North Fork Chocolate Goes Global and Keeps It Local - 27 East

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North Fork Chocolate Goes Global and Keeps It Local

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Chef Steven Amaral and some of his chocolate creations. STACY DERMONT

Chef Steven Amaral and some of his chocolate creations. STACY DERMONT

Chocolate bunnies ready to hop into Easter baskets across the East End. STACY DERMONT

Chocolate bunnies ready to hop into Easter baskets across the East End. STACY DERMONT

Chef Steven Amaral's chocolate creations. STACY DERMONT

Chef Steven Amaral's chocolate creations. STACY DERMONT

Creations in progress on the North Fork at Chef Steve's chocotorium. STACY DERMONT

Creations in progress on the North Fork at Chef Steve's chocotorium. STACY DERMONT

The Peeps come on flavors like Blue Raspberry Slushie, Dr. Pepper, Party Cake and Cotton Candy. STACY DERMONT

The Peeps come on flavors like Blue Raspberry Slushie, Dr. Pepper, Party Cake and Cotton Candy. STACY DERMONT

Sisters Emily and Abigail from Wading River are ready for some chocolate. STACY DERMONT

Sisters Emily and Abigail from Wading River are ready for some chocolate. STACY DERMONT

authorStacy Dermont on Mar 15, 2024

If you soon find your house full of chocolate Easter bunnies and other treats you might want to thank the Easter Bunny and chocolatier and executive chef Steven Amaral.

“Chef Steve” and his talented staff at North Fork Chocolate now produce more than 2,000 artisanal chocolate bunnies, ducks, giant eggs, giant sunflowers and bunny pops in their Riverhead “chocotorium.” They even hand-dip eight flavors of Peeps in chocolate.

Much like the Easter Bunny, Chef Steve takes requests. His bunnies and other shapes come in solid or hollow form, in milk chocolate, dark chocolate or white chocolate. But all his chocolate is organic and made in-house, “bean to bunny.”

“The popular Peeps flavors are great this year,” Amaral said. “Blue Raspberry Slushie, Dr. Pepper, Party Cake and Cotton Candy — they’re hilarious!”

Hilarity reigns at North Fork Chocolate, as daily posts on Instagram attest, but it’s also a serious business, or businesses.

Amaral is a stickler for detail, painting his individual boxed chocolates himself and overseeing everything his staff makes from scones to soups.

Yes, Amaral and staff have long produced a lot more than their original chocolates. As their name implies, North Fork Chocolate supplies customers with chocolate across the North Fork. Some of their stone-grown chocolate, and their desserts, are also sold wholesale to customers across the South Fork including Sant Ambroeus (chocolates), and 75 Main (desserts), both in Southampton; Sagaponack Farm Distillery (custom chocolate bars) in Sagaponack; the Topping Rose House (chocolates) in Bridgehampton; the Milk Pail Fresh Market (chocolates and other treats) in Water Mill; and the Share the Harvest Farmstand (gelato and chocolate) in East Hampton.

North Fork Chocolate handcrafts “small batch” artisanal chocolates and gourmet desserts featuring many local ingredients. They craft their own proprietary blend of Belgian chocolate to surround locally sourced centers created from fresh fruits, cream, sea salt, herbs, honey, spice, wine, and spirits.

They also formulate custom organic fair trade chocolate bars from the cacao bean stone-ground, and dairy- and soy-free. Their ice cream and fudge are made from scratch, no mixes.

Amaral’s operations were formerly based in Aquebogue on the North Fork. Late last year he and business partner, Ann Corley, closed the Aquebogue location and opened stores in both Riverhead, at 309 East Main Street, and in Mattituck, at 8700 Main Road.

Amaral is a graduate of Johnson & Wales University, and he traveled through Spain, Italy and France learning from the world’s top chefs. In 2012, while wholesaling gourmet desserts to restaurants, he decided he wanted to get creative with chocolate. He taught himself the demanding art of chocolate-making. North Fork Chocolate was the first company to “graduate” from the Stony Brook University Food Business Incubator program at Calverton to a brick-and-mortar store.

