Chocolate, Rum Kisses and Passion Fruit Hearts: A Guide to
Jacques Torres Chocolate
By Christine Leahy
tend to get cranky around February 14, but really, there
is no need for the usual cynicism. So what if you're single
and the president is making war and not love? We should
appreciate Valentine's Day for what it is: an opportunity
to eat chocolate. And why not make it the best chocolate
the city can find? Lucky for us, it can be found not too
far away, down under the Manhattan Bridge.
Jacques Torres Chocolate sits snugly in the cobbled-street
heart of Dumbo, among squeaky new galleries and restaurants,
warehouses-soon-to-be-lofts and picturesque views of various
bridges. When you step inside, you will be treated to the
best kind of aroma therapy - a powerful, delicious smell
of cocoa that dominates the little "shoppe." Large
windows show you the small, immaculate-looking factory next
door, where white-clad staff chefs are doing things to confections
that roll down a conveyor belt, trays of chocolate wait
to be whisked away and rows of colorful ribbons are ready
to tie up pretty boxes. Cranky? Cynical? What's that?
The store's shelves are stocked with all manner of packaged
gifts and sweets, from cocoa mix and peanut brittle, jams
and sauces (including, "Body Butter: Don't Make Us
Give You Directions"), shortbread tins and a 2.2 lb
block of chocolate called "Big Daddy Bar: Hunka-Hunka
Burnin' Love." These are all fine and well, but what
you should concentrate on are the store's true gems - the
fresh chocolates in the display cases. But even before that,
your very first order of business should be to taste one
of Torres' famous hot chocolates, while sitting at one of
the three little tile-topped tables.
seven-year-old critic declared that she found the hot chocolate
"too rich," but serious adult chocolate lovers
know better - when it comes to chocolate, intensity is a
good thing. The hot cocoa is made with an espresso machine,
and if you have ever been to Spain and had churros y chocolate
you will have an idea of what the thick consistency is like.
But Torres' version is sweeter and more complex than chocolate,
with enough of a bitter edge to balance the sugar. If plain
old hot chocolate is too tame for you, try the Wicked Hot
Chocolate, a spicy alternative with chile, allspice and
cinnamon that give it extra kick. Both the Wicked and Classic
varieties are velvety smooth, a little frothy on top, and
in a word, "fabulous" -- as put by regular customer
Suzanne Welker, who asserts that the only other place she
has had a comparable cup of cocoa was at a spot called Angelina's,
Which is no accident, since Jacques Torres grew up in Provence,
was a pastry chef's apprentice by the age of 15, and went
on to numerous prestigious positions in the French pastry
world. He built a collection of impressive culinary awards
before coming to New York to serve as the pastry chef at
Le Cirque, where he stayed for eleven years. He has made
many TV appearances, authored two dessert cookbooks (both
on sale at the shoppe), and opened his place in Dumbo in
Once you have dutifully sampled the hot chocolate, you can
move on to the display cases in the back of the store. Next
to the apple tart, pain au chocolat and other pastries,
you will see the tidy rows of chocolate bon-bons, in about
two dozen different flavors, such as Rum Kiss, Fresh Squeezed
Lemon and Pistachio Marzipan. (For a list of the current
flavors you can visit Torres' website at www.mrchocolate.com.)
out your very own assortment might just be the highlight
of your day. Each piece is a visual delight, as pleasing
to the eye as it is the tummy. The Golden Espresso is a
midnight dark square topped with an artful splotch of gold.
The Almondine has the Jacques Torres' logo embossed in a
diagonal repeating pattern across the top. The Creamy Raspberry
is molded into a perfect little raspberry. You can get a
few at $.80 apiece to pop in your mouth right away, or you
can get a dozen pieces (1/4 lb) in an attractive box for
$12, or two dozen (1/2 lb) for $23.
"The ladies at the counters are really very very helpful,"
notes regular customer Joseph Tusa, of staff members who
will patiently walk their clients through the pleasures
of picking and choosing. And they're happy to offer advice
through the process. "If this box is a gift, you might
want to add a few milk pieces to balance the look of the
dark," or, "the Fresh Coconut is one of our few
items that includes white chocolate." You also might
get a complimentary sample of something at the register.
And while Torres' website lets you know that, "fun
is the theme of the staff Jacques lovingly refers to as
his 'oompa-loompas,' " the folks in hairnets and white
gloves take their business quite seriously. One customer
recalled that when buying a few chocolates to eat on the
spot, a staff person was dropping them into a little bag
for her when a second staff person protested, saying they
should not be handled so roughly in case they'd become "bruised."
Some of the must-have flavors are as follows: Bandol Breeze,
which is named for Torres' hometown of Bandol, and is also
one of the fastest-selling pieces, combines a thin layer
of jam-like apricot pâte de fruit and a moist, flavorful
layer of almond marzipan, and is topped off by bittersweet
dark chocolate. The Almondine also makes excellent use of
the almond in an unusual sandy texture created from very
finely ground candied almonds, which are suspended in a
creamy ganache, and also covered with dark.
Another of the store's most popular hits is the Alizé
Heart of Passion, a plump, heart-shaped milk chocolate filled
with a milk chocolate and passion fruit flavored center.
This selection won the respect of passion fruit connoisseur
Aimee Althoff, who explained that it's difficult to incorporate
the fruit into a confection and maintain its true flavor,
but that Torres had done so successfully.
Like the Hearts of Passion, many of the other varieties
feature smooth, creamy textures. Grand Marnier, Earl Grey
Tea, and Fresh Squeezed Lemon are all excellent examples.
Although Torres' chocolates tend to be soft and delicate
more than crunchy, the Grandma's Chocolate Butter Crunch
is a good example of one that has a nice satisfying bite.
If you haven't already guessed, you really can't go wrong
in making your selections, but a few more that are worthy
of note are the dome-shaped Strawberry Fruit Drops, with
their gummy pâte de fruit center, and the two buttery
caramel varieties: Liquid Caramel and Creamy Caramel.
Torres's chocolate is made without artificial flavor or
preservatives, meaning they are always incredibly fresh
upon purchase but don't have the shelf life of a box of
Godiva from Barnes & Noble. But for most folks, this
doesn't pose much of a problem.
Jacques Torres Chocolate
66 Water Street
(Between the Brooklyn & Manhattan Bridges)
Brooklyn, New York 11201
Monday thru Saturday
9:00 am - 7:00 pm