Chocolate to Beat the Band

chocolate

It all started with a quest to stock the merch table at her boyfriend’s band’s shows with more than the typical swag. Justine Pringle wracked her brain in search of something more compelling than t-shirts, hats and stickers, something no one would be able to walk away from, something as irresistible as .

. . chocolate.

The project took on a life of its own when she left her job in the environmental waste management field to apply her science background to serious sweet studies at L’École Chocolat in Montreal. “I’m a terrible baker,” confesses Pringle. “I’m more interested in the science and alchemy of making chocolate, and this was the only course that didn’t go into pastries and cakes as well.” Two and a half years later she and her now-fiancé, musician Andy Laird, have put music and day jobs aside to run Park Slope-based Nunu Chocolates.

In the hunt for the perfect cocoa, the couple raided the shelves of borough fancy food stores like Blue Apron and Bierkraft, buying up every bar in sight. Over the course of three weeks they enlisted the taste buds of friends and family at a series of sampling parties complete with labels, table tents and rating cards. “It was really interesting to see how people who don’t have a very refined palate, or those who do, reacted,” she recalls.

Nunu now uses a single-origin cocoa bean derived from a Trinitario-Criollo hybrid grown on a family-run farm in eastern Colombia. “There were three original cocoa beans,” explains Pringle, shifting to biology mode for a moment, “and this bean is a combination of two of those originals. On a taste level it’s strong— it has a punch—and on an environmental level it’s durable enough to survive any climate in Colombia.”

In addition to their stock of gourmet ganaches, caramels and chocolate bars, Pringle and Laird draw ideas from favorite Park Slope indulgences, like their Gorilla-inspired espresso-brandy ganache. They’ve even partnered with Bierkraft to create a top-shelf line of chocolates filled with brew-infused ganache. (Cocoa with Smuttynose Brown Ale, Abita Purple Haze and Goose Island Oatmeal Stout? Yes, yes and yes.) And for those adventuresome enough to voyage to the Upper East Side, Nunu provides Crush with a unique vice. “A lot of people aren’t ready for an absinthe truffle,” admits Pringle. “But those who are are just obsessed.”

Nunu also makes custom orders for weddings and holds guided tastings for parties and corporate events. As for their own wedding, the couple is trying to incorporate as much chocolate as possible. “We’re thinking something along the lines of place cards. instead of paper, we’d print on chocolate—there’s no waste, and we’d do the stenciling in edible gold dust.”

Handmade to order in an industrial kitchen rented from a Park Slope restaurant in its off hours, Pringle has no reservations about the odd hours of her new-found profession. “I love telling people I’m a chocolatier,” she laughs. “So much more ladylike than waste management.”

While we await their return to the Brooklyn Flea come April, look for Nunu’s new shop, opened in December.

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Jeanne Hodesh is a Brooklyn-based writer, eater, Greenmarket regular, and home cook. She grew up in the kitchen of her parent’s bed and breakfast on the Penobscot Bay in Maine where she squeezed fresh orange juice and fell in love with the rhythm of restaurants. An only child who used to amuse herself by telling tales, she always knew she wanted to write. She studied at Sarah Lawrence College, and upon graduation dove into the media-happy town that is New York City. After a year working for an art magazine company she realized people in the food industry have much more fun and always know where the parties are. She has written for Saveur, Edible Brooklyn, Edible Manhattan, Edilble East End, and Time Out New York. She started the e-newsletter Local Gourmands in the winter of 2008.