Driving into Oregon from Mt. Shasta, California, the first thing I noticed was that the temperature dropped about 10 degrees. This was a welcome relief since Shasta had been hotter than anticipated. My dog and I were relieved to be heading to cooler climes especially since we’d been on the road for awhile. We had escaped Carson City’s high temperatures and forest fires and the smoke in the air.
I first become aware of Ashland, Oregon from best-selling author James Twyman, the peace troubadour and had wanted to visit for awhile. We crossed a bridge on Interstate highway 5 and the scenery was breathtakingly beautiful and green. I’m gonna love Oregon, I told the dog. She looked at me and agreed. She had that happy puppy smile on her face.
The next thing that struck me about Oregon as we pulled into a gas station was that I didn’t have to pump my own gas. This is state law. Impressive.
Decided to check out the Welcome Center and to my surprise, the people there were terrific and friendly. Imagine that. And they welcomed the dog and fed her treats. She was happy and settled down to lick any approaching feet. With their help, we found a suitable motel and found out about some of the chocolate opportunities awaiting us. I hadn’t realized yet that the Ashland area would turn out to be a chocolate mecca, for a small community.
The Visitor’s Center folks told us about Harry and David in Medford, Cary’s in Grants Pass up the road a bit, and an organic farm, Rogue Creamery, that was featured in the Chocolate Festival at the Ashland Springs Hotel every year. I already knew about Dagoba and was anxious to try out a few luscious samples.
We checked into the motel and settled in. We found out about a music festival and decided to explore the town of Ashland. My dog made a lot of new friends, and even sat on the lap of a man in a wheelchair and licked an infant’s feet with the permission of the parents. Not surprisingly, we got lost a few times, walking back to the car and then once in the car. But the people were so friendly, it didn’t matter too much.
When we got back to the motel, I read through the motel’s little local guidebook, and noticed another chocolate company to check out. Silly Rabbit Chocolate Company. Little did I know that this would be the BEST chocolate I have EVER eaten, far surpassing some of the better known companies by a mile. Apparently, the company was right down the street, too. Convenient and easy, too.
I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived at Silly Rabbit. There were balloons outside and inside a girl dressed up like a bunny, ears and all. Had I been transported to Chocolate Bunny Heaven? I told her that I was writing a chocolate travel guide and she introduced me to the founder and chief chocolateer B. Sterling. B was a hoot and let me taste some of the most amazing creations I have ever had the good fortune to gobble up. He infuses each chocolate with a wonderful sense of humor, good taste and fresh top quality and often locally grown ingredients, herbs and essential oils. B is a graduate of Ecole Lenotre School of Fine Cuisine in Paris) and has twenty years of creative excellence in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Portland. B was named the Pastry Chef of the Year Award from the James Beard Association.
Apparently, Silly Rabbit had just opened its doors a few months before. I told B once the word spread about his offerings, everyone would come to Ashland to visit Silly Rabbit and forget about Shakespeare!
Each tasty treat is homemade, imaginative, innovative, plus they offer free samples every day. Some of the wonders that I noted included chocolate dipped fortune cookies, hand painted bitter chocolate, with Siberian ginseng, Damiana flowers, and Egyptian jasmine, and the Syrah grape wine from Pascal, a local winery, B reduces the wine down to its essence, mixes wine with chocolate, adds Chinese Szechuan peppercorn, and voila. Divine chocolates.
Now for some of the most amazing chocolate samples I’ve ever had… B gave me hot chocolate to drink. No, i know what you are thinking, but this was nothing like the hot chocolate you get at the ice skating rink. This hot chocolate was totally addicting… made with real Xocaitl, just like the Mayans used to drink. Mixed with French dark chocolate cocoa powder, Jacksonville, Oregon wildflower honey, choptle chili pepper, Mexican chocolate, and salt, there are no words to describe how utterly delicious and with a bit of a kick!
Now I don’t even like white chocolate so the next sample really surprised me. It was made with wild jasmine flowers, white chocolate, local Jacksonville, Oregon wildflower honey and lavendar, alaea, sundried fish from Hilo, Hawaii… so many flavors rushed into my mouth, the aromas swirling all at one time. Are you getting the picture that this is not your supermarket variety chocolate. I had died and gone to chocolate heaven.
And there were more samples to indulge in! The blood orange candy made with fresh basil leaves, and French white chocolate (Valrona), bravissimo.
And the caramel flora, italian floria, diSecilia, has a honeysuckle, jasmine or magnolia-like flavor, Fruity and fragrant, I felt like I could not possibly sample anymore of the good stuff, I was in such a state of chocolate euphoria!
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