Chocolate in the Pacific Northwest

As you may already know, the first series of novellas set in our Pacific Northwest town of Corsair’s Cove is located around Red Gem’s Chocolates, a confectionery shop on Water Street. The building in which the shop is housed was once a shipping warehouse; in fact, beams recovered from the wreck of the Belle Swift were used in its roof. This, of course, means that the spirit of the Wolf of the West is partially tied to the shop, with stunning results in book four, Kiss in the Dark.

But writing about the chocolate shop and all the yummy treats in its display cases made me think about other chocolatiers in the area. One of the earliest ones was Dilettante Chocolates in Seattle, which was originally founded by Julius Rudolf Franzen, who began his confectionery apprenticeship in 1898 and opened the Chocolate Truffle Company in Portland in 1912. The business was reinvented by Franzen’s great-nephew in 1976 and relocated in Seattle, where it is happily doing business today.

Inside Rogers Chocolates
Inside Rogers Chocolates

Visitors to Vancouver Island in Canada will recognize the Rogers Chocolates name and its iconic Art Nouveau logo. Its founder, Charles “Candy” Rogers, moved to Victoria from Massachusetts in 1885 and opened a greengrocer’s shop. It wasn’t long before he turned to chocolate, and upon inventing the Victoria Cream, became Canada’s first chocolatier. You can visit Roger’s Chocolates on Government Street or any one of its ten locations today—and you can still enjoy a Victoria Cream.

All this talk of chocolate is making me hungry. I’m heading up Water Street now to try one of Livy Tarbert’s new creations at Red Gem’s. Care to join me?

Piracy in the Pacific Northwest

In the thousands of inlets, islands, and channels of the Puget Sound area, the Gulf Islands and San Juan Islands, and the coasts of Washington and Oregon in general, you’d think there would be a hundred stories of pirates and their conquests. But there are surprisingly few. Most of the action in the 1600s, 1700s, and 1800s was taking place along the coasts of the Caribbean and the West Indies, where tales of gold and treasure ran rampant, and the fierce coral defenses around the land forms took their tribute in sunken ships.

But there are one or two pirates of that period—Iron Jim Sallow, for instance, who was said to have hidden a treasure somewhere in the Puget Sound area. When one of his crew stole the map to it, he pursued the man relentlessly—so much so that neither was ever heard from again. Neither was the treasure.

Vancouver Island 1700s
An early map of the Vancouver Island and northern Washington area, sadly not the Northwest Passage the fur traders were looking for.

Years later, James Colnett was a member of the British Royal Navy, serving under Captain James Cook for a time. Colnett is remembered largely for his involvement in the Nootka Crisis of 1789—sparked by the fur trade and initially a dispute between British traders and the Spanish Navy over the use of Nootka Sound on Vancouver Island. The original Lady Washington was also involved. (A replica of this beautiful ship is now at home in the Seattle area and featured in movies and TV shows such as Pirates of the Caribbean, Star Trek: Generations, Once Upon A Time, and Revolution.)

Captain Colnett was a hot-tempered sort who seized Spanish ships when that nation declared the west coast belonged to Spain. Things escalated and became an international crisis that led Britain and Spain to the brink of war before being peacefully resolved through diplomacy and the signing of the Nootka Conventions.

A century and a half later, the Prohibition period was downright lively in this neighborhood, with rum-runners bringing whiskey in on small ships in the dead of night, landing on nameless beaches and supplying the speakeasies and saloons of the Pacific Northwest with demon liquor.

And then there was the Wolf of the West, most feared pirate of them all. But that’s for another blog post!