Two friends and bona-fide Brooklyn gustatory legends have become rivals in that most bittersweet of winter businesses: hawking hot-chocolate.
Herve Poussot, who developed the Water Street patisserie Almondine with the help of his friend, the famed chocolatier Jacques Torres, has stopped selling Torres’s venerated cocoa in favor of his own concoction.
Poussot’s under-the-radar move came to light after he posted a diminutive white paper sign on the glass doors leading into his establishment — which sits in plain view of Torres’s shop across the street.
The sign may have been meek — “Now for sale: hot chocolate” — but it read like a dagger to anyone who knows the bitter world of high-end sweets.
After all, the shops face each other on Water Street, between Main and Dock streets. And Torres’s cocoa is the ne plus ultra of lusciousness.
“At first, I used Torres’s hot chocolate,” said Poussot, recounting his adventures in cocoa-making. “But I started serving my own in September.”
The move is part of a larger separation between Poussot and Torres, who fostered his friend during Almondine’s first two years, helping to create one of DUMBO’s favorite lunch spots. The partnership, said Poussot, expired about half a year ago.
“Torres showed me how to build my business,” said Poussot. “Now I fly free.”
Poussot wouldn’t comment on whose hot chocolate he preferred, saying the question was akin to asking someone’s favorite color.
But Poussot did reveal some of his secret methods (Oompa Loompas were not involved).
“I start with a good chocolate and add only milk and cream — no starch or stuff like that,” said Poussot. “The chocolate is 64 percent cocoa, from France.”
But neighborhood taste-testers (including those in The Brooklyn Paper newsroom), suggested that Poussot might want to revise his recipe, which, like Torres’s, rings in at $2.50 a cup.
“Jacques Torres hot chocolate is sex in a cup,” said Ben Foster, who works at a DUMBO-based online music retailer.
His colleague’s appraisal was, arguably, even harsher.
“I would argue that the hot chocolate from Peas and Pickles is better than Almondine’s,” said Brett Cleaver, referring to DUMBO’s grocery store, which serves up a machine-made mix.
Torres, who was busy preparing for a trip to France, emailed The Brooklyn Paper to say that he had not yet tasted Poussot’s hot chocolate, but welcomed the competition.
“Chocolate is a huge industry and there is room for everyone!” wrote Torres, who favors exclamation marks. “In the DUMBO neighborhood, lots of businesses offer hot chocolate — Starbucks, Seven Stars Deli, Bubby’s, Front Street Pizza, to name a few. When Herve first got started, we gave him our hot chocolate product and our cups! Now he’s got his own recipe, and that is very exciting!”
And despite the rivalry, the two remain pals.
“I still talk to Herve on the phone whenever time permits — whether it is about our profession or our friendship,” said Torres.
Isn’t that sweet?