Your winter survival plan: Warming House hot cocoa truck

Zac and Jill Stafford are a special Minnesota breed of crazy. When asked what would send them out onto the icy streets in the dead of winter in a converted food truck just to freeze their bits off, they answered: Sharing steaming rich cups of liquid chocolate topped with marshmallows handcrafted with only the finest ingredients. Sounds like our kind of crazy.

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Zac explained further, "I'm in love with food trucks in general. It's so much fun to wander outside with a group and get food." Plus, he said, "We're outdoorsy people. We hike, we cross country ski. We were snow-shoeing out at Fort Snelling and when we got done realized that we wanted something to eat and drink." 

That a-ha moment lead to thoughts about all the other winter time activities where people might be searching for sustenance. Who wants a cup of scalding water with chunks of gray, vaguely cocoa flavored powder and dehydrated marshmallow-y bits? "Right?" Zac said. "Like, oh, you just ran 26 miles, here's a cup of hot water." How sad is that?

Warming us right down to our toes
Warming us right down to our toes
Courtesy of The Warming House

Well, those cups of powdered dregs will be a thing of the past if Warming House has anything to say about it. At such chilly gatherings as the Winter Carnival and the Loppet, the Staffords are hoping to roll up with a truck stocked with rich, dark chocolate deliciousness. Using St. Croix Chocolate as their base, this couple is ready to serve the best drinking chocolate these fair cities have ever sipped. 

It starts with a rich ganache, paired with a creamy liquid of choice: milk or dairy-free/vegan-friendly coconut milk. The stir stick is stacked with home-made marshmallows. Jill, who Zac crowned the "Queen of Marshmallows," has been furiously working to come up with a better way to make the mallows, swapping out all the high-processed icky stuff and replacing it with natural ingredients like local honey. (She's working on making a vegan version as well.)

From there, Jill rolls the marshmallows in all manner of delightful flavor enhancers, like graham crackers for a drinkable s'more, pretzels, and crushed nuts. Zac's pulling for a Fruit Loops add in, but we have two words: Cap'n Crunch. Truthfully, the possibilities are endless. Jill has been so possessed by the idea that one night she jumped out of bed at midnight because she simply had to make another batch.

The two are getting creative with the chocolate flavors as well. Thanks to their commercial kitchen space inside Verdant Tea (which also

partners with Sweet Science Ice Cream

for tea and ice cream hybrids), the duo have had a chance to try such exotic flavors as a Roobios chai chocolate. "I'd never heard of that," Zac said. "Chocolate and chai? It was



Toasty truck
Toasty truck
Courtesy of The Warming House

To take their hot chocolate to the masses, the Staffords found a truck from an artist in Wisconsin. It has more than a few quirks. The gas gauge bobbles back and forth, not actually gauging anything, the side door doesn't quite close, and there's a roving side mirror that roams back and forth, offering the occupants a full view of the countryside as they drive through it. 

In other words, this truck needs some work. And to get their dream rolling, the Staffords need a little cash infusion. They've taken to Kickstarter, like so many others before them, to make this dream a reality. So far, they've made nearly $3,500 worth of progress towards their $14,000 goal. They already have a few events booked for the winter, in the good faith that Minnesotans will support the gourmet hot chocolate dream. Really, who wouldn't want another, more chocolatey warming house at the Pond Hockey Championships?

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