Jacques Torres’ brand new, 40,000-square foot Industry City factory isn’t the only reason Brooklyn’s waterfront communities have been smelling a little bit less, well, Brooklyn-y. In just the last couple of months, the borough has been thoroughly Wonka-fied, with the addition of Valrhona’s very first stateside chocolate school in Dumbo, as well as a stunning retail outpost of Cacao Market — an offshoot of MarieBelle in SoHo — attached to its own small, cacao-scented factory in Greenpoint.
It’s easy enough to pass by L’Ecole Valrhona Brooklyn (housed in a long, low, landmarked Water Street building, that used to produce shoes) and be none the wiser to the flurry of chocolate-centric activity going on inside. Focused on continuing education (it doesn’t offer degrees and diplomas like the CIA or ICE), L’Ecole Valrhona is a place for professional-level chefs to enhance their technique, and expand their knowledge in pastry and desserts. Two- or three-day courses are led by accomplished instructors such as James Beard nominee, Sarah Kosikowski, of Fleur de Lys and The French Laundry, and Derek Poirier, whom Dessert Professional magazine dubbed one of the Top Ten Pastry Chefs in America in 2014. Current themes for the year include “Macarons and Petit Fours” (an especially au courant class, now that bite-sized confections have become de rigueur at high-end restaurants), as well as “Chocolate Bon Bons and Technology;” where attendees learn the basic principles of ganache formulation, how to analyze products used to make fillings, and how optimize the different processes influencing the preservation of bon bons.
Since there’s no retail component to L’Ecole Valrhona at present, professional chocolate eaters will have much better luck at the très jolie Cacao Market, half 19th century apothecary, half upscale French marché. Although instead of medicines and tinctures, there are handsomely gilded jars and cabinets hold malt balls, truffles, and snowdrifts of powdered hot chocolate; instead of spices and sausages, you’ll find dainty stoppered bottles filled with cocoa-dusted almonds and chocolate pearls, as well as paper-wrapped lengths of saucisson au chocolat–studded with dried cranberries, caramelized cashews, salted pretzels and raisins. There’s also an elegant café in back, overlooking the petite but industrious factory, from which patrons can enjoy matcha, hazelnut and rose petal-flavored gelato; tender éclairs piped with lavender, passion fruit or champagne-infused cream; or even a few savory selections, such as quiche and crepes.
Jacques Torres may have staked a claim on Brooklyn first, but it looks like Mr. Chocolate has some serious company.
Jacques Torres: 140 58th Street, Brooklyn Army Terminal
L’Ecole Valrhona Brooklyn: 222 Water Street, DUMBO
Cacao Market: 67 Guernsey Street, Greenpoint