Sense of Style

The environs of the Morgan Avenue station in Bushwick are fast becoming the newly formed community of Morgantown. The streets here are lined with anonymous factories and warehouses once bustling with thousands only decades ago. While Brooklyn's Industrial Revolution is over, these bastions of manufacturing serve as creative centers for the phenomena of today's maker movement. Recently, Fine & Raw, one of Brooklyn's avant garde bean-to-bar chocolate producers, moved here.

On paper, Daniel Sklaar's experience prior to starting Fine & Raw five years ago has little to do with chocolate. Still, it's his sense of style - of what is and will be hip - that matters. To Daniel chocolate is ephemeral as fashion. I was sipping hot chocolate at his spacious location on Seigel Street when he came down to see me. Interestingly, he didn't ask me what I thought about the chocolate (which was sensational). Instead, he asked for my opinion on the design of the heart on the cup I was sipping from. Still, he's firm and succinct about his product: "Food should be classic. Simple." His chocolate is deliberately roasted at low temperature; his truffles are flavored with authentic olive oil.

Running Fine & Raw is no frivolous undertaking - though he and his staff seem to have a lot of fun. During the summer, one may spot Daniel bicycling with a delivery of 50 lbs of chocolate kept cool with another 20 lbs of ice on his back. And there are concerns - chiefly about letting go of creative control - and other difficulties. Daniel makes larger deliveries with a nifty white three-wheeler that's broken down more than once en route. The time it happened on the Williamsburg Bridge is branded into his memory.

Daniel is surely not a classic Brooklyn industrialist, but an "eco-chic and forward" designer and innovator. On a private tour of his operation, he pointed out equipment he personally improvised for efficiently winnowing (separating the husk from the cacao) and conching (the last step in the flavoring and refining process). Toward the end of the tour, he alluded to a space reserved for cacao trees. Chocolate producers get their cacao from the tropics naturally, but Daniel may eventually produce an exclusive "jungle-to-bar" chocolate right here in Brooklyn. Honestly, I didn't get Daniel. But I really dug his imagination and style.