Sometimes, just sometimes, dreams really do come true.
Sometimes, just sometimes, promises made between friends three years ago, promises uttered more with hope than complete conviction, promises that weren’t certain to ever become more than emailed whispers… sometimes such promises turn into shining reality.
Last week, in keeping with a dream of mine and long-ago-made promises of ours, Amber and I undertook a twelve-hour road trip (eight hours of which were spent driving, mind you) to visit the Askinosie Chocolate Factory and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Mansfield home.
It was a magical day.
Having set off bright and early with travel mugs of stevia-sweetened hemp milk coffee by our sides, the drive to Springfield whooshed by in what felt like moments. (True friendship is living in each other’s pockets for two weeks straight yet still being able to talk non-stop for three hours [random outbursts about devil ghost river trees aside].)
When I first saw the Askinosie factory appear in my line of vision, five years after I first discovered its chocolate-y wonders as a student at UVA, I might have whooped a little.
Amber and I were greeted by Askinosie’s gorgeous and enthusiastic Mallory Roth as soon as we walked inside. I’ve tweeted with Mallory sporadically over the years and, when I’d earlier contacted her to mention my interest in popping by, she generously offered to give Amber and me a private guided tour (and tasting!) of Askinosie. Win!
Mallory showed and talked us through the entire chocolate-making process at Askinosie, detailing the company’s dedication to working directly with farmers by traveling to meet them and buy beans at their farms; ensuring the farmers share 10% of the net profits; importing, inspecting, roasting, and winnowing the beans; making the chocolate liquor as well as their own cocoa butter (Askinosie was the first chocolate maker in America to do the latter); supporting children and teens in the local community through the Chocolate University; and creating incredible, incredible chocolate.
I can think of no better or more knowledgeable ambassador for Askinosie than Mallory, who passionately conveyed the company’s spirit of enthusiasm and ethics (though I feel I should ask forgiveness for my constantly geeking out and interrupting Mallory with my own thoughts on Askinosie and chocolate in general).
Oh, that above, right there? That’s me in all my geeky chocolate joy, about to embark on the tasting part of the tour.
We got to taste all the things. ALL THE THINGS. It was heaven. Heaven I say! (And never you fear, I’ll be providing many chocolate reviews in future. Between what I bought and Askinosie’s generous bequeathal of samples, there is now much chocolate in my life.)
Did I mention that Askinosie makes its own undeoderised (i.e. it tastes like real chocolate) white chocolate with goat’s milk powder?
Or that Amber and I both wanted to dive into the enormous mixer of undulating melted white chocolate? Oh, dreams…
Not only did we get to try every single bar in Askinosie’s line-up, Mallory also opened a jar of chocolate hazelnut spread for us. It knocked Nutella out of the park with its intense hazelnut and rich chocolate flavour.
Hi Mallory! You are amazing! Thank you for your amazingness! And for Askinosie’s amazingness! Exclamation mark!
This is a photo of Amber (because she is very pretty) in front of the kilo tubs of dark chocolate that I desperately wanted to buy.
And this is the current line-up of Askinosie chocolate. I longed to buy everything but, after remembering that I am currently sans steady income, restricted myself to four different blocks.
With our hearts full of joy and our souls (and hands) brimming with chocolate, Amber and I smiled for the camera once more before skipping back to the car, jazzed up and ready for Part Two of The Road Trip Of Dreams.
To be continued…