The Zeke Bar from Askinosie Chocolate


Excerpt from Ari’s Top 5 enews

A man who will help lead the fight against the pandemic puts his signature on an amazing dark chocolate

When I first wrote about my friend Shawn Askinosie’s new chocolate bar back in 2019, I asked him a few times who “Zeke” was. I vaguely remembered Shawn saying that Zeke Emanuel was a friend who had something to do with science and public health. I thought it was interesting, but it didn’t have much relevance to my daily life. Back then I’d barely even heard the word pandemic. A year later, epidemiologists are in the headlines as heroes more than sports stars. (I’m about ready to start making a line of trading cards featuring folks like Dr. Fauci.) And Zeke Emanuel is about to be named to the list of folks leading the incoming Biden administration’s fight against the pandemic.

Zeke’s formal role for a number of years now has been as the Chairman of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania. (Another member of this new team is Vivek Murthy, former surgeon general under President Obama, who interviewed me and wrote about Zingerman’s in his new book, Together, released last spring.) Shawn will probably not be in the new Biden Administration, but there would be good cause to consider him. His full story is told beautifully in his book, Meaningful Work. Every chocolate Shawn has ever sent me over the years has been amazing. This one is no exception.

Here’s what Shawn had to say of cacao and creative collaboration:

In the first 10 minutes of meeting Zeke Emanuel, he said he would like to make a chocolate bar in my factory. I didn’t think much about it until he said it about five more times. I said yes on one condition; that he travel to origin with me to gain an understanding of the significance of that part of the process. He agreed, and we met in Madagascar. That was three bars ago. He came up with the recipe, cocoa content—all of it. He roasted the beans, tempered and molded the bars and helped design the packaging. Zeke (the George Plimpton of chocolate?) is a true aficionado and oh, I almost forgot: he’s also a globally-recognized bioethicist and healthcare policy expert. This 76% dark chocolate bar comes from super rare Criollo cocoa beans that I sourced from an inspiring 70-year-old cocoa farmer, Leonor, whose family farm is located deep in the Amazon rainforest. This is our second such crop that has been the backdrop of Zeke’s bars. I think you’ll taste blackberry, butterscotch, and roasted coffee.

Last year, I described the Zeke bar as the essence of great chocolate—a bar that’s hitting the bullseye. Just barely sweet enough to soften the edges of the cacao; beautifully fermented to keep all the flavors in balance; a tiny touch of tannins to anchor the whole thing; clean chocolatey finish. The texture is notably more tender, than most chocolate because of the bean. Criollo, by nature, is lighter, more delicate, and complex. It makes for subtly softer chocolate. For a world class eating experience, pit one of those delicious dates from Rancho Meladuco and stick in a square of chocolate from the Zeke bar. All will still not be fully right with the world but for a few minutes it may feel that way.

Pandemic or no pandemic, public health crisis or no crisis, this is some terrifically tasty chocolate. It’s light, engaging, memorable, juicy, and magical. I’d like to tell you that the Zeke bar could cure coronavirus, but what it will do—if you get one of the limited number of bars we can get ahold of—is keep you grounded as you wait for Zeke, Vivek, and their new teammates to do their work. Eventually, hardly anyone will be discussing what an epidemiologist is, but they will still, I’m sure, be eating great chocolate.