In the Fall Trips And Fall Comfort Food post, I wrote about some places I would like to visit this fall. One of those places I hoped to visit was French Broad Chocolate Lounge. Well, not only did I visit one bean to bar chocolate shop- I visited two. The other was Black Mountain Chocolate. I was able to visit some other great places also.
Day Trip to Asheville
I was a part of a group of ladies who decided to take a day trip to Asheville, NC- and I’m so glad we made our little excursion, because we had an INCREDIBLE time. We explored the wonderful beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The scenery was stunning and glorious. We stopped at a few of the overlook spots and also hiked the Craggy Gardens trail (Craggy Pinnacle) on the Blue Ridge Parkway. There were magnificent looking stone stairs to climb, and we encountered beautifully bizarre twisted trees along the way. One of the cutest sights on the hike was a small group of 5- and 6-year-olds with walking sticks, swiftly making their way along the trail with their parents tagging right behind them. They looked intent on reaching the mountain summit.
Soon after finishing our hike, we were off to experience Downtown Asheville- and what an experience it was! We strolled the downtown area for a few hours and stopped at several places. We ate at White Duck Taco where we ordered several varieties of tacos (Bangkok Shrimp, Shrimp & Grits, Jerk Chicken, & more) and Chai Pani where we enjoyed Thali (served with curry, basmati rice, and papadum made with chickpea flour) and Kathi Kabob Roll (chicken seared with tandoori spices wrapped in naan).
So Much to See and Enjoy
As we strolled downtown, we came across street performers as well as a number of street vendors. We went inside the Grove Arcade- but the locally owned shops in the building had already closed for the evening. We were still able to check out Grove Arcade’s thriving and busy Outdoor Artists Market. Our last stop- and my favorite place of all- was French Broad Lounge. I had been wanting to visit this chocolate lounge for the longest. The business was featured on a local TV program some years ago. The chocolatier was making truffles with olive oil, and I was like- “I gotta go there.” So, here I was…I finally made it to French Broad Lounge.
Personally, I think the chocolates were the highlight of the day trip. I bought a gift box which included four truffle flavors- Orange + Olive Oil + Fennel (dark chocolate ganache with fennel-infused olive oil and orange essential oil), Strawberry Balsamic (strawberry purée and balsamic vinegar in a dark chocolate coconut cream ganache; cacao nibs sprinkled on top), Lemongrass + Ginger (lemongrass, ginger and lime in a dark chocolate coconut cream ganache; topped with toasted coconut flake), and Fig & Port Truffle (figs roasted with port wine and clove in a dark chocolate cinnamon ganache). I also had a Honey Lavender Caramel- and, I just had to try the Liquid Truffle with Rose, Cardamom + Pistachio. Oh my goodness, it was WONDERFUL! It was like a mix between a rich, velvety chocolate mousse and hot cocoa. The pistachios are mixed throughout the entire drink. The only thing I would do differently the next time I order is to ask for a few pistachios to be sprinkled only on top. But, needless to say, I was in my own Chocolate Heaven.
Black Mountain Chocolate Tour: The Process of Making Chocolate
During my visit to Black Mountain Chocolate– I was with a group that was given a tour of the factory. Each of us got the chance to hold an actual cacao (cocoa) pod in our hand. We learned about the process it undergoes. The cacao pods are harvested and fermented. Once the pods are ripe, they’re removed from the cacao tree (cocoa tree) which is also called Theobroma Cacao, roughly translated it means “food of the gods”. The pods are cracked open and the seeds (called beans) are removed. The fermentation process begins.
Black Mountain receives the imported cacao beans from the Dominican Republic. When the beans arrive, they go onto a grate so that foreign matter – like twigs, stones, etc.- can be removed. The beans are then slowly roasted in a roaster. As the heat swells the beans, their husks (shells) burst. Those in our group were each given a whole bean to sample. I didn’t know what to expect of the flavor, but it was very robust…I actually liked it. The beans were poured into a winnowing machine where they were chopped into pieces (called cacao nibs).
The outer husks are removed during this step. The roasted nibs then undergo a grinding process. Cocoa butter is released, as a result. The nibs and sugar are ground down to very small particles, forming what’s called liquid chocolate. In a conche (large mixer), the tiny cocoa and sugar particles are evenly coated with the cocoa butter. This is the stage where it is officially called “chocolate”. The chocolate is tempered to give it an attractive sheen; it also hardens it a certain way so that it snaps.
Our tour ended with us sampling the chocolate. One of the samples was dark milk chocolate with goat cheese (Mountain Milk Bar), which I thought might have a pungent taste- but it had a mild flavor instead. My favorite was the Sea Salt Dark Chocolate Bar. And Wow! Their Cocoa Nib Brownies were awesome.
More Fall Excursions?
So, all in all, I enjoyed this year’s fall excursions. I think the choices in places to visit were spot on. I had such a great time, and I’m already thinking ahead to trips to take for next fall. And, I just might try to fit one or two more excursions in before the fall season officially ends.
RECIPES You’ll Love Tryin’ ❤