Posts tagged Michigan
Mindo Chocolate Makers is a local company in Dexter, Michigan that hand processes the best tasting chocolate that I’ve tried. A family owned business that only started in 2009, Mindo is making a huge splash in the area, with several local food businesses preferring to use Mindo’s single-origin chocolate due to the hard working Mindo Chocolate team.
Barbara Wilson, a busy lady who holds a master’s degree in public health, was able to sneak in a few minutes to provide us with an interview. Her husband, Joe “Jose” Meza, worked his way through college at Eastern Michigan University as an auto mechanic. After earning his degree, he opened a Volvo repair shop in a garage behind his parents house in 1977. Since then, Wilson and her husband have expanded the company into a family of auto service businesses under the arborMotion brand.
In 2004, Wilson’s husband decided to visit his home country of Ecuador after being away for over 40 years. On his trip, Meza had an opportunity to see a lot of the country, but he fell in love with the lush highlands on the west side of the Andes mountains in the rural area of Mindo.
On Meza’s return visit to Mindo, he brought his family to show them the wonderful place where he might retire. They purchased a piece of land in Mindo in 2007, with the intention of building a winter home. Being serial entrepreneurs, the family decided to turn the home into a cafe with living space above it, named El Quetzel de Mindo, after one of the many colorful native birds of the region. When the family isn’t staying there, the rooms are available for rent.
“The land is near the main square in Mindo, but far enough away from town that you only hear birds and the sound of the river flowing”, Wilson said. The family now spends part of the year in Mindo and the rest in Dexter, Michigan.
Mindo Chocolate Makers got started when the cafe began selling brownies that were extremely popular. Wilson decided that the next step was to make the brownies even more delicious by using better chocolate. The husband and wife team found a small farm in Ecuador that sold cocoa beans and bought a 50 pound bag.
The first time that we made chocolate, it was the most delicious chocolate that we ever tasted.
Again, not being able to resist their entrepreneurial spirit, the couple decided that they had to share the chocolate with everyone back home, and they started a two country chocolate making business.
Mindo Chocolate Makers purchases their cocoa beans from an Ecuadorian farmer who is also a local medical doctor. Wilson and her team select only the best condition shade grown cocoa pods from Arriba Nacional cacao trees on the certified organic farm. Ensuring that the beans are extracted from the high quality pods quickly, ensures a premium chocolate that you won’t find from a larger chocolate manufacturer.
The beans are fermented, dried, and ground into nibs in Ecuador. The nibs are then flown to Dexter, Michigan for further processing.
In Dexter, the nibs are ground with a stone grinder into chocolate liqueur. Some of the liqueur is separated into cocoa butter and 100% non-alkalized cocoa powder. The remaining liqueur is combined with organic evaporated cane juice and cocoa butter to make hand formed chocolate bars.
We are one of the very few chocolate makers who select the beans from the farmers, ferment, dry and roast the beans ourselves in order to follow the entire process from the moment the beans come out of the pod until they are made into chocolate bars. We make our own cocoa butter and cocoa powder. We do not add soy lecithin to our chocolate and we make our chocolate in a wheat free facility.
Wilson is mostly self taught from the Internet, books, and information gleaned from other chocolate makers, but she has also attended courses at Ecole Chocolat, a school run by master chocolatier Pam Williams.
Wilson says that she is inspired by Patric chocolate, Amano chocolate, Askinosie chocolate, Taza chocolate, Theo chocolate, and DeVries chocolate.
My passion is go to great lengths to learn how to develop the best possible flavored chocolate.
I’m not sure there needs to be any improvement. I had a chance to try Mindo Chocolate’s 67% chocolate bar, which came from their 2010 summer harvest, at the Ann Arbor Homegrown Festival 2010. The chocolate was very smooth, and not bitter at all. It was the best tasting chocolate that I’d ever tasted, and I’ve tried many of the bars available at Zingerman’s and Whole Foods. If I can source these bars for my own cupboards on a regular basis, I may never buy a different brand. The chocolate bars are also reasonably priced.
You can purchase the bars at Zingerman’s Roadhouse and the cocoa powder at Zingerman’s Next Door, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Chocolate from Mindo Chocolate Makers is my new favorite chocolate and is one of the few hand crafted single-origin chocolate bars available locally.
