Here & Now: The Chocolate Trail to Euphoria
Indulging in the new Naples Chocolate Stroll down Fifth Avenue South
Chocolate comes from cocoa,
which comes out of a tree.
That makes it a plant.
chocolate counts as salad.
I know this is a fact because I learned it on Facebook. Everyone knows that what is written on Facebook is true.
It’s critical that you understand this perspective, because I want to tell you about the day a friend, who is rabidly partial to three-layer frosted chocolate “salad,” and I joined the very first group to experience the new Naples Salad Stroll.
OK, technically, the god and goddess behind this amazing journey, Ben and Ellie Richman, call it the Naples Chocolate Stroll. It works like this: You meet up, by reservation, near the east end of Fifth Avenue South. First, you get a classy Naples Chocolate Stroll sticker to wear, cruelly designed to instill lustful envy in every unfortunate non- stroller along the way. Your elite little entourage rambles its way along Fifth Avenue toward the Gulf of Mexico, sampling every kind of chocolate imaginable, from patisseries to gelaterias to fudgeries. If fudgeries isn’t a real word, it should be. You make a hairpin turn for one last decadent stop at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Third Street South before heading back for more rapturous pleasures along the way. Nine of them, I counted that day.
This unabashedly hedonistic activity engages all the senses, climaxing, so to speak, in a chocolate ecstasy that I like to call the Capital C.
Not that ecstasy is the sole purpose of the Naples Chocolate Stroll. No, indeed. It’s an educational tour, which I intend to write off on my taxes. I learned the useful fact that, in the shower scene of the movie Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock used melted chocolate for blood. It was a black-and-white movie, you know. I also learned that Hershey’s chocolate bars have been included in U.S. military rations since 1937.
And that so-called white chocolate is made with cocoa butter, but no cocoa. Therefore, as I’ve been telling you in this column for years, it is not chocolate.
Ben and Ellie also weave in fascinating bits of history, and point out the abundance of public art and secret gardens that make Old Naples so beautiful. But enough about art and culture. Let’s get back to the sexy stuff.
On every block there’s a different gateway to heaven to provide a new sensory experience (and sometimes multiple ones). Behind one door is a tray of homemade fudge.
Behind another is seriously chocolate-laced espresso. At one stop, a creamy chocolate custard, or a melt-in-the-mouth, fresh- from-the-oven Danish chocolate chip cookie. There’s chocolate- covered this, chocolate-infused that; cupcakes, truffles and waffle cones filled with dark chocolate bear claw ice cream.
So many places, so little time. So, instead of a lasso or one of those vaudeville hooks to drag you out of one place and lure you into the next, Ben and Ellie provide Ziploc bags. No morsel is left behind.
There are so many new, enhanced and expanded eateries and gourmet shops along the avenue that you’ll depart with great ideas for your next lunch date or celebratory dinner, not to mention gift ideas for that special someone who’d really appreciate a sensuous, two-hour Capital C.
Raise your hand, for instance, if you knew that Naples has a chic, deco-style popcorn bar that looks like a cross between a spa and an art gallery. It makes an artisanal selection of popcorn (yes, including chocolate) on the premises.
So who are Ben and Ellie Richman, anyway? Heirs to the Hershey’s empire? Not at all. They’re just wicked-smart and accomplished professionals. He’s a retired orthopedic surgeon and she’s a retired corporate attorney. They spent most of their working years in Ohio, where I’m pretty sure temperatures fluctuate between frigid and glacial this time of year.
You can just imagine them bundled up in their fleece jammies, warming their frostbitten toes by the fire, daydreaming about creating a business that wouldn’t just solve problems but actually make people euphoric, every day. Finally, they packed their tennis rackets and sunscreen, locked the door behind them and relocated to Naples. Are they having fun? Well, one thing’s for sure: Their business cards back in Ohio certainly didn’t come attached to tiny packets of pink M&M’s. Yes, you’ll find one in your goodie bag at the end of the Stroll. Just in case you crave a little afterglow on the drive home.
FOR A GOOD TIME, CALL (239) 653-7933.
The Naples Chocolate Stroll is quite possibly the most euphoric thing you can do on Fifth Avenue South with your clothes on. Private tours and gift certificates are available by phone or online at napleschocolatestroll.com.