was brought up by Taiwanese parents who believed that American cakes and cookies were “too sweet” and “too buttery,” and for a while this impaired my ability to appreciate traditional desserts. But fortunately all it took was a little time. After living in the United States, I’ve developed a definite affinity for chocolate chip cookies and—if I do say so myself—a strong idea of what makes a good dessert. To put these assertions to the test, I spent an afternoon on a “Chocolate Tour.” It seemed like the perfect opportunity to further my chocolate connoisseurship—and to be honest, the idea of all that chocolate was pretty tempting as well.
From the moment we step onto the red-and-blue trolley car, Ann, our guide, begins to whet our appetites. Between the required recitations of chocolate factoids, the former school-bus driver jokes with passengers in a grandmotherly fashion and regales us with descriptions of her favorite chocolate concoctions. The statistics and dates tend to slide from my mind, replaced by thoughts of Ann’s homemade chocolate ice cream and other wholesome goodies.
After a half an hour, we have yet to see any real dessert. Chocolate fulfillment is only further prolonged by the appearance of Chef Le Pet Omaine, our eccentric guide. This off-the-wall stereotype-a-minute French chef—complete with wild gesticulations and exclamations of “phooey” delivered in his faux-French accent—causes the crowd of British tourists and local foodies to guffaw and titter. The march through Prudential Center to the Top of the Hub with Chef Le Pet Omaine waving his wooden ladle at the front is a scene taken straight from Disney World—over-the-top acting, audience participation and all.
At the Top of the Hub, the eating finally begins, but it begins small, with a light chocolate treat—an appetizer of sorts—specially designed for the Chocolate Tour and changed weekly. The poor weather means we cannot enjoy the much-touted view, but it’s a small loss, as our attention turns to our plates. The white chocolate coconut mousse, chocolate geli and caramelized pineapple and raspberry arranged on a plate sprinkled with melted Godiva are enough to occupy both eyes and mouth.
We proceed to the golden filigreed doors of the Omni Parker House Hotel for our second course. According to local lore, the Boston Crème Pie was created for the Parker House’s opening, its chocolate covering an innovation which brought chocolate to the masses. Though we are sitting less than 20 feet away from the table where JFK proposed to Jackie, in the building where he announced his various candidacies, we don’t give a damn about history. It’s time to bring out the pie.
The slice of sponge cake topped with chocolate puts all other cakes to shame with its creamy meltedness, the strawberry sauce drizzled on the flowered china adding variety to the taste without distracting. It’s cake that makes you want to go back for more, but not in that junky Entenmann’s way. Disregarding the rather good advice of Ann—that we “bring a little plastic container to the Omni Parker, take a few polite bites, and pack the rest of it”—FM Photographer Andrew M. Brunner ’06 and I proceeded not only to finish one entire slice of Boston Crème Pie, but to go for seconds.
Our stomachs satisfied, we move on to our last stop—the Langham Hotel (formerly Le Meridian, and before that a Federal Reserve Bank). By this time, I could very well go home happy and full, but the promise of the Chocolate Bar—and, of course, journalistic thoroughness—prevents me from doing so. Traveling on Sunday, we miss the famed Chocolate Bar—an unlimited smorgasbord of chocolate desserts offered every Saturday for $23 a pop. Instead, we choose from the still-extensive dessert bar of the Sunday Jazz Brunch: fresh-made ice cream, chocolate mousse in martini glasses and chocolate pecan pie are but a few of the choices. As Chef Le Pet Omaine has predicted, we have indeed become couchons (pigs). The taste of sugar is starting to make me slightly sick, but my brain shuts down most thought processes and directs me toward a fruit crepe and other less chocolate-oriented choices. My temporary loss of language faculty doesn’t bode well for those looking to make the Chocolate Tour a date-event—although it certainly removes the onus of making good conversation.
I certainly enjoyed my Sunday study break, but unless you are prepared to spend the rest of the day lolling around in a post-sugar-high stupor, the Boston Chocolate Tour is not the weekend activity for you. This three-hour, three-stop circuit of downtown Boston may or may not have been a step toward chocolate connoisseurship, but it was definitely a step towards Dante’s Third Circle of Hell, reserved for the gluttonous. And as with other exercises in gluttony, the finer details—actual steeped tea as opposed to tea bags, eating leisurely at each spot as opposed to being hustled hither and thither—got a bit lost. I almost wish I had eaten at each of these fine restaurants separately. But hey, I’m not about to complain about OD-ing on sugar and cacao—they’re probably the healthiest of the euphoria-inducing agents.