My adventure bug has bit me a few times already, and I am putting my eggs in all sorts of baskets this spring. With a marathon in April, followed by Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim two days later, and the American Triple T a month after that (with a half-iron distance tri in between), my racing and training schedule is calling for a no-holds-barred endurance-athon that includes treadmill marathons and ski marathons (in the same week). So I went on a search to find something that I can’t get enough of to help me get through this: chocolate.
I came across Askinosie on Twitter, and based on their website (which looks like this)…:
I decided that they’d probably fit the bill.
When I look at their website, this is what I see: Do you like learning about how chocolate is made? Yesssss. Do you like looking at yummy pictures of chocolate? Uh-huh…. Do you like adventures? Yes. Want your chocolate to come from adventurous places? Sure! Want fair trade chocolate? Yes! How about something better, like A Stake in the Outcome? Oh! PLEASE!! So, do you want to buy chocolate? YES.
Askinosie is an interesting chocolate company. The owner, Shawn, is a criminal-defense-lawyer-turned-chocolate maker. I’d love to get the story in person and meet the people behind the chocolate, because their description and bios are so intriguing– but the jist is, Shawn was given the gift of an idea, and tediously, meticulously, and methodically figured out how to make chocolate the right way. And it’s really, really good chocolate.
Another cool thing about the company: they follow a motto called From Bean to Bar. This motto means that Shawn and friends develop a solid relationship with bean farmers before they even order any beans. Each bar is made with authentic, traceable, single-origin beans, and the bars are made in small batches. Askinosie does so many unique things that are hard (if not impossible) to find anywhere else in the states, including pressing their own cocoa butter and making white chocolate from scratch. When it comes to getting beans, Askinosie travels to the countries where they get their beans, meet the farmers, and get to the heart of chocolate making by learning the old-fashioned way (and getting up-close-and-personal with the ground from which the beans come). Pretty sweet. Then they buy the beans (above Fair Trade prices), ship in the beans using the help of a shipping broker (and bing-bang-boom; but not really that easily), and the beans arrive and are made into chocolate.
Ok! So, what about the chocolate? There are a lot of options. First thing I looked at was the price (dudes, I’m a graduate student). And, yes, I cringed a little. But after reading all the work that goes into making these bars and after I took a single square off the Davao White Chocolate Nibble bar, I wondered why they don’t charge more (shh! don’t tell them I said that). To start, the packaging is awesome; the bars come in wax-paper-like brown bag packaging that is unbleached and all natural (its home compostable and biodegradable, too). The packaging folks do a most excellent job of making sure the bars arrived to my doorstep safely- the bars were rolled in biodegradeable, soft material. The bar has really creamy white chocolate with cocoa nibs embedded into it, which makes it crunchy, but the bar has such great balance of flavor. It was sugary-sweet, but not too sweet, and I felt what I thought were the sugar crystals on my tongue as it melted in my mouth (they actually make their bars with organic cane juice). It tasted so wonderfully blissful, but also not like any other white chocolate bar I’ve had before, and I think I know why: they made it with goat’s milk powder. There were no other ingredients that detracted from the flavor of the cocoa beans and cocoa butter. Just goat’s milk powder and cane juice.
I love the letters in each square
For $10.50, the bars don’t disappoint. They are large (enough to share even!) and one square makes me smile and keeps me content. These are indulgeable bars of chocolate, but not in the sense that you wanna eat the whole thing in one sitting (like pizza, or ice cream). It’s one of those find-your-center foods, for sure.
Other really cool things about Askinosie:
- They profit share with their farmers. This ensures that the farmer has a Stake in the Outcome and Askinosie gets the best bean.
- Simply put, A Stake in the Outcome means they guarantee to their farmers above-Fair-Trade prices, open books, and a share in Askinosie’s success
- Askinosie is the first company in the world in over 100 years (outside Mexico) to make chocolate from the historic Soconusco, Mexico region
- They are the first chocolate maker to export cocoa beans from the Philippines in 25years
- Other than the white chocolate bars, they use two ingredients to make their chocolate: cocoa beans and cane juice
Cocoa nibs: super-antioxidants!
Since Askinosie sent me some bars and cocoa nibs free of charge to get-me-rolling on my endurance-challenge, I have obviously been a bit more frivilous with the chocolate. I am even sharing it with Baberaham. I made some fruit-and-nut bars with dates, cocoa nibs, and almonds, and ate the whole batch in one sitting (I don’t recommend that). I’m experimenting with the cocoa nibs to develop some yummy energy bars for R2R2R, and expect my kitchen to be a disaster area for the next two months.
The first round of bars from Askinosie aren’t enough, though. I spent $50 yesterday and bought some more (even though I haven’t even gone through my current stock). But, I couldn’t pass up the current deal they are running (4 bars for the price of 3) and, with free shipping over $40, I decided to get the V-Day deal and threw on a white chocolate bar with pistachios and another bar, an El Rustico bar (specially developed for Zingerman’s Deli near my hometown). So, six bars, for $45? That’s … doing the math… $7.50 a bar. Now that’s more in my price range. It’s also a really easy Valentine’s Day gift for Baberaham, because the 4-bars-for-3 comes in a special V-Day wrapped in a kraft box with a tag already attached to it (fill in the blanks V-Day gift!). Who knows if I will be generous enough to give him the whole box, but we’ll see. Good thing he likes to share.
My recommendations (and I haven’t tried all of them, but here’s what I’ve liked so far):
- Dark Milk Chocolate Bar + fleur de sel sea salt
- Davao White Chocolate Nibble Bar
- Cocoa nibs in yogurt (put the yogurt and nibs in a container the night before and let the nibs infuse into the yogurt)
I’m excited to try:
- White Chocolate with pistachios
- El Rustico
- Del Tamba
- Ok, I’m really excited to try ALL of them!
Want to learn more? Feel free to ask me. Take a tour of their factory if you’re in Missouri. You can also follow @Askinosie on Twitter or check out their website.
My second delivery!
Post-script- my second deliver came today (the V-Day box and the two bars). Another awesome thing about Askinosie: incredibly fast turnaround. I placed my order for the chocolate on Monday, it shipped Tuesday and arrived today! So, it’s not too late for Valentine’s Day treats, folks!! 🙂 These I bought with my hard earned money, too!
FTC disclaimer: Askinosie sent me these bars for free to run through my test kitchen in preparation for finding the right Adventure foods. But- they didn’t sponsor this blog post with extramural funds, nor did they even request one. I guess they knew I would like the chocolate so much I’d want to write about it anyway.