A compact chocolate shop called Bespoke Chocolate opened yesterday on Extra Place, the historic, 30' by 120' alley tucked away north of 1st Street between the Bowery and 2nd Avenue. The shop itself, owned and operated by chocolate maker Rachel Zoe Insler and her fiancé, is a tiny 280 square feet, open production space included.
The supporting cast of ingredients used to make the truffles includes Ronnybrook Farm cream, Martin's pretzels (purchased at the Union Square Greenmarket), and cacao varieties like the Fair Trade Venezuelan brand El Rey. Truffle flavors include chocolate with black tea with apricot, and a chocolate caramel filled truffle with sea salt and crunchy pretzel bits on top. There's a strawberry balsamic flavor, a cognac truffle, and a white chocolate/passionfruit one-two punch. All truffles are $2.25 and Insler makes everything by hand at the store.
Insler, who left a graduate program in cognitive neuroscience to work at the Union Square Cafe and later apprentice at a chocolate shop in England, deliberately blocked out the kitchen space as small as it is. Her focus, she said yesterday, is not expansion, but to make the best sweets possible by hand, and to take her time working with flavors. "People treat chocolate a lot more seriously in Europe," she said yesterday. "Some people ask if I'm going to sell cappuccinos here. I'm not. This is a chocolate shop." Fair enough.