Chocolate Tasting and Gouache Adventures

December 17, 2012

Above: Pentel Aquash Brush Pen with light black ink sketch with gouache in a medium size Fabriano Venezia journal (are they about 6 x 9 inches?). I used a silicone turkey basting brush (long loose tendrils of silicone to dip in the paint—never used for food) to paint the background before I brought the foreground up to finish.

My friend Linda often asks me along on her adventures. A short while ago she was looking into various gift possibilities for an article she was writing and she had some chocolate tasting to do. Of course she asked me along. 



Left: Here's earlier stage of the journal page, when I had just used relatively light washes of gouache on the chocolate, and had put in the background. I didn't like the way the surface of the chocolate was looking, so instead of stopping there as I had intended I went to full paint coverage. (Yes, that's my toe holding the book open as I take a photo. This photo was also taken under bad lighting so there's a color cast to the image, but you get the idea.)

We went off to the Abdallah factory outlet store in Burnsville. What a trip. As soon as you open the door the smell of chocolate (and other sweets) hits you in the face.

(I would strongly recommend that they get rid of the scented candles and any other scented gift objects because the odor of those perfumed items insults the fine smells of their chocolate. I actually had to skip browsing in one area of the store because the fragrances caused my asthma to kick in. You really don't want to push Roz out of a chocolate store. There's no telling what she'll buy if she's given unlimited time!)

The store contains gift items for baby showers and hospital get-well visits and you name it. There were ornaments everywhere (obviously seasonal) that were delightful (I bought a couple for my friend Diane who puts up such a lovely tree each year.) But the main draw was of course the chocolates.


Left: A detail of the completed painting showing the layers of gouache. Normally I would have used more blue on the underside of the stem, but I just used a tad of cobalt with quin magenta for my shadow and called it a day there as I didn't have a really thin brush to work with on hand. There is no black in this image. If you look at the darkest shadows here you'll see that they are still just made up of Dark Indigo (PB60) and English Red (which I was using on the day instead of burnt sienna). You can see a little bit of the light black ink, which looks gray, from the Aquash pen sketch peeking through in places.  

As you can read above on the journal page, Linda and I spent a lot of money in the name of testing. (I spent $78 out of which probably $50 was for chocolate and the rest was small gift items, taffy [come on I had to try it] and their caramel corn [which is full of nuts, better than 99 percent of what's out there, but not as good as PLAIN Moose Munch, but you can't PLAIN Moose Munch any more, sigh].)

I didn't enjoy all their chocolates equally. I would not recommend their salted caramels. They were too salty even for me, the queen of salt.

But their chocolate covered toffees are insane. I could eat nothing else for the rest of my life (and I intend to start on that plan in the new year!)

So if you are going, just buy one or two of something to test, you can always come back. (I can also highly recommend their chocolate covered marshmallows and the chocolate covered caramel s'more.) Over all I found their dark chocolate offerings (accept for the marshmallows and toffees) all a bit grainy and bitter. (Remember I don't like coffee either.) Because of that I couldn't eat my dark chocolate haystack (which was ample in size). I am happy to report I had absolutely no difficulty eating my milk chocolate haystack. (Note: Typically with other brands of chocolate I only like dark chocolate with coconut—so you can see where I'm coming from and how this was a bit of a surprise for me.)

It took a while for the staff person to catch on that I was serious she put back one of the cherries because I didn't like its stem. "I'm going to draw them," I explained, and I don't like the line of that stem at all. (I still haven't tasted the cherries and doubt, even though they've been in the fridge, that they are still fresh, but they are still beautiful!)

While you don't get to go into the factory at this store (I didn't really expect that) they have a large flat-screen television up on the wall showing video of chocolate production. There is a glassed-in workroom at one end of the showroom. While we were there two women stood at a stainless steel table with a center well of tempered chocolate and expertly hand dipped long-stemmed cherries. Tray after tray. Mezmerizing.

If you are attracted to sparkly things and just things in general, and of course chocolate—go with a friend who can pull you out at an appointed time, or respond to your use of your "safe word." It's definitely worth the danger.

    • Karen
    • December 17, 2012

    Don’t forget you need to make a trip to St Croix Chocolate in Marine on St Croix for small batch, handcrafted chocolates and caramel.

  1. Reply

    Unspeakable pleasure…dear god I’m right there with you…help me! : )

  2. Reply

    So beautiful I just threw a few dark chocolate chips on my oatmeal. Great depth and your strokes mimic the movements of the chocolate. Methinks you need to be an artist in residence at this facility…

    • Linda
    • December 17, 2012

    Roz, the jou;s of chocolate, if your having trouble with the dark covered cherries Id be more than happy t come for dessert:) what time should I be there?:) Sounds like you had a wonderful day, I just love when you g on adventures and just think Chocolate and art,sigh

    • Diane Wesman
    • December 17, 2012

    My gosh! The chocolate on that cherry looks real. Diane

  3. Reply

    Linda, sad to say the cherries will never be eaten. I purchased two with stems that appealed to me and I’ll just paint them again and again until they go the way of the eggplant from this fall.

    I always have a wonderful time with my friend Linda. She is inventive, creative, and adventuresome. She likes to drive and navigate. And she is actually on record as saying, “It wouldn’t be traveling with Roz if you didn’t read the road signs.”

    Really what more could you want in a friend?

  4. Reply

    Thanks Diane, the salted caramels didn’t last long enough to paint (even though they were salty, because of course the first one I thought was just an “error” of saltiness on their part, and then the second was gone…)

  5. Reply

    I’ll make it a spring excursion. Things look pretty on their site, but I’m thinking they probably skew to a flavor profile coffee drinkers would appreciate—and that’s not me. When I do get over there I’ll swing through your neck of the woods and see if you can get away!

  6. Reply

    Lynn, be afraid, be very afraid. It was very fun to watch cherries being dipped. The making of something so beautiful is always entertaining to watch. Now I want a stainless steel table with a sunken vat of tempered chocolate.

  7. Reply

    Now that seems like a very interesting job indeed Ellen. I would love to do large 6 foot tall paintings of chocolate pieces!

  8. Reply

    Haha – I think most people’s New Years resolutions would involve eating less chocolate, not eating nothing but chocolate! Of course, that kind of resolution is totally insane, if you ask me.

  9. Reply

    Cheryl, you know me, I like to swim upstream. Planning an all chocolate diet is great fun too!

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