Four and three and two and one (What up!)
And when I’m on the mic the suckers run (Word!)
[The New Style]
It’s fair to say that my obsession with Beastie Boys music has come close to dominating my (musical) life over the past few years. This obsession began at age 14, upon receiving a mix tape from a friend containing the seminal Beasties track Shake Your Rump. Obsession over the song went nowhere fast for the next nine or so years, for although I purchased Paul’s Boutique and Ill Communication, I didn’t do much real listening.
Which was foolish, because if my obsession had begun earlier, there is a good chance that I could have seen the Beastie Boys perform live. Over the past couple of years, when my manic need to listen to made-for-angsty-40-oz-chugging-white-boys’ rap music has been at an all-time high, I probably could have seen them perform, somewhere.
And I could have swooned over that once-angsty-then-aged-Buddhist-male belonging to my favorite voice of the three Beasties: MCA. Unfortunately, Adam Yauch lost a three-year battle to throat cancer earlier this month, at a severely-unfair young age. How frighteningly prophetic it seems that, when I asked my boyfriend last year to guess which Beastie’s voice I enjoyed the most, he without pause queried, “The one who sounds like he’s dying?”
So from one faceless fan who relates to his music through his artistic flow, memorable voice, and well-played lyrics, your genius is sorely missed, MCA. And your memory will live on, in such great quotes as…
It’s good to have the turn to be the king for a day
Or for a week or for a year or for a year in a day
Come what may
[Year And A Day]
Gotta keep it going, keep it going full steam
Too sweet to be sour, too nice to be mean
What the ponytail, I don’t eat snail
I’ll steal your keys and then I’ll check your mail
I spent a recent weekend in Brooklyn, the bustling New York City borough that MCA was proud to call home. And I of course made a pilgrimage to the hip mecca of craft chocolate production: Mast Brothers.
Going from unpopulated northern Maine to a place overrun with people who move fast and never seem to sleep was a bit like having a heart attack… but in a good way. I loved my weekend away, and would return for another day and half in a heartbeat, despite the additional 24 hours that we spent traveling there and back.
Mast Brothers is a company that is incredibly with-it. Memorable packaging and logo? Check. Fetchingly vague website? Check. Affable and charismatic figurehead chocolate makers embodying the dream of the 1890s? Check. A wide-open chocolate shop and factory in a city where space may be the most prized possession? Check.
But the Mast Brothers seem to stand for more than just an it company. They sell large tablet pieces of chocolate, as well as oversized (and in my opinion, whimsical) chocolate bars, which I can’t imagine appeal to the typical customers who walk through their door. They connect with their surrounding community by bringing musical events into the shop. They have a pastry chef.
And they use some of the wealth that it company status must have afforded them in fascinating ways, such as when they chartered a ship in 2011 to the Dominican Republic to pick up a nearly 20-ton shipment of cacao beans, in an effort to mitigate their oil dependence.
There was an abundance of chocolate samples on-site, of which I found myself most enjoying the Moho River, with cacao from southern Belize. My friend Linnea tried a brownie, which she found to be good-but-not-great. I have little interest in brownies, so I went straight for my raison d’être: chocolate bars.
I’ve sampled most of the Mast Brothers bars, but I left Williamsburg with three that I have not previously tasted: the aforementioned Moho River, the Black Truffle, and the Vanilla & Smoke.
What follows is a review of the Vanilla & Smoke bar.
Despite the packaging, there’s no zig zag smoke (like Doggy Dog is all about) in this bar. A bit misleading of a name, I originally thought the Vanilla & Smoke bar with 71% cacao of Papua New Guinea origin might contain some sort of tobacco essence. Rather, their Papua New Guinea cacao beans were smoked after fermentation, before being combined with bourbon vanilla, stone-ground, and aged.
The result is really quite interesting. The bar has an intensely crisp snap, and an aroma that reminds me of fudge, earthiness, and smoked meat all at once. The smoky flavor develops slowly on the palate, becoming fully formed and somewhat spicy after a good fifteen to twenty seconds. At the back of the palate were pronounced acidic and fruity notes, which I believe detracted from the added vanilla. I would be curious to try the ‘plain’ Papua New Guinea bar, which also features smoked cacao, to see how much the contribution of bourbon vanilla adds to this bar.
My one complaint was that the bar was poured into the mold unevenly. Upon opening the packaging, I thought of how much thinner this bar was from previous Mast Brothers bars. In looking at the chocolate in profile, however, I found that the opposite end of the bar was much too thick. While this wouldn’t ordinarily bother me too much, I have been reading lately about growing inconsistencies that others have found in Mast Brothers’ products.
I hope that the Mast Brothers can address the concerns that have recently been lobbied against their chocolate, and regain the reputation that recognized them as leaders in the artisan chocolate movement. I echo Candice‘s suggestion of reduced acidity and astringency in these chocolate bars: if a chocolate bar’s predominant notes are bitter and sour, something is wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed the taste of this Vanilla & Smoke bar, but would like to see the finished product ameliorated by more thoroughly bringing out the cacao’s flavor profile.
111 N 3rd St
Brooklyn, NY 11249
Open daily, 12h00-19h00