How did Indi Chocolate get started?
My journey into chocolate began in 2008, when I decided to take my daughters to Belize to show them that "chocolate grows on trees." When I founded Indi in 2010, I started by making lotions and lip balms with cocoa butter in my kitchen, until I could save up enough to purchase my first chocolate-making equipment. My youngest daughter, Siena, had a bad reaction to body care at a young age and it was the beginning of my journey of using only the fewest and best ingredients. Cocoa butter is the starting ingredient for all products in our body care line and one of only three ingredients in our chocolate. Now, I search the world for the best tasting cocoa beans to make our bean-to-bar chocolate in our factory right here in Pike Place Market.
Chocolate is HUGE around Valentine’s – why do you think it’s so often associated with romance?
What is there not to love about chocolate? Even the smell makes us happy. Romance is about attraction, happiness and pleasure that encourages us to use all of our senses to savor and enjoy, just like chocolate. Who doesn't love the silky texture of chocolate or the dreamy melt in our mouth? There is an evocative mystery when we unwrap chocolate and eagerly anticipate the flavors about to be unleashed.
Romance is also about our desires for happiness and pleasure. At Indi Chocolate, we like to take the exploration of chocolate several steps further. Our different single origin chocolate bars have all of the same ingredients except for one, the cocoa beans. I love to see the delighted faces when our customers discover how different these chocolates taste. Romance and chocolate both encourage us to explore and take a journey with our senses.
What advice would you give tourists visiting during these often drizzly, winter days?
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Visitor Center, Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI), Pacific Science Center and Seattle Art Museum are interesting places to stay dry when it is wet and cold outside. There are fantastic permanent exhibits, as well as new events and exhibits to explore.
After time indoors, it's great to get some fresh air. The rooftop of the new MarketFront in Pike Place Market offers fresh air and great views of Elliot Bay, even on a drizzly day. Stroll by the artists booths upstairs to see locally made art in a variety of different mediums, from tie dye to blown glass, marble prints to polished steel.
When you’re ready to warm back up, head downs stairs and watch chocolate being made from roasting beans to your finished chocolate bar at Indi Chocolate. We have sweet and savory ways to enjoy chocolate, as well as cozy drinks made with our chocolate and espresso.
What are some of your favorite things about being located in Pike Place Market?
I chose to open Indi in Pike Place Market, because of the market's long history of bringing makers directly to the public (since 1907). There is a strong commitment to community and education within the market. I love it when local school children come into our factory as part of the Pike Place Market Foundation's education program. They learn about where cacao grows and how chocolate is made. They ask the best questions.
The market also has an active food bank, senior center, low cost medical clinic, low income housing, preschool and community center. It nourishes our community in many ways beyond the great produce and food. The team of people who work here are like a large extended family.
The market also has its own personality that changes along with the seasons and time of day. There is a lot more to it than the main arcade where fish are thrown; there is always something new to learn, taste and explore. Young and old, as well as locals and visitors from around the globe, come together at the market. It has to be the best people watching in the world.
Any tips on perfect date nights in Seattle?
My husband and I like to spend time around Pike Place Market after most of the shops have closed. It’s not crowded and feels special to see the Market when it's quiet. There are plenty of great restaurants to choose from and shows to take in. We're excited that Little Fish [an upcoming venue from Jarr Bar owner, Bryan Jarr] will soon be our neighbor in the MarketFront and provide a fun new way to enjoy seafood in Seattle. Unexpected Productions has fun improv shows and classes located in the center of the gum wall. The famous gum wall got started when the theater asked patrons to not bring their gum inside.
If we want to stretch our legs outside the market, Absinthe Brasserie & Bar is just up the street and has a great menu and bar. There are many different absinthes to choose from and the staff is engaging and helpful if you want to learn more.
(Aside from the market) where do you like to take friends when they visit Seattle?
A walk along the Olympic Sculpture Gardens or strolling around the Ballard Locks is a great way to spend time with friends and warm up our appetite for brunch afterwards at Salty's on Alki. The walks are easy and both the food and the view at Salty's are amazing. If the weather is accommodating, we like to sit outside. It's nice to explore Alki afterwards, especially when we rent a surrey and pedal around. There are sea kayaks and stand-up paddle board rentals to enjoy, as well. Alki has a chill, beach town feel with a great view of Seattle.
In the evenings, we like to go to Teatro ZinZanni for world-class entertainment and great food coming together for an evening of laughter and fun. It's part cabaret, part cirque and so much more. Friends never forget a night at Teatro ZinZanni.
Are there any "hidden gems" in Seattle you're willing to share?
There are many hidden gems Down Under in Pike Place Market, which Indi Chocolate called home for five years before moving into our new MarketFront location. One of my favorite shops Down Under is Ventures, our former neighbor. Ventures educates and launches many local entrepreneurs. There is always something new at their store that features small local artists and entrepreneurs. It's a great place to find something funky and fun, and help small businesses at the same time.
I'm also a big fan of Metsker Maps on First Avenue. If you like to travel and enjoy geography, give yourself some time to explore. I go there before I head out to a new origin for cocoa beans. The staff is very knowledgeable and helpful. They always have great maps and travel books and I often buy gifts for my family there.
Capitol Cider has great Pacific Northwest cuisine with a wide selection of local beers and ciders. I'm not certain Capitol Cider is a hidden gem, but there are a lot of hidden cider gems on their menu. If you've ever wanted to learn more about hard cider, this is the place. And they have live music and free arts programming most nights downstairs in The Ballast Bar.