I'm a freelance writer/photographer living in the East Village neighborhood of New York City.
Published February 10th 2010
Once upon a time, one of the city's best-kept rewards awaited your arrival if you hoofed across the Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan. In the once sleepy neighborhood known as Dumbo, a lone business set the pace for reinventing an entire neighborhood. I'm referring to Jacques Torres's candy store and his sweet, unforgettable chocolate creations.
Torres's success as a high-end pastry chef and chocolatier enabled him to expand his production into Manhattan in 2004 with a massive facility in Soho. Now visitors and fans of the award-winning chocolatier can watch candy being poured by hand over conveyer belts that look like those in an episode of I Love Lucy. Inside, cocoa beans from around the globe are roasted and ground to create some of the freshest, best-tasting chocolate ever produced. No wonder he called it Chocolate Haven.
Torres's kid-friendly Hudson Street location is one of Manhattan's sweetest destination spots for Valentine's Day. Watch the chocolate assembly behind glass windows, inhale fragrant aromas of fresh-baked cookies, indulge in the city's best chocolate croissants (Torres is a former pastry chef for New York's famous Le Cirque Restaurant where he was known for magical sugary creations), and sit, chatting idly over espresso, endless varieties of hot chocolate (at last count there were at least six, including white chocolate chai and caramel), and fresh chocolate-covered strawberries.
Browse the huge 7,800-square foot retail space while sampling a variety of amazing confections from Torres's signature champagne truffles and chocolate-covered macadamia nuts to his chocolate bark (chocolate mixed with delicate fruits and nuts) as well as chocolate infused with sophisticated flavors like chili pepper, red wine, or key lime.
If that's not enough, you can peruse a few of Torres's bestselling cookbooks, learn how his chocolate is produced, grab his incredible cookie recipe, and leave with a sampling of Valentine's Day chocolates for your sweetheart. This year's fun selection of treats includes a variety of boxed chocolates and truffles, heart-shaped love puzzles with interlocking pieces, and the "Kiss Box," a curious milk or dark chocolate lip-shaped container filled with tiny chocolate hugs and kisses. Those with a naughty side can add extra large "Spank Me" chocolate lollipops as well as raspberry body paint and/or body butter. If you're lucky, Mr. Chocolate himself might greet you in person.