Food & Drink
Brooklyn Chocolate Tour
Valentine’s Day - the holiday of love and chocolate - is nearly here and we’ve hunted down the best ways to get your Brooklyn chocolate fix. Don’t just buy a box of chocolate from the corner store - go see it being made, check out Brooklyn's own chocolate rum distillery, whip up a chocolate cocktail or pair it with beer, take a candy-making class or try your hand at a recipe from a Brooklyn baking blog.
Daniel Preston, the founder of Cacao Prieto (218 Conover Street, Red Hook), was an aerospace engineer who sold his defense company and started a chocolate factory and distillery. “You’d be surprised how many engineers would be comfortable in a chocolate factory, but chocolate really came of age in the industrial revolution,” says Preston. Preston and his team of engineers developed chocolate-making machinery they sell to other bean-to-bar companies. He invites curious chocolate lovers out to their Red Hook location to see the mix of Victorian and state-of-the-art equipment at work. Although there are no scheduled tours during the winter, the sign on the door says “Please Knock” and they give impromptu tours all the time. “We’re friendly people,” Preston said. The storefront where you can taste and purchase their products is staffed from 11am – 7pm on weekends.
Their cocktail bar Botanica is closed until spring, but you can whip up your own Valentine’s Day cocktail with Cacao Prieto’s Don Rafael Cacao Rum (available at Dry Dock Wine & Spirits in Red Hook): simply shake with muddled raspberries and ice and strain into a glass. Garnish with a raspberry. If you want a traditional offering of chocolate for your sweetheart, Preston suggests the Bark Bars. Each organic, single-origin bar comes with a postcard illustrating a romantic story from his family history.
Fine & Raw
The aroma of roasting beans perfumes the air at the Fine & Raw Chocolate Factory and Café (288 Seigel Street, Bushwick), which opened in December 2012. Tiny two-person tables are ideal for a cozy chat over chocolate shots (espresso and melted chocolate) or cappuccinos. The factory is in the back and visitors can ask for a quick tour of the facilities or just watch bearded chocolate makers make magic with beans and sugar.
When asked why he got into the chocolate business, founder Daniel Sklaar said, “I was possessed by the chocolate gods.” He adds later that he sometimes thinks he might have done it just so he could eat chocolate every day. He mused that there really might be something to the trope of an eccentric candy maker. The more he gets into “this factory thing” the more he sees the whimsical aspects, and he described Madagascar vanilla as “boogaloo space dance craziness.” Case closed.
Fine & Raw has a chocolate tasting in the works: a flight of chocolates possibly with coffee as a palate cleanser. They are also developing an olive oil truffle and something with parmesan (which tasted like chocolate and sea salt but cheesier). The newest treat available is a Scotch Chunky, which is like a truffle but in bar form, and is melt-in-your-mouth, whiskey and chocolate goodness. They also have a massive Valentine’s Day basket, guaranteed to make friends at work and very, very good friends at home.
Mast Brothers Chocolate
Stop by the gleaming factory and storefront of Mast Brothers Chocolate (111 North 3rd Street, Williamsburg) to try samples of their delectable chocolate bars and pick up freshly made cakes and bonbons. Although their tours are on a temporary hiatus as they redesign the schedule, the open design of the room allows visitors to peek in at the business in back where pastry chefs can be seen working dough and a machine resembling an old-fashioned typewriter wraps bars in brightly colored paper.
This Valentine’s Day they will be featuring blood orange chocolate cake and champagne and honey bonbons. Consider stopping by to pick up dessert if you’re feasting with your loved ones at home. Or give some Brooklyn love with their Brooklyn bar, a rich dark chocolate with hints, they say, of tobacco. If you're a fan of beer and chocolate, try the new Sixpoint brew 3Beans, which combines the flavors of Mast Brothers chocolate and Stumptown coffee.
The Chocolate Room
If pairing chocolate and beer isn't your thing, head to The Chocolate Room (86 5th Avenue, Park Slope and 269 Court Street, Cobble Hill) on Valentine's Day between noon and 11pm for a two-course chocolate dessert tasting. Sip a nice Riesling while you savor a Valhrona Jivara Mousse with Riesling Caramel Roasted Strawberry and a Dark Chocolate Passion fruit Truffle rolled in Gingersnap. If you or your love is vegan, the Chocolate Room also carries Super Foxy Sweets, vegan fudge made in Red Hook.
Butter Me Up Brooklyn
What better way to impress your sweetie than making a delicious dessert? Lillie Auld is the self-taught baker behind the blog Butter Me Up Brooklyn where you can find recipes for chocolate treats like Boozy Brownie Balls and Soft Stout Cookies. A simple project Auld suggests for the amateur chocolatier is making homemade chocolate bars. Simply melt chocolate in a double boiler and then pour into a silicon mold, available in many shapes (hearts, for example). JoMart Chocolates (2917 Avenue R) in Marine Park carries materials like chocolate molds for amateur and professional chocolatiers.
Auld teaches classes at Brooklyn Brainery and also offers private lessons. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Michael Rogak of JoMart Chocolates also teaches classes and private workshops. More information is available at jomartchocolates.com.