Some of you may have noticed the buzz about the French Broad Chocolate Lounge today, especially if you tend to keep an eye on Twitter. Leah McGrath, the ever-alert Ingles’ Dietitian, sent a congratulatory message to the chocolate shop owners this morning via the popular — and very public — social media platform. The cause for the kudos? Very real plans for a chocolate factory located in central Asheville with national distribution capabilities. The message was quickly picked up by various bloggers, including Ashevegas, the blog run by ex-Xpress staffer Jason Sandford.
Xpress publisher Jeff Fobes made this observation shortly thereafter: “Chocolate factories are few and far between. Wikipedia’s listing for “bean-to-bar” chocolate factories lists only 24 in the United States. The process of grinding beans into a smooth paste can take seven days of continuous pulverizing, and is a fine art.”
It is indeed a fine art, and owners Jael and Dan Rattigan are up to the task. The chocolate-making duo have been experimenting with making chocolate bars for the past few months, since the delicate truffles that they make are not quite hardy enough for large-scale circulation. I had the chance to sample one of those bars late this summer — a brown-butter milk chocolate made with caramelized milk solids — and trust me, it was incredible.
At last night’s AIR Taste of Asheville event, the couple gave Xpress a small taste of what’s to come, and we’re looking forward to telling you the story. Oh, and Southern Living is on the case as well. Jael reports that the magazine will be publishing a feature on Southern bean-to-bar chocolatiers which will include the French Broad Chocolate Lounge, although she says she’s not sure how prominently the shop will be featured. Guess we’ll all just have to be patient.
Until then, here’s a look at the Rattigans doing what they love — making chocolate. This video was shot by Aaron Morrell, a local filmmaker and owner of Grae Skye Studio. The location where the video was shot is local chef Mark Rosenstein’s house, the site of one of the Blind Pig supper club‘s latest dining events featuring the Rattigans, pastry chef Holly Weist and Rosenstein.