Food & Drink

Cocoa loco

Debbie Matthews
Debbie Matthews

The other day Petey said something hilariou s— Sinbad level hilarious.

You ready?

He said that there are some people who don’t like chocolate. I know, right? ROFL.

There are two kinds of people: Those who love chocolate, and liars.

Although I may occasionally shade the truth to spare feelings — “Oh my gosh! What a baby! Look at that face!” — when it comes to that creamy, dark, tropical treat I’m a bona fide choco-phile. Right now in my kitchen, not counting the Hershey’s special dark cocoa powder, there are 12 different chocolate items (wow, written out like that, it does sound a little troubling).

Today I have a recipe that reminds me of a special treat from the mists of my childhood; when disco was king, and Jordache jeans roamed the earth.

One summer, we were visiting my mom’s home state of New Jersey, and staying with her brother, and my godfather, Uncle Sammy, his wife Candy, and their three kids. One day, all of us kids were feverishly tap dancing upon the collective last nerve of every adult present.

We’d left them with but two choices; begin drinking heavily and keep it up for the duration of our visit, or get us kids out of the house to work off some energy.

We packed up swimsuits, sandwiches, and flip-flops. Sammy and Candy were taking us to their lake club. We swam and played until lunch, and then to keep our full bellies out of the water, each kid was given two crisp new dollar bills, to spend as we saw fit.

I saw the Italian ice man and made a beeline to see what flavors they had. They had the mandatory lemon, strawberry, and orange. But they also had another flavor; chocolate. That was a new one on me.

I ordered it. It was amazing; like chocolate ice cream, but with no dairy. It was deeply, darkly, intensely chocolate. The flavor was rich, but not heavy. It was a frozen, dark chocolate dream.

Since that day, every time I run into somebody selling Italian ice, I cross my fingers and hope they have chocolate. My dreams have been consistently dashed until I came upon the Italian ice cart at the state fairgrounds flea market. They sell it, and it’s as delicious as I remembered.

These days I don’t have to go all the way to Raleigh for my fix since I discovered Talenti chocolate sorbet. I always try to have some on hand. It’s a little denser than an ice but really full of flavor, not too sweet, and dairy-free, so it’s only 150 calories per serving. It’s perfect when I want…no need, a big cocoa-flavored hit.

I keep my freezer at 0 degrees, but the sorbetto’s always a spoon-able consistency because I throw the whole shebang into a gallon size zip top bag on a tip from The Kid. Don’t know how it works, it just does.

Occasionally I have a hard time finding the Talenti. In that emergency situation, I make my own. If you have an ice cream maker, it’s a breeze. If you don’t, granita (a confection that’s frozen in a pan, and while freezing frequently scraped with a fork to create a granular texture) is an option.

And the next time you meet that guy who insists he doesn’t like chocolate, tell ’em to stop, drop, and roll, ’cause somebody’s pants are smoking.

Thanks for your time.

Debbie Matthews lives, writes, and cooks in Durham. Contact her at

Emergency chocolate sorbet

Makes about 1 quart

2 ¼ cups water

1 cup sugar

¾ cups Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder

Pinch of salt

6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

In large saucepan, whisk together 1 ½ cups water with the sugar, cocoa powder, and salt. Bring to boil whisking frequently. Let it boil, continuing to whisk for 45 seconds. Remove from the heat and stir in chocolate until it's melted, then stir in vanilla and remaining ¾ cup water. Transfer mixture to blender (or use an immersion blender) and blend for 15 seconds. Chill mixture thoroughly, then freeze it in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions. If mixture has become too thick to pour into your machine, whisk it vigorously to thin it out.