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MAD About Chocolate

After spending the morning learning about the historical significance of the Siege of Yorktown at Colonial Williamsburg, I was ready to take a break for lunch before continuing the day with other events in the afternoon. A friend who went to William & Mary recommended to get the ‘Death by Chocolate’ dessert that Marcel Desaulniers created at Trellis. But since I was planning on eating elsewhere for dinner, I wanted to get a light, fast lunch instead, and as I looked for options on TripAdvisor, I discovered that Mr. Desaulniers apparently had come back from retirement and with his wife opened a small restaurant in Williamsburg called MAD About Chocolate. I thought that would be a great place for lunch as they also serve light dishes along with their chocolate-related creations.

The location of MAD About Chocolate is a little out of the way from the main commercial areas (DOG Street area), but it was within short walking distance. I thought it was actually nice to take a break from the big crowd.

The restaurant was small but had a very welcoming atmosphere. It was very nicely decorated in with lots of bright colors and patterns. I thought it went well with the ‘main attraction’ of the place, its chocolate-related products. The kitchen was right behind the counter, so you could see Mr. Desaulniers and his staff preparing the food for the guests.

I ordered the savory cheesecake of the day, which was served with salad and came out quite quickly. It was very delicious and perfect for a light lunch that still leave some room for dessert.

I also got the signature dessert, the MAD cake (I suppose it was their equivalence to the Death by Chocolate at Trellis). I underestimated the size of this dessert; one slice was big enough to feed four people, and that is probably how most people eat it (to share). I was alone, and I had this monster chocolate cake to eat.

I attempted to finish that cake myself as I still had another half day to walk around in Colonial Williamsburg and I did not want to tote around leftover chocolate cake (which I was not sure would still be good if not refrigerated). So I went through about half of the cake until one of the store staff who came to pick up my empty lunch plate asked if I wanted a to-go box for the cake. I declined and told her I would try to finish it, but she knew better and gave me a box anyway.

I finally gave up and took the rest of the cake in the to go box. I went back to my car at the Visitor Center and left the leftover cake in the back seat covered with a jacket, and that turned out to be fine. In hindsight, I should have just enjoyed small portion of the cake and take the rest home.

The cake itself was not only about quantity but also more about quality. I thought it was among the best chocolate cakes I had ever had, you could taste the high quality and the mastery of the preparation, and I did not feel sick of eating like what often time happened if eating too much of rich and sweet dessert. Below you can see the eight-layer chocolate cake next to my Blackberry smart phone for size comparison.

MAD cake

DoG Street

The Duke of Gloucester Street (also known as the DoG Street to the locals) is the main street in Colonial Williamsburg. The street cuts across the old town and lined with many historic buildings and homes. It continued on towards the modern part of Williamsburg through a pedestrian-only street lined with shops and restaurants, and ends at the campus of the College of William and Mary.

Most of the events and activities at Colonial Williamsburg happen along the DoG Street area, and the locals and visitors alike go for shopping and dining at the western part of the street, so this street is easily the most visited area of Williamsburg. I think what is also pretty neat to think about is the fact that the street was named the Duke of Gloucester Street at the founding of the city of Williamsburg in year 1699, and through the years, you had historic figures like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, as well as more modern figures like Ronald Reagan, Dwight Eisenhower, Harry Truman, Winston Churchill, and many others walked on this same street as you would if you visit the town. Franklin Delano Roosevelt called it ‘the most historic avenue in all America.’

During my visit to Colonial Williamsburg, I spent most of the day along this street attending many events that happened throughout the day. In the middle of my visit, I took a break to look for a lunch place, and I passed through a weekend farmers market that was set up right between the historic district and the shopping district. It definitely had very good foot traffic especially considering it was a nice autumn morning.

DoG Street

Knox

General Henry Knox was another character that I encountered and learned about when visiting Colonial Williamsburg. I listened to the actors portraying General Knox and General Anthony Wayne discussing about their plan to attack the British troops under Lord Cornwallis in Yorktown.

One of the topics they discussed during the planning was whether the light infantry under General Wayne should attack the British troops first, or whether they should perform a siege using the artillery under General Knox. True to the character, General ‘Mad Anthony’ Wayne suggested they should attack more aggressively, while General Knox suggested for bombardment by the artillery. They could not resolve the decision, and later asked General Washington for his opinion (who went for the siege — as it ended up happening in Yorktown). I thought it was pretty entertaining to listen to these actors reenacting such discussion among the leaders of the Continental Army on this decisive siege that was going to happen. It truly brought the history alive.

I noticed also that General Knox wore a black cloth covering one of his hands. I wondered why, and found out later through reading that Knox accidentally fired a shotgun on his left hand at one point and took off two of his fingers. So true to the real character, the actor also had the black cloth to cover his hands.

