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Small batch and bean to bar

Craft chocolate comes to fruition

November 27, 2014 | Photo courtesy Fruition Chocolate

Francesca and Marisa love hearing scouting reports from our readers—and it was 150ish friend Rita Jacobs who turned us onto Fruition Chocolate. Actually, our interest was piqued at the words “delicious chocolate,” but the fact that Fruition’s founder Bryan Graham makes his chocolate in small batches straight from the beans is something we love to support. Like craft beer brewing and small batch distilling, chocolate making is in the midst of a revolution across the country, and Bryan is a chocolatier who’s changing how we think about—and taste—fine chocolate.
 
Here’s the dish. It’s pretty clear to us that Bryan Graham was born with a sweet tooth. A native of the Catskill area, he started working at Woodstock’s acclaimed Bear Café at age 15. By the age of 18, he was the restaurant’s pastry chef. Eventually enrolling at the Culinary Institute of America, it was under the tutelage of Chef Peter Greweling that Bryan fell in love with chocolate.
 
“It’s a really precise process,” he says of working with chocolate. “There are a lot of formulations and science along with flavor combinations and composition.” Bryan was hooked. He did his externship with no less a chocolatier than Jacques Torres, and then returned to work at the school after graduation, developing a confectionary product line for one of their on-campus bakery cafes.
 
Bryan also started to learn the process of making chocolate from raw cacao beans. “I was using micro-equipment and doing small batches in my apartment,” he says. “I learned about bean selection, roasting, how to process the raw chocolate, how to temper, how to mold.” For this self-described control freak, it was the ultimate creative experience: “I wanted to be involved in every step of the process.”
 
Bryan eventually left CIA and, with his wife Dahlia, traveled the country for six months while creating the business plan for what would become Fruition Chocolate. Opening what they call “a workshop” in early 2011, the couple had the intention of selling their chocolate in bulk to chocolatiers and pastry chefs while selling their own chocolate creations online. The almost-immediate acclaim led to greater sales and a “front of the house” shop (with a view of the chocolate making process) that’s open on weekends.
 
What makes Fruition unique in the area is that they make their own chocolate direct from the cocoa beans, all organic and purchased fair trade from Central and South America. “We either travel to the country where it grows and visit the farms or, in cases where there isn’t time to visit farms directly, we partner with other chocolate maker friends and work together to import the beans.”
 
Describing the process, Bryan tells us: “It’s really, really hard to make good chocolate and that’s why the majority of chocolate shops don’t make their own. It takes a lot of specialized equipment, a lot of different skills, and a whole different foundation of knowledge to make chocolate than it does to make confectionary products. Once the beans arrive here, they get roasted and the little papery shell gets removed by a winnowing machine and then put it through a series of different grinders and refiners to make the chocolate itself. Depending on the percentage we’re looking for, different amounts of sugar gets added, milk powder for milk chocolate, and so on. It’s about a five-day process to finished chocolate.”
 
Why go to all that trouble? “It’s a question I ask myself almost daily,” Bryan laughs. “But being able to source the particular cocoa bean that has a specific flavor profile, depending on how we roast it and how we refine it, we have a lot of control over the flavor, the texture, and a lot of the properties of that chocolate. And I’d be lying if I didn’t say that it’s also a cool thing and a selling point for us.”
 
Cool quotient aside, 150ish is not alone in appreciating the flavor that Bryan develops in his chocolate. Fruition has been recognized with a silver medal from the International Chocolate Awards, a gold seal from the Good Food Awards, and voted one of the Top Ten Chocolatiers in North America by Dessert Professional Magazine.
 
Fruition’s regular product line includes eight 60-gram bars in flavors ranging from Brown Butter Milk Chocolate to Dark Milk with Flor de Sal and Rustic Crunch; all of the bars have unique chocolate characteristics based on their and well-balanced flavor. In addition, their Brown Butter Bourbon Caramels have quickly become a favorite. Marisa can’t stop raving about the Crystallized Ginger with Matcha Green Tea Couverture and Dark Chocolate, and she thinks the Dark Chocolate Coated Jalapeño Dusted Corn Nuts are the ultimate luxury snack food. The packaging is as special as the chocolate, with confections encased in re-usable tins and glass jars, all featuring the distinctive Fruition logo, reminiscent of a cacao pod.
 
Describing their shop as a testing ground for new products, Bryan says, “We’re not like a traditional shop where you walk in and see hundreds of different kinds of bonbons. We don’t do a lot of walk-in business—we’re in a pretty remote area and we’re really a destination. But you’ll always find a lot of unique, limited edition products here that will never show up on the website or in any of the retailers that carry our chocolates. We try out new things to see what people think.”
 
Many of those limited edition items are collaborations with other local artisans. Bryan will create bonbons with seasonal fruits from neighboring farms and the crumb coating on his truffles comes from sourdough bread from nearby bakery Bread Alone. The newest collaboration—Cacao Liqueur—is Fruition’s second partnering with Tuthilltown Spirits (it’s their Hudson Valley Baby Bourbon in the Brown Butter Bourbon Caramels). The liqueur is made from a custom blend of unsweetened dark chocolate, which Tuthilltown then macerates in a high proof spirit; it’s then distilled it and lightly sweetened it. Currently a limited release product that’s only available at the distillery store, with any luck it will soon be more widely available.
 
Fruition Chocolate is one more example of local artisans bringing better food to our tables. And as Bryan points out, the movement is growing. “When we started three years ago, there were maybe 20 or 25 companies in the United States making chocolate. Now there are more than 100—that’s only in a three-year period. People are really starting to care about where their food comes from, they’re starting to care about quality chocolate. Internationally, if you were to ask say, a European, what American chocolate is, they’d probably immediately say Hershey’s because that’s the American chocolate. But as more people open small craft chocolate companies we’re starting to change that perception. So it’s kind of an exciting time to be in this business because it’s all new.”
 
Fruition Chocolate
3091 Route 28
Shokan, NY 12481
(845) 657-6717

The shop is open Friday through Sunday from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM. For a list of retailers or to order online, visit www.tastefruition.com.
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425 East 63rd Street, Suite E7C, New York, NY 10065

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