Special Valentine’s Day Bourbon Caramel Rice Crispy Treats with Dark Chocolate (gluten free) and a Secret Origin Story about AJ and me

by Irvin on February 14, 2011 · 38 comments

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AJ and I met nearly twelve years ago. Our Ten Year Anniversary story, wherein I made a chocolate caramel cheesecake for him, chronicles the hazy nostalgia of how we got together and what we count as our anniversary date. But it’s not the beginning of the story for AJ and me. The beginning of the story actually occurred one year earlier. It involved a blasphemous Easter Celebration, Star Wars, a mother’s day gift, and one very special homemade rice crispy treat.

Special Rice Crispy Treats Special Rice Crispy Treats

I had moved to San Francisco a year prior to meeting AJ and, as my friend Forrest described me at the time, I was a bit broken. I had gotten out of a relationship that was my first everything: first gay date, first kiss, first boyfriend. To say that I was lost and broken at the end of the relationship is to put it mildly, though to my credit, I was the one who eventually broke up with him (after he broke up with me and we got back together) It’s a story for another time, but in the end, I realized that he wasn’t the one. And I really needed to be with the one.

AJ was the one AJ was the one. I just hadn’t found him yet

The move out here to California was a painful one. I was leaving my family for the first time (I found out years later that my mom cried after I drove away with the U-Haul truck) and heading out on my own. The actual drive out to California was complicated by the fact that my ex-boyfriend and I rented a U-Haul truck together to move out here, me to San Francisco, him to Los Angeles to be with his new boyfriend (a fact that I found out during the roadtrip out here). *shrug* It seemed like a logical idea at the time I guess.

Golden Gate Bridge

San Francisco was shiny and new and despite being pleased that I was no longer in my hometown, a city that I always said I would move away from once I graduated from high school (but didn’t) I was pretty lonely. I was lucky that I already had a core group of four friends that I knew before I moved out here and they were my rock and foundation for my new life here.

The Old Gang My rock and foundation, the old SF Gang

The first year out here in San Francisco was tough. It was the dotcom era and EVERYONE wanted a graphic designer – that did web design (some things never changed). And though I did some web design, my heart was never in it, as I was a branding and print guy. In the end I temped at a number of place, design and otherwise, including an office building where I was unceremoniously fired from (it’s a hilarious fantastic story, remind me to tell you it one of these days – totally utterly my fault why I was fired, ah feckless youth…). The number of stories from that era is endless and any mistake that I could make, I probably did.

AJ & Irvin dancing

And a lot of those mistakes included really bad dates. One date had the guy show up, only to announce to me that he had invited along a coworker with him (yes, on our first date) who was due to show up any minute. Making matters even worse, he asked me if I wouldn’t mind being discreet, because he wasn’t out to his coworker yet. Another date ended with us making out in our bedroom, all seemingly going well, until the guy panicked for no reason at all, jumped up mid-kiss and ran out of my apartment. Was I that bad a kisser?

It was at the end of this series of bad dates that I met AJ. My college pal Jenny had tried to set me up with a coworker of her’s (not AJ) and it hadn’t worked out, but Jenny’s coworker and I were trying to be friends. He had invited me to hang out with him and his friend Bryan who, in turn, had invited AJ along.

It was the afternoon of Easter Sunday, 1999. The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence were celebrating their 20th Anniversary with a big street fair, which included closing off a block of Castro Street. For those not familiar with the Sisters, they are group of gay men, that dress up in nun drag and do charity work. You need to experience them first hand here in San Francisco to truly understand who they, but next time your in San Francisco, give me a holler, I’ll introduce you to some of them. Each Easter involves such fun “only in San Francisco” events like their Hunky Jesus contest, and this one was no different. In the end, they raised over $13,000 to give to various charities around San Francisco.

Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. Yes they are scary looking. Photo by Jere Keys

While at the fair, right before AJ met me, his friend Bryan decided to buy him a special treat – a rice crispy treat in fact. Sold by a guy dressed up as Dorothy from the Wizard of OZ, these treats had, a little extra something in them. Something that’s pretty common here in San Francisco. I’m just going to leave it at that.