Like several other historic characters I ‘met’ during my visit to Colonial Williamsburg, General Henry Knox was honored by having places named after his name (Knoxville, Tennessee; Fort Knox, Kentucky).

Below you can see the reenactment of General Henry Knox addressing the troops before they went to Yorktown.

General Knox addressing troops

Mad Anthony

General Anthony Wayne was another historic character I came to learn about during my visit to Colonial Williamsburg. As I went to a historic home in the old town where the generals gathered to plan for their attack on Yorktown, I listened to a couple of generals, General Anthony Wayne and General Henry Knox, discussing the plan of attack with a couple of guests who seemed to know the history very well and engaged the characters in discussion as if they were talking with the real characters. The actors portraying the generals knew their characters very well, and answered the questions from the guests as if they were answering in first person.

One of the questions asked by the guests was whether General Wayne was really mad like his nickname ‘Mad Anthony’ suggested. The actor who portrayed General Knox answered that the reason for the nickname was because General Wayne was know to have fiery temperament and ‘hot blooded,’ and the nickname came about because of his treatment on a subordinate who showed incompetence. But he was also known as a strict disciplinarian who demanded obedience and loyalty from his men, and in return he showed loyalty and constantly tried to improve their circumstances. Many people in Pennsylvania where he came from repeatedly returned to fight with him.

General Wayne was one of the trusted generals who served under the command of General George Washington. When Washington became the first president of the country, his high regard for General Wayne’s military skills and judgment was demonstrated by appointing Wayne as the commander-in-chief of the American armies. Wayne led the Continental Army in fighting a confederate of Indian tribes in the Northwest Territory (now the Midwest states of Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan) that secretly served the British. Today we find places named after Wayne in those areas (the city of Fort Wayne, Indiana; Wayne County in Michigan) as well as in his home state of Pennsylvania.

In the photo below, you can see the actor who portrayed General Wayne explaining how his light infantry troops planned to attack the British in Yorktown.

General Anthony Wayne

Lafayette

After listening to the lecture in front of the Courthouse at Colonial Williamsburg, I stayed to watch a reenactment of the Continental Army under General Washington arriving in Williamsburg. Several actors who played generals of the Continental Army waited in front of the Courthouse until General Washington arrived. He was greeted by one general who spoke in French accent. Later on, I found out that the general was supposed to be Marquis de Lafayette.

The name Lafayette today can be seen in many places in the United States — streets, parks, cities, etc. I remembered also hearing about Marquis de Lafayette as a friend of Thomas Jefferson’s when I visited Jefferson’s home, Monticello, in Charlottesville, Virginia. I thought it was quite curious however to have one Frenchman among the Americans during the reenactment in Williamsburg. So later on, I read some more about Lafayette and watched a documentary about this historical figure on Netflix.

There were several facts about Marquis de Lafayette that I found interesting. He was born into a noble family in France, so he was among the wealthiest in the nation during his youth. At early age (sixteen), he joined the French army and he learned about the struggle for independence in America. He decided that he wanted to help the cause, even when it meant he had to find his way to get to America, and even enlisted in the Continental Army as a volunteer to avoid being perceived as a mercenary. General George Washington took Lafayette under his wings. His first battle was the Battle of Brandywine, where he was wounded but received citation from Washington for his bravery.

Lafayette then was given the command of a division of the Virginia troops, and later fought the British in New Jersey and Rhode Island. He also went home to France to lobby for French aid to America. Working with Benjamin Franklin, he secured French troops under General Rochambeau to come to America and helped the Continental Army to fight the British. When he came back to America, General Washington ordered Lafayette to lead the troops to pursue and capture Benedict Arnold (a Continental Army general who defected to the British). While he was not able to capture Arnold, he was able to help defend Richmond from being occupied by the British. Later that continued to his participation in the Siege of Yorktown, where the British surrendered and marked the end of the Revolutionary War.

After the war, Lafayette went back to France and continued to be an advocate for the Americans. In return he was given an honorary American citizenship by the Congress; he was the only foreigner to receive such honor until Winston Churchill in 1963. He came to America in 1824 to celebrate the country’s 50th anniversary at the official invitation of President James Monroe and the US Congress. He was honored as the only surviving general from the American Revolution through a grand tour around to visit all 24 American states in the period of almost a year.

When Lafayette died in 1824, the US gave him the same funeral honors as given to other American heroes. Today, his gravesite in Paris is decorated with an American flag. A park in Washington, DC very close to the White House was also named after him, Lafayette Park.

The photo below was the actor who played Lafayette providing explanation of the plan to attack the British in Yorktown.

Lafayette