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22-12-2004
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faust's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: New York City
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Jacques Torres opens Chocolate Haven
Ok, any of you who visits New York, this place is a must. I recommend hot chocolate. And while you are there, wave at me - I'm across the street.

From NYTimes:

Quote:
December 22, 2004

All Chocolate, No Oompa-Loompas

By BRIAN CAZENEUVE

HE wheels were turning last week at Jacques Torres Chocolate Haven, where an employee was feverishly tossing too much powdered sugar into a rolling drum of macadamia nuts. In another time or place, he would have earned a four-star scolding, but not with Mr. Torres at his side.

"If you do it like that, it will puff out too much," Mr. Torres said, patting his puffed-out stomach and stumbling with a Charlie Chaplin gait. "See, just like me." Mr. Torres was not only relaxing a nervous employee; he was playing to his audience. Not 10 feet in front of him, noses pressed against the window that looks from the sidewalk right into Mr. Torres's workshop at 350 Hudson Street, at King Street, in SoHo. "People know we have fun here," he said. "They can watch to see what we do."

The Chocolate Haven is a 7,800-square-foot burst of imagination that is both an ode to the gastronomic craftsmanship that has made Mr. Torres celebrated as one of the world's premier chocolatiers and a nod to the whimsy that inspires him.

It is also one of the few places in the country that actually manufactures chocolate. Unlike in his five-year-old warehouse in Brooklyn, where he makes candy from chocolate, he goes one very risky step farther here: he is making the chocolate from cacao beans.

He longed for a spot in Manhattan, he said, mindful of not only attracting more people but also giving them something worth seeing. He had seen his customers squeezed into his tight 400-square-foot storefront in Brooklyn, straining to peer through open doors into the 5,000-square-foot factory, as if peeking into the magician's bag of tricks.

It has taken a while to get the magic in Manhattan just right. Mr. Torres found that expenses in his dream plan would have been nearly double his $1.5 million budget. The glass in the store cuts off at 11 feet in height, because Pierre Court, his designer, found that taller glass would need to be custom-made. The dream layout had included floor-to-ceiling glass.

"We anticipated there would be things we didn't anticipate," he said during a recent tour, when the factory was finally running.

Mr. Torres bought used machines from Italy, Mexico and Venezuela and purchased a refiner that was originally used to make lipstick.

Because of fire codes, he had to hide his roaster behind a windowless, reinforced sheet rack. He left alone a slope at the entrance rather than pouring concrete to level it. Instead of hiding pipes behind new plaster, Mr. Torres left the ceiling as an exposed highway of ventilation arteries beautified only by rolling gold lining inspired by the chocolate conveyor belt in a memorable "I Love Lucy" episode. With no general contractor, Mr. Torres twice delayed an October opening until Nov. 9 with products from his Dumbo store. He did not begin manufacturing chocolate until earlier this month.

He said he would need to make 500 to 600 pounds of chocolate each day to cover his $25,000 in monthly expenses. So why is he doing this?

"It's like the carpenter who wants to know how the wood grows to appreciate his craft," said Mr. Torres, 45, who was born in Algiers and moved to a fishing village in Provence, where he might have followed his father into carpentry had he not witnessed a chain saw take three of his father's fingertips one day. "I want to appreciate my chocolate. A candymaker can use base chocolate. A chocolatier should make his own."

When envisioning Chocolate Haven, he told Mr. Court to eschew conventional shop-and-counter layouts, to release his fantasy. In turn Mr. Court designed the windowed interior shop in the oval shape of a cacao pod, with views of working machines in the outer factory from every vantage point. Above the bar, where the specialty is hot chocolate (either mild Classic or the fiendish Wicked, with Latin-inspired hints of cinnamon, clove and ancho and chipotle chilies), he placed a statue of Quetzalcoatl, the Aztec god of cacao.

The interior has five tables; one will soon be reserved for children and have, in Mr. Torres's words, "small rocking chairs fit for mini-butts." By February he hopes to have five computer screens for customers to learn the process of making chocolate as they watch the evolution live behind the windows.

"I wanted to see my profession and not just my product," said Mr. Torres, always giddy and caffeinated. "Everybody loves chocolate, but it's such a mystery to them. How does this magic happen?"

On this day Mr. Torres was making chocolate with the tangy beans from Ecuador and the nutty beans from Ivory Coast. He put them in the roaster for half an hour.