AJ, of course, had never done anything like this before. In fact this happened to be the one and ONLY time he has ever experimented in a special treat from Dorothy. Immediately after eating it, he met me.

Rice Crispy Treats Rice Crispy Treats. These are special, but in a completely different way.

He did warn me ahead of time. He explained the situation and said that if he started acting funny or odd to not take it the wrong way. Of course, having never met him before, I had no base of judgment to what he normally acted like. Any warnings he gave me really didn’t mean much.

We left each other that day, with a vague “hey good hanging out with you…let’s do it again…” sort of passing. Though I was interested in him, I really wasn’t looking for someone to date. I was already in the middle of my bad dating frenzy and I certainly wasn’t looking for another person to put on that list.

A month or two went by. I had started dating a guy I referred to as “Right On Jimmy” as his constant catch phrase was “right on.” It wasn’t going so well. And then I ran into AJ in the bookstore I was working at.

AJ in a poncho There’s a hilarious story that goes along with AJ wearing this poncho. Remind me to tell you it.

AJ looked cute and slightly geeky and a bit frazzled when he walked in. He was looking for a book for his mom for Mother’s Day. As he stared in frustration at the selection on the wall, I saw him slightly shrug his shoulders and start to walk out. I called out to him and asked him if I could help. He looked over and his smile made me melt. Every single object in the bookstore went out of focus and all I could hear was him asking about a book for his mom.

I suggested a book for him (Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood – yes I remember the book, no I’ve never read, but I new it was popular for Mother’s Day) and he bought it. I told him to get my phone number from our mutual friend, the one who brought me to the Street Fair. He promised to and then walked out the door.

AJ Irvin beach AJ and I hanging out on the beach in our youth.

I don’t know why I didn’t give him my number right then. I was dating Right On Jimmy at the time and I’m not one to date multiple people. But he was cute and there was definitely a spark. Perhaps I wanted to test him to see if he really did like me. I wanted to see if it he would go through the effort of getting my number. Because that would mean he really was interested.

It was evident to my coworkers at the bookstore that I was clearly interested. Apparently they had a conversation standing right next to me, talk about how AJ and I were shameless flirting with each other, and how they could tell we were into each other because obviously we were oblivious to everyone and everything in the room other than each other. “It’s amazing how you can blatantly talk about people who are standing right next to you, and they won’t hear you at all if they are clearly interested in something else.” She said to my other coworker who nodded knowingly with a smirk.

My baby dyke coworker giggled as she told me this right after AJ left. I blushed. But it was true.

AJ and I hanging out in Dolores Park

AJ did track down my friend, who it turns out, was not a mutual friend of his. He had to call his friend Bryan to get the number of their mutual friend to get my number. That’s a lot of loops to jump through. Clearly he was interested.

Star Wars Daddy It would make more sense to have a poster of Ep 1, but it was terrible, so I’m using Ep III.

And he called me. We talked for an hour. Then he invited me to a Star Wars party.

In case it has not come up, AJ loves Star Wars. LOVES Star Wars. And, it being 1999, Episode 1 of Star Wars was coming out. To celebrate that, he threw a Star Wars party in which he showed all three of the original movies back to back.

I came in somewhere in the middle of Empire Strikes Back. I don’t know if I stayed the entire time or not. But AJ had pizza. We talked. I was smitten. And so we set up a date.

AJ was pretty darn adorable. Right on Jimmy and I ended things (well he ended things, but the outcome of it ending and my outrage over it, is a pretty entertaining story in and of itself) and AJ and I started to see each other. And despite everything looking great on paper, it just didn’t click. Call it bad timing, or the wrong place at the wrong time, but it didn’t work out. And five months later, we broke up.

It was hard, AJ immediately regretted breaking up with me. He asked me if we wanted to get back together. I hemmed and hawed. We hung out a lot, but we didn’t give it another try. Instead we became friends. Good friends. Best friends.

