Where Does One City Chocolatier Get Her Inspiration? Keith Richards

Photo by Cheryl Chan

For those still in need of something transcendent this Valentine’s Day, you might find help at Bond Street Chocolates, a two-year-old shop in the East Village where a pocket-sized Moses and golden Buddha rest upon a jade green platter. Made from solid dark chocolate, they are part of an assortment of edible deities from chocolatier Lynda Stern’s Divine Collection. Ganesha the elephant-headed Hindu god, Jesus and skulls are others that are gilded and hand-painted with 24-carat edible gold or silver metallic dust.

A pastry chef for 15 years, Stern developed what would become one of her trademark desserts when she created a big chocolate Buddha for a class project at the French Culinary Institute. Epiphany struck: Stern decided to learn how to make her own molds, and started producing mini Buddhas to sell from her home.

Chocolate skulls are also a Stern signature. Generally never seen without her gold skull earrings, Stern acknowledges that she has always been into them: “Maybe it’s a leftover thing from the 80s ‘heavy metal’ days.” Pointing to a black and white photograph of Keith Richards wearing a skull ring, Stern notes that “the skulls that I do are kind of influenced by his ring.“

Destined for shapes of bones and Buddhas, some days 30 to 40 pounds of creamy chocolate are stirred up at Stern’s shop kitchen behind the store, which functions more like a chocolate laboratory. Miles Davis, LCD Soundsystem, Bob Marley and Brazilian beats provide the ambient music in the background. Her taste in music is as eclectic as her range of chocolates. Clad in leather pants, a checked shirt and tousled hair, Stern applies her rock ‘n’ roll aesthetic to her confections, creating anything edible from mini-racecars in creamy milk chocolate to those religious icons and tribal statues.

At Bond Street’s brown and fuchsia storefront the exposed brick walls and cocoa colored flocked wallpaper — there are also velvet hot pink skulls on the shelves — make the salon look luxurious with a touch of Goth, Betsy Johnson style. Bond Street truffles are sold in faux lizard or crocodile embossed boxes. Twelve varieties of bon bons are displayed behind glass, repurposed from a vintage jewelry case. A variety of flavors are always on rotation, subject to Stern’s creative and culinary whims.

For Valentine’s Day, her latest concoction is a spicy caramel heart with racy pink and blue leopard prints, paired with a Venezuelan dark chocolate heart. New figurines are a six-inch tall statue of “Venus on a Half-Shell” statue and a contemporary looking, Modigliani-style African mask, inspired by a statue she picked up in South Africa.

The ganache in the bite sized pieces of chocolate are light in taste and delicately flavored without being cloying, whether they’re infused with passionfruit, African rooibos tea, Elijah Craig Bourbon or Absinthe, and the depth of the rich and pure chocolate flavor still stands out.

While bestsellers–tequila, absinthe, passion fruit and elderflower liquor-filled bon bons–are permanently kept in stock, other flavors move in and out: “I’m always changing things because I get bored,” Stern says. One of her newer items is addictive corn nuts coated with milk chocolate powder, which follows other sweet–savory snacks like chocolate-coated wasabi peas or dark-chocolate covered caramels with granular sea salt scattered across.

An East Village native of 21 years, Stern named Bond Street Chocolates, found at 63 East Fourth Street between Bowery and Second Avenue, for the block she lives on. Her purchasing is local too: Stern procures many of her raw materials from the 4th Street Food Co-op across the street from the shop. Her ethos, she says, is to be “organic as much as possible.” Like other local chocolatiers, her flavors also tend to be inspired by the seasons, such as chocolate bars with cardamom and chili peppers or cranberry pumpkin chocolate for Thanksgiving, or by what she’s imbibing or where she’s traveling.

Her “slight obsession with Brazil,” as she puts it, lead her to make a Caipirinha chocolate for a friend. Ever the rock-n-roller, her quality benchmark is, “if I drink it, I’ll make it.” Cheers to that.

Published in Edible Manhattan:

Comments are closed.