Please check out the Mindo Chocolate Makers Web site for more information and to find the local shops using premium Mindo Chocolate in their goodies. The company’s Facebook page is often updated with events such as tours and tastings. They have an event tomorrow evening, November 2 at 6:30pm, called “Chocolate Making from the Cocoa Bean” at their Dexter kitchen where you can experience the processing of chocolate from bean to bar by their chocolate maker Dan Soebbing. They have some tasting sessions coming up on Saturday, November 20 at Lone Oak Vineyards in Grass Lake, if you miss the first event.
MWP would like to thank Barbara for taking the time out of her busy day to answer our interview questions. We wish Joseph and Barbara all the best with their plans, whether they keep starting new businesses or finally retire to Mindo. Their hard work at starting this business, ensuring such a wonderful organic process, and marketing and sharing their wonderful new chocolate is very inspiring.
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The Ann Arbor District Library is celebrating the Day of the Dead in 2010 by presenting a set of diverse artistic events around the photography exhibit “Curanderas: The Heart and Hands of Coatlicue” by Juan Javier Pescador. In the best tradition of Day of the Dead celebrations in the United States by people of Mexican descent, the AADL will feature different aspects of Mexican and Mexican American cultures. On November 1st a presentation by Juan Javier Pescador on the history and transformations of the Day of the Dead will be followed by an Aztec Dance group performance from East Lansing, led by Estrella Torrez, a professor at Michigan State University. In addition Jacqueline Moran, cultural representative of the Mexican Consulate in Detroit, will inaugurate the photography exhibit.
The exhibit will be showing October 19 – November 29, with the opening reception on November 1, at 7:00pm EST. The Ann Arbor District Library main branch is located at 343 S. Fifth Ave., in downtown Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Information quoted from press release.)
MWP will be attending this event. Please say “Hi”, if you see us there!
Gallery Project has put together a wonderful multimedia exhibit, titled “What’s So Funny?”, where artists were challenged to submit pieces of artwork that are “humorous”. The substantial exhibit showcases the works of 34 artists, many of whom are local, who answered the call. The art on display expresses humor along the spectrum of dark to joyous, and ranges from immature to intelligent.
You’re likely to stand in front of at least one of the pieces, asking “What’s so funny?”, while your friends walk away laughing hysterically. It’s obvious that not everybody cracks up at the same thing. Humor is a wonderful thing to explore.
Gallery Project, one of the few actual galleries in Ann Arbor, has a beautiful downtown space. Gloria Pritschet, gallery co-founder, says that the gallery is operating in its first year without guaranteed funding, as their primary backer had only promised funding for the first five years. They’re now operating into their sixth year. The gallery hosts nine collaborative, themed exhibits a year, with themes and submission requests offered well in advance.
I attended the opening reception ceremony with Jason Wright, our researcher, and Carrie Ann Knauss, our soon to be guest blogger, was our guide. As the three of us approached the gallery, professional painters were just finishing repainting the trim on the outside of the building in a dark teal color. There were wet paint signs stuck everywhere on the windows, and several passers by remarked that it seemed like a marketing gimmick, referring to freshly painted canvases inside.
We showed up right as the ceremony started, and had a chance to talk to the gallery co-founders and directors, photographer Gloria Pritschet, and painter Rocco DePietro. They were very friendly, answered our questions in abundant detail, were interested in our impressions of the exhibit, and were appreciative of our interest in the arts. As the artists arrived, Pritschet and DePietro were very helpful at introducing us while managing to also successfully greet each guest and hold many in-depth conversations.
As we wandered from front to back, the three of us couldn’t help but start a discussion about what we each found funny and not so funny. The show was obviously doing its job, and if you go, we recommend bringing your friends and discussing the pieces together. You’ll learn a lot about humor and what it means to yourself and others.
The only piece that we could all agree on was an oil painting by Nathan Boyer titled “The World As Will”. Actually, it wasn’t the painting itself, which was quite aesthetically beautiful while evoking a dark feeling of dread, but underneath the painting was a small 13″ cathode ray tube television playing a DVD. The video was of a very animated man, which we can only assume was the artist, dressed as the type of insect like alien you might see on a children’s show. His rambling was absurdly funny and he was greenscreened in front of a larger version of the painting.
I’m quite a big computer geek, so I was drawn to a piece of installation art by Anthony Fontana titled “#sculpturefail”.
Using the word “fail” after a word has been a frequently used Internet meme evolved from the term “epic fail”, to indicate a situation where an attempt at something has resulted in utter failure. I can imagine the artist trying to come up with the most absurd piece of modern sculpture to fit the name, finally settling on just grabbing a bunch of unsharpened pencils into a bundle, letting go, and thinking, “Art, lolz.”
