Just in time for the holidays, the North Fork has a new handcrafted chocolate workshop. Ursula XVII sala-Illa, co-owner of the Harvest Inn bed and breakfast in Peconic, has launched a new chocolatier workshop known as Disset Chocolate — blending an e-commerce website with a special-order operation, where she partners with other small businesses on the North Fork.
The name Disset also happens to be her middle name given to her by her father, XVII (17 in Roman numerals), which is her native language of Catalan.
Even though the global pandemic has hit many food, beverage and hospitality businesses this year, the silver lining for sala-Illa is that it has given her free time to think strategically about Disset and its business model.
The concept is simple: there is no store front, rather a workshop for her to produce the chocolate. All products — made with the high-quality ingredients and without any artificial preservatives — can be found on her e-commerce website (www.dissetchocolate.com) or at local North Fork markets and businesses that Disset partners with for specialty items.
sala-Illa has a wide-ranging culinary background that began at The French Pastry School in Chicago, where she fell madly in love with the science of baking. She graduated to working at New York City’s well-known Ai Fiori restaurant operated by the Altamarea Group where she took her pastry experience one step further by making chocolate. Shortly thereafter she was offered a career-changing opportunity to move to Spain to work for a chocolatier in Barcelona.
While there she had many enriching experiences, including working for Jordi Ferrer, crafting intricate Easter chocolate displays, as well as working at a farm to table restaurant. “It was at that restaurant where everything merged in my mind and gave me my ‘a-ha’ moment,” she explained. “I wanted to blend a farm to table experience with a Michelin star standard.”
It was when she was back stateside working in the pastry group at Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz in upstate New York that she and her mother had the opportunity to purchase the Harvest Inn. In 2018, the mother and daughter team moved to the North Fork to renovate the inn while sala-Illa simultaneously worked at the North Fork Table and Inn under acclaimed pastry chef Claudia Fleming.
“It was Claudia who told me that there wasn’t anything like my chocolates on the North Fork,” she said, adding that once Fleming noticed the opportunity in the market for a high-end chocolatier, it was the push she needed to make her dream a reality. sala-Illa realized that not only could she make artisanal chocolates, but she could also create a small business that would lend itself to collaborating with other small businesses, as well as showcasing local ingredients in the finished product.
Disset’s launch includes a holiday collection as well as a honey collection featuring local North Fork ingredients. “We have a 12-days of Christmas box that we plan to take to the farmer’s market that will feature a pear bonbon for a partridge in a pear tree to marry the song with our handcrafted chocolates,” she added.
She’s also forged a partnership with Raphael Vineyard, which tapped sala-Illa to create gift boxes to celebrate their 20-year anniversary. The box of bonbons includes the winery’s signature red colors and is meant to be paired alongside their wines.
Additionally, Disset will feature gifts like at-home s’mores kits, paint-your-own chocolate tablets as well as hot chocolate bombs—perfect to prepare at home, for a safe, socially distant holiday.