cup2

I am not a chocoholic…

NOTE: This post is not sponsored. I wasn’t given any free product. I just really had a lightbulb moment at this little shop. They were incredibly warm, welcoming, and generous with their time and knowledge, and I wanted to share my experience.

I have never considered myself a chocoholic. Therefore, beyond what little bit we learned during my semester in Latin Cuisine at culinary school, I’d never really had an overwhelming interest in learning more about it. After this week’s visit to Santa Fe, New Mexico, however, I’ve realized that maybe I’ve just been eating the wrong chocolate. I’m hooked, you guys. I’m hooked on the good stuff… and I want to know more.

I think, in this age of Let’s All Get Educated About Food, most of us are aware of the differences in the Hershey bar you grab as you’re checking out at the grocery store and the stuff you might get from the Godiva store in the mall on Valentine’s Day. However, from the moment I entered Kakawa Chocolate House, or, well, let’s back up, from the moment I dove into Kakawa’s website, while doing research for my day trip to Santa Fe, my cluelessness about what really makes “next level” chocolate became painfully apparent. I’ve quickly learned since then that the good stuff (the BEST stuff) may not come from a big, expensive factory full of fancy pants machines, but rather, from the tiny kitchens where its made by hand, by small groups of chocolatiers who care more about each and every batch of chocolates they produce than you or I might ever care when we eat it. All we know is that it’s something special. But, if you want to know more, they’re happy to teach you.

store1

Tony Bennett, the owner of Kakawa Chocolate House for the past five years, was in the fashion business when he bought the tiny shop nestled among the prolific art galleries along Paseo de Peralta. He was looking for a business opportunity, but hearing him talk about his team, and seeing his face light up when he looks around the shop, it’s clear he loves being there and he’s proud of every piece of chocolate produced.

“We don’t use any machines, other than the tempering machine… We blend all the chocolate in house.”

boh2

As I’m writing right now, though, I realize I’m burying the lead. Let’s talk about my “A-ha!” moment, which happened when I was handed a tiny mug of Zapoteca chocolate elixir topped with a generous dollop of house made whipped cream.

cup1
Swiss Miss Cocoa this is not. Made from 100% chocolate and a just a little coconut sugar, it’s bittersweet, fruity, and rich, and one sip tells you this is probably what chocolate is supposed to taste like.

board1
Kakawa has over 18 different elixir blends that include a few more modern takes, as well as traditional Mesoamerican blends like the Zapoteca, European blends based on historic recipes from the Italian and French royal courts (try the Marie Antoinette blend!) and even one developed by Thomas Jefferson. Their selection spans the history of chocolate, and if you get the sense that its past is as full, rich, and complex as the chocolate itself, you’d be right. I highly recommend reading through the origin story provided on the website as a great primer. If you’d like to dig a little deeper, The History Channel website has a super informative section on the history of chocolate that takes the story even further.

If, after doing all that reading, you’re ready to have your own “A-ha!” moment about chocolate, Kakawa ships their granulated elixir blends all over the U.S. via website ordering, and internationally by calling the shop.

20170105_090030_pano

Things in bowls…

As I write this, I’m listen to the popping and crackling of a fire burning in a little black stove in the corner of the room. It’s different from a fireplace, which, in my mind at least, evokes nostalgia and maybe a touch of romance more than anything else. But, the fire that burns tonight is one of necessity. It requires attention– poking, prodding, stoking, and feeding. It’s the fire that warms us, that heats the water for tea, that warms through chunks of leftover cornbread, and keeps a large pot of split pea soup bubbling away. This home is not without some modern amenities, but when this little stove can do so much with so little, it’s easy to forget that they’re there.  Like a ballerina dancing a steady, controlled adagio so slowly that you are somehow a little surprised when she’s made it to the other side of the stage, I’ve barely noticed that time has seemed to march backwards a little. I don’t feel inconvenience, or “without.”  Just… I’m not sure what the right word would be. Content? Sure? Serene? I do know I’ll miss that little wood stove when it’s time to move on.

My time here in Taos, so far, is making me thinky. Very, very thinky.

I’m thinking a lot today about things that cook in pots, and meals eaten out of bowls. Those soups and stews and braises cook for hours. They’re the things we cook when there is still so much work to be done. While chores are finished, projects moved forward, emails checked and answered, phone calls made, homework done, blog posts edited, snow to be shoveled… whatever it is that needs to be accomplished, these pots of things simmer and bubble away, filling the house with promises of an end in sight. When we finally sit down, bone and/or brain weary, to a bowl of comforting… whatever it is that’s been cooking in that pot all day, it feels like the logical, natural conclusion to something.

soup

Our soup feels somehow even more fulfilling because the peas, and the carrots, for that matter, came from the ground right outside the front door. It’s a big pot, and we’ve revisited it multiple times over the past couple of days. I’m not bored with it yet, and am actually a little sad knowing we’ll hit the end of it soon.

I ventured into town today, and, fortified against the cold with an Americano spiked with cinnamon and chile powder (called The Coyote), wandered around Taos’ central plaza. After a little bit of shopping, lunch was yet another meal in a bowl– a fiery green chile, thick with tomatoes and potatoes and a delicious broth that delivered on both heat and flavor.

20170107_134941

My server warned me, “It’s really spicy,” and kept coming back to check on me to make sure I was ok. “Geez, you’re a trooper.” I ate the whole bowl, and every last shred of the homemade tortillas that came with it. I’ll admit, it took another hour for the last vestiges of heat to fade away, so maybe I’m not so much a trooper as I am a glutton for punishment.

