I've been wanting to see my friend Jean François Bonnet's chocolate factory for a few years now but the perfect opportunity finally presented itself when Woody was here in October for the Food Network's Sweet Night. JF, who made the chocolate ingots (financiers)--the recipe that he contributed to Rose's Heavenly Cakes, insisted that I bring Woody out to Brooklyn for a visit. And what a visit it was: We tasted many things and were sent home with two shopping bags filled with more! When I first met JF he was a very young pastry chef from Provence France, working at The Monkey Bar in New York City. I was blown away by his chocolate financiers aka ingots served at the end of the meal--innocent looking little rectangles of dense chocolate cake that exploded with flavor in my mouth. They inspired me to write an article for Food Arts Magazine on the different varieties of financiers and when I interviewed JF about his I was stunned by his technical knowledge. He also confided in me that he was newly arrived in the country and that it was very difficult for people under 30 years of age to get immigration status. I immediately did everything I could to ensure he would stay in this country, including writing to the White House that we must not lose this culinary treasure. Stay he did and went on to become pastry chef, first at the wonderful restaurant Cello under chef Laurent Tourondel and then at one of the country's top restaurants Daniel (chef/owner Daniel Boulud).
Recently JF has chosen to concentrate on chocolate and to apply his vast knowledge, magical skills, and extraordinary imagination into his own chocolate company, Tumbador. Did I mention that he is also a highly articulate, joyful and fun-loving person? His chocolate confections certainly reflect it. Here we are tasting the first chocolate sample. JF could have been many things. He's a trained chef de cuisine, a pastry chef, a linguist, and as you can see for yourself movie star handsome! For now he is maitre chocolatier. These are the power bars he recently produced for the tennis open. Chocolate on tap! JF's take on S'mores--his is a candy version--S'mores grown up. I've heard of chocolate covered pretzels but have you ever heard of chocolate covered matza? These come in milk or dark chocolate coating and are custom made for a company called Matzel Toff! (the name is a play on the words matza and congratulations or more literally good luck) www.matzeltoff.com JF's confections exhibit all the sophistication of the finest French chocolate married with beloved American concepts (by the way, JF is married to an American pastry chef--the adorable Dina and they have the most darling little girl Sophia. I wonder what her future profession will be?!) These are a perfect example of the French/American fusion and are among my favorites: Peanut Butter and Jelly consisting of, well, peanut butter of course, raspberry pâte de fruit as the very upscale jelly, and, of all things American, rice krispies for crunch. He started making them when he was at Daniel and subsequently sold them to his very first client, Fresh Direct. The packaging room I love the beautiful packaging for the bonbons--the elegant rectangular boxes in black, grey, or white, with magnetic lids can be kept to use for jewelry after you eat the chocolate bonbon jewels themselves (which shouldn't take very long at all).! The bright red dust design is made with freeze-dried raspberry powder, which also provides extra acidity. The bonbons come with an attractive graphic guide that enables you to identify what is inside each one. I especially loved the hot chili pepper bonbons. The heat doesn't kick in until after the chocolate starts melting in your mouth and then provides a glad surprise. The milk chocolate ones with the gold design contain Kalamansi puree--a citrus fruit from the Philippines similar to lime but more intense. Tumbador is primarily private label and can customize for every type of event with barely any turn around as the packaging is part of the design and is printed in house. They will do special orders and designs-- perfect for holiday gift giving. Several stores in the New York City area carry the chocolates, including Gourmet Garage, Fresh Direct, Murray's cheese, Cocoa Bar, Bedford Cheese, and many many more!. You can also order directly from the website http://www.tumbadorchocolate.com