Thursday, February 7, 2013
To kick off our series on favorite foods around town, where else would I start but with chocolate? With Valentine's Day coming up, it's only natural for our thoughts to turn in that direction, but honestly, I don't need any prompting!
To give you an idea of the extent of my addiction, I will only say that when I turned 21, my college roommates didn't even bother trying to get me to the bar to down 21 shots. In keeping with the "bar" theme, but personalized for my tastes, they presented me with a bag of 21 candy bars.
So let's get to it.
The Chocolate Oat Bar
Tucked into a building on West Front in Traverse City, you'll find a welcoming little shop called Mary's Kitchen Port, home of the Chocolate Oat Bar.
You'll find the oat bars tucked on a shelf of the small tower display right next to the checkout counter, along with several other treats.
A crumbly, oat-y bite with the satisfying smoothness of good chocolate, the oat bar strikes that wonderful balance of soft but chewy, healthy but not. That combination makes it one of my go-to treats.
"It's one of our top sellers, without a doubt," says Mike Boudjalis, who owns the store with his sister Kathy Baier.
About 20 years ago, a former employee gifted the recipe to Mary's Kitchen Port. The bar had its start as an old Boy Scout treat made with chocolate chips and margarine, according to Mike. But the folks at Mary's Kitchen Port upped the quality with Callebaut chocolate and Plugra butter.
"It used to be our slowest seller," Mike recalls. "People thought it was too healthy. They'd see the oats on top and think 'granola.'"
But believe me, with ingredients like Belgian chocolate, condensed milk, sugar and butter, it definitely qualifies as a treat. On the other hand, Kathy says, some people who are trying to eat a healthier diet see the oats and think, "Hey, at least I'm eating oatmeal."
Now THAT's a perfect treat. You can rationalize eating it no matter what. And when you do, Mike recommends heating it up a bit in the microwave and serving it with ice cream.
If you haven't tried a Chocolate Oat Bar yet, do so soon. Mary's Kitchen Port closes each year for a mid-winter break. This year, they'll close on February 15 and re-open on March 26. Considering that the shop's delicious treats have been known to spark a few romances, a stop for Valentine's Day could be well worth it. One shop regular swears it was the brownie he gave to a special someone long ago that led to their marriage.
And here's a tip. I've been known to buy extra oat bars to put in the freezer to get me through the MKP break. If I could just make them last!
Mary's Kitchen Port
539 West Front St., Traverse City
Also in this series:
Filed under Favorites