by Carla Occaso
What tastes better than chocolate? How about smoked chocolate? Or bacon dipped in chocolate sauce? How about chocolate washed down with top-shelf Scotch? These menu items and more are helping to turn a local granola-manufacturer-turned-chocolatier’s shop into a mecca for the taste buds.
I would love to be able to describe the taste of smoked chocolate, but the day I visited Nutty Steph’s, chocolatier, in Middlesex, they were plum sold out. “It is a pretty good seller. It goes well with beer,” said Nutty Steph’s creative director Cecilia Leibovitz. It’s also popular with Scotch, shopkeeper Sophie Kirpan added, with a smile. Other delicious chocolates, of the non-smoked variety, awaited my admiration in the old-fashioned glass display case at this remarkable “soda fountain, beer and wine bar,” in the words of a flier from the establishment. I know they were delicious because samples were displayed throughout the shop and Leibovitz invited me to eat as much chocolate as I wanted. And that’s exactly what I did.
The enterprise has been getting attention—nationally, even. The March “Bacon Issue” of Food Network Magazine featured Nutty Steph’s, as did the May-June issue of Yankee magazine. Leibovitz said the shop hosts a Bacon Night, featuring musical acts, every Thursday from 6 until midnight. “A lot of people come for the bacon … and the people. It is a unique phenomenon.” Sometimes the establishment provides a further theme for Bacon Night, such as Mustache Night, when everyone is supposed to come wearing a mustache.
To go with the bacon and the other chocolates, Nutty Steph’s has been making the high-end chocolate that is smoked in a meat smoker at the Mad Taco restaurant in Waitsfield. The secret to exquisite smoked chocolate is the exclusive core product, according to Leibovitz. “We are the sole importers of single-source Ecuadorian chocolate … a
really special chocolate we use,” she said. It’s put in big blocks into the smoker, melted, and then made into bars. The end result is named “Smoky the Bar,” and it flies off the shelves.
As noted, Nutty Steph’s started out as a granola manufacturer. “The chocolate was sort of accidental,” Leibovitz said. She explained that the company sold chocolate-covered granola clusters produced by a man named Alan Sirotkin, but he became unable to continue the business. Nutty Steph’s did the logical thing. “We took on his business. He was an importer. We created our own bar flavors,” she said.
Nutty Steph’s is serving every one of its taste sensations (chocolate, bacon, beer, wine, smoked flavor) to the public during the best part of the week: the weekend! Thursday is Bacon Night. Friday is Latin night, showcasing Latin food and music, and Saturday is Jazz Saturday. For more information, go to www.nuttystephs.com.