I have to be honest and say that I don’t remember the first time I met Marjorie Korkowski. I’ve known her for a long time now, first as a chocolate-loving customer and then as a good friend. She discovered Chocolopolis the month after we opened in 2008 while searching for a particular bar of chocolate which she thinks might have been a Michel Cluizel chocolate, but she’s not sure. The first thing I remember about Marjorie is her telling me the story she likes to tell every chocolate lover she meets about how she devoured Baker’s Chocolate when she was only 2 1/2 years old, crawling on her mother’s kitchen counter and reaching into the cupboard to find this very sharp and intense 100%, unsweetened dark chocolate. It’s a story that tells you everything about Marjorie’s love affair with dark chocolate.
Her chocolate tasting repertoire consists almost exclusively of dark chocolate. I say “almost exclusively” because she chose one inclusion bar for her happy hour this week. This was a significant departure for Marjorie, and one that left me guffawing in surprise. Why? As long as I’ve known Marjorie I’ve never known her to eat an inclusion bar, which she refers to as “polluted chocolate”. Imagine my shock when she chose Xocolatl de David’s Brown Butter bar as among her favorites. She assures me this is the only inclusion bar she likes.
Marjorie is incredibly generous with her chocolate. She keeps a box of bars at home (as I’m sure many of my readers do), but she uses the bars in her box to conduct chocolate tastings with anyone she can recruit. Whether it’s her doctor, a friend, or someone she’s just met, she’s happy to share her bars with them. But she doesn’t just share her bars. She makes sure that the recipients of her chocolate also receive an education in chocolate. She shares the experience of tasting chocolate with them, helping them appreciate the flavors of dark chocolate and not wolfing down a square in one bite. She is a one-woman, mobile, chocolate-tasting-experience machine.
Marjorie’s other passion is vinegar. Much like she leads chocolate tastings, she also leads vinegar tastings for anyone willing to try. Where Marjorie and I can go toe-to-toe on chocolate, I became one of her pupils for vinegar. If you thought 100% chocolate might be a hard sell, imagine getting someone to drink vinegar straight. Marjorie does both with great success. I’ve even begun to quaff vinegar straight from a shot glass. Granted it’s a very special vinegar by local Rockridge Orchards & Cidery called Rocksalmic Vinegar. It’s a sweet and balsamic-like vinegar that is barrel aged and has incredible apple flavor. It’s like drinking a shot of a tart liquid apple pie.
It should come as no surprise that Marjorie is a teacher by profession, specifically a high school math teacher. When you get to know her there are two things that become very clear. She is passionate about math, and she is passionate about teaching. She is one of those teachers you wish you had in high school. She cares about her students, their lives, and their learning. She remains in touch with many of her students. Our former Chocolatier, Kelsey Ellis Wilson, had Marjorie as her math teacher at Bothell High School and reconnected with her at Chocolopolis. It took Kelsey a while to stop calling her “Mrs. Korkowski” and begin calling her “Marjorie”, but she managed to do it eventually. Kelsey lives in Hawaii now (making chocolate at Waialua Estate), and she and Marjorie stay in touch via email. It’s wonderful to see the strong relationships Marjorie built with her students over the years and how much they love and respect her.
Marjorie’s love of math permeates everything she experiences in life. Her favorite artist is M.C. Escher who created a series of lithographs that incorporate mathematical principles. She owns a book of Escher’s lithographs, which she lovingly shares with visitors, thumbing through pages of artwork while offering an explanation of the mathematical principles illustrated in each one. As an avid traveler, she is delighted when she finds math represented in architecture, artwork and nature around the world.
As I was preparing to write this spotlight, I read Marjorie’s answers to the question “How did you discover Chocolopolis?” and realized from her answer that she has a milestone birthday this month. Not only is it this month, it’s today.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MARJORIE!
It seems fitting that a decade after she found Chocolopolis while planning her 6oth birthday party, she is our featured customer. Here’s more about Marjorie in her own words.
What’s your favorite bar of chocolate right now?
My favorite bar right now is a VERY difficult choice. I eat a bit of 100% and a bit of “other” each day. My current favorite 100% is Patrick Roger’s Madagascar and my current favorite “other” is Valrhona’s 64% Madagascar (Manjari).
Do you have a favorite bar of all time?
Rogue Madagascar is my favorite, if my memory is accurate. I have not had this bar for some time.
How did you discover Chocolopolis?
As I was preparing my 60th birthday party in August, 2008, I decided to treat my guests to two of my favorite things: chocolate and vinegar. So I prepared a blind chocolate tasting with 6 bars and a blind vinegar tasting with 6 bottles. (My mother reported that, at age 2.5, I climbed in the kitchen to find and eat her 100% baking chocolate and I drank her cider vinegar. I seek a higher quality of both now, but still really enjoy both.) I spent about 6 months before my birthday choosing the tasting selection. After I made the selection of bars to use, I was searching where to buy each one and newly opened Chocolopolis carried one or two of the bars. I wish I could remember which ones I bought there… I had decided that each guest would leave my party with a bar of their favorite chocolate and a jar of their favorite vinegar – interesting “computation” of projected amounts needed and very good leftovers. However, in 2008, the selection of chocolate available in Seattle was vastly inferior to what it is now – largely because of Lauren and Chocolopolis!
What do you do when you’re not tasting chocolate?
I retired from teaching in 2011, choosing to devote my time to two endeavors: traveling and nurturing relationships. My love of chocolate has been frequently included in both categories. When I travel, both nationally and internationally, I search out chocolate makers. I have met wonderful people and had extraordinary tastes. I also offer chocolate tastings for many friends and family. I find that none are unhappy when tasting chocolate; we share good tastes and good conversation while “finding your favorite” – the only assignment given.
Happy Hour samples chosen by Marjorie:
Fresco Madagascar 100%
Original Bean Piura Porcelana
The Smooth Chocolator Tanzania
Xocolatl de David Brown Butter