a whole lot o’ hot cocoa

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There’s a lovely little place in Fox Point that I’ve written about time and time again, where the folks feel like family and the walls, works of art.  It’s a favorite of PVD’s most instafamous, out-of-towner coffee connoisseurs searching for the perfect cup, and an adorable grandpa/grandson combo who’s adorable avocado toast-sharing ritual I’ve witnessed on several occasions now.  Well, that sounded stalker-y.  Let’s move on.

For the past 2 years, this lovely little place, also known as The Shop, has held a rather wonderful event during the first few weeks of the new year.  Hot Cocoa Fest, as they call it, brings a different artisanal hot chocolate flavor to The Shop each week for PVD’s tasting pleasure.  At the end of the ‘fest’, the community votes for its favorite flavor, which then wins a spot on The Shop’s winter menu for the remaining months.  Yay hot cocoa, yay democracy, yay trying new things!

Because I’m a huge fan of wintertime treats, homemade marshmallows*, and things that involve checklists, I decided to take this year’s Hot Cocoa Fest into my own hands.  Making the whole operation a lot more official, my sweet friend Melissa (the one looking just darling in the Elmer Fudd hat below) actually bought me a gift certificate-good for 8 hot cocoas- on which she gel-penned the complete list of flavors for my checking-off enjoyment.  Behold:

I’d like to share the results here, as they stand, before spring really springs and my opinion of assorted flavors of warm winter beverages becomes even more irrelevant than it already is.  If you happen to be interested…

Peanut Butter Cup: Wow. The Fest started out with a bang.  PB Cup, as I affectionately referred to it throughout the duration of the hot cocoa-a-thon, was by far one of my favorites.  It didn’t taste like straight up peanut butter the way I thought it might, no, it was truly a peanut butter cup somehow magically infused into the hot chocolate.  As a recent pb cub convert who used to trade her Halloween Reese’s for anything she could get her hands on, I can confidently say this hot cocoa was fantastic. 4 stars.

Dulce De Leche: The dulce de leche brought it back to the classics.  Though very delicious on its own, in comparison to every other flavor being offered throughout, this guy just didn’t stand up to the competition.  A very chocolatey hot chocolate.  So yeah.  Good, but, ya know, 2 stars.  Moving on…

 

Banana: Another favorite, and another display of pure sorcery on the part of those Shop baristas!  I was afraid it might taste like banana laffy taffy soaking in the bottom of an otherwise perfect cup of cocoa, but boy was I wrong.  The banana flavor was subtle and trailing.  The experience was much more reminiscent of a banana/nutella marriage (i.e. more nutty, less sweet), and I mean that as a MAJOR compliment.  4 stars.

Cranberry Nut: The pattern seemed to be one week on, one week off.  Though tasty, the cranberry nut seemed to lack well, cranberries and nuts.  I may have had my expectations set a bit too high for this one, as Cape Cod trail mix happens to be one of my favorite snacks, but the extreme subtlety of flavor left me pretty darn disappointed.  1 star.

 

Peppermint Stick: Confession time: I missed this one!  Woops!  BUT, I did seek out friends for their opinion (as well as interrogating the owner for his opinion of the cult classic the following week), and the general response seemed to be this: If you like peppermint patties, this hot cocoa is for you.

Raspberry: Yum.  I drank this one fast.  I should have savored the flavor a bit more, but was walking up Wickenden with my mom on a chilly day and the warm goodness in my tummy just felt too good to syphon.  Plus, they were out of ‘mallows that day, so the barista (Hi John!) decorated our cocoas with pretty little hearts and that kind of ingestible art is truly irresistible, am I right? 3 stars.

 

*Kettle Corn*: Oh boy.  Be prepared because things are about to get weird over here.  The kettle corn hot chocolate (pictured at the top of this post in all of its sweet, salty, smooth, crunchy glory) was what my grandma would call “really somethin’ else”.  Melissa and I met for a study date (what up, Whole Dancer program?!), and kept interrupting each other to discuss the sheer awesomeness that was taking place in our mugs.  It demanded our undivided attention.  The kettle corn, made locally by Biggest Little Popcorn Company, was buttery delicious bomb diggity on its own, but topping The Shop’s expert hot cocoa (mallow on the side), the two became a truly 5-star treat.  Bravo.

PB & J:  Or, PBJ, as I prefer to call it, did not disappoint.  While not quite an act of pb&j-sandwich-in-a-hot-chocolate magic like its pb cup and banana predecessors, the PB & J hot cocoa certainly did not disappoint.  It was much sweeter than the others- in a good way.  A total throwback to last week childhood, where the wholesome sammy sat secondary in my diet only to the prized grilled cheese.  Delightfully delicious. 3 stars.

And with that, I challenge you, Shop Wizards, to concoct for me a grilled cheese hot cocoa…IMG_9255

*It’s worth noting that the marshmallows are marketed as being ‘optional’ but I consider them completely necessary and worthy of their 50-cent (2 quarters, not the rapper) up charge.  Those bad boys are totally scrumptious.

