At Blue Stripes, bite-size snacks are served drizzled in chocolate, lattes come infused with mocha, and mousse is served by the glass, spilling out of a never-ending tap.
“There is no too much chocolate to a real chocolate lover,” Oded Brenner, the “chocolate guru” and co-creator behind international brand Max Brenner, says outside of his newly opened cacao shop near Union Square.
If his latest endeavor sounds like something plucked out of a childhood dream it’s because, well, it is. Brenner spent five years away from his craft after a 2012 breach of contract lawsuit (stemming from his split from the Max Brenner company) banned him from selling chocolate.
“This was, in a way, my luck,” Brenner says, shaking hands mid-interview with satisfied customers leaving the shop on East 13th Street, one block from the Max Brenner Chocolate Bar on Broadway, which Oded created with Max Fichtman. One woman declares: “That was the best chocolate I’ve ever eaten.”
His split from Max Brenner inspired the chocolatier, 50, to travel to Jamaica and explore the way cacao (cocoa fruit) is used to create sweet specialties across the globe. During his travels, Brenner told his daughter, Nellie, nicknamed Tito, the stories of what first sparked his love of cacao nearly three decades ago and whipped her up treats that made her eyes widen.
“Tito had a lot of influence and inspiration on (the opening of Blue Stripes),” Brenner, originally from Israel, says. “For me, chocolate is not a functional food. You’re not going to eat it because you’re hungry, it is a food that has a lot of stories.”
Certain items — like a shot of pure milk chocolate — are nods to his 10-year-old daughter with names like “Tito, that’s for you.” A message to Tito printed on small gift items reads, “I think I’ve never created anything for anyone else other than you.”
“Sometimes I make her things at home, then I see her eyes like two big lights, I say, ‘wow, that’s a hit’ and add it to the menu,” he says.
His new “fast-casual” shop is full of treats that chocolate lovers alike won’t be able to taste without a smile.
“There’s some things in the world, and I think chocolate is one of them, they have some kind of magic, you know . . . it has the qualities of fantasy, sensuality, memories,” he explains.
The shop’s name is even a nod to a memory of his own.
“The first story I told Tito is how I was inspired when I was an apprentice in Paris when I was about 23 years old,” he recalls. “The very famous fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier was always doing things with blue stripes and I really loved it, and so my first boxes at Max Brenner were blue stripes. And for me, this is a memory of the beginning of my story as a chocolate creator.”
Must-try creations include Nutella Swirl Buns, Cone Pizzas filled with melted chocolate, soft pretzels drizzled in melted and sprinkled with sea salt flakes, among others, about $12 to $14 each.
If that doesn’t make your mouth water, the mousse on tap probably will.
“I call it Clouds, my baristas call it chocolate mousse on tap,” Brenner says, explaining the behind-the-counter war that’s gone on since Blue Stripes’ opening last month about the $12 treat that tastes like a cross between a milkshake and mousse.
“It’s the first of its kind as far as details to drinks, it still has that whimsical sense to it but it’s adultlike, there’s some sea salt, there’s some savory and umami flavors going on with cacao that have never been tried before,” says Blue Stripes’ master coffee trainer, who goes by Markiss Koffee.
Also groundbreaking in the chocolate world, per Brenner: creating the confection on the spot.
“We’re the first in the world taking the beans of the cacao, grinding them on the spot, pure chocolate is coming out of the grinder and then we mix it with hot water making the purest and in a way the most healthiest chocolate you can think of,” he says.
Blue Stripes is now open at 28 E. 13th St.