Wednesday, January 19, 2011
After brunch at Locanda Verde, Rorie and I traveled across Manhattan and the East River (and eventually across the New York Marathon!) to the Mast Brothers Chocolate Factory in Brooklyn for a tour, given on Saturdays and Sundays at 1:00 PM. I have to admit, the first time I saw one of their bars on display at Miette Confiserie in San Francisco, I was a little taken aback. I was drawn to their beautiful paper wrappings, but I wasn't about to pay $10. for a bar of chocolate I had never tasted. Of course - I'd pay $10. for all kinds of other things at least as trivial or more so, but something about a $10. chocolate bar just hit me in that spot.
Pretty soon though, I started hearing about Mast Brothers Chocolate all over the place, and when I finally had a chance to try some, I understood what all the fuss was about. Their chocolates have a noticeable clarity of flavor and richness that sets them apart. They're fruity and intense without being bitter or chalky. Some of them are still a little strong for me - I definitely had my favorites in the tasting at the end of the tour, but the ones I liked I loved.
These photos, above and below, are from the tour that we took. Their facility is tiny - contained in just a few small rooms. The steps of the chocolate making go from left to right, top to bottom in the collages - from the conching of the beans on the top left, to the emulsifying of the mixture with the sugar and fats, to curing and drying the hotel pans of untempered chocolate, which are turned out of their pans and stored in giant blocks.
Those blocks are chopped and fed into their super-slick fancy tempering machines - seen at the top left of this second collage. After tempering, they're poured into molds. Anything that is added to the chocolate, such as chopped hazelnuts, coffee beans or nibs is sprinkled on the chocolate before it sets. The firm, molded bars are wrapped by hand at a table right there in their factory shop, and the labels are applied. At that point, the bars are then ready for sale. I really felt like Charlie in the chocolate factory watching those guys hand wrap the bars in gold paper, one after the other.
The hand wrapped bars are displayed in a case at the front of their facility, where they offer tastings and bars for purchase. My two favorites were the red-wrapped Dominican Republic bar and the cocoa nib -both fruity and with a well-rounded flavor. I brought a few home and savored them for months. (The last of it was served on New Year's Eve.) The Ocumare, pictured below is actually more expensive than the others because of it's bean blend. It was a little dark and intense for me, but the wrapping sure is pretty.
At the factory, they take only cash, but they sell the bars for $8. instead of $10. You can also order online here. They only sell them in assorted sets of 10 for $92.00, but at least there's no tax and you can pay with a credit card!
For more views of the factory, check out the Selby's recent spread on the brothers Rick and Michael Mast and the factory. (No, they weren't there that day, unfortunately.)
Mast Brothers Chocolate Factory
105 North 3rd Street
Tour reservations are available here. Tours are offered on Saturdays and Sundays at 1 PM, and last about an hour.
The tasting room is open for tasting and sales from 12-7 Thurs. and Fri. and Saturday and Sunday from 12-8.
Click here for a full list of their products and varieties. I'd love to get my hands on some of their baking goods. (They sell to many restaurants and chefs, including Thomas Keller.)