The piece of art makes a social statement, and a funny one, making light of both the art and Internet cultures.
While I was photographing the scuplturefail, Jason and Carrie Ann had disappeared. I found them in the back of the gallery, in the area where set designer Vince Mountain and audio engineer Frank Pahl, had put together an eclectic combination of kinetic art, light, and sound with performance by actor Malcolm Tulip.
Carrie Ann was engaged in a conversation with Tulip, or at least was being engaged by the amusingly talkative actor. Tulip was dressed in a tuxedo and wore glasses, a fez, and multiple fake handlebar mustaches. While holding a brandy glass, and in a drunken English accent that reminded me of Dudley Moore from “Arthur” but with the posh manners of Mr. Belvedere, Tulip talked the three of us up while showing us around his lovely “Automatic Bachelor Pad”.
Never breaking character, Tulip told us about the wonderful inventions in his bachelor pad, giving us a drunken Englishman’s interpretation of the devices and decorum. He demonstrated the “Self-Emptying Ash Tray” to us with quite a bit of amusement in his voice, which was quite catchy and we all found ourselves laughing at the show.
At one point, Tulip invited our lovely Carrie Ann to sit down and read one of his fine books, which she took him up on. I was able to snap a picture of the two of them, with Tulip reflected in the mirror.
The chap was quite chatty, which can happen when one lives alone, but we managed to evade his small talk and headed back out to the main floor of the gallery.
Jason and I stared at the remarkably carved wood sculpture of a rabbit for quite some time, but the joke was over our heads. Unfortunately we didn’t notice the obvious shape of the piece of wood or consider one of the many names given to bunnies.
Just curious to see who had carved the beautiful piece, we looked at the program, at which time we saw the title. “Oh!” we exclaimed, as the punchline hit us. Jason and I found it to be quite a clever joke, and we quickly dragged Carrie Ann over to show her the sculpture, which had been carved by Todd Frahm. We told her about the piece and its title, and waited for the punchline to sink in. I think that Carrie Ann laughed more at our amusement than at the punchline. Another example of how we all find different things funny, and humor strikes us all in different ways.
In the basement was some fun art from Tim Péwé, like the piece titled “Gator Emporium”, and some rather creepy art by the same artist titled “Shasta”, which made me think of what a nightmare would be like if it was drawn by comic artist Mike Judge of “King of the Hill” and “Beavis and Butt-head” fame.
Before we left, we had a chance to talk to Paul Marquardt, a multi-disciplined artist with 35 years of experience, that had driven down from Kalamazoo for the opening ceremony.
The mixed media piece is constructed from a digital print on taut canvas and an electric rocker motor, and it highlights a social observation that people will use one word when they should be using the other word. Paul had a few words to say about his motivation behind the piece.
People will often use the word taunt when they meant taut. Very common. Very common mistake, and I have to say in my younger years, I did it a few times too. So it has some resonance with me, and it has resonance when i hear other people do it.
I actually had no idea that these two words were mistakenly interchanged so commonly. I don’t have many conversations where either of these words is used. I do often see people misuse the word “defiantly” to mean “definitely”. The piece has a motion element to it when it’s plugged in, so our photo doesn’t do it justice. You should check out this very smart piece for yourself, at this very fine gallery that deserves your patronage. There are a ton more pieces of fine art at this show, that we didn’t have time to highlight.
Humor is a personal experience. It strikes us each in its own way, which we seem to have little control over. We might be sore about something one day, and be ready to laugh about it the next, and we might be laughing more than our friend who never shared the same experience. Even if we can’t all agree on what’s funny, it’s more fun to disagree with smiles on our faces.
Gallery Project is located at 215 S. Fourth Ave, in downtown Ann Arbor, Michigan. The “What’s So Funny” exhibit will be showing through November 28, but we recommend that you go out and see it as soon as possible because you don’t want to put it off and take a chance of missing it. The gallery is open every day except Monday. Please give the gallery a call at 734-997-7012 for more information, or visit their Web site.
MWP would like to thank the gallery’s directors for putting together such a wonderful and thought provoking exhibit, and for being so gracious. We’d also like to thank the artists for contributing their time and passion into this collaborative event. Please click on the “I HEART THIS” button to show your love for the great “What’s So Funny?” exhibit.