It Makes a Difference | Askinosie Chocolate Tasting

Tasting SheetIt’s sometimes the unplanned moments that work out to be the best ones in your day.

Take the morning e-mail from a thoughtful Slow Food Columbus member who types a quick joke, makes you laugh and extends an invitation to attend a chocolate tasting with Shawn Askinosie in the Jeni’s Ice Cream Kitchens.

That afternoon.

Well, you have to say yes, don’t you?

I should say yes more often.

Especially when you’re saying yes to hear what Shawn Askinosie has to talk about.  Not only is he making remarkable chocolate that’s traceable from bean to bar, but he and his family are working hard to improve the lot of the farmers who grow the beans, the neighborhood and community in which the factory is located and heck, the lives of every single person who unwraps a bar of what I am starting to think is some of the best chocolate that has ever melted on my tongue.

Shawn takes something that inherently makes people happy – chocolate – and then ups the ante by making it good for everyone along the supply chain.  Good, clean and fair indeed.

His noble work takes him all around the world to the cocoa farmers and co-ops that he trades with directly who reside in that narrow band 20 degrees to the north and to the south of the equator.  There, in far flung locales from Ecuador to Tanzania to the Phillipines, Shawn partners, pays fairly and profit-shares with growers – many of them women – to produce not the rarest beans, but the ones handled with the greatest care.  Askinosie beans are carefully raised, picked, fermented and then sun-dried in the equatorial heat.

Don’t take my word that it’s these careful steps that makes Askinosie among the best chocolate made anywhere.  Listen to David Lebovitz.

My full tasting of all things Askinosie was a wonderful – dare I say moving? – event put on by the good people at Jeni’s Ice Creams.  I tasted everything in the Askinosie arsenal.  Including freshly roasted (still warm) whole cocoa beans that I crushed with my own two hands to first inhale the swoon-worthy aroma then pick through the shells to extract and nibble the prize cocoa nibs.

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Perhaps my favorite was the opportunity to taste their white chocolate.  Now listen, I am first and foremost a dark chocolate fan.  But having recently been through most area grocery stores looking for white chocolate for a favored dinner, I had become convinced that maybe there was no such thing anymore as white chocolate.  Reading ingredient list after ingredient list I came to the numbing realization that maybe there was no chocolate in white chocolate.  There was certainly no chocolate in the ingredients.  I gave up and switched how I was making that recipe.

Then today, here was actual white chocolate, made from real cocoa butter.  Thirty four percent cocoa butter to be exact.  The stuff of dreams.

Their chocolate and hazelnut spread is at once undeniably decadent, sophisticated and devourable.

Their collaBARations with Jeni’s (malted chocolate) and Lakritsfabriken (salted black licorice) and others bring entirely new ideas to same old same, old chocolate bars.

I could go on, but I won’t.

I’m a convert.  And now, perhaps an evangelizer.  Because this is good stuff.  Good in the whole sense of the word.

Playlist included Don’t Move, by Phantogram.

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