Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Creepy Santa in a chocolate shop -- sweet
Call me a dreamer, but I think the world would be a much better place if everything in it was coated in a thick layer of delicious chocolate.
I reached that conclusion Friday afternoon when I courageously left my house and drove to Mordens' of Winnipeg, the legendary chocolate shop at 674 Sargent Ave., to shoot our latest biweekly weather video.
If you haven't yet seen one of these entertaining and educational videos, they are designed to provide viewers with weather information that is less accurate than what they would get if they simply stuck their heads out of a window.
While I appear in all of these videos, the real star is Creepy Santa, a one-metre-tall plush Santa doll I have immortalized in a series of groundbreaking holiday columns in recent years.
He was nicknamed Creepy Santa by my daughter because his pale plastic face has a malevolent, open-mouthed glare, like one of those icky inflatable dolls you can find on the Internet, or so I'm told.
Anyway, senior editors at this paper felt the presence of Creepy Santa would help punch up the energy level in our weather videos, so in recent months I have been forced to drag this stuffed monstrosity wherever I go, including the Olympic curling trials and the indoor pool at the Delta Winnipeg.
With Valentine's Day creeping up on us, I agreed to drag Creepy Santa to visit the nice folks at Mordens' because, as a respected investigative journalist, I was confident I could talk them into giving us free chocolates.
If you have never taken an evil-looking Santa doll to a candy store before, what happens is nervous customers edge away from you the way they would back away from a naked person wielding a machete in the frozen-food aisle at a local supermarket.
Fortunately, the proprietor of the chocolate factory, Fred Morden, was comfortable being interviewed by a man the size of a refrigerator accompanied by a stuffed gnome with a frightening resemblance to former Republican presidential contender Newt Gingrich.
I was curious whether Fred, who has been making chocolate for the last 35 years, still enjoys cramming the gooey stuff into his mouth.
"Oh, yeah," Fred chirped with delight, "a quarter-pound a day, easy. You have to make sure it's good quality."
The top seller at the store is the iconic Russian Mints. "I think it's one of the best chocolates in the world," Fred said proudly as a steady stream of customers edged around us to stock up for Valentine's Day, the busiest single day at the store.
"In New Orleans in 1984 at the World's Fair, we won the gold medal for best chocolate piece," Fred noted. "That's when Russian Mints really took off. We were also the first in North America to put chocolate on jujubes and coffee beans. Now everyone is doing it."
As we chatted, a beaming female customer strode over to inform us that when she went to Spain for her brother's wedding, she brought along several kilograms of Russian Mints because it seemed a classy and tasty way to boast about her hometown.
The highlight of our visit came in the huge kitchen in the back, where Fred let me drizzle dark chocolate on top of strawberries that had already been dipped in white chocolate.
It was the highlight of my journalistic career.
At the end of the messy process, the camera zoomed in on Creepy Santa's eerie plastic face, which like the strawberries, was now lovingly coated in a thick layer of milk chocolate.
When I arrived home, the delicious chocolatey aroma wafting from Creepy's face sent our two dogs -- Zoe the wiener dog and Mr. X, a cross between a cotton swab and a sofa cushion -- into a drooling, tail-spinning frenzy.
Chocolate is extremely bad for dogs, so I parked Creepy Santa safely on the couch in the den and, later in the evening, I sat there with him, partly watching the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics, but mostly trying to lick hardened chocolate off his frowning plastic face.
Because, as a crusading journalist, that's the sort of sacrifice I'm prepared to make on your behalf.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 10, 2014 A2
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