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Tastemakers: The Grocer‘s Daughter/Toast the season

Rick Coates - November 9th, 2009
Tastemakers: The Grocer‘s Daughter/Toast the season
Rick Coates 11/9/09

Grocer’s Daughter Chocolate
When Mimi Wheeler launched her Grocer’s Daughter Chocolate venture five years ago in Empire she simply wanted to blend her love for dark chocolate with her passion for the edibles grown in her garden. What started as a part-time retirement business has now turned into a full time profession for Wheeler. Her chocolate business has built a following around the country. She finds herself working seven days a week to fulfill mail order requests and the demands at stores in the region that carry her chocolates.
But for Wheeler her passion goes beyond making and selling chocolate, she loves to talk about it. She is in demand around the state giving seminars and teaching chocolate making classes. In her spare time she travels the world to learn about chocolate and spends a couple weeks each year in the rainforests of Ecuador with the farmers that grow the cocoa beans she uses. If that is not enough Wheeler has a garden in her backyard on the Leelanau Peninsula where she grows edible flowers and herbs that she uses in her chocolate.
Her passion has helped to launch an artisan chocolate community in Northern Michigan and they even held a chocolate event last spring in Traverse City. When asked about the competition she smiles and chuckles, “There is always room for more chocolate.” Wheeler doesn’t see the others as competitors, she likens it to the wine industry in the region where winemakers see competitors as collaborators and partners versus competitors. “I hope to see a chocolate trail map someday for up here like the wineries have done.”
Wheeler is constantly experimenting with flavors. Who would have imagined sea salt and chocolate would make a great pairing? Another great truffle is the Mayan that blends cinnamon and spices from Chili. Wheeler covers a gamut of fruit flavors, recently debuting pomegranate.
As for what pairs best with chocolate it is best enjoyed by itself. The complexities of chocolate typically are overshadowed by beverages or other foods. But Wheeler recommends a good red wine or a locally brewed cup of coffee or local tea.
Congratulations to Mimi Wheeler and Grocer’s Daughter Chocolate on five years of success. --Rick Coates

Toast The Season

While many will focus their attention to the woods and fields this weekend in search of that illustrious big buck, others will head to the wineries on the Leelanau Peninsula for their annual Toast The Season wine trail weekend. The wineries of Leelanau Peninsula formed the first wine trail in Michigan 10 years ago creating four weekend trail events each year. The popularity of these events grew rapidly attracting 600 to 800 visitors and locals alike to each event. Toast The Season became so popular they now host it over two consecutive weekends. This self guided wine tour will conclude this weekend.
Toast the Season wine trail tour features a special wine pour, accompanied by holiday themed gourmet food, at 16 of the Leelanau Peninsula member wineries. At your starting winery you will be given a commemorative glass, a unique holiday ornament and a holiday gift basket from the members of Sleeping Bear Gourmet (a group of local, fair trade and organic food producers).
“This is a great time for families and friends to gather to celebrate the upcoming season and even get started on their holiday shopping,” said Adam Satchwell of Shady Lane Cellars. “Wines and other items from Leelanau Peninsula tasting rooms are the perfect gift for the holidays. Our wines compliment holiday meals, cocktail parties or any gathering and they make great gifts.”
Wineries in the region are wrapping up the 2009 harvest and Toast The Season is a great opportunity to converse with winemakers and others about this year’s vintage. To obtain tickets or to learn more about Toast The Season check out --Rick Coates

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