Editor’s note: Makers across New York State recently won big at San Francisco’s esteemed Good Food Awards—an esteemed ceremony that celebrates “tasty, authentic and responsibly produced” food and drink. Brooklyn-based Brooklyn Cured, Eat Chic Chocolates, Blank Slate Kitchen and Van Brunt Stillhouse all brought home medals for everything from charcuterie to spirits. Check out the full list here including Hudson Valley-based Fruition Chocolate‘s Corazon de Dahlia Quinoa Crunch, Brown Butter 43% Milk Chocolate and Wild Bolivia 74% Dark Chocolate. You can find their bars at Foragers Market (where we first spotted them) and buy their gift set here.
Bryan Graham makes milk chocolate. And white chocolate. He uses vanilla. He even makes truffles and dark-chocolate-coated, jalapeño-dusted corn nuts. CORN NUTS. In other words, Bryan Graham isn’t like most craft chocolate makers, who tend to focus on two-ingredient, single-origin dark bars.
Of course, Bryan makes a pretty badass dark chocolate too. But it’s his Marañón Canyon Dark Milk bar, a combination of milk and dark chocolates, that’s winning gobs of awards, including a gold medal at the 2016 World Finals of the International Chocolate Awards. This is the story of that bar.
Fruition Chocolate makes several milk chocolates, light and dark. “It’s a great gateway for people to get into more flavorful, unique dark chocolates,” Bryan said. In fact, he only made a Marañón milk bar because his Marañón single-origin dark chocolate wasn’t selling that well. “I had extra beans and wanted to do something else with them,” he told me. “I didn’t know of anyone making a milk chocolate bar using those beans.”
Those delicious beans. Craft chocolate makers always use special beans, but in this case they’re extra special: They’re a type called Nacional, a prized variety known for its fruity flavors that until recently were thought to be specific to Ecuador. But when a man named Dan Pearson was tromping through the jungle in Peru looking for bananas to import to the United States, he discovered a place called Marañón Canyon bursting with untouched cacao and a crazy-high percentage of white beans. “
Now those rare beans are in high demand, with chocolate makers scrambling to get their hands on them. Eric Ripert, chef and co-owner of Le Bernardin in New York City, calls it “the best chocolate in the world,” and in 2012, with Anthony Bourdain, he made his own bar with it. (Before you go searching, it’s no longer available.)
“It was the most expensive cocoa that we’d ever purchased,” Bryan told me. “But I thought I could do something fun with it.” The result? A fun yet serious dark milk chocolate that blows away both casual and serious chocolate eaters.
These days, Bryan is still after fun. Case in point: Recently he tried making a milk chocolate with dried candy cap mushrooms. “They taste and smell exactly like maple syrup,” he said mischievously. “My idea is to mold a bar with caramelized pecans so it’s maple-pecan flavor without any maple syrup in it. We’ll see how it turns out. It might be disgusting.”