i come from brooklyn cause that’s where i’m from: mast brothers chocolate

29 May

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]

or

Gotta keep it going, keep it going full steam
Too sweet to be sour, too nice to be mean

[Intergalactic]

or even

What the ponytail, I don’t eat snail
I’ll steal your keys and then I’ll check your mail

[Oh Word?]

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.

Mast Brothers Chocolate

111 N 3rd St
Brooklyn, NY 11249

Hours
Open daily, 12h00-19h00

22 Responses to “i come from brooklyn cause that’s where i’m from: mast brothers chocolate”

  1. Linnea G 2012/05/29 at 13:38 #

    I’m in the background of the last picture, whatup!

    Also, what a lovely view from wherever that 2nd pic was taken.

    • emma 2012/05/29 at 16:59 #

      Hey, there you are. Nice tote!

      Ah, yes, a very lovely view. I thought you might think so:)

  2. theroamingbean 2012/05/29 at 13:54 #

    Never caught the Beasties live?!? They were amazing… better than chocolate ;) …. great pics of the packaging; I’ll have to check this place out next time I’m in the area!

    • emma 2012/05/29 at 17:02 #

      Alas, no. I suppose living in the middle of nowhere reduces my chances to witness greatness on stage, eh?

      Definitely check out Mast Brothers – they’re worth a visit any day!

  3. zupher 2012/05/29 at 14:00 #

    The chocolate packaging is AWESOME…!!! Very nice….and chocolate look yummy,,,,

    • emma 2012/05/29 at 17:09 #

      And the chocolate tastes even yummier! I think the packaging is my favorite aspect of the Mast Brothers chocolate phenomenon;)

  4. Brianne 2012/05/29 at 14:27 #

    Holy crap, you went to Brooklyn?!? Lucky, lucky lady. Although after spending any length of time in PI, a big city escape seems necessary for survival. You must have been in heaven at Mast Brothers.

    I really enjoyed this review–it’s well written and very thorough.

    • emma 2012/05/29 at 17:15 #

      Indeed, I went all the way to Brooklyn for the wedding of people I’d never met before! A great time was had by all; you can’t even believe how happy I was to get out of The County and into The City:)

      Thanks!

  5. Zen 2012/05/29 at 15:23 #

    Those look amazing! And I absolutely love the packaging. Pity we don’t have that store around here. =[

    • emma 2012/05/29 at 17:18 #

      Isn’t the packaging darling? Mast Brothers does ship their bars to many locations, so you could potentially find them around you somewhere!

  6. cheezyk 2012/05/29 at 18:34 #

    You had me right up until the smoked meat … that is not a flavour I look for in my chocolate! I’d be happy to just let it all sit there and look pretty for a while though, they’ve got their packaging sorted even if they’ve got some product problems at the moment.

    • emma 2012/05/29 at 20:04 #

      Yeah… I can see how you’d say that. But let me clarify that the tasty isn’t overwhelmingly meaty… it’s all the other flavors that go along with smoked meat. The heartiness… the ashy flavors of the wood the meat was smoked with… the fullness of something cured… but not a true meat taste.

      They definitely have their packaging sorted! They’ve recently made changes in their bar wrappers, so it’s alllllmost like I have to re-purchase the bars I’ve had before, just to accrue a few more sweet wrappers…. :D

  7. leaf (the indolent cook) 2012/05/30 at 09:52 #

    I’m eating a chocolate bar as I read this post. Not Mast Brothers, as much as I wish, but it does help stave off the envy. It’s unfortunate that there has been some little quality issues, hopefully they can sort them out by the time I get to them one day. ;)

    • emma 2012/05/30 at 10:02 #

      I heartily believe that if you just eat a Mast Brothers bar for fun (especially if you’ve bought it in store), you will enjoy it. It’s an experience, from unwrapping the butcher paper-style wrapper, all the way through to the last (pricey) bite:)

      I suppose I try to be ‘critical but fair’ in my reviews, and also try to leave out too much bias. As in, I’M IN NYC, ZOMG! I LOVE CHOCOLATE!! Which is how I really felt :D

  8. Silvia 2012/05/31 at 16:37 #

    That shop looks amazing! I hope I can visit one day was well!

    • emma 2012/05/31 at 17:36 #

      I hope you can too, Silvia – I know you will love it!

  9. Hannah 2012/06/01 at 06:30 #

    Gorgeous post, my dear. While I was never a super-keen Beastie Boys fan, I can relate to the power that music can have as it soars through you. (Man, your fellow must feel a bit guilty for that comment though!)

    Inconsistencies aside, I still want to try this bar. I adore picking smoke flavours in un-smoked dark chocolate, so think I’d be pretty keen on this one!

    • emma 2012/06/01 at 06:59 #

      Thank you, pretty! And I was never a fan either, but I can pinpoint the exact moment when my love for their music clicked (I was riding in the countryside to a wedding, we were late, and “Body Movin’” came on. Suddenly, the backseat had never been so alive with crazy dancing!). Nothing’s been the same since… :D

      I wonder if he does feel guilty – I think he read this, but he didn’t say anything. Now I feel guilty by default.

      Inconsistencies aside, this is a tasty bar – I think you’d appreciate its nuances;)

  10. The Healthy Apple 2012/06/01 at 19:08 #

    LOVE this; I live in NYC so I’ll be sure to stop by!

    • emma 2012/06/02 at 10:42 #

      It’s worth a stop! Let me know if you make it:)

  11. hungryandfrozen 2012/06/06 at 07:30 #

    Still so sad about MCA, but I’ve loved reading all the tributes to him on the blogs I love.

    Vanilla and Smoke sounds so interesting!

    • emma 2012/06/06 at 07:44 #

      Knowing your love of the Beastie Boys, I was very much hoping that you would see this post. Success. I’ve loved reading the tributes too, although I’ve just seen a lot of mass media articles quoting his more Buddhist of quotes… not so many heartfelt blog posts. Still, they are fitting.

And now I'd like to pass the mic / So you c'mon and do anything you like ...aka, Leave your reply.

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