Almond and fennel, coffee and cardamom, mango and juniper are only three kinds of exotic dark chocolate bars produced and sold by the Greenpoint-based artisanal chocolatier Antidote.
How does founder and owner Red Thalhammer, 44, invent her unique flavor pairings?
The Austrian-born New Yorker — who launched her company out of the small kitchen of her Long Island City apartment in 2010 — compares her creative process to music composition.
“It’s tricky to have the chocolate not be overpowering, to have the flavor not be overpowering, to have this balance,” said Thalhammer, whose business is one among a growing number selling artisanal chocolate bars with inventive flavors in New York City.
“Everybody is just exploring,” she said of the recent explosion of flavor options in chocolate confections, particularly those of the dark variety.
For Thalhammer, several factors shape her creative output: import laws in Ecuador, which produces the cacao beans she uses in her chocolate these days; her friends’ spice cabinets, where she’s found inspiration such as five types of fennel seeds; and impressions of what seasonings might appeal to the American palate.
“In the beginning, I would do a lot of tasting ... and now I make a lot of those [flavor pairings] in my mind … because now I have a much better idea of what works with chocolate,” she told amNewYork.
We, however, recommend that you taste the six locally made and/or sold chocolate bars below — each with an uncommon flavor — for yourselves. (Life is too short to leave the taste of chocolate to the imagination.)
Antidote's lavender and red salt
Flavored with lavender and salt enriched with red clay, this floral and earthy dark chocolate bar is Antidote's top seller. The herb is calming, but the salt is energizing, Thalhammer explained of the ingredients' appeal. ($7.50 a bar, antidotechoco.com)
Raaka's Bananas Foster
Raaka Co. Virgin Chocolate, a Red Hook-based chocolatier, makes its homage to the iconic New Orleans dessert with rum-steamed cacao, caramelized sugar, bananas and a touch of vanilla bean. Because Raaka puts a big emphasis on the sustainable sourcing of its cacao, we should note that the kind used in this bar is all from Peru. All of Raaka's chocolate is certified organic and kosher. ($7.95 a bar, raakachocolate.com)
JoMart Chocolates' berries and flakes
Skip breakfast for this milk chocolate bar with strawberries and crunchy, sweet corn flakes. JoMart is a second-generation confectionary deep in Brooklyn, where owner Michael Rogak uses the same stove and copper kettles as his dad once did. ($5 a bar, jomartchocolates.com)
Vosges Haut-Chocolat's vanilla rooibos tea
Founded in Chicago in 1997, Vosges Haut-Chocolat runs a boutique in SoHo. Founder and chocolatier Katrina Markoff draws inspiration for her flavors from travels including to Spain, Southeast Asia and Australia. Vosges' new vanilla rooibos tea flavor is no exception, blending South African tea with sour cherries from Michigan in a 45 percent cacao chocolate. ($8 a bar, 132 Spring St., vosgeschocolate.com)
Fine & Raw's mesquite
Smoky and creamy, this bar is made in a Williamsburg factory with raw cacao, mesquite (a plant native to North and Central American deserts, which produces edible beans typically ground into a powder), lucuma (a Peruvian fruit that most closely resembles a mango) and raw cacao butter. What is raw cacao exactly, you ask? We learned it's prepared by cold-pressing un-roasted cacao means, a process that preserves their nutritional value. (The beans are usually roasted to make cocoa powder.) ($8.50 a bar, fineandraw.com)
Raw Chocolate Love's white truffle oil
Made in Ridgewood, Queens, by a chocolatier touring the dessert's health benefits, this vegan bar combines raw organic cacao, mesquite, Himalayan salt, coconut oil, agave nectar, vanilla beans and white truffle oil. The olive oil infused with white truffles imparts an earthy flavor. ($7.80 a bar, rawchocolatelovenyc.com)
MarieBelle's rose petals and hibiscus
This marbled white chocolate bar is flavored with rose petals and hibiscus, a flower with a sweet, tart flavor. MarieBelle, which founder Maribel Lieberman launched as a combination eyeglass-chocolate shop in NoLita in 2000, now operates shops around the world. Its flagship store is located in SoHo. ($9, 484 Broome St., mariebelle.com)
For more craft chocolate recommendations, click here.