As you may or may not remember, we reported with, uh, some level of excitement back in October that Bushwick would soon be getting its very own chocolate factory, courtesy of local chocolatiers (and Brooklyn Flea veterans) Fine & Raw.
Well, after a months-long building process, their 2,500 square foot facility off the Morgan stop opened up in early December, and we stopped in this week — the most important of all weeks, when it comes to chocolate — to chat with owner Daniel Sklaar about truffle recipes, chocolate fountains, and his plans for a chocolate jungle. It was a really good day.
"Essentially, I'm possessed by the chocolate gods," said Sklaar, by way of explaining the transition that led him from a career in finance to several years as a "traveling hippie" to launching his own chocolate company out of a small space in Williamsburg in 2008. Working in a kitchen, he said, "I'd be hanging out with coworkers after shifts playing with chocolate, and after 6 months of experimenting and throwing around recipes and getting familiar with the medium, I thought that this was really something I could sink my teeth into."
Not every experiment went well in the early days ("Salt can be perfect, or it can go horribly awry," Sklaar notes), but since then he's created a rotation of staples — the sea salt, almond chunky, and coconut chunky bars are all best-sellers — all of which can be seen in every stage of production thanks to the factory's open floor plan. A notable highlight of the space is a chocolate fountain, which drips chocolate down onto a conveyor belt of truffles. "The first question people always ask is, 'Can I put my mouth under that,'" says Sklaar.
For now, the beans are primarily sourced from farmers in Bolivia and Madagascar, but Sklaar also has two of his own chocolate trees (given to the company by the USDA organic research facility), which will soon be housed in a greenhouse on-site. More specifically, a forthcoming "chocolate jungle." The idea, Sklaar explained, is chocolate transparency. "I'd love people to pick up their cappuccino and truffle, come through the factory and see how everything's done, cruise through to the chocolate jungle, sit down, nibble a truffle, see the plant and the stone grinders, and think, 'Oh, this all makes sense.' So many people don't even know what a cocoa bean looks like." Somehow, we have a feeling a lot of people will find themselves suddenly very willing to learn.
Fine & Raw
Fine & Raw, 288 Siegel St
Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.