AJ and Irvin at Prom Yes, we chaperoned Prom back when AJ was a high school teacher.

And when we did get back together, seven months later, it stuck this time; we had established that foundation and friendship. Had we not broken up, if he hadn’t broken my heart, it probably wouldn’t have had a chance to heal properly. I wouldn’t have had a chance to heal properly.

I’m not saying life has been perfect since then. We’ve had our good times and our bad times. But I wouldn’t trade any of it with anyone else. And so, for this Valentine’s Day, I decided I needed to make him some Rice Krispy Treats. I left out the special ingredient that Dorothy added, but I added a few ingredients of my own to make them special, chocolate, caramel and a little bourbon. As AJ said, these fancy Rice Crispy Treats are elevated. But they won’t elevate you like Dorothy’s. ;)

Rice Crispy Treats Rice Crispy Treats. Special, but not like the special ones that Dorothy was handing out.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone. I hope you have a good one.

This post was inspired by Gluten Free Girl’s call for people to write their love story in their blog for Valentine’s Day. Please check out her post and read the wonderful comments that people have left telling their story. It’s an amazing and heartwarming experience.

Whilst making these treats, I listened the Cocteau Twins’ Heaven or Las Vegas. I’m not sure why. It just felt appropriate.

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{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

Nannette February 14, 2011 at 11:41 am

What a beautiful treat! And an even more beautiful story! So much joy! I’m currently on a mad scientist kick trying to make vegan and “sugar-free” marshmallows. I want to use an alternative sugar like palm or something in that group. I think I’m pretty close to figuring it out. If so, I’ll share it with the world (and you!)

Happy Valentine’s Day, Irvin!

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Irvin February 16, 2011 at 11:35 am

Ooh. How exciting! Definitely let me know when you perfect the sugar free vegan marshmallows! That sounds awesome. Palm sugar is great. It has such a wonderful complexity to it!

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Quietrose February 14, 2011 at 11:56 am

Hi Irvin and AJ,

What a sweet story of how both of you got together! Very touching and still gives me hope that true love is out there just waiting to find you in a bookstore or at a street fair! :-) Happy Valentine’s Day to you both!

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Irvin February 16, 2011 at 11:44 am

Thank you! I think if you just keep an open mind and heart, true love will reveal itself. Happy Valentine’s day to you!

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Sara Wilson Etienne February 14, 2011 at 12:17 pm

Lovelovelove this post! So fun to hear such delicious backstory:) Omnomnom the Love!

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Irvin February 16, 2011 at 11:44 am

Yay! Thanks Sara!

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merri February 14, 2011 at 12:19 pm

Aw what a nice story. I love the sf-y-ness of it with the sisters easter celebration & stuff…I have not seen rice krispies treats that “special” around here but I have seen the truffles in the park from the truffle guy. An at the time friend bought me one first pride I was here but no we did not start dating lol. I also like all the back in time photos :) happy valentines day to you and aj!!

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Irvin February 16, 2011 at 11:46 am

It was DEFINITELY a SF sort of story! And I haven’t seen Dorothy around in awhile. The truffle guy though, he’s a regular in Dolores Park!

Happy Valentine’s Day to you!

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Dina Avila February 14, 2011 at 1:07 pm

Oh how I miss the Sisters!
I absolutely loved this story. Please do tell the others that you alluded to soon! You guys are simply adorable. We definitely need to meet in the flesh when I come down to SF…

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Irvin February 16, 2011 at 11:46 am

One of these days, I’ll tell those stories. And do look me up when you come down to SF! I’d love to hang out!

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Shila February 14, 2011 at 5:04 pm

1. awwz. what a sweet san francisco love story. Love that you first met after AJ had a special rice krispy treat
2. those are some gorgeous looking rice krispy treats. I think of rice krispy treats as very homey and comfort-not-fancy food (even when dotted with m&m’s), but yours look spectacular in texture, flavor, and aesthetics.

happy valentine’s day! I hope yours only brings you more love.

