Personally, Harry Potter has always been about the food and drink. When J.K. Rowling’s encyclopedic chronicle of a young orphan hit local bookstores in September of 1998, I hopped on board the Hogwarts Express. As was the norm in many households with young children, the book became a pre-bedtime read aloud ritual. Following young Harry and his cronies required attention to detail, and there were plenty of details to tuck away for safekeeping. Watching Harry navigate wizardry school while dodging He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named (Lord Voldemort) was both exciting and exhausting. The challenges facing our beloved protagonist seemed other-worldly because in fact, they were.
At some point during Harry's journey from youth towards adulthood, I lost focus and put down the books. The up and coming wizards (plus Hagrid, the Dursleys and more characters than I can recount), soldiered on without me. Dodging more sinister events than an average Muggle (such as myself) would encounter in a lifetime, there was one feature of the books that deeply resonated. Amongst the minutiae found on every page of J.K. Rowling’s fictional masterpiece, I gravitated towards the excruciatingly detailed food references. When Harry and Ron shared sweets from the Hogwarts Express tea trolley, I was riveted. Chocolate frogs, pumpkin pasties, Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans, Drooble’s Best Blowing Gum, all of the cream cakes, eclairs, and pies jumped from the pages into my hungry imagination. I craved steaming mugs of hot chocolate, eggnog, and the popular wizarding drink, ButterBeer. (I was already well acquainted with aromatic elderflower wine, thanks to the folks at St. Germain.) J.K. Rowling had created one of the most extensive pouring selections found in literature, one so detailed, you could practically taste it. When the characters spoke of tipples and sweets, the vivid prose latched onto my brain, as indelibly as a Sharpie marker on parchment.
Eventually the books segued into movies, though the dizzying effects and darkness were not my tankard of tea. Harry outgrew his Hogwarts attire and was stepping into roles on Broadway. The Harry Potter brand however, was conjuring far bigger plans for the future.
Quite a few books and so many movies later, the Harry Potter brand has taken up residency in 21,000 square feet of retail space in New York City. Boasting the largest collection of Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts products in the world, the flagship store spares no attention to detail. Spanning three floors, the store feels more theme-park than shopping emporium. Offering plenty of merchandise, an array of selfie-opportunities, and an interactive trivia game, there are also more wands than you can shake a licorice stick at.
Thanks to the kind folks at Le Creuset, Williams Sonoma and Warner Brothers Consumer Products, I had the opportunity to visit the store flanking Broadway and East 22nd Street. Sampling a mug of ButterBeer at 9 o’clock in the morning might not be for everyone, but I’m thinking the brew (which tastes like a Dr. Brown’s Cream Soda on steroids) has a.m. drinking potential. A shot of the butter-scotchy beverage would be a fine addition to a strong espresso based drink. And just a few steps beyond the ButterBeer Bar, an expansive alcove stocks floor-to-ceiling sweets. Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans are available in, yes, every flavor. For those who like a kick with their chocolate, Shock-O-Choc dark chocolate with ‘chilli’ powder will do the trick. It’s just the sort of sustenance one might consider as a fine antidote to all of the peanut butter cups and Hershey miniatures heading your way this weekend. For those who follow Sirius Black’s mantra, you might prefer celebrating Halloween (and an extra hour of sleep), with a handful of chocolate frogs. Because what’s life without a little risk.
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