Food Artisans: Fine & Raw
Though their stated mission is to "save the world through silliness and chocolate," the people behind Fine and Raw are very serious about their products.
Daniel Sklaar, a financial analyst-turned-raw chef, aims for balance between "epicurean fine chocolate and handmade organic food" when developing the bars and bonbons. He begins by sourcing the highest-quality organic ingredients possible, like raw cacao, blue agave nectar, and cold-pressed coconut oil, and processing them at low temperatures, retaining beneficial nutrients that can be lost otherwise.
Far from feeling limited by the constraints he's set for himself, both ingredient- and technique-wise, Sklaar is inspired to be more creative. "I get to play and experiment. It's uncharted territory as far as I'm concerned," says Sklaar.
That spirit of experimentation shines forth in unusual ingredients, like the lucuma, a Peruvian fruit with a sweet, creamy flavor that makes an appearance in several products. Sklaar shrugs off the fact that he uses ingredients that even some of his most food-savvy customers have never heard of. "Raw chefs look all over the place for inspiration," he explains; "There's an amazing variety of fruits and herbs and plants out there."
Case in point: the outstanding mesquite bar contains powdered yacon, a crisp, slightly sweet tuber from the Indies, and mesquite pods. "It's an experimental bar, textured, earthy, a little savory," Sklaar says, "It keeps all my foodie friends guessing."
Experiments continue in Fine and Raw's Brooklyn "chocolate lab" where Sklaar continues to try out new ingredients, including large-grained salt from the Kalahari Desert and tocos, a protein-rich rice bran extract Sklaar says has a "bizarre, cappuccino-like flavor."
Like a lot of small businesses, Fine and Raw has employed many of its founder's friends at one time or another, including as label illustrators. The mesquite bar's cowgirl was drawn by a friend who lost her visa and had to leave the country, but not before sketching out a series of five cowgirls to leave with Sklaar. "I have to do more chocolate bars!" he laughs; "There are four more cowgirls ready to go!"
Visit their website for a list of stockists and more information about raw chocolate.