The Sweet Life of a Chocolatier
On a bitterly cold day in upstate New York I’m seeking chocolate. Not remnants of a sad stash of grocery store-bought chocolate, bland and unabashedly my cheap fix, but the good stuff—exceptional artisan treasures I’ve heard I can find right in the Finger Lakes.
I recently learned of CaryMo Chocolate Candies & Confections, LLC, and disappointment quickly set in as I realized these exquisite sweets had been right under my nose. Seriously!? I could’ve been indulging in these dreamy creations for the past decade! So, I take to the road in search of these gems and to learn more about the creator behind the confections.
Cary M. Becraft is sole proprietor and lone employee of this gourmet chocolate company (CaryMo was her nickname growing up; “Mo” is short for Moreland, her middle name). Time spent in the production kitchen involves creating and taste testing the incredible flavor combinations she’s known for—making chocolates, and fulfilling orders. Notably, Cary’s fillings include wine reductions, like a cabernet sauvignon. Others borrow notes from local wines to create fillings with a local product, like apples, that complement a particular varietal.
I find myself at Anthony Road Wine Company, situated on a picturesque spot on the western shore of Seneca Lake. This is where CaryMo Chocolates are handmade in small batches, and where I’m hoping to purchase a box of indulgence. Chatting to the helpful staff while doing a wine tasting, I’m informed there are no chocolates available to purchase today, and sadly leave empty handed. However, I am bolstered knowing Cary is working just up the road at Billsboro Winery—my next stop.
I enter the tasting room and am quickly greeted by Cary. She’s warm and inviting, charismatic, with a delightful smile and friendly welcoming style. We settle in for conversation and an unexpected treat—a CaryMo Chocolate Tasting paired with Billsboro wines. Cary’s instructions are simple, “Sip the wine; bite the chocolate; sip the wine; finish the chocolate.” She eagerly and with ease dotes on patrons, offering details about the wines we’re tasting and her chocolates, too.
Cary’s journey to becoming a premier chocolatier begins in an iconic restaurant, one of the best in New York City: The River Café in Brooklyn. Devoting fifteen years of her professional life to baking and the pastry arts opened the door for a position in the pastry department. “I worked at the Café from 1997 to 2000,” she says, “and we made molded chocolates and other refined candies for our petit four plates to serve at the end of the meal. I immediately fell in love. I fell in love the way I did when I first baked bread...and when I began to make pastry. The beauty of it, the aroma, the love that people feel when they experience a warm baked good, or a beautiful plated dessert, or a decadent piece of chocolate!”
Soon, Cary was crafting confections on her own, putting a modern twist on traditional flavors. She explains, “A traditional flavor is a simple caramel, but if you put a twist on it, like a miso caramel with candied ginger, you have modernized it.”
The story continues as we begin the second tasting. “I was working in the fashion industry in the city in early 2001. I’d bring chocolates into work and the models, hair and makeup stylists, and photographers encouraged me to start boxing and selling them. I incorporated my business and started selling boxed chocolates in 2004.”
Cary’s energy, talents, and interests complement her world view, one captured through a creative and colorful lens, a perfect fit for an exciting metropolitan life. So what brought her and her husband, Peter, to a tight-knit, world-renowned wine producing community with its quiet serenity and seasonal rhythm? And, then, how did she stay plugged in to all that she loves doing?
“Through my position at The River Café, Peter was drawn to the world of winemaking. The transition from Brooklyn to the Finger Lakes was so he could follow his dream,” she reflects. Today, Peter is head winemaker at Anthony Road Wine Company. “It took a while for everything to fall into place for me and I’m still perfecting my craft. I have used all my experience working with food to help me find my niche. I love being able to create flavors for my chocolates that pair with wines at Billsboro. The pairings are challenging for me and I enjoy it very much. I’ve also paired with beer, bourbon, and other distilled beverages.” That turned out to be not only a natural progression but a wise decision, since craft beer and spirits are a huge part of the growing agri-tourism and craft food and beverage industry here.
As we move on to the third pairing, Cary shares fun stories about nine-year-old son Giles, running CaryMo, and creating a new life while honoring what lovingly defines her. “I work at Dano’s Heuriger on Seneca (a traditional Viennese winery restaurant) on Tuesdays, April through November, making pastries. I’ve been doing that for ten years because my first love was baking and pastry. And, I am a freelance fashion stylist because I love fashion.”
As we conclude our tasting and time together, she offers, “This is my first season working full time at Billsboro in the tasting room. I’ve paired my chocolate with Billsboro wine for five years, and I’m thrilled—they’ve been very successful. When I’m pouring wine and people find out I make the chocolate they are so enthusiastic about my product! It is very satisfying and makes the hard work worthwhile. Everybody wants to love what they do, right?”
Yes to that. And yes to finding the sweet life in the Finger Lakes on a cold winter day. Order your chocolates directly from the company Web site at www.carymochocolate.com or stop in at Billsboro Winery for a tasting and some chocolates to go.