Who counts calories on vacation?
Let's face it — the time for counting is over as soon as the last email is sent, the bags are packed and the "to do" list gets its final checkmark.
Discipline be damned; holidays are the time to indulge and delight in the decadent.
Like savouring some homemade, mouth-watering fudge, every day of vacation — maple walnut, pecan mogul, Gran Marnier, B-52, Tiramisu, creamsicle.
On a busy winter weekend Chef Scott Grieve, owner/operator of the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, can see more than 200 pounds of homemade fudge fly of his shelves.
This at a time when company-wide fudge sales aren't what they used to be year over year, perhaps as the trend towards healthy living continues and gets increasingly serious. Fudge, it can be argued, is the ultimate sweet treat.
"What I've noticed in our store is they (fudge sales) haven't gone down, they've been strong," says Grieve. "When people are in Whistler, they indulge... they don't let things concern them as much."
Which is perhaps one of the reasons why the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory has been a village staple these last 25 years.
Tucked in prime location next to the Whistler Village Gondola, Grieve admits that it's hard to go wrong in his store, from the ice cream to the caramel apples, the fudge and the brittle.
Four freshly made long logs of fudge are lined up at the window this morning, tempting passersby.
But once you get inside the assault of the senses expands to the nose, as the treats come hot out of the copper kettle — essentially, it's game over.
Today's early morning customer announces that she is in Whistler for a conference and will be coming here every day.
That's music to Grieve's ears.
The 39-year-old is in many ways living the Whistler dream.
Grieve grew up on the North Shore but spent almost every weekend in Whistler at the family cabin.
In 1998, after he was finished school, he did what so many others before him have done; hit the road to Whistler with a goal of giving it a shot.
"I was looking for something that would support me long term and I knew that I wanted to have something of my own, a business," recalls Grieve.
A few years later in 2003 he heard through word of mouth that the Chocolate Factory was for sale.
This could be his way to stay and make a good living in Whistler.
By that time Rocky Mountain was well established — 15 years in the village, the first Canadian franchise of the American company.
Its success had owner Brian Kerzner thinking about expanding elsewhere in Canada.
As a franchisor, Kerzner wanted to sell the operations to a franchisee that would be a part of the community. Grieve fit that bill.
"It was a little daunting because this store was the first one in Canada," says Grieve, adding that there are now more than 50 stores across the country.
"I guess you would consider it a flagship store."
It was from this store that the now famous Bear Paws were born.
They began as Moguls — a giant mound of caramel and nuts completely dipped in chocolate. Some customers wanted a caramel treat with less chocolate (less chocolate, really?) and the Bear Paw was created.
A little homegrown treat, a reminder of a Whistler vacation.
The store is full of little treasures like that, sweet keepsakes from Whistler, be it a chocolate ski boot or snowboard or a Canada Flag.
In the display cases, sticks poke out of an array of caramel apples, some with Smarties, others with marshmallows, others with sprinkles, another Chocolate Factory favourite.
And then there are the fancier boxed chocolates, lining the shelves too.
Grieve has a full-time chef right now but he knows all the intricacies of every recipe, has made every sweet delight.
Like most other village retailers, it's hard work running a Whistler store; there are months without a day off.
"This is challenging cooking," he says. "You're dealing with very high temperatures and sugar at very high temperatures can be a bit sketchy.
"Even the recipes themselves are actually challenging; fudge is not really easy to make."
And if that part is challenging, just think about what it's like be a local chocolatier and showing up at a dinner party with a savoury appetizer! Impossible. Grieve is expected to bring the goodies.
Unable to share any of the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory recipes, Grieve shares this personal favourite, guaranteed to keep all dinner party guests quiet!
Salted almond slabalanche
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, then toss almonds in oil until coated. Sprinkle with salt and bake mixture for 12 to 14 minutes. Let cool
Shave chocolate with kitchen knife. Place 3/4 of shaved chocolate in a double boiler (or homemade equivalent). Stir until melted and remove from heat.
Stir in remaining shaved chocolate then stir in almonds reserving a handful.
Pour mixture onto waxed paper and spread with a spatula. Sprinkle remaining almonds on top
Let set in refrigerator uncovered. Break apart and serve.
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