Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Eastbound and down

It's hard to believe that it's Thanksgiving, especially when you step outside and are greeted by sunshine and 60+ degree temperatures. But our calendars seldom lie, so it must mean that we're within hours of joining 40 million of our closest friends on the U.S. interstate highway system. Perhaps driving isn't the greenest choice to traverse the Midwest, but at least the multi-hundred mile journey will be in our compact little Saturn, which sips gasoline like a cute blue miser.

Now of course everyone wants to bring something along to Thanksgiving dinner, but that becomes a bit trickier when over the river and through the woods means the Mississippi River and the entire width of the state of Illinois. In years past we've made desserts, including an interesting pumpkin pie made with a local pumpkin and a slightly too-heavy pour of bourbon (Seriously, bourbon pumpkin pie is a real thing - we swear!). But this year has been a pretty poor one in the community garden space, and our backyard plot is clearly not up to production yet. So that means we're faced with buying something unique to our local area and bringing it along with us.

The question then becomes, what can we pick up that screams Iowa? Corn might be the obvious answer to the causal passerby, but its season has come and gone. We have some sweet potatoes still hanging around from the farmers market that we'll bring, but unless you're Greg, they're not a real showstopper. So I guess that leaves... Dutch chocolate.

Greg's Mom first discovered Chocolaterie Stam at their now-closed store in Pella, Iowa as a side trip when visiting him at Iowa State University. Since then it's been a tradition of sorts to bring along a winter assortment when traveling back to Chicago for the holidays. They're delicious and creamy-smooth, and they make such a fun addition to the Thanksgiving table when they've got festive harvest shapes like these.

It's not entirely clear on their website how a Dutch chocolate-making family decided to branch out and set up shop in central Iowa, but it's hard to argue with the wisdom of their choice as you're biting into a mushroom-shaped piece of dark chocolate raspberry ganache. Sure, we'd love to bake another pie (not a booze pie this time!), bring along a local heritage turkey, or grow our own beans for the green bean casserole. But once you reach the time of Thanksgiving day where you want to veg out on the couch and watch Home Alone, it's hard not to reach for a piece of Stam chocolate to munch on. It's local, and it's something we out-of-towners can provide.

What else is out there that's the true taste of Iowa, or of your hometown that you just have to bring along? Have a happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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