Chocolate Advent-ures

| December 15, 2008 | 18 Comments
  • 18 Comments

Stephanie as a child at ChristmasLet’s face it — Christmas is not about the joy of giving and receiving. It’s not about the much-disputed birth of Christ, or miracles, or even the tarting up of pagan trees while singing Songs of Cheeses.

It’s about whether you get your chocolate on odds or evens this year. It’s about whether your older sister will force you to give her your day’s haul of chocolate. That’s right my friends, this month is ALL about Advent calendar chocolate.

(Sidebar: remember non-chocolate Advent calendars where the only reward for us kids was first, the sheer pleasure of finding the tiny digits in an almost Where’s Waldo of numbers, and second, the excitement of opening the perforated hatch to expose what lay beneath? Sigh. Simpler times. Simpler pleasures.)

Okay, so since we’re currently over, um, two weeks? Into Advent, this post is a skosh late, BUT forewarned is forearmed for next year.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Advent calendar chocolate tastes no better than the cardboard doors they hide behind. To wit: last year, the chocolate in our Andronico’s-purchased Advent calendar was so horrific that by Christmas Eve, I had been handing over my “turns” to my husband for at least a week.

Finally, my ire over the paucity of good chocolate sent me scurrying to the Wide, Wide World of Web. If we live in an era of artisanal cheese, specialized olive oil, rare vinegar, and DIY flour, quality Advent calendar chocolate MUST exist, right?

Eh. Sort of.

After scouring the websites of my favorites — Burdick’s, Scharffenberger, Reciutti, and Cocoa Bella — and coming up dry, I widened the search.

I hit pay dirt when I turned up a link to Godiva’s Advent calendar, but of course it was sold out, so I filed the information away in my brain, and the link in my bookmarks, and I found it again this year. (Okay, so it’s sold out again, it’s not like you were going to buy it now, right?)

At British Delights, I also discovered a Cadbury Dairy Milk Advent calendar. Well, of COURSE the same ingenious Brits who have the foresight to install refrigerated Cadbury chocolate dispensers in the Underground would stuff their Advent calendars with Cadbury chocolate!

While Godiva and Cadbury are clearly a flavor step above the usual Advent calendar chocolate, I still think there’s room for improvement.

The Godiva Advent calendar is very sophisticated, very adult, in that there are no Christmas-themed pictures of angels, presents, teddy bears, or Santa Clauses (Clausi?) on or behind the little doors. The calendar is illustrated by a big, stylized tree made up of green ornaments on a red background; white snowflakes and gold strings of beads provide additional decoration.

Basically, it’s the chocolate Advent calendar equivalent of those special jacket covers that some adults buy to hide the fact they’re reading Harry Potter.

The Godiva chocolate is…fine. You get thick green, red, and blue foil-wrapped coins of milk, dark, or white chocolate with a bas-relief of Lady Godiva molded on them. Not Santa Claus or Jesus or a Wise Man, just a naked lady on a horse. Very adult.

The Cadbury Dairy Milk Advent calendar is clearly aimed at kids or the young at heart. The doors have little pictures on and behind them, and the chocolates themselves are molded into Christmassy shapes that can only be deciphered if you squint at them after several glasses of ruby port. Again, the chocolate here is just middling, but “middling” is a giant step above plastic cardboard, so I’m not really complaining.

In the next few years, I want to see Burdick’s, Scharffenberger, Reciutti, Cocoa Bella, or even Dove step it up, Advent calendar-wise.

What, you think they won’t sell? Aside from the adults who would kill to find orange pekoe truffles or fleur de sel caramels behind the little doors, are you telling me that the parents with kids who ask, “Is the beef local?” wouldn’t brag about those same kids lisping, “Is the chocolate artisanal?”

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Category: dessert and chocolate, holidays and traditions

About the Author ()

A former picky eater, Stephanie V.W. Lucianovic is a writer, editor, and lapsed cheesemonger in the San Francisco Bay Area. A culinary school grad with an English lit degree, she has written for CNN.com, MSNBC.com, Popular Science, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe. Additionally, she has been writing for KQED's Bay Area Bites since its inception and is the website editor for KQED's Emmy-award winning show "Check, Please! Bay Area." Stephanie was an original recapper at Television Without Pity and worked on a line of cookbooks for William-Sonoma as well as in the back kitchen of a Jacques Pépin cooking show. Her first book, SUFFERING SUCCOTASH: A Picky Eater's Quest To Understand Why We Hate the Foods We Hate (Perigee Books, 2012) is a non-fiction narrative and a heartfelt and humorous exposé on the inner lives of picky eaters that Scientific American called "hilarious" and "the perfect popular science book for a reader that doesn't think he or she wants to read a popular science book." Stephanie lives in Menlo Park with her husband, three-year-old son, assorted cats, and has been blogging at The Grub Report for over a decade. Follow her on Twitter at @grubreport
  • Millicent

    I so enjoyed reading this…& will try to get MYSELF an Advent calendar next year. Have Catherine tell you about the ones we had when they were kids. Almost everyone has an Advent calendar in their past!

  • http://www.lifebeginsat30.com jen maiser

    My family was not an Advent calendar family. So it’s funny to read this because I can’t really relate! That said, the Godiva calendar is beautiful. Let’s start a petition for a Recchiuti calendar next year …

  • http://www.grubreport.com Stephanie

    Thank you so much, Millicent! I will be asking Catherine for stories right away.

