Warning: This is a post about chocolate and I am obsessed with the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory with Gene Wilder. Expect random references to and quotes from this movie throughout this post. Sorry, it couldn’t be helped.
Who doesn’t love chocolate? I mean, I suppose there are some people who don’t love chocolate, but there’s something wrong with those people. Maybe that was harsh. If you don’t like chocolate, you probably won’t care to enter the raffle at the end of this post for free chocolate (that’s ok, more for everyone else!), but you might enjoy this story about how Bay Area local chocolatier, Jessica Osterday, got her start, so I should probably stop insulting you now. Plus, you never know — once you find out that chocolate can actually be a health food, you might just jump into that chocolate river after all! (Come with me, and you’ll be in a world of pure imagination!)
Willy Wonka meets Holistic Health in Jessica Osterday
Jessica Osterday feeds her artistic fire by creating unique flavor combinations for her budding business Gracias Chocolate. She uses only the best ingredients, adding nutritive touches like pure maca powder (affiliate link) and unexpected flavors like truffle oil — ingredients that aren’t typically included in your average chocolate bar that ‘give it a little kick.’ She’s passionate about the concept of chocolate as a healing food, as am I, which is why I chose to share her beautiful, hand-made chocolates with you. Also, they’re delicious — scrumdiddlyumptious even!
I asked Jessica a few questions to get the ball rolling on this post, and there were some things I thought just sounded better coming from her, so I’ll start with a quote from her before I share her story and tell you how much I love this chocolate.
“There is no doubt in my mind why my path has led me to create chocolate. I have the privilege of sharing something that makes people happy. Because chocolate has such a dynamic flavor profile, I get to engage my spontaneity and creativity, formulating different flavor experiences by adding interesting taste combinations to each bar. It is truly a pleasure to create and share more beauty with the world through chocolate.”
Gracias Chocolate: Osterday’s Golden Egg
Jessica studied massage and body healing techniques alongside her more traditional undergraduate work, which exposed her to new ideas and ways of exploring the senses — including lickable wallpaper and fizzy lifting drink (just kidding). Learning healing arts allowed her to experience her body and her life more consciously — which led to an active pursuit of creativity in all aspects of life, including food. She worked with amazing chefs and food creators who helped open and develop her palette during her studies, and eventually she caught the bug and decided to enter the world of chocolate-making.
Playing in the kitchen has inspired her unique flavor combinations, including the Citrus-Habanero with Hazelnuts and the Fig Balsamic with Black Salt, which Jessica says “have a way of opening up like time-released flavor bombs in your mouth.” What a delectable way to experience chocolate! And I can vouch for these flavor bomb combinations. This chocolate is a truly unique experience! So far, my favorite flavor is the Pecans and Nibs (pictured below), but of course, these things are subject to change at a moment’s notice — strike that! reverse it! this way please!
“Above all,” Jessica says, “I want to create an incredible taste experience with every bite of chocolate.” And on that front, she’s succeeded — without any help from Oompa Loompas.
Is Chocolate Really Healthy?
Chocolate is more than just an indulgence. It’s an actual food stuff. You’ve probably never noticed this, but candy is taxed at the grocery store, while pure chocolate isn’t. That’s because chocolate is a food, while candy is just sugar with no nutritional benefits — put another way, ‘Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker.’
Well made dark chocolate retains a rich antioxidant profile, offering the same polyphenols you find in tea, red wine, certain berries, herbs, spices, and veggies. (Check out this chart that ranks foods rich in these potent phytonutrients. Cocoa powder is pretty high on that list!)
Chocolate is also thought to increase the serotonin and dopamine responses in the brain, which means eating it could give us a little boost of “happy chemicals” from time to time.
Check the Label
Unfortunately, so much chocolate on the market today is made with unnecessary additives that can take away from the benefits of this superfood. Genetically modified soy lecithin, processed sugars, and possibly even waxes and preservatives can find their way into even the pricey chocolates on the shelves of Whole Foods Market and fancy chocolate shops. It’s on this front that Gracias Chocolate is different.
“I wanted to create a product that was pure, so that I can share the PUREST effect and the most good for our bodies through eating chocolate. We deserve to eat good food that makes us happy and helps our bodies feel good.”
Jessica has chosen to sweeten each of her chocolate bars with coconut sugar and maple sugar — this might be my favorite feature of Gracias Chocolate. It has become easier to find GMO-free/soy-free chocolate chips, but even those are sweetened with processed white sugar. I love that Gracias Chocolate brings whole food sweeteners into the mix, offering a truly pure form of enjoyable chocolate.
Gracias Chocolate is vegan (with the exception of two bars that include local honey), soy-free and gluten-free, and each bar contains 10% Maca, which is a superfood grown in the Andes that helps to heal the adrenals, balance hormones, and increase overall vitality. Gracias Chocolate gets it organic cacao from an heirloom cacao tree called Arriba Nacional, which only grows in Ecuador. All of the ingredients in their base chocolate are organic and fair trade except the maple sugar (which comes from Butternut Mountain Farm in Morrisville, Vermont) and the Himalayan Pink Salt.
Pairing Gracias Chocolate with Food and Drink
I’ve enjoyed these chocolates after dinner for many a meal, from roasted pork butt to pesto veggie pasta, but mostly I’ve devoured them sitting on my couch doing absolutely nothing else but focusing on the flavors. I love the idea of pairing wine with chocolate, but Jessica has even better ideas in her felt top hat of chocolatey wonder and imagination.
I asked Jessica to offer some food and drink pairings for her unique chocolates, and she graciously offered some absolutely decadent suggestions. Sign up for my newsletter to receive a beautiful eCard that lists Jessica’s pairings, along with an exclusive CWB pairing featuring Gracias Dark Chocolate. (Subscribers will also receive my free eCookbook featuring deliciously unique vegan and vegetarian pumpkin recipes!)
The Jackpot! The Grand and Glorious Jackpot!
The more entries you have in this raffle, the better your chances are to win, so do them all! We’re giving away two Gracias Gift Packs, which include the following bars:
- 1 Bar Dark Chocolate
- 1 Bar Lavender Honey with Almonds
- 1 Bar Fig Balsamic with Black Salt
- 1 Bar Truffle Oil and Black Salt