There is certainly something innately comforting about chocolate, and paired with a welcoming atmosphere in a beautiful small town rural setting, it is very easy to step away from the hustle and bustle and lose yourself for a nibble of handmade chocolate made daily at the recently opened Arrowhead Chocolates in the northeastern corner of Oregon.
Having been raised in Wallowa County where this artisan chocolatier shop is located, I returned this last spring, and with the insistence of my mother stepped into Arrowhead Chocolates for the very first time. Needless to say, I was impressed as I’m always looking for establishments that offer gourmet, thoughtful food, but also a social environment that is appetizing and congenial whether you are a local or a tourist.
Later during this past summer I took some time off to step away from my regular routine. And while I unplugged longer than usual to simply enjoy the beautiful mountain air and gorgeous foliage that surrounds this county of 7,000 people, I couldn’t help but stay connected via The Simply Luxurious Life and camped out at Arrowhead Chocolates to do my daily blogging and writing as they offer free wi-fi.
Treating myself to a chocolate mocha each time (white chocolate, milk chocolate or dark chocolate – your choice), the time flew by and before I returned home, I had to purchase a box of truffles. With so many choices, the decision of which ones to indulge in wasn’t easy, but I have now become a lover of their peanut butter truffle (as I am addicted to Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups), but I am also a fan of the classic milk chocolate and dark chocolate truffles as well.
While I know many of my readers aren’t able to visit the aptly named ‘Mini Swiss Alps’ of Wallowa County, I want to introduce the family behind Arrowhead Chocolates – the Reiningers (Bruce, Wendy and Erica) because even though you may not be able to step foot into this decadent chocolatier shop, you can order their chocolates online during the fall, winter and spring months (click here to shop the selection), and I highly recommend that you incorporate these simple luxuries into your life.
Without further introduction, the Reiningers have kindly answered a few questions I had for them regarding Arrowhead Chocolates, the secret to their success, and the ever pressing question, which truffle is their favorite. Have a look:
What inspired your family to open Arrowhead Chocolates in Joseph, Oregon?
First of all, we all love Wallowa Valley and Joseph! In our minds, for us, this is by far the finest place to live on the planet! We are grateful to live where we feel so connected to the people and the land.
Erica was living and working in Portland, Oregon, and had decided that she wanted to live near Joseph. Her next step was to find a way to make a living here. Bruce and I suggested the possibility of opening a chocolate shop together, then Erica suggested that we add Stumptown coffee to the mix, and we all felt that “tingle” of energy that told us “this could be fun!” So from the start, that joyful, playful feeling of “fun” was something that we agreed upon as part of our purpose in doing this – for the three of us, and for everyone that we would serve.
Erica’s talent and aesthetic as a graphic designer led to the creation of the Arrowhead Chocolates space – the choice of colors, furniture, art, and overall design. She also creates all of our posters, menus, ads, and the website as it is and will be. She brought Stumptown coffee to us and oversees the baristas and the creation of everything drinkable in our shop, including a fantastic drinking chocolate that you’ll sometimes see and taste there.
Bruce is our chocolatier and production manager – he creates the chocolate and oversees all aspects of its production.
Wendy handles the business aspects of the shop: inventory, paying the bills and bookkeeping, employee scheduling, shipping, overall shop management, as well as customer service and smiles.
Why was the name “Arrowhead” chosen?
The property that Bruce & I own between Joseph and Enterprise has been known since the 1960′s as “Arrowhead Ranch.” We also run a business there known as “Arrowhead Ranch Cabins,” where we rent cabins out to guests throughout the summer season. Erica developed the original brand of Arrowhead Ranch into the “arrowhead” logo that we use for the cabin business, so it seemed natural to carry that name and logo over to the chocolates.
It states on your website that this is a family-owned business, is this your first chocolate shop or have there been others in the past?
Bruce & I helped to start one other chocolate business and later sold our interest in it to our partners [located in Bend, Oregon].
