Monday, March 16, 2009

Bespoke Chocolates

Southampton Tea Truffle

Bespoke Chocolates, $2.25

Extra Place doesn't exactly welcome visitors,
particularly in the gathering dusk of a late winter evening. It's a stunted alleyway just off the Bowery, too small to appear on most maps, wallpapered with graffiti, and, on the occasion of my visit, bedecked with police tape. That it's not the kind of place where you'd expect to find an artisanal chocolate shop makes stepping out of the alley and into Bespoke Chocolates that much more delightful.

Open less than a year, Bespoke has made its name with impeccably crafted small-batch chocolates featuring creative flavor profiles. At the helm is London-trained chocolatier
Rachel Zoe Insler, whose previous career was in "academic cognitive neuroscience research".

While I don't want to belabor that transition or cast Insler as a cocoa-streaked mad scientist, it's hard not to look at the shop and see echoes of a laboratory or an old-fashioned apothecary as apron-clad chocolatiers bustle around in plain sight behind the gleaming marble counter of an open kitchen. As they patiently answer questions about their creations, it also becomes apparent that their process is suspiciously scientific.

I asked about the genesis of my chosen truffle, the Southampton Tea (top photo), and heard a tale of drawn-out research and methodical experimentation; infusing the silky-smooth ganache with a maximum wallop of apricot-scented Ceylon tea was not as straightforward as you might think. While the shell of fruity Caribbean chocolate comes from
readymade couverture, it was given perhaps the most perfect temper I've ever experienced; snapping my front teeth through the shell seemed to set off tiny shockwaves, and a millisecond later the glossy chocolate cracked into two halves held loosely together by oozing ganache.

Bespoke is also famous for an award-winning confection filled with liquid, sea-salted caramel and rolled in crumbled pretzels (below right, front), and a hand-beaten spread of chocolate, hazelnuts, and Marcona almonds (in process, below left).

Bespoke Chocolates
6 Extra Place

New York NY, 10003


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