The Mast Brothers are a couple of pretty well-loved purveyors of artisanal, expensive chocolate. They're based exactly where you'd expect people who make chocolate from their own beans to be based: Brooklyn, NY.
But this week Mast has been slapped across the face by a blogger who, we're pretty sure, lives in Dallas. Scott DFW, the anonymous blogger behind dallasfood.org, has written a four-part series accusing the brothers, at least initially, of forming their confections from couverture — basically remelted bulk chocolate — rather than making the chocolate themselves. Scott asserts that the brothers' initial setup was too small for a bean-to-bar operation, so the brothers would have had to melt down couverture to sell as much chocolate as they did.
So who is this chocolate vigilante? Scott DFW has talked about and reviewed Dallas restaurants, but with his or her veil of anonymity it's impossible to know where he or she actually lives.
Scott came to prominence of a sort with a similar takedown of another chocolate purveyor, the Plano-based Noka Chocolate. Noka, which went out of business in 2011, made the Mast brothers' chocolate look cheap. Depending on quantity, it could cost as much as $1,000 a pound from retail partner Neiman Marcus. As reported by Scott DFW in 2006, Noka's product wasn't bean-to-bar either, although they were all too happy to let people get the wrong impression. They were chocolatiers not chocolate makers, snake-oil salesmen Scott wanted to shame, and he did so over a 10-part feature.
The blogger has a thing for chocolate, obviously, and an intense desire to shame those whom he or she believes have replaced craftsmanship with marketing. He also doesn't list an email address and won't respond to tweets asking to talk about the genesis of his crusades. Scott Reitz, the Observer's erstwhile food critic, says he doesn't know who Scott DFW is, and that he's only interacted with him through Twitter. Scott DFW likes his or her anonymity, he says.
This week Scott DFW traded a little of his anonymity for a takedown of a New York City food icon. Coverage has burned through blogs and is trickling into mainstream press in Manhattan. He doesn't dispute that the Masts are now equipped to make their own chocolate, or that they do in fact do it. That's not the problem now, he says. The problem now is that Mast chocolate sucks.
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As Brady Brelinski tasted Mast Brothers bars over the years, took notes, and logged them in his database of reviews (now approaching 1,600 on the Flavors of Cacao web site), he observed that, “the Mast Brothers unfortunately trended downward in ratings after 2008. I can’t explain it, because most makers start low and improve over time; but the Masts went in the wrong direction.” Gensler, who had been impressed by the early 2008 bars, noted that “at a later tasting, the quality, texture, taste, etc., had changed markedly, and that was the first time I thought the previous chocolate might have been remelted. The texture was off and it tasted awful. We were all pretty shocked at the change.”
Lindley sampled Mast Brothers bars again in 2010 and found that “the change was remarkable and obvious. Dry, badly roasted, off flavors, sometimes poorly tempered, almost always terribly textured, crumbly, coarse, clumsily-made chocolate, probably using CocoaTowns. Most of the chocolate was simply inedible, by my standards.”
The Mast Brothers turned down Scott's request to respond to his posts. They have issued a statement, saying that they've always made their chocolate all the way from bean-to-bar, just like they've said they've done. And Jared Leto, a Mast Brothers fan, has rallied.
Good luck, Scott DFW. I guess you won't be invited to a Suicide Squad screener. But that's the price you pay for being a vigilante food blogger with a secret life.