Francisco Migoya is a confectionary visionary. Take his Hudson Valley Mountain Range ($35, one pound), a Modernist’s tribute to the Shawangunks: angular truffles anchored to dark chocolate dotted with puffed rice, sprayed with mosslike light green chocolate velvet, each mountain filled with a mystery ganache that could be espresso and cardamom, white miso, blueberry and corn nuts, Japanese yuzu and jalapeño, black sesame seed and passionfruit or something else. Take a piece of it, put it on your tongue, close your eyes and realize that chocolate done well can be a transcendent experience.
In this case, well-done is an understatement, because Migoya is a genius. He was executive pastry chef for Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery, Bouchon Bistro and the French Laundry, twice named best restaurant in the world by Restaurant Magazine. An associate professor of pastry arts at the Culinary Institute of America, he was Faculty Member of the Year in 2007, just two years into his tenure. In 2011 Dessert Professional Magazine named him one of the top ten pastry chefs in America. He is the author of Frozen Desserts, James Beard Award-nominated The Modern Café and The Elements of Dessert. Best of all (and lucky for us), as of March 2013 he and his wife, Kristina Petersen Migoya, own and operate Hudson Chocolates in Poughkeepsie.
Discovering Hudson Chocolates at the crumbling end of Cottage Street is Willy Wonka wild. You may fear that you’re the victim of a disserviceable GPS, but persevere: The workshop is indeed located past the gate in the basement of that vast commercial building. It’s only open Saturdays from 1 to 6 p.m., or during the week by appointment. Descend the stairs and peer into the mosaic-tiled foyer; the workshop is on the right, through double doors.
Inside is cavernous and cool, with a sleek circumnavigable countertop displaying chocolate works of art. There’s another against the wall, with larger offerings and a tablet de la semaine mounted and framed on the wall above. Once it was the huge Hudson Valley Terroir Bar ($34, 8 ounces), with apples, toasted pecans and pumpkin seeds enrobed in creamy cinnamon ganache. (Ingredients are top-notch and local whenever possible. The rest are the best of the world.) Strewn with chocolate leaves, it is inspired by autumn in the Valley.
Migoya is a pastry superman who looks like Clark Kent in dark, thick-framed glasses. He personally greets visitors and acts as a museum guide, explaining the philosophy and flavors behind each piece. Long silver forceps rest beside dishes of coated fruits and nuts and shards of chocolate tablets for sampling. You must try the Candied Black Olives ($12, 6 ounces), blanched and cooked in sugar syrup, then coated in white chocolate. The Black Forest Cherries ($12, 6 ounces) are sweet and tart and tangy, coated in white and dark chocolates.
You could make a hell of a bridge mix from the candied almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, corn nuts (!) and white chocolate wasabi peas. As for the tablets, a/k/a chocolate bars, my favorite is the Sichimi-Togarashi Bar ($9, 2.3 ounces), made with toasted orange peel, lemony Sichuan peppercorn, red chili powder, black and white sesame seed, ginger, poppyseed, seaweed and shiso, a leaf that belongs to the mint family. It’s spicy! The Hazelnut and Banana Bar ($11, 3.3 ounces) is a milder choice but no less flavorful, packed with crunchy bits of freeze-dried banana and toasted candied nuts. If you dig, the very special Fennel Bar ($11) assumes a greenish hue from the eponymous plant and is finished with crisp feuilletine wafers and candied orange peel.
If you’re having trouble deciding where to begin, a very cool choice could be the All-Day Truffle Collection ($39), 16 substantial truffles in four flavors to take you from day to night: doughnut, espresso, brandy and tobacco. The tobacco truffles are wrapped in linen and surrounded by Black Cavendish tobacco leaves, enclosed in tissue paper and tied with grey-and-white bakery string. There’s no tobacco in the chocolate, but the fragrance is so pungent that you’d swear there was. It’s deep and dark and will give you a buzz.
A further note on the packaging: It’s stunning orange-and-grey. Everything down to the tissue is customized. The dark sides of the chocolate tablet boxes fold in to make an image of the Hudson River with Poughkeepsie at its center, and the truffle collections are numbered, like prints. It’s thoughtful.
The espresso bar is modeled on Richard Serra’s sculptures. There are dark chocolate chicharrones, doughnut rings filled with raspberry pâté de fruit and doughnuts cooked in Hudson Valley Fresh cream and a yuzu-filled yuzus to discover. Seafoam and peanuts in a chocolate honeycomb. A piggy from a century-old mold filled with Mississippi mud.
This place is special. It’s gonna be swamped for Valentine’s Day.
Hudson Chocolates, 1-6 p.m. Saturdays/by appointment, 211 Cottage Street, Suite 129, Poughkeepsie; (845) 853-5544, www.hudsonchocolates.com. Read more about local cuisine and learn about new restaurants on Ulster Publishing’s dinehudsonvalley.com or hudsonvalleyalmanacweekly.com.