Fine & Raw Chocolate is one of those unique products that just reawakens your senses to the possibility of what a food you have eaten time and again can taste like when reinterpreted by someone who has discovered a new point of view on it. After a career in financial services with its long hours, hectic pace, and grueling workload, Daniel Sklaar, decided to pursue a healthier lifestyle. This took him in the direction of exploring the raw foods movement and its philosophy.
At the same time, as he confessed during our conversation at his Brooklyn loft headquarters, just a few steps away from the waterfront, he has a sweet tooth, too. His chocolate combines both of these aspects, creating flavors and textures that I haven't discovered anywhere else. When I tasted some of the product line on my visit to his offices, I was reminded again of this.
I first met Daniel at the Brooklyn Flea's Gifted Market back in December. As I passed by his table, I hesitated before talking to him. More holiday chocolate sellers? More candy stalls? I honestly wasn't sure that I wanted to subject my tastebuds to yet another sampling of artisan sweets. I'd had already discovered some really great handmade treats at other markets and had filled up my gift bags with them. Now, I'm glad that I paused that day to try his wares as they really are something special.
Made using high-quality ingredients and raw food principles, these are not your usual flavor combinations. Raw chocolate is combined with agave and coconut oil to create the bars. Cane sugar is not used in their products. The cacao is minimally processed to keep as much of its health-giving properties intact as possible. This results in each bite delivering intense taste along with a smooth texture that demonstrates the craftmanship of the candymaker.
The Mesquite is rich and robust with a deep, intense flavor. As the chocolate melted on my tongue and its aroma flooded my mouth, I was reminded of eating a thick, well-cooked steakhouse dinner with a glass of a bold red wine to drink. The dark, smokey notes were very nuanced to give it a great finish, perfect to have with that glass of wine.
Daniel was saying that the Raspberry Bar goes quite well with a Malbec. I found that the Crystals & Sea Salt version pairs a refined, rich chocolate with a salty punch evident from the first bite. The Lucuma & Vanilla is a more perfumed selection. It has a richer, smoother finish to it. The fragrance hits you up front, and you get a split-second vision of being far, far away from our snowy streets lolling around in a more tropical climate.
What I really still remember, however, is my taste of the Bonbon. This is the product that won me over to Fine & Raw and its philosophy. After your teeth break through the outer shell and capture the soft, truffle-like inside, it wanders over your tongue leaving a wave of rich flavor tinged with a bit of sweetness and a wafting hint of the coconut oil. You feel all your stresses and cares melting away as the chemical process of the chocolate start to interact with your brain. This is what sweet indulgence should be: good tasting and good for you.
I'm not trying to put the Cacao & Coconut Chunky Bonbon in second place, but I do prefer the plain one. No matter which bar or candy you chose, however, you will not be going wrong. The company not only tries to make a healthier sweet, it also works to adhere to greener principles in its packaging and design. So this is a chocolate that can make you feel good about getting your candy fix from time to time.
Fine & Raw Chocolate can be bought via their website. They also have a table at the Brooklyn Flea.