When did you first learn to become magicians with chocolate?
Bruce did an apprenticeship with a wonderful man who had learned to make chocolate in Switzerland in the 1970′s. Bruce was fascinated with the process from the start. The combination of his background as a research biologist – the scientific training to give attention to every detail and his ability to experiment and observe the results – plus his enjoyment of cooking, led Bruce deeply into the process of chocolate creation. He keeps careful records and is able to successfully recreate whatever he has made before – yet he is continually questioning, experimenting, pushing the flavors further in the direction of purely natural and fresh. If he is not happy with a flavor or a texture, he will keep working with it until he brings it to where he wants it.
Being a customer who regularly orders mochas, I was beyond impressed when I was offered a decadently chocolate covered spoon to tide me over while I waited for my drink. Where did this idea originate?
This was Bruce’s idea. All three of us had noticed how absolutely delicious the chocolate is right out of the melter, so when Bruce suggested the spoon idea, we loved it! We all take a genuine pleasure in being generous and in creating joy for others, and this just seemed like a fun and playful thing to do for people. We love to see people’s eyes light up when we hand them the chocolate covered spoon — it keeps us smiling all day long!
What is your favorite truffle? Why?
That’s a tough question to answer – but I would choose the coconut truffle. I watched Bruce work with this recipe and move to using pure organic coconut milk rather than dairy milk to maximize the coconut flavor. He also uses an unsweetened coconut in the ganache that is absolutely fresh and delicious, and for a topping, he uses a lovely long-shred coconut that he toasts. By the time he finishes a new batch of these, I’m in heaven.
The baristas are each very charming and easy to talk to. Part of the reason I have returned is that they make you feel very welcomed; however, I am impressed with their svelte physiques with all of the chocolate surrounding them. How do you and your staff remain so disciplined and trim with the endless amounts of chocolate at your fingertips?
We ask everyone who works for us to sample and experience each item that we sell, so they can talk with our customers about their favorites and their enjoyment. But we’ve also noticed, for ourselves as well for our baristas, that it only takes a few of a high quality product to satisfy the desire for a treat.
It seems as though both children and adults light up when they walk into the shop. What is your hope for each of your customers when they bite into a handmade truffle or sip a Stumptown caffeine chocolate concoction?
At Arrowhead Chocolates, our mission is “to serve great chocolate and great drinks in a way that creates fun and joy for our customers and for ourselves. We want to be a bright spot in anyone’s day!” That’s our hope!
What does chocolate bring into someone’s life?
Chocolate brings a physical, emotional and intellectual lift to people! Most people know the health benefits of dark chocolate – slowing aging through high antioxidants, lowering blood pressure, lowering ‘bad’ cholesterol, and balancing certain hormones. Chocolate literally brings joy to people through stimulating the production of endorphins (pleasure) and raising serotonin levels (a natural anti-depressant). And to top it all off, it tastes great!
When not making chocolate delights, I’m most likely . . .
Bruce is most likely to be working around our place – he’s restoring the wetland on our property – and he’s also an avid fisherman. Erica will be out in the garden, usually getting her bare feet dirty and coaxing amazing heirloom tomatoes and every color of peppers from the soil. Wendy is most likely to be found at her weaving loom, playing with fiber and color.
Winnie-the-Pooh (our all-time family favorite!), Pride and Prejudice, Lord of the Rings, Conscious Loving, any poem by Mary Oliver, Fine Chocolates, Four Season Harvest, Laurel’s Kitchen
The Princess Bride
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” – Plato
Easiest way to lose track of time:
Going for a good hike, looking for mushrooms, or picking huckleberries.
Sitting in the back yard sipping tea and reading a good book even as the weeds are thumbing their noses at me.
Best advice you ever received:
Take 100% responsibility for everything that happens to me; stay out of the “Victim” role and embrace the position of making choices with what comes my way.
Joseph, Oregon 97846