I’ve never been a chocolate lover. In fact, there’s video footage of me rejecting my own chocolate birthday cake at the tender age of three. Pickles and pretzels, I used to declare proudly. Give me a steak over sugar any day.
Of course, that’s when I equated chocolate with teeth-tingling sweetness and a milky bar devoid of any real flavor. After trying a sample of Fine & Raw, I was subject to a life-changing revelation. It’s not that I don’t like chocolate. It’s that I don’t like bad chocolate. Much like brussels sprouts and pork, the good stuff is stellar, while the bad stuff makes you cringe – or worse, leaves you indifferent.
This chocolate? It knocks you over the head with a delicious brick and then hugs you when you stagger upright. No indifference allowed.
Awed and eager for more, I trekked over to the Brooklyn storefront for some more swoon-worthy chocolate-y goodness and a chat with the man behind the madness, Chocolatier Daniel Sklaar.
Fine & Raw has its roots in what Daniel calls his “quarter-life crisis”. He ditched his job as a financial analyst to be a raw food chef in Arizona, where he became interested in raw chocolate, considered a superfood by the raw food community. Back in New York, Daniel starting making small batches of raw chocolate in his loft apartment, and Fine & Raw took off from there. Though it’s grown into a six-person operation complete with shiny machines and customers as far away as Texas, Fine & Raw is still a small-batch, artisanal, devoted to excellence operation.
What’s evident is the passion behind the product. First of all, we’re talking about raw chocolate – whose processes are time consuming and finicky. Raw chocolate is made at the lowest temperatures possible, in order to preserve the nutrients present in raw cacao beans. This isn’t a get-rich scheme.
Additionally, Fine & Raw sources its cocoa beans whole, so they can sort, shell, and grind the beans themselves. You can literally sit on a bag of beans waiting to be processed while buying your chocolate at the store. The only way to integrate the system further would be planting a chocolate forest (which they’re working on, if the two cacao bean trees being fostered in Daniel’s apartment are any indication).
What all this love and care and work means is the lucky chocolate consumer gets a bar of unsurpassed flavor, rich and deep. The puzzling yet delightful combinations dreamed up by Daniel and his friends (like Mesquite and Lucuma & Vanilla) are accompanied by simpler, but still stunning, bars such as sea salt and 83% dark.
My personal favorite is the one we have in the Eat Boutique shop and the one I tried in the store, which is the Cacao and Coconut Bar. The natural sweetness and nuttiness of the coconut is a perfect foil to rich, earthy cacoa. It melts in your mouth and left me with a smile on my face.
The interview ended with me smiling as well, since my final question to Daniel was why he went through all this trouble. Why grind the beans yourself? Why dehydrate beans for days?
He grinned like a kid who’s playing for the pure joy of it and said “It’s insanity, I know. But I do it because it’s just so damn cool”.
It is pretty damn cool.
Order Fine and Raw Cacao and Coconut Bar in the Shop today!
All photos taken and styled by Amy Feiereisel.
Eat Boutique discovers the best small batch foods by boutique food makers. We share recipes, maker stories and city guides to eating boutique. We host tasting events and markets for food makers, cookbook authors and food fans. We craft seasonal, regional gift and tasting boxes and sell individual items that you can order in the Eat Boutique Shop. You can also follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr and Pinterest.