While winter is the slow season for many North Fork businesses, it’s crunch time for North Fork Chocolate Company.
With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, founders Ann Corley and chef Steve Amaral and their team must stockpile their inventory of artisanal chocolates, chocolate roses, chocolate-covered strawberries and other romantic essentials.
But adding to the usual February mayhem is a major move.
After eight years at 740 Main Road in Aquebogue, North Fork Chocolate Company has moved to not one but two locations. The first of these shops – 8700 Main Road in Mattituck — welcomed its first customers Wednesday. The second location — 309 E. Main St. in Riverhead — will open its doors to the public next month, after the holiday rush.
North Fork Chocolate Company leased their Aquebogue property since 2014 while it was actively listed for sale on the real estate market. Ms. Corley believed the real estate “for sale” sign was not good for attracting business, prompting a move. Perhaps more pivotal, the chocolatiers were not offered a lease renewal this year as the property remains on the market.
“If we had to move, why not grow,” Ms. Corley said of the decision to secure two locations. “And we’re better able to serve our customers, too. Hopefully, we’ll have more outreach to the community this way going a little more east and a little more west.”
At the new Mattituck location, customers can browse the display case, then purchase and taste chocolate, ice cream and other delights. The atmosphere is akin to that of a coffee shop with café tables, a comfortable couch, local art on the walls and bookcases filled with the works and wares of local artisans and authors. All the locally made hot sauces, honey, hardcovers and paintings are available for purchase.
“They can come and relax, have a cup of coffee, a piece of cake, some ice cream,” Ms. Corley said of the atmosphere.
She and Mr. Amaral named the shop’s chocolate display the “tasting bar,” after their $7.95 “tasting” special.
“People come in, they pick whichever four chocolates they want, then they take them to the vineyards and get wine to go with them,” Mr. Amaral explained.
The two founders offer recommendations that inspire customers to hit the North Fork Wine Trail with purpose. The Thai coffee and the fig and marzipan chocolates pair well with reds, liquid caramel with whites and “goat milk toffee goes great with a rosé in the summer,” Ms. Corley said.
In addition to partnering with vineyards and breweries for tasting experiences, much of North Fork Chocolate Company’s offerings contain locally sourced brews and batches, from Long Ireland Celtic ale to Duck Walk Vineyards’ 2016 blueberry port.
“We use local ingredients, that was our whole niche from the beginning, that we use ingredients from local farms and vineyards and purveyors to create the centers of most of our chocolates,” Ms. Corley said.”
These local ingredients carry over into the shop’s offerings beyond sweet treats. In Mattituck, Mr. Amaral whips up various waffles including a grilled cheese waffle made with Mecox Bay Dairy cheese. Other options include the cinnabomba waffle with buttermilk cream cheese icing and the brown butter apple cider waffle with donut spice and cider caramel.
In Riverhead, which boasts a larger kitchen compared to the Mattituck chocolate shop, Mr. Amaral and his team will also cook a menu of vegan and vegetarian options the North Fork Chocolate Company began offering last year. When they are not whipping up chocolate and ice cream, they will craft dishes like curry tofu wraps, bruschetta and avocado toast.
These more savory dishes are far from the minds of those behind the counter of the Mattituck chocolate shop. On Tuesday, the chocolatiers were still unpacking boxes and arranging their Mattituck store. Among the essentials to unpack are chocolate-colored heart-shaped boxes and strands of red and gold ribbon, waiting to encase hand-picked Valentine’s Day chocolates.
“Sometimes you get a box of chocolate and it’s filled with things you don’t like,” Corley said. “If you pick out what’s in your box, you’ll know the person’s going to like everything they get. It makes it more special.”