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Irvin February 16, 2011 at 11:47 am

Thank you! I was trying to make the rice crispy treats special. Well more special. But not THAT special. heh.

Happy Valentine’s Day to you!

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matthew February 14, 2011 at 5:48 pm

Great story and, not in any way to undersell the story, GREAT sounding treats. Can’t wait to try them myself!

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Irvin February 16, 2011 at 11:48 am

Thank you! Let me know if you do and how they turn out for you.

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angi February 14, 2011 at 6:28 pm

Aww such a sweet story – I love it! You two are adorable – happy Valentine’s to you both! Btw, I didn’t know AJ taught high school… next time we hang out, I might have to pick his brain some more. ;)

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Irvin February 16, 2011 at 11:48 am

You should! We’re overdue for a hang out. AJ loves talking about his high school teaching days…

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Allison February 15, 2011 at 2:14 am

I have such a big smile on my face now, after reading your story. You guys are awesome, and such a great couple. ^_^

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Irvin February 16, 2011 at 11:49 am

thanks Allison! You and Son are awesome in so many ways too!

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Brian @ A Thought For Food February 15, 2011 at 8:24 am

This just brought a huge smile to my face! What a wonderful post! And, I LOVE the spiked up rice crispy treats!

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Irvin February 16, 2011 at 11:49 am

Yay! Thanks Brian!

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Rita February 15, 2011 at 4:42 pm

Cocteau Twins’s Heaven of Las Vegas is one of my favorite all-time albums ever. Me loves all the old photos. Me loves all the new photos. Me wants the treats.

Bring treats, next time I see you? Please? These ones? Will you??

Happy Valentine’s Day, Irvin and AJ!!!

Seriously. Gorgeous photos. That red backdrop. Yum.

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Irvin February 16, 2011 at 11:51 am

I adore the Cocteau Twins. I just hadn’t listened to them in awhile. And the old photos were awesome to dig up.

And Happy Valentine’s Day to you! I’ll see if I can bring some treats for you next time I see you…which will be very soon!

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Rita February 22, 2011 at 9:13 am

GAH!!!!!! Divine. Delicous and divine. Blasted me back to the deliciousness of childhood (a la Ratatouille) in a way I can’t account for, as I never had rice krispy treats or any treat that delicious. It triggered some kind of happy childhood chemicals in my brain. Every.

Time.

Okay, I’m going to go have another one right now. WOW!!!

Maybe this time it will blast me back to the deliciousness of this past weekend, when I saw you. YOU’RE THE BEST IN THE WORLD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

<3

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Rita February 22, 2011 at 9:29 am

P.S.
WOW!!!! OMRHm yum

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Irvin February 24, 2011 at 4:33 pm

does OMRH yum stand for Oh My Rita Huang Mmmm Yum?

ruth February 16, 2011 at 11:26 am

Great story, yummy recipe…but doesn’t bourbon have gluten? Part of the mash to make it includes barley malt, doesn’t it?

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Irvin February 16, 2011 at 11:42 am

I was actually concerned about the bourbon being gluten free, but when I looked it up before I used it, according to the American Dietetic Association as well as wikipedia and a few other sites, bourbon is listed as gluten free alcoholic beverage. The mash used in making bourbon does include barley malt, but apparently during the distilling process the gluten proteins are removed.

That said, if you highly sensitive, concerned or do have a reaction to bourbon, you can skip it (sub 2 tablespoons of water) or try a different gluten free alcohol. Grain free alcohols like rum or brandy might be a good alternative.

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Mrs. L February 16, 2011 at 3:44 pm

I loved reading this! And now I want you to write up all those other stories you promised to tell at some point!

Okay and the dessert doesn’t look half bad either. I’ll have to try it for my hubby’s birthday…without the Dorothy special of course….

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Irvin February 17, 2011 at 1:49 am

Aww. Thanks Mrs. L! One of these days I’ll write up those other stories. Well the ones I’m allowed to. There are a few I’m not allowed to write about. ;)

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Phuoc'n Delicious February 20, 2011 at 4:19 am

YUMMO! These look absolutely fantastic! I can’t believe I never thought of coating them in chocolate before as we all know chocolate makes everything better!

