Thorncrest Farm and Milk House Chocolates, Goshen
March 16, 2014
We’ve sort of made Thorncrest our “special” chocolate place. Valentine’s Days, anniversaries, “It’s Saturday and we’re near Goshen So We Might As Well Go to Thorncrest Days…”
It’s still remote, the salesroom is still the size of a phonebooth, and it’s still worth going to whenever you can.
Our First (2014) Visit:
“Papa, we goin’ on a adventure?”
“Yes, two-year-old Calvin, we are.”
“Vwhere is we goin’?”
“To a….to a chocolate… to a chocolate farm!”
“A chocolate farm? With mama and papa and Calvin and D?”
“Yup. Now go get your shoes.”
Yes, Thorncrest is indeed a chocolate farm of sorts. And to a little kid, what could be better? Cows and candy. He was sold.
My wife, Hoang, was sold too, especially after I gave her the lowdown on Thorncrest’s accolades. And so, we packed up the boys and hit the road west, out to Goshen.
I’m at the point now where even a trip to the backroads of Goshen doesn’t require a map. “Oh look boys, there’s Action Wildlife (our visit). And there’s where the Commerford Zoo houses their animals. And there’s Nodine’s Smokehouse!” Through the backroads and past the way to Miranda Vineyards (our visit) and onto the dirt road to Thorncrest. (It’s also very close to Sunset Meadow Vineyards – our visit -too, so a wine/chocolate pairing makes sense out here.)
This place is most definitely a working farm. The fact that it appears in the middle of deep woods is kind of strange, but you get over that quickly. Their website is a bit of mess in 2014, as all they say about their cows and farm is, “Thorncrest is a true family farm dedicated to excellence in animal care and farming.”
Good enough for me. We parked in the muddy lot and first went in the large barn to check out the cows. They are some seriously fat cows. The Holsteins appeared well-cared for and happy. Calvin was fascinated by them and just wanted to stare for far too long. Sorry kid, we’re here for chocolate, not to stare at a bunch of cows standing around.
The tiny – and I mean TINY – sales area is right next to the barn. I’m not sure more than 4 adults can even fit in there. I imagine this is quite annoying during the days leading up to Valentine’s, but fortunately we were alone during our visit.
All of the stops on the Connecticut Chocolate Trail make and sell high-end chocolate. From low-high-end like Munsons to insane high-end like Chocopologie (our visit) and Chocolate Lab (our visit). Thorncrest is very near the top-end of this continuum. Is it worth it?
First off, they treat their cows like the boys down the road at Arethusa in Litchfield (our visit). With kindness and care. (This Litchfield County Times article spells it all out for you.) The cows have names, not numbers! They’re allowed to walk around and graze! Most importantly, they aren’t pumped full of hormones and antibiotics. The owners Clint and Kimberly Thorn essentially select each ounce of milk from their own cows to choose the best to go into their “artisanal” chocolates:
We harvest our hay and pasture our cows. This ensures they are fed the finest sweetest hay and natural feeds; from this they produce this pure signature milk (click here to learn more about our Milk).
Milk House Chocolates brings you artisanal chocolates made in small batches one at a time with our fresh milk, cream and butter. Only all natural flavors such as fresh orchard frutis, garden herbs and honey are blended with the very best cocoa beans on earth to create these pralines and truffles. This is an amazing farmer to farmer connection.
It’s always nice to meet makers and purveyors of actual “artisanal” foods. I mean… (from the County Times) “Mrs. Thorn said that even where a cow is in its lactation cycle can change how its milk tastes and smells. “If a cow is nearing the end of her lactation, I will bring on another cow that is similar who has just freshened [had a calf],” she said. “The flavor of the milk is the number-one thing. Each cow’s milk has a different flavor and smell. Then I combine it to give it the flavor and consistency I want for the chocolates.”
They don’t use pumping machines either, because Mrs. Thorn claims that process breaks down the milk somehow. They only use Criollo nibs for the chocolates because, apparently, they are the best in the world. Each batch is made by hand in very small batches, because that’s what artisans do.
You get the point. If you don’t yet, take a close look at our receipt. (Please know that the caramel gift boxes were gifts. Also note that I still carry cash and change with me – always a good idea when going to small independently owned shops. They very much appreciate it, trust me.)
The chocolates are all sold individually and they are all beautiful. There is a list of 30 “Signature flavors,” but of course all are not available at every visit. We bought the 10-piece sampler for ourselves and I can happily report that it didn’t last longer than a day in our clutches.
This chocolate is ridiculously good. My favorite was the “Mr. Ives’ Mints.” They are made with fresh mint leaves and the flavor of that fresh mint is just so much better than what we’ve become used to these days. I grow mint (which grows almost like a weed, so it’s hardly a feat) and love to use it in a lot of things, so this is very important to me. The sea salt caramel was absurd.
Bottom line: This is really, really good chocolate.
I also bought a little tiny jug of what they call vanilla milk. I had to. This is their “cream line milk” (pasteurized but non-homogenized milk; meaning the cream is still in it – infused with Madagascar vanilla beans.) Holy cow.
I’ll say that again – HOLY COW. Did you get it that time?
This milk is creamy and sweet and naturally vanilla-tastic. No sugar is added to it at all; the sweetness comes wholly from the breeding of the milk cattle. Which is pretty incredible. Calvin drank it and called it “ice cream milk.” Kid knows his stuff.
One last measure of how good and sought after Thorncrest is? The exceedingly nice woman there asked us where we were from. When we said West Hartford, she merely said, “oh, that’s not too far.” In other words, people travel from much further than 40 minutes away to this tucked away jewel on a dirt road in Goshen. That says it all right there.