when life imitates art (or in this case, mast brothers chocolate)

I’ve recently been pushing myself, more than ever before, in some strenuous but fun exercisey activities. 29 miles of bike riding on a hard leather saddle one hot and sunny summer’s day? Hoisting myself arm by puny-weakling-arm up into the leafy canopy of a maple tree while sitting in a slightly more comfortable saddle? Back to back days of hardcore hiking with (in my mind) substantial elevation gain? These are all activities that have been part of my recent sporting life.

These photos represent how I spent this past Saturday and Sunday. Enshrouded in mist, wind, fir needles, and – finally – sun, I finally got a taste of what serious hiking feels like. It feels painful. My sunburn, my knees, my leg muscles. But as soon as I got back home, sure enough, I found myself dreaming about signing up for a road race. I haven’t wanted to run a race since March, when I stressed myself out on the New Hampshire coastline, suffering through a sad sack of a half marathon. Recap: I have just proven that exercise is crazy, obsessive, hurtful and fun. All rolled into one.

We find ourselves here at Baxter State Park, a curious gem of a rectangle, located in north-central Maine northwest of the once-booming mill town of Millinocket. Get it, booming? You may know this town as playing host to the trials and tribulation of the Pelletiers, aka the American Loggers. I’ve never seen this show, but I love America. And logging. And fighting for your right to log in America. I have seen an episode of Deadliest Catch – I picture these two shows as being one and the same. Variations on a theme? Am I wrong?

Hiking hasn’t interested me until recently, when the thoughtful prose of a childhood friend, concerning her adventures in backpacking, has come to haunt me. She has a real gift for storytelling, and she isn’t word-shy. I appreciate and respect that. Between her and the madcap outdoor enthusiast I find myself enjoying weekends with, it wasn’t long before hiking made an appearance in my repertoire. Even more fun than hiking, for me, was my brief foray into structured tree climbing. How do these two activities connect?

Through both of them I have been learning about knots. I know one or two knots back from my days in the trusty Girl Scouts, but I don’t remember what they’re called or what their purpose is. Perhaps it would be better were I to frame this as “knew,” rather than “know,” as I’m not proving much knowledge here. But the point, and there is one, is that I’m beginning to learn about some cool knots {do these exist?} and their applicability in outdoor activities. Double fisherman’s knot? Anyone? See, I’m learning.

And what do these knots remind me of? How convenient that you should ask. They remind me of the Mast Brothers Cocoa Nibs chocolate bar, of course.

You may or may not know that I love Mast Brothers chocolate. It wasn’t clear from my early post what exactly I thought about, well, much of anything, really. Good thing I’ve increased exponentially in wordiness! All to make clear to you, just how much I enjoy holding a Mast Brothers bar in my hands. They’re hefty, tasty, and beautifully wrapped. And they’re hard for me to purchase, without a four-hour drive.

This bar, like others that I’ve reviewed recently, was purchased at the French Broad Chocolate Lounge in Asheville, North Carolina. Why did I choose this nibby bar over some of the other Mast Brothers chocolate bars I want to try, perhaps even more? The knots. It’s all about the knots.

This bar is made with 72% Madagascar cacao, organic cane sugar, and cocoa nibs. The cacao is sourced from the Somia Plantation in Madagascar’s Sambirano Valley, and the cocoa nibs are from shade grown and organically farmed Criollo beans. The bar has a cocoa-y coffee aroma that lets out a splash of tangyness when placed on the palate. At this time I noted that there were lots of cocoa nibs on the roof of my mouth.

I began to taste a mouth-puckering fruitiness, which to me, identified strongly with cherries, but perhaps other red berries as well. There was a different fruit flavor at the back of the palate, which tasted a bit banana-like to me. It was a very intriguing flavor that seemed just out of reach of interpretation. The bar had a tart but fudgy finish, and the nibs broke down very nicely in tandem with the chocolate. The nibs themselves tasted nutty and fruity, but were also intriguing and a bit elusive to me. They dissolved well, and didn’t linger (except for the one little tidbit I found wedged in my teeth hours later – good thing I hadn’t gone anywhere).

I thought this bar was very good, but perhaps not grrrreat. Similar Sambirano Valley chocolate that comes to mind here includes Valrhona’s Manjari bar, Rogue’s Sambirano, and TCHO’s Dark Chocolate “Citrus.”Β  The bar reviewed here fits in nicely with these other products of Madagascar, while adding on a layer of complexity: the cocoa nibs. Of the Mast Brothers chocolate I’ve been privileged to try so far, however, I believe I’ve most enjoyed their Dominican Republic bar. But coming up soon – a review of their Venezuela bar. I have high hopes for greatness.

To visit Mast Brothers, where you can buy chocolate, watch desperado banjo players unleash inspired banjo tunes, and more:

Mast Brothers Chocolate Factory

105A North 3rd Street
Brooklyn, NY 11211
718.388.2625

And to visit Baxter State Park, the northern Appalachian Trail terminus (doesn’t it seem like I was just at the opposite end of the AT?), and the one-stop vacation destination spot for many eager hiker-folk come summer:

Baxter State Park

64 Balsam Drive
Millinocket, ME 04462
207.723.5140

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8 thoughts on “when life imitates art (or in this case, mast brothers chocolate)

  1. I haven’t been to Baxter yet this summer, and I’m DYING to go. I want to do the Brothers some weekend. Where did you guys hike? Also, Kevin is an aspiring sailor and often spends his evenings practicing knots. He’s trying to teach me, you know, so I can be his skipper, but I am far more interested in reading wonderful pieces of writing such as the one you’ve presented here. I once knew some knots from my days as a Girl Scout, too.

    Lastly: What were you doing in the trees? Climbing for fun or for research? (Those options are mutually exclusive, right?)

  2. Maris: Thank you. The scenery was lovely once the clouds lifted!

    Brianne: On Saturday we hiked the Mt Coe -> South Brother -> North Brother loop, and on Sunday we did Doubletop. It was great fun, but I shouldn’t have taken a nap in the direct sunlight while at the summit of Doubletop. Wah wah.

    Very cool about Kevin and his sailing aspirations! You should be his skipper for sure – it might come with a nifty outfit or something. I almost got to ride in a sailboat recently… but alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Perhaps one day soon.

    Climbing the maple tree was for fun and to work on my arm muscles! Boyfriend had done a bit of tree trimming earlier in the day, and as everything was already hooked up, I was very enthusiastic about giving it a try. Since he’s pretty much a knot master, everything was aces!

    I hope you get up to Baxter soon:)

  3. Oh, hurrah hurrah! I’m fairly certain this nib bar is amongst my three Mast Brothers chocolate, lying in wait for me at my parents’ house (I store most of my chocolate there because they have central heating/air-conditioning, whereas my place gets ravaged by temperature changes). I’m so glad this one is good… and I only wish I had a hiking adventure to take this on!

  4. Mum: Uh oh, word rich… am I getting a wee bit too wordy? We know that’s not a probably for me verbally…! I wish you both were hiking with me too – with magic awesome super happy knees:)

    Hannah: Hurrah, nibbinses across the sea, united in several moments of delicious tang! While I don’t have AC here, my foot-thick walls keep me cozy in all temperatures quite nicely. I do believe they keep my chocolate cozy too.

    If you do happen to go on a hiking adventure, make sure you bring a cork-laden hat to keep away the (winter) bugs:)

And now I'd like to pass the mic / So you c'mon and do anything you like ...aka, Leave your reply.

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