At Winter Village chocolate is everywhere. It’s ladled onto churros, crepes, chimney cakes and wafels; poured warm into mugs; baked into macarons and rugelach; mixed in with holiday teas; and shaped into truffles.
It’s an abundance of riches, and over the past couple seasons I have tried almost all of the chocolate options in the park. The chocolate babka from Breads Bakery beats my Jewish family’s traditional recipe by a wide margin. The hot chocolate from Max Brenner – milk chocolate ganache mixed with warm milk and vanilla – is about as good as it gets.
|Raaka is one of several excellent chocolate vendors.|
My favorite, however, is the chocolate from Raaka. The award-winning upstart chocolatiers from Red Hook, Brooklyn make the chocolate bar into a true culinary luxury. Using unroasted cacao beans, ground and then heated at a much lower-than-normal cooking temperature, Raaka creates something they call “virgin chocolate.” Its taste is stronger and more subtle than almost any chocolate I’ve had.
To celebrate this wonderful vendor, I walked around the Bryant Park offices with three of Raaka’s bars. Hiding the names of the chocolates, I asked six staff members to describe each chocolate’s flavor and pick a favorite. Here are some of their comments (and a tally of which ones my coworkers preferred):
Chocolate A – preferred by 4 of 6
“Raisin-y,” “some nice acidity to it,” “finish is just a bit sweet, which is very nice,” “there’s an herbal element, almost a leafy-ness,” “bitter, but not overly so,” “floral," “reminds me of Africa. Madagascar even.”
Chocolate B – preferred by 1 of 6
“Subtler,” “hazelnut flavor almost,” “smokiness,” “smoky, yeah, some smoke there,” “almond-y,” “fruit,” “Ceylon tea kind of flavor,” “a bit of salt.”
Chocolate C – preferred by 1 of 6
“Coconut, definitely,” “macaroons,” “reminds me of Passover,” “smoother,” “meltier,” “almost like milk chocolate,” “tropical,” “dairy feel, even though it’s dark chocolate,” “malty-ness,” “sweeter.”
|Raaka sells more than just chocolate bars. Next time, I'm buying those tahini squares.|
Chocolate A – Madagascar. The only chocolate bar in the world made from unroasted cocoa beans from the Ambanja region of Madagascar’s esteemed Sambirano Valley. It's just organic cacao beans, with a little organic sugar cane.
Chocolate B – Cask Aged Bourbon. The first chocolate featuring cask-aged cocoa beans. The aging process enhances our virgin chocolate with strong caramel, vanilla, and oaky deliciousness.
Chocolate C – Coconut Milk. We developed the Coconut Milk bar to satisfy our desire for a creamy, milky chocolate made without dairy.
But like Levar Burton says, you don't have to take my word for it. Try them all yourself; which was your favorite?
|There are so many more chocolate bars to try.|
Weekdays, 11am - 8pm
Saturdays, 10am - 9pm
Sundays, 10am - 6pm