We are blessed in our little town to have an amazing food community. Amazing restaurants pepper our downtown streets, the farmers’ market is packed to the gills with handmade pastas, grass-fed meats and gourmet treats.
One of those gourmet treat stalls is the award-winning Evolve, run by the dynamic duo of Christy and Shannon Fox.
I first met Christy and Shannon at our bustling farmers market. Their bright green display case caught my eye, and a sample of their lavender truffle (from their website: “A fresh breeze of local lavender blossoms, organic lemon swirled together in a 28% fair trade white chocolate, garnished with an edible lavender bud”) knocked my socks off.
Since then, I have had the pleasure of trying their rainbow marshmallows (for pride week!), their “Risque” truffle (even with my sensitivity to capsacin, was TOTALLY WORTH IT), a handful of other liqueur-infused truffles (not all at once!) and their Krampus brownie (which is made with Krampus-soaked hazelnuts from the making of Krampus liqueur at Chuckanut Bay Distillery).
They’ve been mentioned in nearly every food-related publication in the Northwest, and they tout their truffles at nearly every local event I’ve attended in the past year.
So when they invited me into the kitchen where they make their truffles, I tried not to be too excited and only may have yelled happily once (when I was home by myself, to not scare the children).
You would never know their nondescript building holds a chocolate haven, unless you’ve been told it’s there. The sign on the door is only visible when you walk right up to it, so it’s like a secret lair for people with chocolate superpowers. (They do share the space with Bellingham Pasta Company, so this is what I imagine heaven is like and I will be moving in tomorrow.)
As I walked in out of the frigid temperatures we have been
cursing enjoying lately, Shannon was preparing some chai tea for the “Chai-colate”, enveloping the space with a heady aroma of exotic spices and black tea. Christy was training a new employee in the fine art of marshmallow making, adding a few drops of peppermint to the whirling beaters and wafting that minty smell into the akready-chai-scented air. The truffle rolling squad was laughing and chatting across the room, working on a batch of the lemon lavender I enjoy so much.
I only had 45 minutes, but wanted to hang out forever.
I started my visit with Shannon, who was making her chai. Shannon has done a fair bit of traveling and learned from tea vendors in India and has taken that knowledge and created a melange of aromatics and cream that warms you from the belly.
She starts with the spices. Now, she navigates chai totally by feel. If she’s in more of a spicy mood, she adds a touch more of this and a touch less of that.
You can find a chai recipe anywhere on the internet that may be almost as good as Shannon’s, and that would be fine. Use the freshest spices you can; if you buy them in bulk at your local community co-op or spice shop, that’s probably your best and most inexpensive bet.
Shannon has a couple of awesome tips for chai that I had never heard before:
- Simmer the spices in the water first. 30 minutes to 2-1/2 hours, depending on how strong you want.
- Last 5 minutes, strain the spices out and put the tea in. Loose leaf is best. DO NOT DISCARD THE SPICES YET
- Take whatever dairy you are using (coconut milk, half and half, etc) and put the spices in it while you steep the tea. Adds an extra zing to your chai!
As I sipped on the chai, Christy started making the sipping chocolate.
Now this sipping chocolate is not your average hot chocolate. It’s basically the liquid version of a chocolate bar. You want tiny cups of this, not huge steaming mugs. It’s so rich and velvety that a little goes a long way!
Christy started with
(Serves about 6 three-ounce cups)
- 1 can full fat coconut milk
- 1/4 cup organic cane sugar
- 1/4 tsp vanilla powder (vanilla extract is also ok)
- pinch of sea salt (they use alder-smoked, but plain salt is ok too!)
- 7 ounces good quality chocolate (the Evolve ladies use Theo chocolate)
- Add the coconut milk, sugar, vanilla and salt to a medium-sized saucepan and bring to a boil, whisking occasionally.
- Lower heat to a simmer, and add chocolate, one piece at a time. Whisk until each piece is incorporated.
- Continue simmering until mixture is thick and coats the back of a spoon.
Peppermint marshmallows are optional…but I have a recipe here that you can use if you feel so inclined! (just add a splash of peppermint extract to the vanilla bean recipe, or use 4-5 drops of peppermint essential oils)
Christy and Shannon also have another sweet version of this decadent drink: The Chai-colate.
I mentioned it at the beginning of this post, but these ladies are really genius. They combine sipping chocolate with chai at a 1:1 ratio, and it is just heavenly.
We will be having a little of each of these at our Christmas Eve wind down, and I’ll be asking Shannon and Christy if I can hang out with them again soon.
Gotta get my chocolate fix!