Bon Dieu! Bon Bons Chocolatier

A look inside the sweetest shop in Huntington. • Photograph by Doug Young

Eric Lobignat_doug young

Fresh-baked bread may smell like love. But to smell heaven on earth, a chocolatier is the proper place.

Bon Bons Chocolatier in Huntington Village is that proper place. Open the door and the heady, rich fragrance of melting chocolate fills your senses, even before you register the clean, warm brightness of the place, the 50 varieties of radiant chocolate bonbons, the glowing candy apples, the chocolate lollies in seasonal shapes, the rainbow nonpareils, before you even see a real person dipping pretzels and nuts and strawberries into creamy chocolate.

Yes, at Bon Bons Chocolatier it smells happy.

Mary Alice Meinersman was a mom returning to the workplace in 1980 when she spotted someone dipping chocolate. It became a part-time job, and four and a half years later, she bought the shop and moved to Main Street. She was joined by her husband, the late Henry “Pete” Meinersman, and their daughter, Susannah Meinersman. “I just felt the pull,” Susannah says.

That pull became a full-on calling. Susannah did a summer stage (internship) at La Maison du Chocolate in Paris, the Tiffany’s of cacao. “The thing I brought back was that incredible pride in food the French have,” she says.

She also brought back French chocolatier Eric Lobignat. It became a delicious collaboration.

Twenty-two years later, Eric still brings a French sensibility and training to this classic American confectioner. “I have changed my way of working to understand the American way more,” says Eric, now an academician with the Académie Culinaire de France and the subject of 10,000 Bunnies, a short documentary directed by James Reford that premiered at the NYC Food Film Festival in October 2014. “Americans can get a headache with French chocolate, because it is darker and more bittersweet. But I have seen change. Now more Americans like dark chocolate, not so sweet.”

Amid his creations—thin mints, chocolate nut clusters, fruit-filled morsels—his signature sweets are the Bacchus—a bittersweet red wine ganache—and Citrón Noir—bittersweet ganache with limoncello, dipped in bittersweet.

Today, the shop goes through 15,000 pounds of chocolate a year, made by the Swiss method in the U.S. “Chocolate is the gift never returned,” says Mary Alice. “One size fits all and you don’t have to dust it.” If they could only bottle the aromas!

 

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Natalia de Cuba Romero writes from her home in Massapequa Park, and chronicles simple seasonal recipes for the produce she gets as a Restoration Farm member at hotcheapeasy.wordpress.com. She is a full-time lecturer at Nassau Commmunity College.