Rafael Prieto, creative director of the New York City– and Mexico City–based studio Savvy, and the founder of Casa Bosques and Casa Bosques Chocolates, tells us about hoja santa, the special aromatic herb found in his latest concoction.
You’ve been making chocolate for nine years now. How did you start?
I love chocolate. I was traveling in Europe, tasting and trying different chocolates, and it was interesting because Belgian chocolate, for example, is called Belgian chocolate, but the cacao comes from other countries. So I got curious about this traveling line of cacao. Later, when I was back [in Mexico], designing a restaurant, I randomly met and started talking with a pastry chef, asking, “Where do you get the chocolate for this cake?” The conversation went on, and then it just clicked in my mind that I wanted to make chocolate. We got our first beans in Mexico, and from there it has been an exploration of different flavors.
Tell us about your latest ingredient, the hoja santa leaf. Where does it come from, and how does it taste?
I discovered hoja santa a bit late, because I’m from the north [of Mexico], and hoja santa is from the south—Mexican cuisine is very regional. I think I was 17 when I had my first one. It has this almost anise taste to it, but at the same time it’s bitter. Hoja santa is very important in Mexican cuisine, but it’s always one hundred percent in savory dishes, in moles, teas, all sorts. It has a lot of spiritual and healing connotations, and represents a lot about our connection to the cosmos, ancient folk knowledge about energy. It is used for general well-being, a way to detoxify, protect your immune system. (And, in theory, it’s anti-inflammatory, but, you know, bloating is not such a thing in Mexico—that’s more of an American concern.)
Last winter, I was in Oaxaca, eating this specific quesadilla that had hoja santa, and I thought, Man, I need a chocolate with this. Hoja santa is a living thing, and I didn’t want to grind it or dry it like another ingredient, because then it loses its power. In the finished bar, a whole leaf is embedded and partly exposed in the middle of the chocolate—that took us, like, seven months, to get the leaf at the perfect balance of dried and slightly crystallized with sugar, for a little crunchiness.
From where do you source your cacao?
I always get it from different countries, but I wanted to make this one very Mexican, and I knew there was this ranch growing white-bean cacao. For a cacao bean to be white means that it’s very special and pure; nothing has happened to the field, no pollution, nothing.
You tend to feature uncommon flavors. How do you decide which ingredients to experiment with?
Pink peppercorn was the first one that I did, because I was very curious about mixing chocolate with different spices and flavors. The second was fleur de sel, then the third was rosemary. For the fourth one, I was living in Kuwait for a while, working on a project, and did one with cardamom, as a reminder of the Turkish coffee and tea they drink there.
Depending on where I’m traveling, the chocolate for me is almost like a journal. I taste something interesting, and then try to turn those flavors into a bar with something that resonates.
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Several months into the pandemic, the restaurant industry remains among the hardest hit in the U.S., with scant evidenceparticularly those run by BIPOC entrepreneurs, who have been disproportionately affected by coronavirus-related losses—their fates lie directly in continuing sales. Eat Okra app, founded by New York couple Anthony and Janique Edwards in 2016, which gives a boost of visibility to Black-owned b
The 20th-century futurist, theorist, inventor, and architect R. Buckminster Fuller was a tireless visionary and radical thinker who wrote dozens of books and proposed theoretical designs advocating for Synergetic Stew: Explorations in Dymaxion Dining, a collection of recipes and anecdotes originally compiled by Fuller’s friends as a surprise gift for his 86th birthday
Tamy Rofe, a sommelier who owns Brooklyn’s farm-to-table-y Latin American restaurant Colonia Verde with her husband, Felipe Donnelly, operates by a matra borrowed from her mother: “La comida compartida sabe mejor.” In English, it means, “Food tastes better when shared.” From the eatery’s lived-in aesthetic to its signature Sunday general store,” selling and even delivering nearly every ingredient on its menu alongside prepared meals and grill boxes—a way for Co
Lexie Smith is an artist and baker, though it’s only relatively recently, after years of working in restaurant kitchens and balanciBread on Earth. Her work often takes on various forms, from performance and installation to photography, writing, and publishing, all
After years in various kitchens, working his way up from dishwasher to cook, and ultimately chef de partie at Eleven Madison Park, Matt Jozwiak left the fine-dining world behind in 2017 to start Rethink Food NYC, a nonprofit organization that partners with restaurants and grocery stores to reduce excess food and make nutritious, Ghetto Gastro and Jozwiak’s former boss, chef Daniel Humm—as collaborators in its mission to fight food insecurity and foster a more
Extolled by New York City’s finest restaurants, from Daniel to Eleven Madison Park and abcV, as well as a growing coteriDavocadoguy, is seemingly everyone’s go-to guy for the best avocados. He keeps his supply consistently stocked and perfectly ripene