A couple weeks ago, Mr. Twistie was given an ultimatum by his boss: use up his accrued vacation time or lose it by August 1. Being of sound mind, Mr. Twistie decided to take the time and…well…he’s not the best at relaxing, frankly, but he’s always got fifteen gazillion projects he could use some extra time for, so he took the vacation.
One of the things he decided to do with this time was head down to Los Angeles to touch bases with both guitarists in his band and discuss an upcoming gig with them. Yes, the link is the band’s MySpace. Yes, this is shameless nepotism. I’ll be right up front with you about that part, but it really does work into my point soon, honest. Besides, I would like the band even if I wasn’t sleeping with the lead singer/composer/producer.
I decided to come along on the trip. For one thing, I thought it would slow Mr. Twistie down a little so he could enjoy it. For another, I wanted to see the guys, too. For the third – and potentially most important – I thought we might work a short visit to Solvang into the trip.
As a child, I’d been there many times, but it had been at least ten or twelve years since my last visit. Yes, it’s a little tacky here and there. Yes, it’s purely for tourists. Yes, there are things there that make me giggle…but there’s one thing in Solvang that isn’t anywhere else on Earth and I wanted to know if it was still as good as I remembered: Ingeborg’s.
I must have been about six or seven the first time my family stumbled across Ingeborg’s in our annual visit to Solvang on the way to spend a few days with my aunt in Santa Barbara. The sign announced that this was the home of the ‘world’s best chocolates and marzipan.’ My parents took that as a challenge. They would be the judges of how good the chocolate and marzipan might be. Half an hour later, the family trooped back out again utterly convinced. We returned every year for about a decade.
Things did change during that time. First Ingeborg, and then her sister Carla left the business. It was bought out by a new couple, but the chocolate remained the same. My tastes changed slightly. I grew to prefer darker chocolates and more complex flavors. Ingeborg’s had chocolates to satisfy my new understanding of what sweets could be. While my brothers weighed the merits of one marzipan delight over another, I lingered in sweet indecision between the hazelnut nougat bars and the chocolate-dipped ginger. I always wound up with a selection of things, the size of which was entirely determined by how much money I had managed to save up in the previous month just to spend at Ingeborg’s.
As I said, though, it had been years since I’d been. Between hectic schedules, well, and just the vagaries of life, we hadn’t managed to make it down that way with a window in our schedule for chocolates for a very long time. And while Mr. Twistie won’t ever say it, I always think it’s a little rude of me to drag him into candy stores since he’s diabetic. That puts a bit of a crimp in the whole candy store experience.
This time, though, I wanted to make the time. I was feeling nostalgic. It had been too long since I’d had really superior chocolate. Just as I was working out how to word the request, though, Mr. Twistie suggested we could go to Solvang and I could make a pilgrimage to Ingeborg’s. Have I mentioned that Mr. Twistie, in addition to being remarkably talented and highly decorative, is a prince among men? Because he absolutely is.
Things have changed, yes. Now, in addition to hand-dipped chocolates made in the back room, Ingeborg’s carries things like Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans and other more broadly commercial candies. It’s a smaller storefront than I remember…though I might have built the size up a lot in my mind.
But the chocolates…oh, the chocolates are just as I remember them. Rich, sweet, and perfectly melded with a variety of fillings and toppings, they melt on my tongue precisely the way they did when I was a kid. Tasting them is like tasting the very best of summer and childhood to me.
Another change made me smile: they now have a sugar-free line, so Mr. Twistie felt he could have some chocolates, too.
We loaded up. Now I’m carefully choosing which chocolate to eat after dinner each night. Will it be a dark chocolate hazelnut patty? A bittersweet chocolate stick infused with lucious orange? Milk chocolate with peppermint? Each has its merits, and each has its place in my dessert.
Best of all, now that they have a website, we can get the chocolates any time we want, whether or not we happen to be headed by Solvang. When we are headed that way, though, I’ll always want to stop in. Waiting for a package is nice, but it can’t possibly compare with the giddy joy of standing in front of the cases inhaling the combined aroma of all those lucious chocolates. Peering through the glass trying to decide which flavor to get…I’m seven again, with a long summer laid out before me.
Sometimes life is just good.