I have to give a big shout out to Julia and Diana at Vosges Haut Chocolat Boutique on Madison Avenue. These two are awesome!! Let's face it, in a very fancy chocolate shop on Madison Avenue - you would expect a bit of snobbery. Not from Julia and Diana! Let me set the scene...
I am with my brother, his lovely wife and their two adorable boys, Henry (4 and a half) and Miles (3). We were just at the Met to see the Superheros Exhibit (very cool, by the way - I saw the original costumes of Superman, Batman (The Dark Knight), Wonder Woman, Cat Woman, and Spider Man as well as some amazing fashion designs). Miles got an accordion at the Met gift shop. Miles was playing this accordion as we approached the fancy chocolate shop. At some boutiques, the mere appearance of two small boys would have resulted in looks of deep disdain.
Not from Julia and Diana! The first thing they did that I loved was really offer free samples. They encourage you to take them! Several of them! (Brilliant, of course when the product is as good as Vosges Chocolate!) You know how it is - in some places you feel guilty about the samples...are they really free? Is it okay? How much should I take? Am I getting "the look"?
The next thing they did was express amazement over Miles' accordion playing. He was outside by now. As saddened as I am by it, my nephews don't like chocolate, so they were not very interested in Vosges. I told little Henry that he must be an alien, but he denied this. Anyway, Julia and Diana were amazed at how good Miles sounded. (Look out, Naked Cowboy! A new generation of street performers arises!)
So here is an upscale NYC chocolate shop with two terrific employees who are offering samples and appreciating the playing of a plastic accordion by a three year-old! You have to love this!!
Now, Vosges is the home of the infamous Bacon Bar which I was not too crazy about. And at first, I was a little disappointed - all the offerings seemed to be really odd combinations I was sure I wouldn't like. But when given a sample of their Red Fire Bar (chipotle chillies, cinnamon, and dark chocolate) - I consider it a grave sin to refuse free chocolate - I realized how wrong I was. The chillies are subtle, but delicious when combined with the cinnamon and the chocolate - a terrific bar. So, of course, I bought a bar. I also bought Red Fire Chocolate Tortilla Chips. Yum! Very different and good - these would be fantastic for a fiesta. Ole!
Vosges also has the most gorgeous packaging, with stories about the flavors or tips on tasting.
And the founder Katrina Markoff is an amazing success story - she was the 2007 Entrepreneur magazine Woman of the Year. She mixes all these flavors so we can travel the world through chocolate. http://www.vosgeschocolate.com/
Again, I realize how wrong I can be about things. Not all New York boutiques are staffed by snobs. (Thanks, Julia and Diana!) Just because something sounds strange or different, it doesn't mean it's not good. Try it - you might like it! And if you go where your enthusiasm leads you, you will always have fun. As Joseph Campbell says - "Follow your bliss." And you know what? We all love to be around people who are excited - there's just not enough sheer joy these days. So grab your accordion and do something you're excited about! Life is short - live it!