Retail Spotlight – The Chocolate Room

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Reservations at the most romantic restaurants in the city fill up quickly in the weeks before Valentine’s day, but it’s important to remember that this holiday – thankfully placed in the middle of the coldest months, when we all need a little celebration – can really be celebrated with loved ones of all sorts. At The Chocolate Room in Brooklyn they know this well, and it’s equally possible to share the joy of a spicy hot cocoa with your sweetheart as it is a banana split with your 3-year-old niece or a chocolate stout with your best friend. In fact, you can do so any time of year and be greeted with the same recipe of warmth and decadence – although they’re particularly busy these first weeks of February.

Walking inside, guests often remark on the smell of chocolate coming from open kitchen – the first invitation to stay awhile and try as much as possible. This is matched with an equally chocolatey color scheme of dark brown and red. After the smell, the first thing most guests notice is the chocolate case – brightly lit and well stocked with confections. In the weeks before Valentine’s day, there is a staff member available just to help guests assemble custom chocolate boxes from their favorite truffles inside.

The retail side of operations might be front and center, but The Chocolate Room also wants to keep you out of the cold; they take no reservations but provide table service during both the day and evening. Each shop has bar seating where you can watch desserts being assembled, as well as small tables that are sometimes pushed together for children’s birthday parties, and other times pulled apart and candle-lit for intimate evenings. There are no savory items on the menu, but there is something for every sweet tooth – from overflowing brownie sundaes to elegant flourless chocolate cake. Each menu item also has a suggested wine or beer pairing on the menu, like dark chocolate stout from Brooklyn Brewery or a Graham’s tawny port.

The wine pairings and low evening lighting make one thing clear: this is a romantic spot, the perfect place to take your date post-dinner when you’re not ready for the night to end, but you don’t feel like heading to a noisy bar. But just like its namesake, The Chocolate Room strives to be universal, and very kid-friendly. There is no hard alcohol served, but there are plenty of child favorites and kid-sized scoops of homemade ice cream. Appealing to both families and couples is no easy task – but it does explain how The Chocolate Room keeps the hot cocoa flowing at all hours during these cold winter months.

Take Aways… It can be difficult to bridge the gap between daytime family fare and nighttime romance, but doing so means you can put a smile on twice as many guests faces. The Chocolate Room begins with a concept that appeals to everyone, and then carries it out with a range of menu options and a warm, relaxed atmosphere.
The Chocolate Room has two locations: 269 Court St, Brooklyn, NY 11231 and 51 5th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11217.

 

 

Openings: Dominique Ansel Kitchen

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 11.23.31 AMTomorrow, the much-anticipated Dominique Ansel Kitchen will open its doors to the West Village. The Cronut king has taken the industry by storm developing hybrid desserts and he plans to take things to the next level with his newest endeavor. Dominique Ansel Kitchen will be the first of its kind bringing bakery retail together with restaurant service. According to their newly launched website 70% of the menu will be made to order.

Dominique Ansel names time as an ingredient, placing importance on the care and process that goes into each pastry. The bakery vows to offer the “best and most genuine versions of pastries…at the perfect time for you to eat it”. Menu speculation includes chocolate mousse, baba au rhum, beignets, mille-feuille and very buttery lemon tarts that are all prepared a la minute with a one to two minute prep time. Additionally, the bakery will offer savory options including garlic bread croissants and béchamel filled squid ink toasts.

Ansel announced earlier this month that 26-year-old Karys Logue would be his Executive Chef overseeing both Dominique Ansel Kitchen as well as the original Dominique Ansel Bakery. Logue first crossed paths with Ansel when they worked together at Daniel and since she has perfected her skills as sous chef at Café Boulud as well as executive pastry chef at Sepia and Tessa.

Dominique Ansel Kitchen, 137 Seventh Avenue South (10th Street), 212-242-5111, dominiqueanselkitchen.com

The Chocolate Expo In Garden City!

The Chocolate Expo is one of the largest chocolate events in the U.S., offering tastings & sales of chocolates, baked goods, specialty foods, gelato, cheeses and wines from roughly 50 local, regional and international vendors. The event will take place in Garden City, New Jersey on March 1st from 10AM-7PM at the Cradle of Aviation Museum. Aside from the combination of chocolate and food, the expo also has unique exhibits, performances, demonstrations and celebrity appearances.

