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Death by chocolate

Published July 24. 2010 09:00AM

Harry, Becky and I went out for pizza last Friday night. On the way home, we saw a new business that opened called the Cheesecake Bar.

"You want to stop and check it out?" Harry asked.

"I'm so full, I couldn't eat another thing," I replied righteously.

"Me, too," Becky echoed.

Harry pulled in the parking lot.

As we stood drooling in front of the display counter, the owner, Jen, welcomed us and introduced us to her friend, Death By Chocolate. We were transfixed by its loveliness.

"One piece, please," I heard myself utter. We agreed to share it, since we were still so full from dinner.

We each had our own fork. We each took a bite. The vultures began circling.

"Ohhhhhhhh. This is sooooooooooo good!" I moaned in ecstasy.

"This is absolutely heavenly," cooed Becky.

"It's really good," said Harry, high praise from him because he's not prone to dramatics like his wife and daughter.

Good cheesecake is something to be savored. But when it's chocolate cheesecake ... When I put that first forkful in my mouth, I closed my eyes and just slowly let it rest on my palate, enjoying every nuance of its flavor.

When I opened my eyes, I could see the other two weren't wasting any time in appreciating the finer attributes of this glorious culinary feast. In fact, they were going at it like they hadn't eaten for three days! I knew if I didn't stop "savoring the moment" I was going to be left behind in their crumbs.

I was so jealous of each forkful the others took, I found myself regretting not having the piece all to myself.

As we gazed at the scrupulously cleaned plate, we laughed when Becky said, "We were all so full but we sure did a number on that cheesecake."

I'd like to say all her cheesecakes taste wonderful but I loved this one so much, I'll probably never try any others.

The good news is, chocolate has been getting some pretty favorable press lately. So I rationalized that the chocolate cheesecake was good for me.

The experts are now saying that chocolate is healthy for us. (Gotta love those experts!)

Chocolate, made from plants, contains many health benefits of dark vegetables which contain flavonoids, acting as antioxidants. Antioxidants protect the body from aging. Dark chocolate contains a large number of antioxidants (nearly eight times the number found in strawberries.) Flavonoids also help relax blood pressure through the production of nitric oxide, and balance certain hormones in the body.

A small bar of chocolate everyday can help keep your heart and cardiovascular system running well. Two heart health benefits of dark chocolate are lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol. Studies show that consuming a small bar of dark chocolate everyday can reduce blood pressure in individuals with high blood pressure and reduce LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) by up to 10 percent.

Benefits of dark chocolate:

1. It tastes good. (Duh.)

2. It stimulates endorphin production, which gives a feeling of pleasure. (Ohhh yeah.)

3. It contains theobromine, caffeine and other substances which are stimulants. (Thus, the reason some of us have joined CA-Chocoholics Anonymous.)

4. It contains serotonin, which acts as an antidepressant. (That's why it's consumed by women over 50 in great quantities. We do this to preserve our sanity and for the safety of our loved ones. And you thought we ate chocolate just because it tastes good. Silly you.)

There is other bad news. We can't eat a pound of chocolate a day because it is still a high-calorie, high-fat food. If we eat 200 calories of chocolate a day, we should eat less of something else. (I've been known to sacrifice the basic seven food groups for a meal of a slice of chocolate cake.)

To really enjoy and appreciate chocolate, we should take the time to taste it. Professional chocolate tasters have developed a system for tasting chocolate that include assessing the appearance, smell, feel and taste of each piece. (Kind of like a wine connoisseur. I like to take a bite of a chocolate bar with nuts, suck all the chocolate off, let it roll around in my mouth before swallowing it and then enjoy the nuts, which are good for my health as well.)

Avoid anything with caramel, nougat or other fillings. These fillings are just adding sugar and fat which erase many of the benefits you get from eating the chocolate. (And they usually taste like caca. You ever notice what's left in a box of mixed chocolates? It's all those with fillings.)

Avoid milk. It may taste good but some research shows that washing your chocolate down with a glass of milk could prevent the antioxidants being absorbed or used by your body. (My beverage of choice is water. Or Coke. And just this morning I heard from the owner of the Cheesecake Bar that one of her friends has a winery and offers chocolate cheesecake at her wine tastings.)

I think I now understand the phrase "Death by Chocolate."

I could eat that chocolate cheesecake until I burst, dying with a smile on my chocolate covered face!

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