About 5 weeks ago, we escaped from the asylum! Shhh, don’t tell! (We made it back in without much disruption anyway.) While we were out, we took a trip a bit past New England… visiting many of the wonderful purveyors of yummy items we wish to sell at Curio + many of our wonderful parents and friends. It was a great chance to take a step away from construction and get a little perspective and fresh air (as well as frequent and celebrated run ins with a shower, television, and clean bed sheets!).
In typical fashion, we crammed way too much into each leg of the journey… starting with our road trip from Northampton, Mass to our first final destination in Alexandria, VA.
Along the way, we swung by Philadelphia for a chocolate date with our new friends at Shane’s Confectionery… and, later that day, wound up in rural Maryland to drop off our old duct mini-split system to a guy from Craig’s List. That paid for the gas for the whole trip – not bad!
For those of you avid Eliza Spelled Backwards followers, you’ll remember that Fitz and I visited this delightful candy shop in December to buy a display fridge. We were lucky to arrive days after the opening of their new drinking chocolate cafe in the back of the shop. Here a gentle, well-spoken man named Kevin prepared drinks from a cacophony of jars, spices, and copper instruments. But, what struck us and held us to the moment like moths to a flame was his Mexican metate stone and what this bearded man was grinding on it: cacao.
Much like coffee, cacao “beans” are really the seeds of a plant. And, much like coffee, these magical seeds are roasted – ground – and turned into a highly addictive substance we humans adore: chocolate! The roasted nibs are “winnowed” (a romantic term for the removal of the shell)… the shells are tossed and the “nibs” are ground, combined with cocoa butter (derived from the cacao / cocoa bean as well) and sugar, then refined + conched (even distribution of ingredients) + tempered (staying power!). It’s a lot of science. And we’re still wrapping our heads around the details.
Needless to say, the parallels with coffee are enough to entice us over to “the dark side.” It’s hard to put my finger on it exactly but we just know when something makes sense for Curio. Cacao is one of those things. So was cold-pressed juice. (Coffee was obvious.) I’ll never forget the moment we discovered cold-pressed juice or the details that unraveled to place the idea for doing this in Curio. Similarly, cacao had an “ah-ha!” moment and we’re in the midst of the unravel as we speak. (More to come!)
But, on with the trip! We arrived in Alexandria where we reconnected with a darling friend, Neil, and his (even more darling!) girlfriend Ankita… as well as my dad and step-mom who I hadn’t seen in a year and a half!
Our walk about Alexandria:
Central to our visit was our trip to M.E. Swing’s, the roastery where Neil holds the title of reigning “Director of Coffee.” He’s pretty much a big deal. And that’s awesome because I’ve known him for quite some time… back when the 90’s were still a dull – and only acutely distant – roar… when we enacted scenes of “cafe life” against a background of faded couches, Monin syrups, and 1am closings. When friendships were made the old-fashioned way and parceled out over 8 semesters of part-time commitment and long-term intention. The only difference was —> we actually kept in touch! Which is pretty amazing for 2 decidedly distracted and easily misguided souls. (I’ll tell ya what held us together… it was the coffee!). Truly. Somehow we both remained in the world of this mysterious little bean — he went on to built quite the career, landing this job in Alexandria a couple of years ago.
So Fitz and I took some time to delve into the details at Swing’s, mulling them over for Curio’s future:
Since we were in the area, we also popped over to Washington D.C. to see the cherry blossoms:
After a healthy dose of sightseeing, we said goodbye (way too soon!) to my parents — but not until after they off-loaded a few antiques to Curio’s growing collection. We situated way too many farm implements, a beautiful typewriter, and several odds and (odd) ends into the car and headed to Pennsylvania to see Fitz’ parents… stopping along the way for even more odd ends in Altoona, PA… Berwick, PA… and Schmokin, PA. The diamond in the rough was Schmokin – where we met the incredible Harry of (Harry) Wilson Laboratories… and his delightful trove of treasures. I’ll save the opening of that chest for another post but, suffice it say, this was a packed day and a packed car!
Once safely sequestered at Fitz’ parents home, we sorted the deluge of trinkets and gadgets / gizmos / whozits / whatzits / thing-em-a-bops ETC… With all these new treasures in tow, we most certainly need a bigger car… so guess who got unearthed from the barn? …Frank! Our 1966 one-of-a-kind Volkswagon:
Whew! What a vacation?