For a list of the participating vendors at the March 1st Expo, click here. The Chocolate Expo supports local foods & farming and regularly invites farms to participate and encourage other vendors to use locally-sourced ingredients, whenever possible. For more information about the Chocolate Expo, visit their website here.

Chocolate Will Cost More This V-Day

Cocoa prices increased significantly in the past year which will make this year’s Valentine’s Day chocolate gifts that much pricier. There has been in increase in demand for darker chocolates (mainly in Asian markets) which require more cocoa that could explain the cause of the spike in the commodity. Edward George, head of soft commodities research at EcoBank states,“What’s driving up the price, really, is rising demand for cocoa in Asia, though it also was pretty strong in North America and Europe.”

Environmental factors could also have been another factor affecting the rise; a dusty wind known as the harmattan began to sweep the big players in cocoa production this December (mostly West African countries) right at the beginning of the prime harvesting season. Many of the cocoa trees were also attacked by fungi that contributed to the decrease in production. Hershey’s has raised prices across all its products this year to offset the high cocoa prices. Sylvia Kälin, head of Lindt & Sprüngli’s corporate communications states,”L&S, like other companies in the chocolate industry, had to make occasional price adjustments on selected products in 2014 to absorb some of the raw material cost challenges — even if at first we always try to counter these challenges with increases in efficiency and volume.”

To read more about the rising cost of chocolate, click here, and on that note, Happy Valentine’s Day from TPG!

Mast Brothers Open The Chocolate House in Williamsburg

The Mast Brothers, the American craft chocolate-making pair, have recently opened The Chocolate House. The Chocolate House has been added to the chocolate factory in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Mast Brothers handcrafts a variety of single origin chocolates from around the globe as well as a unique house blend. Mast Brothers have partnered with special organizations and farms including Anderson Almonds, Stumptown Coffee, Maine Sea Salt and Crown Maple Syrup to create unique chocolate pairings.

The new Chocolate House will be dedicated to serving chocolate beverages. The menu includes:

  • Brewed Chocolate
  • Cold Brew Chocolate
  • Chocolate Soda
  • Chocolate Milk

This chocolate-centric beverage establishment will be a great addition to factory, flagship retail store and museum in Brooklyn. The concept of a brewed chocolate is very interesting; it is essentially a pour-over that is made with cacao nibs instead of coffee. The Cold Brew Chocolate also involves steeping the cocoa nibs which yields an unsweetened brew similar to an unsweetened tea. Follow Mast Brothers on Facebook to receive more information, or click here to read more about the opening of The Chocolate House.

 

Bushwick’s Fine and Raw

Fine and Raw in Bushwick is concocting delicious, unsweetened hot chocolate with just the right consistency. At $4 for a standard cup and $5 for a large, this 72% organic Madagascar varietal is a healthier alternative to mainstream brands. Staff suggests adding cayenne pepper or sugar afterward and offers soy milk. For the more adventurous crowd, Fine & Raw serves Sea Salt and Espresso bars for $7 to $8.

Alain Ducasse Expands Artisanal Chocolate Production

Famed French chef Alain Ducasse plans to expand his Paris-based chocolate line, adding another store at the Galeries Lafayette on July 15.  He also plans to sell the chocolates online, and at his restaurants the Dorchester (London), Plaza Athenee (Paris), and Le Louis XV (Monaco).

Ducasse said he has encountered some challenges in setting up production, noting that he is only the fifth chocolate maker in France to make his own chocolate, and the first in Paris. “‘The challenge was to find the craft machines that don’t really exist anymore. It’s a different job and art to make these machines compared with the modern ones. I’m a million times smaller than Cadbury, for example,'” said Ducasse.

Ducasse has always had a passion for chocolate, having worked under renowned pastry chef Gaston Lenotre.  In fact, he noted he almost became a chocolatier early his career, rather than a chef.  He now works with chocolate maker Nicolas Berger to create a variety of chocolates and confections, from ganaches, pralines, and truffles to single-origin bars.

For the full story on Ducasse and his latest venture, click here.