I Feel Fine and Raw about Daniel Sklaar’s Chocolate
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Daniel Sklaar, the brains (and culinary talent) behind Fine & Raw Chocolate. Available in several fine-foods stores in the New York area (including the Bedford Cheese Shop), Fine & Raw combines raw and natural confectionery with unconventional taste and texture.
According to Daniel—a former financial analyst turned French Culinary Institute graduate and self-professed chocolate fiend—the goal behind Fine & Raw was to rescue chocolate from its highly processed, mass-produced form, and reintroduce it to people as a simple and celebrated food. To that end, Daniel keeps his chocolate free of preservatives, sugar or dairy, instead blending it with blue agave nectar, coconut oil and sea salt. He also uses low-heat techniques to ensure that the chocolate retains the biodiversity of its nutrients. The end result is a chocolate similar to fresh produce: perishable, complex and delicious.
Were the quality of Daniel’s chocolate not so high (truly remarkable given that he is producing Fair & Raw by hand out of his loft), the intellectual intent around it might seem frivolous. But, tasting the chocolate, it immediately becomes clear that Daniel is serious when he says that he wants his chocolate to be “a source of happiness, fun, and ritual as opposed to nourishment alone.” When I asked further about this, he explained: “We are just now moving beyond the point where people see food purely as fuel. So many foods today make claims about their contents, with numbers and nutrition facts and guaranteed results. With chocolate, science does suggest that it has many wonderful health benefits, but reducing it to its benefits alone robs it of its greater potential. When you taste something, your body knows whether it is good or bad by the way it tastes and the way it makes you feel. So I try to make chocolate that is first and foremost a food and a physical experience.”
Daniel’s case for chocolate as a food is a persuasive one, particularly given his passion for what he does. In a particularly hilarious moment, I couldn’t help myself from completely sidetracking the conversation to unselfconsciously gorge myself on one of his samples in about two seconds flat (so much for ritual). Given the combination of obsession and expertise with which the chocolates are made, I have no doubt that we’ll be seeing a quite a variety of things from Fine & Raw in the very near future. –John