    Aside from our chocolate and non-chocolate Advent calendars, my mother handmade this beautiful one out of felt where we hung little handmade stuffed felt ornaments on a tree. The choice over who got to hang which ornaments was *almost* as important as eating chocolate.

  • sam

    We weren’t allowed chocolate advent calendars as kids. Cadbury’s is the only brand I recall in the UK. My mum thought they were an over commerical waste of money. Maybe she had a point? I don’t think she was too hot on the calendars full stop, but sometimes I recall we would be gifted one and me and my sister did love them. I kind of have a sentimental soft spot for the flat ones that just have little nativity pictures anyway, especially the ones which incorporated fine glitter into the illustration. Who wants crappy chocolate over mini masterpieces of camels, mangers, wise men, stars and the baby jesus and the like, anyway?!

  • http://www.grubreport.com Stephanie

    Oh, Sam, as I kid, I *did* want the crappy chocolate ones. Most because as a kid, I didn’t really care about the mini religious masterpieces, and I either didn’t care or wasn’t cognizant of the fact that the chocolate was crappy.

    However, now? I want GOOD chocolate in Advent calendars, much as I want it in other parts of my life.

    Also, if I recall, we didn’t start having the chocolate Advent calendars until I was maybe…12? I know we didn’t have them all the time.

  • http://ducknrun.com/musings2 Jenn

    Costco had a Lindt advent calendar this year…

    But I still hold fond memories of the german advent calendars my mother’s friend would bring me every year from her travels. No chocolate, just those teeny numbers to be found, but the calendars themselves were always so pretty, and to be honest, I never knew candy-filled calendars existed.

  • http://www.theinadvertentgardener.com Genie

    The only decent Advent calendar I’ve ever had was when I was a kid in Germany…which, of course, was my introduction to Advent calendars in the first place, and they totally spoiled me. But we used to get one with the MOST amazing chocolate — and big, huge pieces of it — behind the little doors. I’ve stopped getting them as an adult because the ones I get are so awful…but I’d definitely consider a stepped-up version if one came out!

  • Sophia

    Always had one as a kid (the crappy kind) and passed on the tradition to our kids. When our college freshman was home last month for Thanksgiving, she forget her calendar and begged me to mail it to her. Our teenage son said to me the other day, “Mom, I feel so sorry for Peter. He’s never had an advent calendar”. Thank god for traditions!

  • http://www.grubreport.com Stephanie

    Lindt? No way! I have to look for that one for next year!

    Genie, why am I not surprised you would have had awesome chocolate Advent calendars living abroad? Such a sophisticated child you were.

    I agree with you, Sophia, even if those traditions include unpalatable chocolate, I cherish their memories.

  • Liz

    I was introduced to chocolate advent calendars when I spent a semester as an exchange student in Germany (many moons ago), and I was hooked. The one you find in the states don’t even compare, so I was THRILLED to find this article. Thank you, Stephanie. I will be searching for Godiva’s calendar next year.

    My kids are now into the Lego advent calendar – every day a new little figure or scene to assemble. This year’s Lego calendar has been AWESOME – cat stuck in a tree, scuba diver with fins, mask and oxygen tanks, lady with an ice cream vendor cart. We are loving it!

  • http://www.brightdesigngroup.com KPP

    My mom made an advent calendar with a pocket for each day. We bought mini candy canes and put them in the pockets every year. It never occurred to me to beg for premium chocolates to fill the advent calendar!

  • http://www.grubreport.com Stephanie

    Oh, lord (no pun intended), a LEGO Advent calendar? I am so getting that one next year, too!

  • Lisa

    So funny that I found this article – I was just thinking last night how bad that chocolate must be as my 2 1/2 year old daughter has been consistently taking a nibble of the corner and leaving the rest. If even kids can’t enjoy it – it has to be terrible. Next year I will cough up the dough for the more expensive Lindt version I saw at Costco. If I want to make it a Christmas tradition for the kids, it really should be one they actually enjoy!

  • Tina

    Sometimes we do the Playmobil Advent calendar, but this is about the time I buy it, because they go on 50% off, and also, then you get to open a bunch at once.

    But, as far as chocolates, we have one of the ones with bad choc., but we kept it, and the spots with the chocolates are really just a semi flimsy, but refillable choc. mold. So we can fill it with better chocolate on our own.

  • rocketbride

    i was behind the jump this year, but next year i plan to knit an advent calendar – lots of tiny hats & stockings on a line – and then put whatever i damn well please into it. good chocs, super bouncy balls, glitter pens, a shiny penny…my kid will love it. and if you don’t craft, you can always buy baby socks at a dollar store, write on the numbers in laundry markers and just go for it.

  • Micaila

    You totally have to check out Moonstruck Chocolates. They have this awesome, beautiful advent calendar. They sell out fast, but ooh, are they delicious!

  • http://www.neococoa.com Cocoa Gal

    Starbucks had one this year filled with chocolate. Of course by the time I found it, 12/22, they were sold out. They even have a pop-up inserted in the design. I’m not familiar with their chocolate so couldn’t speak to the quality.

  • Allstonian

    Too late for this past season, but for future reference: Harbor Sweets, in Salem MA, does an advent calendar every year, featuring their line of chocolates. I got one for the first time this year, and it was quite good – I’ve long been a fan of Harbor Sweets.
    http://www.harborsweets.com/