Arriba Noir - Dark Chocolate in Millstone
Have been passing this place on Rt 33 a couple of times a week for quite a while now, but always during off-hours. Finally had a chance to stop in. Glad I did, but not sure how often I'll be back.
Arriba Noir is a chocolate shop dedicated to hand-made truffles and chocolate-dipped-everything. They use only single-source Ecuadorian beans to create their bars (75% and 65%) and create all their products from those bars. Therein lies the rub - the chocolate itself is wonderful - full and rich with no bitterness at all, but like with all dark chocolate, a little goes a very long way. I can't see anyone eating more than a couple of pieces of any of the candies without needing a long palate-break, and the intensity of the flavor tends to overshadow the other ingredients. Notable exceptions were dipped cranberries (surprising) and dipped grapes (luscious and moist) but the normal nut-clusters etc were so totally overpowered by the chocolate that one could tell the nut variety only by sight.
The owner will give you the history of chocolate, the history of Ecuador, the history of his family in the business, the chemistry of dark chocolate, the politics of the Ecuadorian cocoa business, the advantages of single-source, all in one non-stop twenty minute lecture, and you will be the better for it, but like many Sunday sermons, the practical applications are left to the listener, and the sheer wealth of information may preclude any real-world benefit. So it is with the chocolate - the details and subtleties get lost in the overpowering world of the cocoa itself. The good news is that they sell their chocolate by the bar, so that you can use it in your own recipe that may (heaven forefend!) include dairy or other heretical ingredients.
I am always a fan of zealots, bringing their passion to market, but too often their zeal serves as blinders to the real-world needs of a business. The fanatic doesn't see a need for more diversity in offerings and often doesn't understand that the public isn't as single-minded as he. I doubt Arriba Noir will be here a year from now, and if you miss it, you will have missed an interesting and educational lecture, as well as some of the finest dark chocolate around.
Made it in after a very disappointing stop next door at the salumeria. As a contrast to what got me in a bad mood next door, this store looks like an operating room. Clean and spotless is an understatement!
After I got passed the information session (which I now understand why he does it. This place is different from the standard chocolate store). Raymond (or Ramone) told me why he engages everyone: If he would let people come in, glance and leave, they would never realize what makes this place different from any other place. The guy makes everything in the store with 75% single origin chocolate.
His passion and knowledge exceeds the expectations of the average chocolate shopper. I, on the other hand, took him on to test him. Zealously and with patience, he walked me through the entire process (more than I wanted to know).
I love good chocolate. First two free samples did it for me, plain 75% chocolate and a grape dipped on the same dark 75%. This is GREAT chocolate.(My restless wife sat on a chair looking at her watch). For the true chocolate lover, minimalist chocolate lover, this is the Rolls Royce of chocolate.
I have been there two or three times since. He recognizes me, so I do not have to go through the entire presentation all over again. The dipped grapes are now a staple in our diet. The truffles are magnificent and will make a great gift box for the relatives. No rocket science on the clusters and barks: Great chocolate with different nuts and fruits; how could that fail?
I do hope they get enough business and loyal followers to hang around and grow. It would be a shame that so much passion translated into this level of high quality chocolate does not get the recognition and discovery it deserves.
Thanks for the post! We were bored tonight so we took a ride there. We got some mixed dipped fruit and a couple of bars. But the best things were the homemade chocolate pudding, not too sweet, and the pie, sweet and rich.
All you said about the man is true, but he can also cook and bake so maybe if he focuses more on desserts he can survive in the long run.