You. Will. Not. Believe. What. Happened. Last. Night.
When I woke up, I leapt out of bed to see if the chocolates were still there, proof that it really happened.
The night began at Blue Fin, what I had imagined was going to be a delicious, low-key dinner prepared by the Fish Master Flex himself, Yong, for me and a new friend. It turned out to be a nine course omikase –chef’s choice—that attained life-altering sushi status.
The comedian Russell Peters does a bit about how his Indian fans’ compliments are outrageously effusive. They approach him on the dusty streets of Mumbai and motion excitedly, saying things like, “Russell. Russ. Ell. Your routine was mindblowing. No, not mindblowing. Mind. BLASTING. Your routine was MIND. BLASTING.” Well, this dinner was mindblasting. Before, fish was fish. Now, fish is clouds, air, water, smoke, dark, light—Yong has awakened my palette to the vast Nordstrom of possibilities for critters that live beneath the waves—YOU CAN EAT ANYTHING. Yong is Chuck Norris armed with sea scallops and a twelve inch knife. (That’s what she said.)
Upon arrival, my left-side companion, who will remain temporarily anonymous for dramatic effect, pulled out a large, flat, rectangular box, and opened it to reveal two paper-wrapped folders, about the side of a datebook. He lifted one to hand to Yong, and I realized there were two layers of folders, four total. Yong slid the paper away to reveal a tray of fine chocolates. A chocolate—wait—My inner child burst, “I want a chocolate attaché case!” Yong looked at me and winked.
“Lauren, you will get your chocolates.” Through the fish liver pate,
the thin-sliced sea bass and octopus,
the sashimi almost too beautiful to eat,
the lobsters and mussels,
the Chilean sea bass,
I kept sneaking peeks at these chocolates, knowing I had to wait. After the fruit and fried banana—which, if you have never had it, you need to walk away from the computer and go to Blue Fin. Right now. I’ll be here when you get back—it was finally my chance. Fred held out the box, and I froze. Raspberry? Caramel? Dark chocolate?
I’ve probably had thousands of chocolates in my 21 short years on earth. Dove chocolates, Godiva, Lindt. Some fair, many good, some fantastic. Then Francois [Payard] entered our lives and I didn’t think the chocolates could get any better. Fred is the co-founder of Antoine Amrani chocolates. Antoine’s chocolates are the Sistine Chapel to all other hometown churches; you will stop, tear up, breathe deeply, and groan in ecstasy. You will never be able to eat another chocolate.
“Lauren! We’re going to the factory!” “WHAFF?!” My mouth is still glued shut with sweets. “Now?!” I swallow. But the restaurant’s about to close! It’s 10:30 at night!
Moments later we are piling into Fred’s minivan and barreling down East Germantown Pike at an alarming rate. We turn into an industrial park. All the lights are out, not a security guard, not even a raccoon is anywhere in sight. If these two crazy business men ever wanted to murder a college student and destroy the evidence, this is their chance.
Fred rushes about turning on lights and gradually the scene comes into focus. We’re standing in the front room, a tiny retail space where junkies come to get their fix.
The scent, the light, sharp, thick scent of superfine chocolates rushes my lungs. He takes us backstage. “This is the enrobing machine! This is the Lucy machine… you know, where they put the wrappers on the chocolates?”
“This is where they make the caramels! Antoine—he just shuts himself in here and works like a mad scientist. Try this one, caramel! Oh, here are the Mother’s Day chocolates, the raspberry. Try this. Oh, the brownies. They’re so good we call them Crime to Call It a Brownies. The oranges! The lava cakes. Twelve minutes in the oven—they say 12-14, it’s really just twelve, and they’re like nothing you have ever tasted!” He’s stuffing a box with sweets for me, grabbing a bag to hold other little bags as well as the box—and a lava cake—and I’m so stunned I can barely say Thank You, and just minutes later I’m saying good bye to my new friends, climbing into Demon Bunny, and asking myself if it was all a dream, or if I really did win the Golden Ticket.
Blue Fin Restaurant, 1017 E. Germantown Pike, Plymouth Meeting, (610) 277-3917