Road Trip: Black Mountain Chocolate in Winston-Salem, NC

Earlier this summer our friends J&C (aka Ditch Chicken) invited us to head up 1-40 to Winston-Salem, NC for a leisurely Saturday trip.

"Chocolate Factory tour and winery visit. You available?" they asked.

"Yes, please," Scott and I answered.

They picked us up in Charlotte and 90 minutes later wheeled into the parking lot of Black Mountain Chocolate. We killed a little time before our 11am-ish tour and walked around the area near Trade Street.

As a former Statesville, NC resident during my high school years, Winston-Salem was a larger city that often lured my friends and I there for shopping and restaurants. Sadly most of this occurred not in W-S's now bustling downtown but the Hanes Mall. Yes, I was a "mall rat," buying way too many cargo jeans and oversize flannel shirts and logo sweatshirts at Old Navy and the Gap (Hey, it was the mid to late '90s.) I also knew W-S from annual trips to Old Salem for Christmas shopping, a ritual with my mother that culminated in many Moravian cookie and sugar cake purchases.

So color me happy and surprised to see that Winston-Salem has public art walks and converted tobacco warehouses that are now lofts. Add chocolate factories, breweries and restaurants and it's a far-cry from the mall and "home of Krispy Kreme" and Moravian cookies that I once knew.

The Black Mountain Chocolate factory tour was fast-paced, informative and delicious. I learned never to trust Big Chocolate again - Hershey and the like only make chocolate with about 10-15 percent cacao bean (the seed of a tropical tree!), while the factory produces some types in the 50-70 percent cacao range.

Won't you take me to... Cocotown?

Thanks to a tour discount on their fair-trade, organic chocolate, we walked out with a few Cocoa Nib and Sea Salt and one Ginger-Chili Big Winston Bar. They also gifted us with a freebie for our compost pile:

One large bag of cocoa bean hulls
                                                                    Which Scott loaded into our compost bin

And now the worms in our compost bin are enjoying the chocolatey bits!

After all the chocolate-buying and touring, we enjoyed burgers and beers at Burger Batch, where a rowdy crew of Arsenal fans were watching their "football" game. Bonus points to BB for the largest order of french fries I've ever seen - sharable for sure.

Post-lunch, we rambled into the Mast Store to browe and then drove out of town to Westbend Winery and Brewery.  Having had my fill of beer earlier, I ordered sangria. It was a hot afternoon and the winery was crowded both in and outside. The beverages we all ordered, both wine and beer, were just ok, so we didn't stay long. I have heard good things about the Yadkin wine region but this wasn't a favorable experience.

But if you get the chance to visit a real-deal chocolate factory, go! Raleigh has both Escazu and Videri; Nashville claims Olive & Sinclair; and, alas, Charlotte, to my knowledge, doesn't have one.