Another Valentine’s Day come and gone, another holiday spent stomaching mass-produced pharmacy chocolate. However, with Brooklyn, N.Y., quickly becoming the most important chocolate manufacturing region west of Belgium, next year's Feb. 14 doesn’t have to mean Russell Stover samplers and Edible Arrangements.
In 2008, Rick and Michael Mast revolutionized the New York chocolate industry by roasting their own beans rather than purchasing pre-made chocolate. They’ve been making wildly popular, single-origin bars in their Williamsburg factory ever since. Still, it wasn’t until last month that Kings County was crowned an epicenter of cacao. Inspired by Willy Wonka, legendary chocolatier Jacques Torres announced plans for a massive factory in the Brooklyn Army Terminal. Complete with a 70-foot tunnel, a chocolate powder room, and a 5-ton melter, the project is Brooklyn’s golden ticket to chocolate dominance.
In addition to Torres’ new factory, Sunset Park is home to both Li-Lac Chocolates and Tumbador Chocolates. Founded in 1923, Li-Lac makes old-school chocolates using time-honored techniques and original recipes. Tumbador Chocolate, run by executive pastry chef Jean-François Bonnet, churns out certified kosher chocolates featuring a mix of exotic fruits, spices, and fresh herbs.
Over in Red Hook, Cacao Prieto produces bean-to-bar chocolate with organic cacao from founder Daniel Prieto Preston’s family farm in the Dominican Republic. Beautifully balanced and silky smooth, the factory’s Criollo bars are made from bean strains dating back to Christopher Columbus. Raaka Virgin Chocolate in Cobble Hill slow cooks their beans, creating a raw quality that’s unattainable with traditional roasting. From cask-aged bourbon to blueberry lavender, their flavors are equally unconventional. Back in Williamsburg, Fine & Raw uses conscious ingredients and low-heat techniques to visceral effect. The lucuma and vanilla bar has notes of bread pudding, toffee apple, and burnt caramel while the mesquite is a mix of sweet, smoky, and earthy notes.
With so many options, there’s no need for bouquets of chocolate-covered strawberries. Next Valentine’s Day, skip Duane Reade and head straight to Brooklyn.