Q: How did you two get into the chocolate business? A: My partner Steve is a chef by trade, and we’ve both been in the food industry our entire lives. A couple years after we met we started out manufacturing individual desserts to sell wholesale to the hospitality industry; restaurants and country clubs. Winter time was upon us and Steve said he would like to make chocolate. We started our experimentation process in the Stony Book University Incubator at Calverton. That was three years ago, it took off really great and history was made!
Q: Is there a defining characteristic of North Fork Chocolate’s creations?
A: Yes—Our commitment to purity and supporting local businesses on the East End makes our chocolate unique. We use local ingredients for the centers and only pure Belgian chocolate. It’s all non-GMO, natural and or organic ingredients are used. No preservatives, additives or artificial flavors. There’s only like five ingredients in our chocolate.
Q: What kind of chocolate do you make?
A: We craft artisanal chocolates by blending different intensities of Belgian chocolate, meaning different percentages of the cocoa—it’s all pretty scientific.
Most of our dark is 65%. We have a couple that are 75% organic, and some that are 58-60%. Whether it is our dark, milk or white it is our own recipe, unique in itself; there’s nothing else like it.
We make solid chocolate bars, and customize chocolate bars for other businesses like vineyards and candy shops, gourmet restaurants, caterers. We also handcrafft truffles and bon bons—chocolate bark too.
Q: What’s the difference between a bon-bon and a truffle?
A: Shape and outer texture, mostly. A bon-bon is a bite size square or molded ganache, caramel or fruit covered with chocolate.
Truffles are usually in the shape of actual truffles, and they tend to have a crusted outer shell of chocolate, nuts or a dusting of cocoa.
For example, our pistachio truffle has a crusty pistachio shell and our mochaccino truffle’s center is infused with LIV espresso vodka and has a praline cookie shell. The mochaccino is the only one with gluten; the rest of our chocolates are all gluten free; we also have a few vegan chocolates.
Q: Do you guys have favorites?
A: It varies. Right now Steve’s favorite is a milk chocolate Apple Cider Caramel we make using local hard cider:We take the cider, reduce it to a caramel, add a little butter, mold it into an oval shape and decorate with a green cocoa butter polka dot motif:
One of my favorites is the Salty Dawg:which is a pecan molasses caramel with truffle sea salt, also a milk chocolate. My favorite dark would be the Five-O which is a coconut pineapple caramel in dark chocolate:
Q: Espresso vodka, hard cider—these sound like grown up chocolate ingredients. Are your creations all aimed at adults?
A: No, we have a lot of kid-friendly choices too: Ice cream sundae bon bon and root beer float bon bon—the root beer is from a South Fork company--and a gingerbread man with gingerbread ganache made with organic ginger from a local farm on the North Fork, and we have lots of different caramel. We make Tahitian vanilla bean ice cream ganache from Goodale Farms cow milk.
Q: Wow, it all sounds so elaborate; how do you manage to invent and stock so many varieties?
A: Well, Chef Steve’s a top notch pro. Graduate of Johnson and Wales, he has worked, studied, and lived abroad: France, Italy, Spain, Hawaii to name a few, and James Beard nominated on the Pacific coast. In April 2014 he was awarded by the LI Food Critic the Award of Excellence as finest Chocolatier.
Steve is an artist as well; his works are on display in the store too. That’s why he’s so creative on the bon bon tops—they are his little tiny canvasses.
Q: You recently had a chocolate and wine pairing series. Will you do more events?
A: Yes—next up, early in the new year we’ll do a fondue series. And we’ll have our First Annual Customer Appreciation Event. But in general we plan on having more events—interesting pairings with local olive oils, local cheeses. We’ll be offering instructional courses too; classes involving our chocolates, but also classes offered by lots of other businesses, like local crafters.
Our commitment to local business extends from the kitchen to our retail store. We work with local artisanal businesses and crafters; particularly startups, having their own shelf space enables them to market and sell their products as they build and grow.
We also bring our chocolate to events off site, like Harvest East End. Last year a cheese sponsor of the event offered a variety of cheeses to anyone would use to create in their dishes. So Steve made an aged goat cheese, white chocolate and raspberry crisp. There’s nothing we won’t try with chocolate.
Q: Customer appreciation event, pairings with local wine, cheese, olive oil, offering your space to other businesses to teach classes—that’s very civic-minded of you.
A: Well, being a start up is hard. We’re small and growing—we do a lot of hours, are dedicated to growing, but we remember. And we’re very invested in this community. So we aim to be somewhat of a business community center.
Q: Have you been here long? What’s your connection to the North Fork; what do you most appreciate about it?
A: Steve’s been here nearly 15 years; I put down roots here for the business. But it’s familiar territory; I’m from Somerset County New Jersey—horse country. Steve grew up on a small farm in Southern Massachusetts.
What do I like about it here? I like the community. The community is strong, and the North Fork offers so much opportunity for business. It’s not just summer. Pumpkins, Christmas Trees, Valentine’s Day, Easter—it’s a constant season for us. We never have a slow time. Maybe two weeks in January. The North Fork is really a destination year round.
And I love the Sound. There’s nothing like it anywhere in the world.
Q: You give shelf space to others—do people have to come to your shop to find your chocolate or is it available elsewhere?
A: Our assorted chocolate bark, like the one we make with North Fork Sea Salt, is available--We recently went into all five Wild by Nature stores with five varieties of our barks and our desserts will be premiering soon.
You can even get most of our chocolates through a home delivery service called Farm2Kitchen Long Island, which is a business based in Cutchogue.
A few other place we’re at are: Lombardi’s Love Lane Market, Agora, Waters Crest Winery, Pellegrini Vineyards,—we make them a special fudge with Pellegrini’s merlot wine, Lieb Cellars, and we do special events with Laurel Lake Vineyards.
Here are just a few more of their mouth-watering treats: