Tag Archive | "chocolate"

Brooklyn, chocolate and two bearded brothers


By SONYA REHMAN

They’re tall, they’re bearded and they make chocolate. Artisan chocolate.

Meet the Brothers Mast: Rick and Michael. Their company, Mast Brothers Chocolate, is slowly gaining momentum in Brooklyn.

Covered by The New York Times  as part of Brooklyn’s new culinary movement, the brothers launched their company three years ago with the help of “our mother and credit cards.”

But it was only in February that they moved into their rather spiffy factory, with steel chairs and a wooden table, the air within breezy yet steady, with the aroma of warm chocolate churning away, being tempered in another room.

Photo: Lucy Hamblin

Michael and Rick Mast. (Photo by Lucy Hamblin)

The 120-year-old building used to be a spice factory. No wonder then, its rustic and rather earthy feel. But rather than having the appearance of a factory, both its interior and exterior makes it look like a sturdy warehouse.

Three years ago, while Michael was taking film courses at NYU and dabbling in different productions, Rick had an epiphany.

Working as a chef at different restaurants in New York City and at private parties, Rick, who had studied with the chocolatier Jacques Torres, began serving confectionery, such as truffles, that he made from scratch. The feedback he received was encouraging, goading him to finally decide to launch his own company with his brother.

From very little equipment, a small room and burlap sacks, Mast Brothers Chocolate has come a long way.

But it’s been slow and steady, just the way Rick likes it.

He is resolute about continuing the production of personalized, bean to bar, artisan chocolate-making. From choosing which regions to import their cacao beans to personally visiting the farms and then making the chocolate – the nine to 15 varieties of chocolate are custom-made, from start to finish. Flavors include the traditional — with almonds — to the more unusual — fleur de sel, or sea salt.

“We mainly produce dark chocolate,” says Rick, “We have a dedication to people who don’t eat dairy.”

But what makes their chocolate “artisan chocolate”?

“The whole process,” Rick (obviously the more talkative of the two) says. “One has to be at par with the whole process. Finding the best farmers, the best cooperatives, and going down to the regions and buying the beans ourselves.” This attention adds to the price, of course — a 2.5-ounce bar sells for about $12.

“We wanna be like the local butcher,” Rick states hopefully, adding that he’d like his customers to develop a certain level of trust with their product.

Walking over to the table where Stephanie Ault (one of six employees at the factory) is sorting out the cacao beans, Rick runs through the entire process, from the sifting to the husking, to the crushing and to the mixing, to the cooling and to the cutting. The aroma in the mixing room is stronger, as the mixers gently roll the mounds of thick chocolate over and over.

In the mixers, the chocolate being twisted and twirled is almost hypnotic. That, coupled with the aroma … and one is in a trance.

With cacao beans flying in from the Dominican Republic to Madagascar, and from Brazil to Venezuela, what do the Brothers Mast look for in a bean?

“That it’s delicious,” Rick answers intently, “If it’s delicious, everything else tends to follow.”

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Sundays at the Brooklyn Flea are for eating


At the Brooklyn Flea Market under the Brooklyn Bridge every Sunday, food entrepreneurs sell their wares alongside some of the nicest junk you're likely to get your hands on.

At the Brooklyn Flea Market under the Brooklyn Bridge every Sunday, food entrepreneurs sell their wares alongside some of the nicest junk you're likely to get your hands on. (Photo: Sonya Rehman)

By SONYA REHMAN

Set up under the Brooklyn Bridge every Sunday, the Brooklyn Flea is home to probably some of the nicest junk you’d ever be able to get your hands on. But among the stalls selling old records, shiny baubles, vintage bird cages, Victorian brooches and ethnic rugs, food vendors sell their goods to hungry shoppers.

Relatively new to the food business, these entrepreneurs, many with small shops elsewhere,  set up their stalls in a bid to introduce the public to their goodies.

On Oct 25, the Brooklyn Flea was abuzz. Amid families with their children in tow and the antiques, oddball junk jewelry, cupcakes, candy, chocolate and creamy Ricotta cheese were fast being sold.

Martha Stewart was spotted with her TV crew lolling about the flea. She stopped at the Brooklyn Blue Marble ice cream stall and tried a taste of chocolate chip.

Her response was a definite “mmmmmm.”

Martha Stewart with her TV crew at the Brooklyn Flea. Stopping by at the 'Brooklyn Blue Marble' ice cream cart, Stewart let out an audible ‘mmmm’ as she ate a scoop of ice cream.

Martha Stewart with her TV crew at the Brooklyn Flea. Stopping by at Brooklyn Blue Marble ice cream cart, Stewart let out an audible “mmmm” as she ate a scoop of chocolate chip. (Photo: Sonya Rehman)

Daniel Sklaar of ‘Fine & Raw chocolate’ used to make and sell chocolate from his kitchen till the FTA’s regulations were tightened. Selling his goods online and at the flea market for two years running, Sklaar considers himself to be an ‘artisan’ of chocolate and makes fresh batches on a weekly basis.

Daniel Sklaar of Fine & Raw Chocolate used to make and sell chocolate from his kitchen until FDA regulations were tightened. Selling his goods online and at the flea market for two years running, Sklaar considers himself to be an artisan of chocolate and makes fresh batches weekly. (Photo: Sonya Rehman)

Having worked at Roni-Sue’s Chocolates previously, Liz Gutman met Jen King at the French Culinary Institute and decided to launch ‘Liddabit Sweets’ in April this year. “Jen and I had talked about going into business together for a while”, Liz says. Producing for wholesale and catering for weddings, Liz and Jen set up their sweet stall at Fort Green in Brooklyn every Saturday.

Having worked at Roni-Sue’s Chocolates previously, Liz Gutman met Jen King at the French Culinary Institute and decided to launch Liddabit Sweets in April this year. “Jen and I had talked about going into business together for a while,” Liz says while adjusting her glasses. Producing for wholesale and catering for weddings, Gutman and King set up their sweet stall at Fort Greene in Brooklyn every Saturday. (Photo: Sonya Rehman)

“This is my bread and butter”, says Betsy Mark Devine of ‘Salvatore Bklyn’ with a smile. Mainly wholesale producers of cheese, Devine and her partner Rachel have been selling homemade cheese, particularly Ricotta cheese for two years and have a stall set up at the Brooklyn Flea every Sunday.

“This is my bread and butter,” says Betsy Mark Devine of Salvatore Bklyn with a smile. Mainly wholesale producers of cheese, Devine and her partner Rachel have been selling homemade cheese, particularly Ricotta, for two years and have a stall set up at the Brooklyn Flea every Sunday. (Photo: Sonya Rehman)

Keavy Landrith specializes in little morsels of delight – teeny cupcakes that look almost too pretty to eat. With degrees from the Culinary Institute of America and The French Culinary Institute, Landrith initiated ‘Kumquat Cupcakery’ two years ago. With no retail location, Landrith says her business went into full bloom after her cupcake hobby began verging on pure obsession. Catering for parties and events, Landrith works from a rent-out kitchen. (Photo: Sonya Rehman)

Keavy Landrith specializes in little morsels of delight -- teeny cupcakes that look almost too pretty to eat. With degrees from the Culinary Institute of America and The French Culinary Institute, Landrith initiated Kumquat Cupcakery two years ago. With no retail location, Landrith says her business went into full bloom after her cupcake hobby began verging on pure obsession. Catering for parties and events, Landrith works from a rent-out kitchen. (Photo: Sonya Rehman)

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