Last month ’twas our pleasure to host the doyenne of the new chocolate era Chloé (do we really need to add Doutre-Roussel?), plus a 2-person film crew in from Venezuela (affectionately known as the “2 Marias” – Maria Fernanda di Giacobbe & Maria Teresa Alvarado) & “The Dan” of Marañón Canyon Cacao behind the Pearson Project in Peru, for a Brooklyn Chocolate Crawl.
While SF arguably sits at the epicenter of American chocolate which may yet shift to Hawai’i, Brooklyn USA sprouts a budding scene amongst its indie rock bands, microbrews, & guys who like to watch girls watching Girls drink beer like nobody’s business.
Here’s a recap:
Mast Brothers – master wallpaper hangers whose stylized wrappers have been so copied near & far that the Bros should file for copyright infringement. Rick & Michael Mast rep Brooklyn from the clean-line layout of a factory in Billysburg, replete with film studio so you can nocialize while visiting. Forget the chocolate — their current release is a co-branded beer with local brewery Sixpoint.
Fine & Raw – an oxymoron on the face of it, but Daniel Sklaar braves the challenges of so-called “raw chocolate” from a side-street location that doubles as a lounge &, on given nights, a club. In step with his chocolate, the man throws intense parties. Judging by Fine & Raw’s widespread distribution throughout the 5 Boroughs & feedback from retailers, he’s succeeding on both counts.
Raaka – takes a different “raw” tack by wisely dropping the term in favor of the olive-oily “virgin chocolate”. Possibly no one in boutique chocolate accomplishes more with less square footage than Ryan Cheney & Company at Raaka. Enter its small workshop & the crammed quarters somehow manage to fit the cottage chocolate equipment of latter day barsmiths: Aether winnower, Cocoatown universal (grinder / refiner / conch), & Selmi temperer.
Being “raw” means no drum roaster, or any roaster at all. Instead bourbon casks dot the place. Raaka employs them to age cocoa nuts, imparting flavors otherwise contributed by added vanilla, as well as its own wooded character. Check the review of its Bourbon Cask Aged bar.
Cacao Prieto — The excursion ended in the remote section of Red Hook where Daniel Preston painstakingly refurbished his Cacáo Prieto quarters, resulting in perhaps the most state-of-the-art facility in artisan chocolate. No expense has been spared from the vintage equipment to newly-engineered devices (the latter by Preston himself) & a chilled storage holding center to make most other barsmiths weep and drool with envy. An upstairs loft serves as a think-tank for him & his team to peruse blueprints of their own cacáo grove in The Domincian Republic that supplies their cocoa, detailing its field architecture & planting density, replete with extensive testing & analysis of genotypes. An adjoining lounge, including gorgeous floor-to-ceiling rum stills (for a brand Preston labels Widow Jane after the wife of a miner – complicated story), completes the layout.
Simply put, Prieto takes an all-encompassing approach. The level of aesthetic melded to scientific rigor floored us. The applications of Preston’s work might some day benefit the wider field far beyond this island enclave.
The tongue & the eye test (see the C-spot review of Criollo 72) suggests that Prieto could eventually rival some of the titans of the space, such as Gianluca Franzoni of Domori. This would be no small achievement.