"So the potion starts now," he said. "Are you ready for the takeoff?"

The ventilation system tamed most of the aroma in the room, but the waft at the edge of the roaster's base was intoxicating, like being inside a giant cacao pod. In a part of the factory hidden from public view, Mr. Torres placed the beans on a cooling rack and then in a winnower that cracked them between steel rollers, removed the shells and spilled the nibs into bags. The nibs have an acquired tart and bitter taste, and Mr. Torres processed their particulars in his mouth, with every blink, nod and squint hinting at the beans' character. "I tell you, for chocolate Ecuador is a strong country," he said, sensing the sharpness of the beans.

Now in public view, he poured the nibs into a grinding machine, a mixer where the dry beans released their cocoa butter and morphed into liquid. This was the first hint of a chocolate's sheen. As he inhaled and waved his hand in front of his nose, the people at the windows licked their lips.

At the refiner Mr. Torres had trouble at first keeping the machine cool enough so it wouldn't spray chocolate around, so he called a timeout to bring over some bags of ice. He incorporated sugar, vanilla beans and lecithin next into a conche that grinds them into small particles, aerates the mix and blends it with the cocoa butter.

He then moved that liquid into a tempering machine where the chocolate was first cooled and then heated in order to crystallize the cocoa butter.

"Eighty-eight degrees," Mr. Torres said, changing from artist to scientist. "That is when chocolate gets hard and soft. It dances at that special note."

After tempering the chocolate, he started pouring it into bar molds. He ran to get a camera to take a picture of "Bar No. 1," the first one he had produced using this particular mix of origins. After he removed the molds from the freezer 20 minutes later, he started calling people over to elicit their opinions of the blend.

"Sharp, but not so smooth," he said. "Oh, we can do better." He encouraged and listened to each opinion of his staff members. When friends showed up a few minutes later, he gave them samples and asked for their thoughts, too.

"The signature needs less Ecuador," he said. "I need to wait a few minutes. Then I cool my taste buds and I taste some more."

Later Mr. Torres offered yet another comparison for his product.

"You know, chocolate is like romance," he said. "It makes your eyes close, your mouth water. It makes you playful. You feel it? You see what I mean?"

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22-12-2004
  2
Naturellement pulpeuse
 
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If I ever need a quick fix in New York I'll know where to go.


As it is, I'm still recovering from the 99% Cocoa chocolate I got last Christmas...

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22-12-2004
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PrinceOfCats
If I ever need a quick fix in New York I'll know where to go.


As it is, I'm still recovering from the 99% Cocoa chocolate I got last Christmas...
I know, I usually split one hot chocolate with my wife, and then we are still bouncing off the walls. But it's so damn GOOD!

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22-12-2004
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Cho..co..late... *drools on the keyboard*

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22-12-2004
  5
I love model_mom!
 
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I'm on my way! :p

...I wish!!

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22-12-2004
  6
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My chocolate soup cafe suddenly has some competition.

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22-12-2004
  7
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thanks faust! i'll visit that choco-place next time i'm in NY.

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22-12-2004
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Chocolate, I'm so there! Gotta convince the the crew to take a trip...I'll just casually mention the fact that it's CHOCOLATE!

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22-12-2004
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nemova
Cho..co..late... *drools on the keyboard*
No chocolate, no life...

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22-12-2004
  10
front row
 
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Sweet, sweet Chocolate...
Hrrr....

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22-12-2004
  11
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Ahh - reminds me of Chocolat (the film)...a place with extraordinary chocolate that makes your mouth WATER at the thought of it. mm..

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26-12-2004
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Quote:
Ahh - reminds me of Chocolat (the film)...a place with extraordinary chocolate that makes your mouth WATER at the thought of it. mm..
Oh man that was an delicious film

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27-12-2004
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Quote:
Originally Posted by strawberry daiquiri
My chocolate soup cafe suddenly has some competition.
what in the world is a "chocolate soup café"??
please clear me up!

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28-12-2004
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I found this thread this morning or last night when I was quickly looking for things to be sure to visit in the city. Well, my mom and I went in today and this was the only thing on my list that we actually went to ....and it was awesome! We had coffee and split this giant, HOT chocolate chip cookie...mmmmm...

Thanks so much for posting this.

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29-12-2004
  15
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Hot Chocolate is SOO good!!! I want to go there right now!

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