And already this year Amaral launched Fresh Greens & Spice LI with local farmer Christianna Van der Wetering, which offers the freshest spices direct from Sri Lanka plus cacao beans, coffee and Ceylon tea.

“People love being able to get spices so fresh right here,” Amaral said.

Van der Wetering grows greens including lettuce, kale and arugula for North Fork Chocolate in two hydroponic containers inside an old potato barn in Calverton. She plans to grow herbs — including epazote, parsley, mints, rosemary, and sage — there and at the North Fork Chocolate Mattituck property this summer.

Right now, Amaral and Van der Wetering are creating spice blends for a “South Fork Grill Kit” to include spice rubs for seafood, poultry and veggies. They take turns grinding spices in the Riverhead kitchen.

The Easter Bunny has been spotted at the Riverhead North Fork Chocolate location quite a bit lately. The menu there is very much to his liking — seasonal and all vegetarian. It’s the only all-vegetarian restaurant on the East End, after all. “North Fork Chocolate & Eatery” has also just expanded its vegan and gluten-free offerings.

Not to be confused with Peter Rabbit, who was happy to nibble on Mr. McGregor’s undressed vegetables, the Easter Bunny is known to enjoy Amaral’s Grain Bowl of lentils, quinoa, roast veggies, cranberries, pecans and Urban Coyote Farm pea shoots. Humans have been lapping up Chef Steve’s Red Lentil & Chickpea Soup and Almost Beef & Mushroom Stew. What’s the favorite burger option? A deliciously chewy housemade “almost beef” of seitan and oyster mushroom on a housemade sourdough brioche bun. Or how about a portobello mushroom BLT with balsamic mayo?

The new menu launched right after one of North Fork Chocolate’s other busy holidays, Valentine’s Day. Mother’s Day is also huge at North Fork Chocolate. And then there’s the annual blowout of the Christmas season.

What’s Amaral most excited about?

“Sourdough bread! We have a line of people for it in the morning and we sell out by 2 o’clock!”

The secret to his sourdough’s great flavor? Amaral mixes “a bit of rye and a bit of whole wheat flour” in with the bread flour.

As if making thousands of chocolates and serving the public lunch every day is not enough to keep Amaral busy, he has operated a full-service catering firm, Black Tie Caterers, since 2001.

While Amaral enjoys his time creating in his chocotorium and kitchen, he has also become quite the man about town, recently joining the Riverhead Chamber of Commerce and the Riverhead BID (Business Improvement District). He plans to host a Riverhead Chamber networking night soon.

Amaral has also begun to serve on the Suffolk County Community College Culinary Advisory Board. He recently advised the faculty to teach courses focused on serving vegetarians and vegans.

“It’s not like vegans don’t drink,” Amaral pointed out. “I don’t cook vegetarian because it’s cool. I myself had no place to go to eat.”

Amaral has so many balls in the air. Is he crazy or just following his many passions? “Yes,” he asserted.

Amaral worked as an executive chef in Maui in the 1980s and 1990s. While overseeing hotels there, he was nominated for a James Beard Award for Best Chef: Northwest & Pacific.

Last week, Amaral joined East End Arts, whose Creative Director Wendy Weiss will be curating exhibitions of local artists in North Fork Chocolate’s Riverhead storefront.

Currently original photographs by Barbara Lassen, which she shot for “The Hamptons Kitchen,” are on view at North Fork Chocolate’s Riverhead location, alongside Amaral’s one-of-a-kind paintings. (That’s right, Chef Steve Amaral makes time to paint every day — sometimes on artisanal chocolate, and sometimes on large canvases.) North Fork Chocolate’s Mattituck store devotes a whole room to a host of local artists and artisans.

Hop on over, or follow North Fork Chocolate on Instagram for all of Chef Steve’s latest creations and offerings, @northforkchocolate. For more information, visit northforkchocolate.com. To order lunch call 631-779-2963 option 2 or text 631-258-5401.

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