Updated, 9:12 a.m.
Good morning on this numbing Thursday.
Another Valentine’s Day has come and gone, but chocolate’s not going anywhere: It has been part of New York City’s recipe for more than 300 years.
“It’s always in season, and you don’t need a holiday to enjoy it,” said Michael Laiskonis, the former executive pastry chef at the highly rated Le Bernardin, who, in 2015, opened the bean-to-bar Chocolate Lab for confectionary research at the Institute of Culinary Education.
Mr. Laiskonis has been sifting through civil records, centuries-old cookbooks, dated directories and advertisements to reconstruct the history of chocolate in our city.
Here’s a taste of what he has found, so far:
While chocolate can be traced to 16th-century Aztec culture and then to Europe, long before it arrived here, Mr. Laiskonis discovered through ship manifests that by the early 1700s, colonial New York had become a major trade hub for cocoa coming up from South America and the Caribbean.
“Today you can go to any drugstore and buy a bar of chocolate,” he said. “But in the lens of the 1700s, it was absorbed into daily life here as this exotic thing.”
Chocolate then was not the chocolate we know now; in those days, it was enjoyed in drinking form, often at breakfast.
“By the late 1600s and early 1700s, it was a beverage on par with coffee or tea, served in cafes,” Mr. Laiskonis explained. “In this stage, with fairly primitive machinery, cocoa beans were roasted, peeled, ground and then molded into cakes. And then those would be grated into hot water.”
It wasn’t until the middle of the 19th century, thanks to the machinery of the industrial revolution, that New York saw the chocolate beverage evolve into the chocolate bar.
That’s when “the technology allowed for adding additional cocoa butter, the fat that’s in the cocoa bean, giving us the fine texture and smooth candy bars as we know them.”
And around the time of the Civil War, according to Mr. Laiskonis, American cooks began using cocoa powder or chocolate in desserts and pastries.
With the craft-chocolate movement of the past decade, which emphasizes enjoying the flavors of the cocoa bean in its purest possible form, “chocolate has become akin to drinking fine wine,” Mr. Laiskonis said. “The taste for subtle flavors in chocolate is developing.”
Here’s what else is happening:
Sweets might make today more palatable.
You’re going to need something to take the edge off this cold: It’s going to feel like the low 20s.
Some of us may even see snow. Spotty patches, also known as snow showers, are on tap.
But hang on, because the weekend is looking glorious.
In the News
• The city is preparing for a political brawl as the deal-making for the post of City Council speaker heats up. [New York Times]
• Reports of discrimination are up around 60 percent, according to the city’s Commission on Human Rights. [DNAinfo]
• The attorney general issued a fraud alert in response to complaints of fake agents scamming immigrant communities. [NY1]
• Some businesses are closing today to participate in the nationwide “Day Without Immigrants” strike. [Pix 11]
• New Jersey is limiting the amount of opioid pills in initial prescriptions. [Wall Street Journal, subscription required]
• Today’s Metropolitan Diary: “B Is for Bechdel Test”
• For a global look at what’s happening, see Your Thursday Briefing.
Coming Up Today
• The Color of Comics, an exhibition on African-American artists in the comic book industry, at Poe Park Visitor Center in the Bronx. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. [Free]
• Join chefs, restaurateurs and culinary experts to explore how to build a food brand, hosted by Citymeals on Wheels at Distilled in downtown Manhattan. 6:30 p.m. [Tickets start at $75]
• Islanders host Rangers , 7 p.m. (MSG). Devils host Senators, 7 p.m. (MSG+).
• For more events, see The New York Times’s Arts & Entertainment guide.
• Alternate-side parking: in effect until Feb. 20.
“Famous one-eyed general.” (Six letters.)
That was the first clue on the first-ever The New York Times Crossword, which appeared in The Times’s magazine 75 years ago this week.
Back then, the puzzle offered a lighthearted distraction from the bleaker news of World War II. In 1950, it became a regular feature of the paper.
We’re celebrating the anniversary by sharing this special section, in which you can learn about the history of our crossword and stretch your mind with free puzzles from the past 75 years.
By the way, the answer to that very first clue? It’s a British commander named W-A-V-E-L-L.
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