I’ve had some interesting conversations about food with the locals here. There’s a strange dichotomy that comes from living in a place that supports both a thriving locavore community as well as native culture, but also the hesitant necessity of big chains. I’m still learning, so maybe I’ll hold back on pontificating any further until I’ve gotten to dig in a little more. I really don’t think a week and a half will be nearly enough time to learn it all, but isn’t that the way? For now, I’ll just enjoy the lessons as they come. Hopefully there’s more to learn from the things that come in bowls.

Off I Grow!

Well, 2016 is done. It definitely had its ups and downs, both personally for me, and for the world. I, for one, am happy to see it in my rear view mirror. It wasn’t all bad, of course. I developed amazing friendships and learned a LOT about myself, and those are never bad things.

It’s time to look ahead, though. This is just a quick update to let you all know I have, indeed, hit the road. I left Colorado January 2nd, and am currently posted up in Taos, New Mexico. I’ll be here for about a week and a half, helping a friend with some winter chores for her little farm, making a day trip or two down to Santa Fe, and just generally learning as much as I can about the food and culture of the area while I’m here.

On my way here, heading down Highway 160, I came across this sign. I noticed it, drove past it, then felt that little voice inside me say, “Jordan. Go back and look again.”

grow

So I flipped a U-ey and went back. I looked again. I stared at that sign for a good five minutes. I know quite a few people who choose a word for themselves at the beginning of each year… something to help give direction and focus to their endeavors for the next 365 days. I’ve never really done that, but I think, at least for 2017, it’s a fairly apparent imperative (say that five times fast) that “Grow” is my word.

Here’s to growing… and learning about growing… and watching things grow.

Happy Thanksgiving!

For all of you celebrating the holiday, I hope it’s a great day full of laughter, good food, and not TOO much awkward conversation. 

The food of love

There has been a lot of discussion in recent days, and months, about rights. Constitutional rights. Human rights. Some of them are written down. Some of them are not. We just take for granted that we have them. Maybe we don’t even think about having some of them, because we’ve never been in a position to NOT have them.

No, I’m not about to get political. I promise. But, I wanted to show you a sign that hangs in the Right 2 Dream Too rest site, in downtown Portland, Oregon.

img_3235

The last letter up there is blocked, but you can probably tell it’s the word “sleep.” It says, “Sleep is a human right.”
Did you ever think about that, as you climbed into bed at night? I have been in the position of having to sleep in my car a few times over the course of my life, but still, even then, I had a car to sleep in. I could lock the doors. I had a pillow, and a blanket, and a relatively safe place to park so that I could sleep without being bothered. I could exercise my human right to sleep.

I say all of this to explain to you just what a place like the Right 2 Dream Too camp means to those who come there to sleep. As they come into the front gate, they check in with security. No weapons or drugs are allowed on the premises. If they don’t have their own bedding, a pillow and blanket are provided to them. And then, finally, they can lay their weary bodies down, close their eyes, and sleep. It is, as the organization’s website explains, “…a safe space to rest or sleep undisturbed for Portland’s unhoused community who cannot access affordable housing or shelter.” It’s there so that guests of the rest site can exercise their human right to sleep.

Early in the morning, on the last Saturday of October, under drizzly, gray Portland skies, Chef Ryan Spragg, Chef Skye Van Schetsen, and I  teamed up to serve guests of R2D2 breakfast from their on-site mobile kitchen. Under Chef Skye’s leadership, we’re members of an international group of chefs called Kitchen Warfare.

img_3226

Thanks to Suzanne Birch and the whole team at Birch Family Services in Portland, we were able to “go shopping” in the BFS food pantry, which provided us with about 90% of the supplies we needed to make the breakfast possible, including potatoes, onions, eggs, fresh pineapple and strawberries, coffee creamer, and enough bagels to fill the trunk of Skye’s car! The generous donors to our GoFundMe campaign helped pay for all the paper goods, forks, spoons, and serving utensils, plus the ever important coffee.

img_3199
img_3200

Thanks to Chef Javier at Urdaneta, a Portland tapas restaurant and Chef Ryan’s home base, we had a kitchen to use (very late into the night) to prep the ingredients for hash browns, and fresh fruit salad.

img_3220
img_3219
img_3217
Along with the hash browns, and fruit salad, we served scrambled eggs with bacon and burrata cheese, cinnamon pastries, bagels, and fresh brewed coffee.

img_3225
img_3234
As I mentioned in my last post, this was the second breakfast Kitchen Warfare’s had the privilege to serve at Right 2 Dream Too, and we’re hoping to work with them one more time in late spring of next year.  We’ve become quite fond of them. 🙂

img_3237

As for me, this experience was the final push I needed to pull the trigger on plans to hit the road next year and really dig into what I’m beginning to believe is a calling… to learn more about our food system through volunteer work on community farms and homesteads, and doing more extensive work with and for organizations that care for those dealing with hunger, food insecurity, and homelessness. I’ll be making stops in New Mexico, Texas, Arkansas, Chicago, the Pacific Northwest, my home state of Colorado, as well as central and northern California in 2017, and I really hope I’ll be able to expand my adventures into other parts of the country in 2018. Along the way, I’ll meet up with other members of the Kitchen Warfare team to join forces for more great projects, and of course, make some new friends.

This blog will evolve into a bit of a travel/food diary. That doesn’t mean I’ll stop cooking! No way! I’ll keep sharing as many of the yummy recipes I try as I can, but you’ll also see many of my stops between kitchens. Keep an eye on my Instagram and Facebook pages for pictures, videos, and updates, as well. I’m so excited for this journey, which is made so much better because I’ll get to share it with you all.