of Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory in Lewes. “And if we don’t have it, we aren’t very nice.”
According to Marianne Carter, a registered dietician, some blends of dark chocolate also have health benefits. Flavonols in cocoa (ditto red wine and tea) have antioxidant properties that can help prevent harmful changes to cells in the body. However, during processing and conversion into milk chocolate, cocoa loses many of its helpful flavonol components.
“So I can imagine all these people thinking they’ll eat a lot of chocolate and be healthier,” says Carter, a spokesperson for the Delaware Dietetic Association. “But they may not realize it’s the dark and bitter chocolates that are better from a health standpoint.
For a V-Day gift that’s both sensible and sensual, Govatos recommends a nice buttercream with dark chocolate, perhaps with a maraschino cherry in the middle. Wuttke steers fit Fabios in the direction of Rocky Mountain’s 72 percent cocoa chocolate. The more cocoa, the more antioxidants. “We’re also focusing on things like chocolate-covered blueberries and almonds, anything that might be good for you.” —Matt Amis
A Dover Landmark is Reborn
The World Famous Loockerman Exchange owners Brett Hencley and Marc Pomi want to give Dover residents a taste of sophistication. Hencley’s market research included standing on street corners, asking residents what they wanted. The answer was an upscale restaurant and nightclub with live music, DJs and fun noshes. “We’re making it so they don’t have to go to the city for a fun night out,” he says
The mission required a unique location. The partners loved the historic Loockerman Exchange space. “When I walked in, I knew that it was exactly what we were trying to find and the look we were trying to achieve,” Hencley says.
The building was built in 1896 by a Delaware senator, who named it the Priscilla Block for his wife. “There’s a lot of history in it,” Hencley says. But some of that history needed to come down. The partners removed drop-ceilings to reveal pressed tin and blasted the plaster to expose brick walls. They also removed anything that made the space look dark and cluttered.
Hencley and Pomi were committed to saving familiar appointments such as the stained-glass windows. But it wasn’t easy. Since exterior walls needed rebuilding, workers had to build a temporary brace to support the windows.
“It was a huge process,” Hencley says. “It could have been done easier, but we would have had to sacrifice that stained glass.”
The Exchange, which seats 100 yet holds about 400, is focusing on the nightclub, but it also emphasizes food that goes beyond “the typical fried baskets,” Hencley says.
By day, attorneys, bankers and politicos can conduct a power lunch. By evening it becomes a happy hour hotspot, and at night, Hencley says, it turns into the “greatest, classiest party you can go to.” —Pam George
The Tool I Can’t Live Without
Cool Springs Fish
Bar & Restaurant
When Dover-based chef Dennis Forbes designed his new home three years ago, he wanted a gourmet kitchen similar to the one at his restaurant. He made sure it had all the same equipment: deep-frier, steamer, convection oven, 66-inch ventilation hood over an industrial range and, of course, a spool of fishing line.
To the casual observer, fishing wire might not seem out of place in a seafood restaurant, but the heavy-gauge line never touches the entrées in Forbes’ kitchen. Like a Jenny Craig dropout at a New York bakery, it’s there solely for the cheesecake.
“It gives me a cleaner cut,” he says. “It’s quick and easy.”
Forbes was fumbling with cutting methods recommended to him for cutting his cheesecakes. Freshly sharpened knives didn’t work, nor did cutting with a blade that had been soaked in hot water. When he noticed a spool of fishing wire on the seat of his car, it gave him an idea. It only took one slice to hook him. That was 20 years ago.
The line must be a heavy gauge, he says. (Thin line doesn’t work). At $10 a spool—which will last a year—it’s far less expensive than, say, an $80 Wusthoff Classic santoku. And it doesn’t have to be an expensive brand; the cheap stuff is just as strong.
Forbes’ unusual method of slicing desserts is accepted in his kitchen, but it always receives raised eyebrows from new members of the wait staff.
“The waitresses and waiters come in and give me a look that says ‘Why would you do that?’” he says. “As soon as you walk in the kitchen, the line is right there, sitting on top of the steamer.” —Bob Thurlow