Special thanks to Melissa for sponsoring my artisan hot cocoa habit, and to Michael for indulging my weekly trips to The Shop!  You guys rock.

black and white and gold all over

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November’s golden trees are lighting up the East Side in their vivid dying dance and studio life counters, shifting its fiery red to a cool, autumnal black and white.  At last the final flames of summer have simmered to smoldering coals, reminding us that soon they will be just the ashes of their former selves, prepared to wrap up in a blanket of winter white.  Our fall series of Up Close On Hope is coming right up, and MAN, it’s going to be a good one.

As I’ve mentioned before, the first half of this month’s program features George Balanchine’s Apollo.  It’s a simple ballet with a powerful score, a nod to Greek mythology, and an impressive history.  I feel so honored to be dancing Calliope, the muse of poetry.  She’s a dramatic, wounded artiste with far more weighty words than her little heart can hold.  Funny when ballet life parallels the real world, isn’t it?  (Just kidding….kind of.)

The second half of UPOH comprises the Bach Suites: 3 world premieres and 2 pas de deuxs set to the timeless music of Mr. Johann Sebastian Bach.  To create the movement, FBP has called upon two new (to us) choreographers, husband-and-wife pair Andrea Shelley and Spencer Hering, as well company member Ty Parmenter, resident choreographer Viktor Plotnikov, and artistic director Misha Djuric.  Perhaps the most exciting element of this program points to the talented local musicians who will play Bach’s brilliant Suites live(!) in our black box theatre.  There’s something so special about live dance and music together- visible comments being made by the choreography and its dancers, reciprocated by the score in such a distinctive way.  This intimate conversation between artists both visual and auditory is at its most pure when remarks are made in real time, responses emerging spontaneously.  The product is altered ever so slightly from the last run, the dress rehearsal, the walk through the night before.  Such reliance on impulse, acute awareness, physical innervation.  Here I go with my excessive words again…better cut myself off here…

for tickets.

Apollo Choreography by George Balanchine
© The George Balanchine Trust, Apollo photos by Eric Hovermale

a day in providence

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    Despite a modest 20-square-mile area, the city of Providence is so packed with destinations worth exploring, 24 hours does not come close to lending a sufficient amount of time to do, see, and taste it all.  It does, however, provide just enough time to be charmed beyond recovery.  Full disclosure: You may fall in love with this little city.  Consider yourself warned.

I also find it necessary to alert you to the fact that, Providence being the foodie mecca it is, you will be consuming an absurd amount of food during your (hypothetical) 24 hours here.  In fact, your visit to Providence will revolve mostly around incredibly delicious, alternatively prepared, farm fresh and locally-sourced food, in an extremely abundant supply.  So loosen your belt buckle a notch or two, and let’s dig in.

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creating on the capital

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On a rather rainy morning several Saturdays ago, I found myself scampering about the colossal architectural sculpture that is the Rhode Island State House.  Situated in the heart of Providence, looking out over downcity with the north end to its right and the East Side over its left shoulder from atop college hill, the RI State House is perpetually hugged by PVD’s mini Burroughs.  It rests in the center of the city’s many colleges and universities- RISD and JWU straight ahead, Brown to the left and PC and RIC at the back right- and conveniently calls the train station and the VETs Memorial Auditorium (my home away from home!) its next door neighbors.

With its majestic marble steps and powerful archways around every bend, the building itself seems to have erupted from the earth, a beautiful combustion of the artistic influence surrounding it.  It’s the striking physical representation of a city dubbed “The Creative Capital”, and an equally lovely place to spend a morning making new artist friends (even though I was super late and forced you to take photos of pigeons for 30 minutes- still SO sorry!).  Providence, I fall a teeny bit more in love with you every damn day.

exterior photos by Christopher Emerson (interiors by me)

Setting The Barre leotard by Miss Jones Dance

pvd tea tours

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Maybe you’ve noticed, or maybe you’ve been  busy like me, but it’s been a bit quiet over here on the blog.  Summer is in full swing and this year that has meant attempting to stay in shape (I do strange things at the gym), many hours of studying (and morbid conversations with whoever will listen, thanks PHL 303: Philosophy of Death and Dying) and a surprisingly adventurous social life (there have been several more bridges in the recent past).

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In an attempt to elevate my experience in the drafting of my the final philosophy paper (when the subject is death, you’ll do just about anything to keep from plunging into darkness), I’ve been indulging in a bit of a self-guided coffee shop tour of Providence.  Everywhere I go, I order a large green tea and camp out for several hours, typing away and people watching as I write.  Sidetone: I’m surprised the folks over at The Shop haven’t at least asked me to do some dishes or something, I’ve taken up such a residency as of late…

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I’ve lived in this city for four years, and am embarrassed to admit I am only now realizing just how diverse its many neighborhoods are.  From the politically-driven collegiates of Thayer Street, to the aesthetically-gifted hipsters of Fox Point, the people of Providence do not take their coffee- or the ambiance in which it is to be consumed- lightly.

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And fortunately for loitering artist/student types like myself who wish to do homework (and procrastinate said homework with needlepointing projects) somewhere “out in the world”, the range from spicy, electric Westminster to feminine-French Washington makes for a rather exciting list of potential post-ups. Off to explore a bit more, but for now I’ll leave you with this image of the macarons I devoured at Ellie’s Bakery yesterday afternoon, which were just as delicious as they were pretty.

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Lemon Lavender, Strawberry Rhubarb, and Lime Coconut.  Oh, and a large green tea of course.