The original Nunu Chocolates location has been a mainstay on Atlantic Avenue, in Boerum Hill, since 2009. Owned by married couple Justine Pringle and Andy Laird, Nunu has recently expanded, opening a new spot at 179 Fifth Avenue in Park Slope. Though they’re best known for their (outrageously delicious) dark chocolate-coated salted caramels, I’d venture that the most interesting thing about them is the degree to which they’ve embraced booze–both as an ingredient in their confections and as accompaniment to them. The Atlantic Avenue store has three carefully chosen beers on tap at all time, including a beer custom made for them by Barrier Brewing in Oceanside, Long Island. In Park Slope, though, they’ve upped the number of draft lines to a whopping 10, and they’re offering flights, where each beer is paired with a chocolate. Andy Laird was kind enough to answer some questions about the new store and about the ins and outs of pairing beer with chocolate.
How is the vision for the new location different than what you already have going on at the flagship on Atlantic?
It’s not so much different, but an expansion of the vision we had for our flagship Atlantic store. There’s more seating, 10 lines of craft beer so more options for chocolate pairings, we’ll be working on pastries and small plate offerings, and there’s a backyard!
Have you noticed, over the years, that people are becoming more interested in chocolate as an item that pairs well with beer? Do you still feel like you still have to educate people?
It’s still something that people say they haven’t seen before, but in general that’s coupled with enthusiasm rather than skepticism. People seem very open to trying it out.
What are the guiding principals you keep in mind when pairing beer and chocolate? Are you generally looking for more of a harmonious relationship, or one that’s built on contrasts?
That’s what is really fun about pairings, there are many ways that they can ‘work’. The combo might accentuate an aspect of the beer, or an aspect of the chocolate, or create an entirely new element that didn’t seem to exist before. I guess the fourth option is that it just doesn’t work, which is ok too since you then get to identify why. Sometimes things that you think would contrast as separate elements work amazingly well and you have no idea why. And who cares? If it works, it works.
Can you talk about the differences between beer and wine in how they work with chocolate?
Wine more often finds that harmonious relationship with chocolate to make the pairing work and beer frequently uses contrasts on its way to a pairing that works.
What chocolate items that you make are most difficult to pair with beer? Which items are the most versatile?
Chocolate can be a bully. Something like the Bacon Toffee Bar has a ton of smoke to it so it’s going to obliterate a lot of pairings. Pair it with a rauchbier however and you just stoke the fire. We recently did an event out at Barrier Brewing Company in Oceanside Long Island and paired it with their Frau Blucher smoked beer and it was great. Some of our most versatile ganaches, such as the Double Dark or Earl Grey, are always go to’s if other options haven’t hit the mark. They’re the pinch hitters.
I also wanted to talk a little about the beer box – can you explain the process of making those chocolates, and what role the beer plays in the final product? I tried one that was made with a pale ale, and I was surprised by how much the hops managed to shine through.
When making the ganache, we replace the cream we would traditionally use with different craft beers. We don’t cook it off so the character of the beer remains intact and is a true ingredient rather than a flavoring. Each beer dictates its own proportion within the recipe, so we constantly have to test it throughout the process. Yeah. Tough job.
What’s your favorite New York-based brewery? How ’bout outside of New York?
As long as the glass is half full, I’m just happy to be trying great new beers from down the street, across the country or from anywhere in the world. We’ve been fortunate to work with locals such as Barrier Brewing on a Nunu Bru which is a hoppy amber with our cocoa nibs and we also just made a Nib toddy brew with vanilla to be added to a dark saison brewed by our friends at Other Half Brewing in Gowanus
What other plans do you have for the new location? For the business in general?
Brewer events, Mezcal and chocolate pairings with our friend Tess Rose, more kids parties, backyard cookouts and movies. Maybe some live music too!
Follow Mike Conklin on Twitter @MikeConklin.
Photos by Jane Bruce.