The high holy day of chocolate indulgence is fast approaching. If you haven’t procured sweets for your sweet just yet, consider making a trip to Bergen County. There you’ll find Sook Pastry, a casually inviting little café that has quietly built a dedicated following for its array of gourmet French pastries and is now rolling out the debut of Sook Chocolate—a line of handcrafted and genuinely spectacular delicacies JerseyBites was recently invited to sample.
Beginning with Valrhona chocolate and layering flavors such as jasmine tea, macadamia, cappuccino, raspberry, pistachio, Grand Marnier, and caramel into rich, gorgeous, and unique truffles, ganaches, and delicately coated roasted nuts, Sook Chocolate offers quality that rivals some of the big names on Madison Avenue. That may be due to the pedigree of the talent behind the venture: Pastry chef Keum Sook Park, who trained at the French Culinary Institute and later at the exalted Payard Patisserie on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, and chocolatier Bertin Ventura, who spent more than a decade at Payard perfecting his craft. But the secret ingredient, as with all truly great art, is the passion the Sook Chocolate team brings to the table.
Sook explains on the company’s website how she recalls rare chocolate treats as a child in Korea, and how she built her technical skills “while dreaming of chocolate.” Izzy Yanay, Sook’s husband and founder of the Hudson Valley Foie Gras company, invested heavily in making this dream come true. “If you serve pastry, make chocolate, or knit sweaters for cats—it doesn’t matter, as long as you wake up in the morning and have something to reach for.” Once they teamed up with Ventura, the dream of Sook Chocolate became real. They built a space dedicated to the chocolate business, in Clifton, and gave the chocolatier a place where, as Yanay explains, “he can work his magic.”
The product, nestled in irresistible orange-and-cocoa-brown packaging, holds true to the promise of quality and care pledged by the Sook team. Options range from gold-dusted cinnamon ganache, Earl Grey tea-infused ganache, and melt-in-your-mouth vanilla bean truffles to lightly dusted and marvelously crunchy macadamia nuts and almonds.
The showstoppers—and what will perhaps become their signature item—are Muscadines: delicate rolls of smooth dark chocolate ganache flavored with praline and Grand Marnier, gently coated in powdered sugar. Resistance is futile.
Valentine’s Day specials include brightly colored chocolate hearts in four flavors: cassis, passion fruit, raspberry, and rose water. Specialty cakes featured for the holiday are the white sponge, raspberry-passion infused, heart-shaped L’Amour, and La Saint Valentin—a brownie cake with dark chocolate mousse and praline creme.
Learn more about Sook Chocolate at sookchocolate.com.
Visit Sook Pastry
24 South Broad Street
Open 7 days: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Deanna Quinones is the Jersey Bites Regional Editor for Morris County. A freelance writer, blogger, and unrepentant chocolate addict, Deanna spent 20 years in the San Francisco Bay Area where life was good and the burritos even better. She recently returned to the Garden State and now resides in Morristown, where she and her Texas-born/Jersey-raised/California-found husband are raising two wild and wonderful kids. An experienced book marketer, award-winning greeting card writer, and entertainment writing dabbler, Deanna can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. (photo credit Pete Genovese/The Star-Ledger)