Specialty store with 350 chocolate bars from around the world finds a new home in Nolita

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At Meadow, which unveiled its new location in Nolita, 240 Mulberry Street, Prince Street on September 1, the whimsical mishmash of specialty foods tends to fall into one of three categories: bitter, salty or sweet. Plates and flasks of salt, small batch bitters and handcrafted chocolates, sourced from around the world and meticulously displayed in floor-to-ceiling bookshelf-like shelves, represent the future of the store as much as they tell its story. pandemic.

“To be honest with you, I wasn’t sure I could keep the business,” says founder and owner Mark Bitterman, who also has Meadow outposts in Portland and Tokyo. “I have never created a model based on zero income. “

Last year included much of the bitter category: a pandemic closure of the store’s original New York City location in the West Village, its home for just over 10 years. “The most important thing,” he says, “is that our fixed costs, like rent, haven’t gone away. There’s the salty: With the support of his team, Bitterman launched the new location literally on his own, with an injured arm immobilized in a sling, while commuting back and forth between New York and his home port of Portland, where he opened the first Meadow Location in 2006. But then there’s the candy: The Meadow is back with a vengeance, with locations soon to open on both coasts. Plans have been finalized for a prime new location near Powell’s Books in Portland, while the team continues to seek locations for a second location in New York City, likely Brooklyn, which will open later this year. next.

In the calm of the pandemic, he says, “I was able to think more deeply about what the Meadow was. “

Chocolate, salt, bitters and flowers are at the center of the Meadow’s preoccupations.
Mark Bitterman / La Prairie

While Nolita’s space contains new additions, like a pantry section of dry goods (think pasta and cereal) and condiments, it’s anchored by a familiar sight: a wall with 350 bars of artisanal chocolate from specialty of at least 75 vendors who answer the question Bitterman often asks himself: “Where do you go to be surprised with chocolate?”

Established names like Stéphane Bonnat and François Pralus, famous for introducing the concept of single-origin bars in the 1990s, appear alongside newcomers like Bixby Led by a Woman from Maine, Solstice from Utah and SOMA. Chocolate from Canada, including Old School Milk Chuao bar features three ingredients pressed through a vintage blender, a contraption that is often used to grind cocoa beans, to produce a confectionery with a crumbly, cookie-like texture.

“We want to have a range,” Bitterman explains. “It’s very important for us to have accessible bars.

Two shelves lined with colorful chocolate bars.

The Meadow sources chocolate from all over the world.
Mark Bitterman / La Prairie

Future Wonka come from all over the world, with chocolate makers from Vietnam, Iceland and Hawaii, the only US state where cocoa grows. One section features the handful of New York City options, like Brooklyn-based Raaka, whose bars use unroasted beans, and Sol Cacao, a newcomer Mr. Bitterman describes as “the only chocolatiers in the Bronx.”

From dragon fruit to sweet potato to oat milk, the chocolate varieties are complete enough to include two options with Middle Eastern bread: “Pita the Bread,” a Portland-based bar infused with pita, dukkah and hazelnut chips, or Mirzam’s dark chocolate. with ultra-fine ragag bread from the United Arab Emirates.

Every part of the bean is a fair game. “Let me briefly explain the craziest product I have ever developed,” reads a note from Domantas Uzpalis, a Lithuanian chocolate maker who describes how he takes in cocoa pulp, the placenta-like white substance that surrounds the bean. cocoa, and freeze-dried in a spongy, meringue-like confectionery that is locked in the bar.

For purists, at least 20 bars are 100% cocoa, which is good for taste testing of all brands, says Kelsey Sheppard, a sales assistant whose encyclopedic knowledge of the products makes her a sort of chocolate sherpa, offering guided recommendations tailored to individual preferences.

The store is kept at 67 degrees without humidity to avoid “anything that disrupts the cocoa butter network,” Bitterman explains. “The chocolate will not go bad between the maker and us.”

And like any true connoisseur, he has a specialized reserve in his private collection. “I have a few cases that I put in the cellar, like a wine,” says Bitterman. “This is a Valrhona Chuao bar from 2003.”

For all the talk about chocolate, it is salt that made Bitterman’s name and continues to wear it. After writing a cookbook on the mineral, winner of the James Beard Award, he launched an eponymous brand that has around 100 varieties of salt that can be classified into cooking, finishing and flavoring (dill, truffle, wasabi) and limited edition. , with rare black volcanic kala namak from India as a particular source of pride. Next to a sign at the entrance to the store that tells shoppers to “throw in your table salt!” Salt plates larger than coffee table books function as serving platters.

A shelf lined with salt bottles, next to a pile of pink Himalayan salt slabs, and a few books.

Owner Mark Bitterman made a name for himself writing the book Dirty.
Mark Bitterman / La Prairie

Despite supply chain disruptions – “Salt was the worst! We’ve had containers and pallets in overseas ports, ”says Bitterman – the store still offers its monthly subscriptions, which allow customers to receive mystery boxes of salt or chocolate in the mail.

And in homage to the store’s namesake, buckets of freshly cut flowers are sold by stalk. But for the store’s legion of diehard fans, getting their hands on a rare chocolate bar, which may not be available elsewhere in New York City, is what makes things seem like they are happening. in pink.

A wall with shelves lined with chocolate bars flanked by a green plant on one side and vases of flowers on the other.

There are plans to open a store in Brooklyn in the near future.
Mark Bitterman / La Prairie


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