An immersive bean-to-bar chocolate-making experience in industrial Red Hook.
Readers, is there any dessert more exquisite than chocolate? *Gasp!* Well, these Dessert Correspondents agree and have hunted down a fabulously immersive chocolate experience for a leisurely weekend afternoon. Take an NYC ferry over to Red Hook, a neighbourhood wedged south of Carroll Gardens and Gowanus, and which was once, a major port into the New York State region. Today, it is still slightly gritty, but slowly gentrifying, and worth the trek for five reasons: i) for IKEA’s organizing boxes that fit into the “Marie Kondo” de-cluttering mindset on everybody’s minds nowadays; ii) a waterfront shop that sells the creamiest and tangiest key lime mini-pies; iii) a lively BBQ restaurant where you shouldn’t miss the cornbread; and iv) not-a-tourist-in-sight, uninterrupted waterfront vistas of the Statue of Liberty and downtown Manhattan. And the fifth reason? In Red Hook’s upper reaches, find a hideaway chocolate factory called Raaka.
Raaka is both storefront and factory. You can choose from a 45-minute factory tour, or a 2-hour chocolate making class (which includes the tour). Of course, being dessert fiends, we selected the latter. On our visit, we donned hairnets, and began the tour with shaking, cracking and tasted un-roasted cacao beans. These beans were larger than our palms! The tour showed us grinding machines, then stirring machines, then the flavouring and tempering process, and even gift-wrapping machines. And of course, a chocolate tour is not a chocolate tour if there isn’t an (unlimited) tasting involved. Of all the Raaka chocolate that we sampled, the “Coconut Milk” was the most special — a perfectly balanced, slightly sweet yet still dark, utterly velvety concoction of chocolate bliss; and the “Cabernet Sauvignon” was our second favourite, a little fruity number.
Yet, best of all, we got to make our own chocolates! We filled rectangular molds with dark chocolate, and sprinkled an assortment of dried bananas, shattered almond slices, crystals of cocoa nibs, and snowflakes of crystallized ginger, and allowed it to set before smashing them out with unfathomable glee! Redefining bean to bar, indeed!
Dessert adventure checklist
- ☑ Dessert destination: Raaka Chocolates, 64 Seabring Street, Red Hook, Brooklyn.
- ☑ Budget: $$$ (USD $75 pp, plus tax/service). Look out for discount vouchers.
- ☑ Sweet irresistibles: Chocolate.
- ☑ Must-eat: The self-made chocolate bars.
- ☑ The short and sweet story: An immersive bean-to-bar chocolate-making experience in industrial Red Hook.