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A food blog from NHPR news, digital, & programming staff, exploring food & food culture around the state & the New England region. On-air features air Thursdays on All Things Considered and Saturdays during Weekend Edition.

Foodstuffs: In N.H.'s White Mountains, You Can Take a Horse-Drawn Holiday Chocolate Tour

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Sean Hurley
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Up in Jackson around this time of year you can climb aboard a horse drawn Austrian sleigh and ride through town collecting handmade chocolates from local merchants.  NHPR's Sean Hurley went along on the Jingle Bell Chocolate Tour and sends us this.

Even though Kathleen Driscoll has to sit all day in a gazebo beside a roaring fire she says she has no trouble resisting the bowl of handmade chocolates before her.  "I don't like chocolate," she says, "I'm not a chocolate fan. If it was birthday cake I'd eat it!"

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Credit Sean Hurley
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The Gazebo at Nestlenook where you get your first chocolates.

Despite that, as Executive Director of the Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce, Driscoll has been running the Jingle Bell Chocolate Tour almost since its inception in 2004.  "It started about 11 years ago," she recalls, "and they only had one sleigh and they couldn't even fill that sleigh. The next year they had to cancel it because there was a blizzard."

But the Jingle Bell Chocolate Tour soon found its chocolate footing and now Driscoll says they serve more than a thousand riders every winter.

"Hi there!" Driscoll greets a guest.  "We've got you going in the first sleigh.  These are your jingle bells. You have to ring your Jingle Bell or you're not going to get any chocolate.   You're gonna get your first chocolates here.  Each person gets one of these which is called a Needham.  It's actually cocoanut with a little bit of mashed potatoes rolled together and dipped in chocolate."

By the end of the hour long tour, Driscoll explains, everyone should have 11 chocolates - each homemade - from the inns and bakeries along the route.  "Even Flossie's who is not a chef but she does one of the best chocolates around," Driscoll says. "She makes them all herself. One year she had to go for tennis elbow because she rolled so many of them."

Three Austrian sleighs pull up outside the gazebo.

  I climb up and sit beside the sleigh driver, 19 year old Scott Huntington from Lancaster.  Huntington turns and addresses the sleigh riders, "My name is Scott. The horses names are Rock and Roy. They're brothers. They're both nine years old. We're gonna take you for a little chocolate tour and go around the town of Jackson."

We stop at the Inn at Jackson and collect Marshmallow Reindeer. Then chocolate bark at Backcountry Bakery. 

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Credit Sean Hurley
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Back in the gazebo, Driscoll hands out jingle bells and Needham chocolates to the next group of riders.  "In all the years I've been doing this," Driscoll says, "I've only had one complaint. And that was that they wanted more chocolate!" 

Sean Hurley lives in Thornton with his wife Lois and his son Sam. An award-winning playwright and radio journalist, his fictional “Atoms, Motion & the Void” podcast has aired nationally on NPR and Sirius & XM Satellite radio. When he isn't writing stories or performing on stage, he likes to run in the White Mountains. He can be reached at shurley@nhpr.org.

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