I’ve regressed to about seven years old and it’s all Turning Stone’s fault. While a guest at The Lodge at Turning Stone, I was fed delectable sweets that only a childlike imagination could dream up and an adult hand could fashion. By the time I’d devoured them all, I was giggling like a schoolgirl who’d just been slipped a love letter from her classroom crush.
It happened in the most unlikely place, too. The Lodge is a modern Adirondack-style hotel with first-class service and luxurious amenities: spacious VIP suites with private hot tubs on teak verandas; a gorgeous spa with mineral pools and aromatic sage and white pine massages (Michael, the lead therapist, is amazing); turndown service that leaves a dream-catcher on your pillow. The Lodge is a veritable oasis of elegance and relaxation in the middle of cow pastures, not far from ramshackle little Adirondack villages, in upstate New York.
So one evening I was dining in their four-diamond restaurant, Wildflowers, enjoying delightful banter with my waiter, Bill, and a bazillion-course meal that was decidedly adult: a canapé topped with tender ostrich carpaccio for the amuse-bouche; sautéed escargot in a puff pastry case (“vol-au-vent”) with melted brie; thinly-sliced dehydrated vegetables – zucchini, eggplant, carrot, beet – over mesclun with a lemon vinaigrette; and quail stuffed with pheasant sausage and St. Andre cheese.
In between courses two and three, Bill brought out an appetizer he said the chef was considering for a new menu. It was a riff on the corn dog: three shrimp fried in a tasty, eggy batter, skewered, and served with a miniature jar of homemade heirloom tomato ketchup that I spooned up greedily (and I don’t even like ketchup!). Looking back now, this was a hint of things to come. It was kid’s food reinvented.
But I wasn’t ready. When Bill put down a “thank you” plate of goodies at the end of my meal, the seven-year-old, pig-tailed girl inside me was taken by surprise. And when she was awakened, she wouldn’t stop giggling.
The plate had a little demitasse with thick, white liquid and two small candies. Bill pointed to the honey-colored, sugar-encrusted candy and called it a passion fruit gelée candy (ho-hum). He pointed to the cup next and said it was doughnut soup (now I’m listening). Finally he pointed to a little square of dark chocolate and said, “That’s a surprise.”
I bit into the passion fruit candy to get it over with and then set it aside. Swinging my legs beneath the table, I picked up the cup and brought it eagerly to my lips. I took a tentative sip. The liquid was thick and creamy; the taste was indeed that of a powdered doughnut! How’d they do that?
Bill had told me to drink to the bottom because a bit of jelly was down there. As if I needed encouragement, I pressed on, savoring each swig, until I got to the thick purple jelly at the bottom. I coaxed it to my lips with several firm pats to the bottom of the cup. I know. Shameless.
By this time I was so enamored by the liquid doughnut that I’d completely forgotten Bill’s coy comment about the chocolate candy. When I’d all but licked the demitasse clean, I picked up the chocolate and bit into the middle. I expected it to ooze something but instead it was hard. My teeth snapped through the center and I saw a puff of smoke billow from somewhere beneath my nose. It startled me – whatever that was, I didn’t want to make a mess in this fancy restaurant – so I threw the rest of the candy in my mouth.
And then it started. First I felt it on my tongue: little pops, little sparks. Then I felt it back by the hinges of my jaw: small firecrackers exploding against my cheeks. Then a chain of explosions ran clear across the back of neck, tickling my skin as they went off. What the heck was going on?
I was in a state of utter perplexity and mild panic. Then I saw Bill peer around the corner of the corridor to the kitchen. I waved him over unabashedly – the kind of quick pumping wave you give your friend when you want her to come quickly to check out the principal making out with the nurse before they stop and your friend misses it.
Bill stride over all smiles. “I see you found the surprise,” he said.
“What is this?” I exclaimed, pointing to my mouth.
“It’s Pop Rocks.”
You remember those little crystals, don’t you? A fusion of science and pure sugar, they came in paper packets and you poured them onto your tongue not especially for their taste but for the riotous way they rattled and rolled as they dissolved. The candy chef had found a way to make a filling out of them (ground them down and packed them into the center of the chocolate mold?). And I couldn’t stop giggling.
Seriously, it was uncontrollable. I laughed until I couldn’t laugh anymore. Bill, clearly pleased with my reaction, said an older gentleman he’d served recently had the same reaction. Suddenly I saw Bill as the boy on the playground who gave out candy that turned your mouth blue. The unexpectedness, the whimsy of it, tickled me and my inner child. I wanted another Pop Rocket candy.
But I behaved myself. I didn’t ask for seconds. However, the next day I went looking for them. Bill had said they were made in the “candy kitchen.” I didn’t know what that meant but I found out there was a confectionery shop called Opals in the casino at the other end of the resort. It was only 10:30am but I couldn’t help myself. The seven-year-old was awake and she wanted her candy.
Bad news, though. The girl behind the candy counter said they didn’t make Pop Rocket candy. I was distraught. I wanted to cross my arms and stomp off into the corner to sulk. But I was a good girl. I took a deep breath and decided, instead, to check out the cases in hopes that she was simply mistaken.
She wasn’t. But I found something else: “Orange Dream” fudge. OK, so it wasn’t going to explode in my mouth; but I had a feeling it would send me spiraling back to balmy summer days, water gun fights and running barefoot in the grass. My hunch was right. The fudge tasted like a Creamsicle. It was smooth and creamy; all that was missing was an icy texture.
I always knew about “special” brownies; but now I know about dreamy fudge. One bite of the latter and I'm back in my parents' yard, holding the tacky stick of a Creamsicle. My hair smells of chlorine and blades of grass are stuck to my wet feet. I am seven again and my life hasn’t been mapped out yet. The only deadline I have to keep is the one that will prevent a Creamsicle from melting down my arm.