Chocolate and the surprising tang of dill pickle popcorn: Need we say more?

Considering all the revelations about the healthy attributes of real chocolate and the recent surge in the fine-chocolate market, the following shouldn't really come as much of a surprise. Local artisan chocolate producer Tom Pedersen of Kakawa Pure Whole Bean Chocolates brought an alarming piece of information to my attention. It seems that an industry group called the Chocolate Manufacturers Association of America has petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to change the legal definition of "chocolate" to allow for the substitution of much cheaper vegetable oil for actual cocoa butter and whey protein for dry whole milk. While it's easy to understand why makers of mass market candies would like to see this change made – to increase their profits and give them access to the recently burgeoning fine-chocolate market – artisan producers such as Pedersen are anxious because it would put them at a distinct disadvantage. Terms such as "chocolate-flavored" and "chocolatey" already exist to differentiate products made with cheaper, inferior ingredients from higher-end products made from more expensive real chocolate, cocoa butter, and milk. Pedersen encourages lovers of real, quality chocolate to submit a comment to the FDA demanding that they protect the current high quality standards and the U.S. definition of chocolate. To do so, click here.

Central Market Westgate (4477 S. Lamar, 899-4300) has a brand-new attraction: Drop by the store May 3-5 for some of the grand-opening festivities at the new A22 Wine Bar, where Texas vintners will be on hand showcasing their wines, offering wine flights, wine by the glass, and bottles for purchase... Midcity restaurateur Eddie Bernal e-mailed to report that the first phase of his remodeling project at 34th Street Cafe (1005 W. 34th, 371-3400) is now completed. Bernal says chef Raif and his staff now have a "larger, more functional work space with new equipment and appliances." Look for them to begin remodeling the interior and exterior of the popular neighborhood spot late this summer… One of the most popular food samples to arrive at the Chronicle offices lately has to be the assortment of gourmet popcorn from That Popcorn Place (1914-B Guadalupe, 472-POPS, This new business is the brainchild of former Metroplex-area residents Mark and Debbie Couch, who dreamed of relocating to Austin and created this endeavor to make their dream come true. Some folks around the office loved the cheddar and Cajun flavors, while others preferred some of the sweeter offerings such as cinnamon roll, and at least one was pleasantly surprised by the vinegar tang of the dill pickle popcorn!

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Tom Pedersen, Chocolate Manufacturers Association of America, Central Market Westgate, 34th Street Cafe, That Popcorn Place

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