Askinosie Chocolate 101 at Jeni's

Shelley Mann, Columbus Alive

Askinosie Chocolate serves as the base for a pretty terrific Jeni's ice cream flavor, and the scoop shops in town also sell Askinosie chocolate bars. So I jumped at the opportunity to join the Jeni's team for a primer on the Missouri-based chocolate company. Shawn Askinosie was in town and offered us an overview of his company before leading us through the fabulous array of chocolates pictured here.

One of the first chocolates we sampled was actually not an Askinosie chocolate but Hershey's dark chocolate, that familiar friend Shawn refers to as a "taste memory." It's remarkable just how different it tastes from Askinosie's, which are made with single-origin cocoa beans. My favorite were the basic Dark Milk Chocolate, sourced from the Phillipines, that Jeni uses in her Askinosie Dark Milk Chocolate flavor. Its cocoa content is a little lower than the other bars, so it's not at all bitter, and it's made with goat's milk, which gives it an alluring complexity.

I also loved the Dark Chocolate + Crunchy Sugar Crystals & Vanilla Bean, a collaboration bar designed by Zingerman's. It's not as sexy as some of the other Askinosie collaboration bars (made with things like black licorice and ancho chili powder), but I really dug the rustic, coarse texture that resulted from the chocolate undergoing minimal refinement.

Learning more about Shawn Askinosie's social entrepreneurship was an eye-opener too. His company has put sustainable nutrition and empowerment programs in place in the villages where they source cocoa beans, and he also shares net profits with the farmers who grow the beans. A Chocolate University program engages children in Springfield, Missouri, in the process of making chocolate.

Next time you stop by a Jeni's, you can support the Askinosie cause by buying a bar (or three). I highly recommend it.

Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams