A Visit to the Empire of Artisanal Chocolate

Jillian: “Hello Mimi? This is Jillian from Zingerman’s Food Tours, I just wanted to let you know we’ll be arriving at your chocolate store in about half an hour.”
Mimi: “Wonderful, I’ll have dark-chocolate hot chocolate ready for you. Would you like fresh whipped cream with it?”

Now that’s my kind of conversation.

Two weekends ago, a few Zingerman’s Food Tour colleagues and I went north to the Leelanau Peninsula area of Michigan to meet with artisanal food producers. The Leelanau is not only incredibly beautiful, it’s also overflowing with passionately dedicated food producers and a strong locavore culture – which is why we’re putting together a domestic food tour there for Spring 2013.

One of our favorite stops of the weekend was at The Grocer’s Daughter – a small chocolate store tucked away on a rural road outside of Empire, a stone’s throw from the massive dunes and blue water of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Founder and chocolate-maker Mimi gave us a warm welcome.

She showed us her workspace, shared her story of how she got started, and plied us with tastes of her hand-crafted chocolates.

It’s hard to choose, but the candied orange peel dipped in dark chocolate was probably my favorite – an intense burst of flavor. But the marzipan in dark chocolate was not far behind, and then what about the real hot chocolate, the frozen chocolate fudgsicle, or the dark chocolate “puddle” with crystallized ginger? All delicious.

After spending an hour talking, tasting, and enjoying Mimi’s company, we said our good-byes, and with chocolate-inspired energy hiked a nearby dune to enjoy the view of Lake Michigan. Then we piled in the van to head back to Ann Arbor – well stocked with yet more chocolates from Mimi to sustain us during our drive.