Chocolate isn’t merely a muse for FINE & RAW Founder Daniel Sklaar; it’s a lifelong pursuit in crafting the finest cacao delicacies.
In his latest creation, Sklaar marries the upcoming Halloween festivities with local art to bring chocolate lovers the limited edition Cat Reaper bar. Designed by local artist Yusuke Okada, the 70% dark chocolate bar is embellished with a feline reaper and was launched in early October. A delicatessen described as “spooky and fun,” the bar holds earthy notes that are enhanced by sea salt.
But making chocolate wasn’t always the road Sklaar thought he’d embark on. Prior to becoming a chocolatier, the South African native worked in finance – but his strong interest in cooking, passion for yoga, and pure infatuation with raw food paved the way toward the 2300-square foot empire he operates right out of Bushwick.
“I have an appetite for risk and adventure,” Sklaar declared, pointing to the 19 different bars lining the wall of his chocolate factory.
Wrapped in golden foil, the bars are ordained with cowgirl illustrations that resemble tattooed caricatures. Lavender, whiskey vanilla, and strawberry coconut are some of the flavors to sample – and that’s not even touching the cashew and hazelnut butter bars, where the butters are also made in house.
Raw chocolate is a different class of its own. With a health profile touting 40 times the amount of antioxidants found in blueberries, raw chocolate doubles as a delicacy as well as a super food.
Botanically, raw chocolate is derived from sun-dried cacao beans, but the distinguishing factor between raw chocolate and regular chocolate is the temperature component known to preserve the cacao bean’s flavor profile. Completely vegan, the chocolate is dairy-free and uses unrefined coconut sugar to enhance its natural caramel notes.
“Culturally it’s a candy bar, but when you see cocoa beans or other beans, you notice that there’s substance to it,” Sklaar said.
A 2 oz. chocolate bar from the Brooklyn Bonnie Collection retails at $8.50 while an 8-piece truffle set clocks in at $25. When asked about the potential sticker shock that some consumers may encounter, Sklaar didn’t bat an eye.
“We’re a labor of love,” Sklaar contended. “It takes six days to make one of our bars when it’s [around] 20 minutes for a Hershey’s bar.”
The factory churns through about 45 kilograms of cocoa beans a day, according to Sklaar. He also makes a point of working directly with farmers in sourcing the beans to create the perfect bar.
“A product has to be consistent,” Sklaar said. “From the process, to the detail, to the visual, to the taste – the detail we put into sourcing the right beans, the artwork, the ingredients and the organic ethics is essential.”
And the next addition to that process for FINE & RAW is chocolate-paired wine tastings. Sklaar also alluded to upcoming cacao ceremonies, but said that chocolate connoisseurs would have to wait for further details. For now, perhaps they can enjoy a mean cup of hot chocolate in FINE & RAW’s factory café.
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