And what a wonderful love story! Thanks for sharing it with us. I hope you had a lovely Valentine’s Day

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Irvin February 21, 2011 at 9:37 pm

Thanks! We actually had a fantastic Valentine’s Day! I’m planning on writing about it soon. But next time you make rice crispy treats, definitely try coating the bottom with chocolate. It adds so much!

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brhau February 21, 2011 at 11:25 pm

A couple of my coworkers once challenged each other to a rice crispy treat eating contest. I can still remember what they looked like an hour later, heads gently resting on their fists as they braved the sugar lows. I am now imagining how that would have all played out with either these or Dorothy’s treats.

Thanks for sharing your story—the best ones, it seems, always include plenty of goofy awkwardness.

Now, I’m going to ask a VERY important question that will be crucial in forming my opinion of A.J.: What did he think of Episodes I – III?

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A.J. February 22, 2011 at 9:57 pm

I had mixed feelings. I was soooo excited that George Lucas was coming back to STAR WARS after so long. I tried so hard to get past Jar Jar, the annoying and whiny 8-year-old Anakin, and the embarrassed-to-watch-for-the-writer love scenes of Episode II. That said, they did have glimpses of the magic of the original trilogy and I think that Episode III approached the quality of the originals in that I would consider it a tie for my third favorite STAR WARS film – I am not nearly as fond of the Ewoks now as when I was 8. (The full order being then – obviously – V,IV,VI/III,I,II.) Still, when I am bored (and this almost never now), I will reach for one of the six to watch. And, all six films are the only movies on my iPhone. (Well, there is one Brandon Lee film too.)

I think that my feelings about Lucas and recent STAR WARS installments can be summed up by Sheldon on Big Bang Theory in reference to whether or not he had started watching the new Clone Wars cartoon series. His response was that he had not, because as he said: “I want to be disappointed in the order that George Lucas had intended.”

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Irvin February 22, 2011 at 10:03 pm

I can’t believe that you put Return of the Jedi on the same level as Revenge of the Sith. Who are you? What did you do with my boyfriend?

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brhau February 22, 2011 at 10:44 pm

I was honestly quite shocked by how much praise Revenge of the Sith got at the time. Much better than I and II, sure, but good God, what wouldn’t be? Jedi was also not my favorite, so I believe a tie is permissible here. I did feel that the portrayal of Princess Leia in bondage was a surprising move for the brand.

Irvin, he’s a keeper!

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Caitlin February 23, 2011 at 10:35 am

I just discovered your blog, and I love it! I live in the Castro, so we’re practically neighbors :) I’ll definitely have to check out the Easter celebrations this year, if that still goes on. I loved reading this story, too – I’m so glad things worked out so well for you and AJ in the end!

PS I saw that you quit your job last year for the big unknown of baking – this might have been covered in posts that I haven’t read, but what do you do now? I work in the tech industry, but my passion is in baking and I would love to take that leap someday if I can work up the courage!

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Irvin February 23, 2011 at 5:56 pm

Hi neighbor! Thanks for stopping by! The Sisters still throw the Easter celebration (at least they did every year up until last year) but they closed down Castro Street for them on their 20th anniversary. They usually have their celebration now in Dolores Park.

As for what I’m doing now, I left my day job as a graphic designer to focus more on food writing, recipe developing, baking and other personal projects. All of which generates very little money, so I also freelance as a graphic designer for various clients and projects here and there. It’s been exciting and terrifying but I’m much happier now than I have been in a long time!

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Chris @ Spekkorice September 4, 2013 at 3:13 am

Hi Irvin, Firstly, I was searching for Rice Crispy treat recipes and came across your blog. I must say these Rice Crispy treats seem amazing, I’ve printed this recipe out so I can give it a bash this evening.

Lastly, I like how you integrate your personal story into the post. And what an awesome story that was. :)

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