Atlanta, GA-based owner of Pino Xocolates, Stephanie Pino, makes three desserts and we pair each of them with vintage beers from the world famous Brick Store Pub’s cellar while she tells us her story.
Words by Ale Sharpton
As told by Stephanie Pino
As the craft beer movement progresses, the vast range of tasting notes ales and lagers provide have lead to more respect from not only sipping advocates, but gourmands, as well. This has resulted in more beer dinners and pop-up tastings where beer is paired with everything from cheese and salads to vegetarian, poultry, and seafood dishes—not to mention a popular favorite: desserts. Addressing the latter, we found a burgeoning chocolatier named Stephanie Pino residing in Atlanta, GA, whose one-year-old company, Pino Xocolates is consistently adding clients to its following.
To shed more light on a road to entrepreneurship that included spending time in Nicaragua to hone her craft, we met Stephanie at one of the most revered beer bars in the world—downtown Decatur’s Brick Store Pub. While interviewing her, we decided to take chocolate and beer pairing to the next level. Stephanie provided three of her handmade delectable, and we—along with Brick Store’s staff of experts—selected a trio of world-class ales direct from their stocked cellar to complement each one. And since these vintage ales are extremely hard to find throughout the world, we provided a more accessible, current beer with each one comparable in flavor profile.
Toasting with an Evil Twin and Westbrook Mexican Cake Imperial Stout poured from a tap of the Store’s main bar on the first floor, 31 year-old Stephanie tells her story. Enjoy.
I am the daughter of a Cuban father and a Colombian mother, born and raised in Miami, Florida. I spent 23 years of my life in the 305, until I realized I wanted something different. That’s when I left Miami and moved to Key West, and lived on that beautiful island for about seven years before making a move to Atlanta. I’ve always been a free bird, but recently I have found myself happier resting my wings.
I got into chocolate about three or four years ago after I traveled to New York City and found a chocolate factory called Raaka Chocolates. I took a tour and immediately fell in love; and from that moment on, I made it a point to try and learn everything I could about chocolate. It was not too long after that I decided to take a trip to Nicaragua and worked on a cacao farm to learn about the process, from the second the seed is planted to the final processes of turning a cacao seed into the chocolate we all love to eat. My time in Nicaragua was extremely inspirational and emotional. It was a tough two weeks on my own, but working alongside cacao and eating the fruit, learning how to grow, pick, ferment, dry, roast—all of it made me really appreciate the cacao plant so much more than an actual chocolate bar. Because of this, I wanted to get a tattoo of something that would represent cacao and not just chocolate; so not long after my trip, I got a tattoo of the theobromine chemical compound. It’s the bitter alkaloid of the cacao plant. It’s definitely one of my favorite tattoos on my body. Every time I look at it, I think of my time in Nicaragua, the people I met, and the plant I worked with and learned to love so much.
My desserts are pretty much all over the place; I make cakes; cookies; bars; pies; and, of course, chocolates. I think what makes my desserts different is that I try to incorporate chocolate into all of them in one way or another, whether it’s white chocolate, dark chocolate, or milk chocolate. My business has ‘chocolate’ in the name, so I make it a priority. I also love working with liquor and interesting flavor combinations. I have a couple of cool Cuban-inspired desserts I’m working on right now, as well. Lately, my most popular orders have been cakes. It’s weird; when I first started chocolate, I was making bonbons left and right. Now it’s come back to pastries and desserts and hazelnut chocolates.
As for business, since I just moved to Atlanta, I’m steadily building my clientele here. Most of my customers were in Key West, where I originally started my business. There, I had all sorts of people buying chocolate, from all walks of life. That’s happening here now, as well.
Ultimately, I just want to be able to run a successful baking and chocolate company. I know I want to continue doing special events and custom orders. There’s something about custom work—I simply love working with people and being able to help make their vision come to life with my desserts. This is always a great feeling for me.
Featured in the shoot:
Dessert #1: Spiced Rum Caramel Chocolate Bonbons
The spiced rum is actually from Key West. It has a chai flavor going on. It’s definitely one of my favorite spiced rums. If you’re ever in Key West, check out the First Legal Rum Distillery.
The Pairing: 2015 KleinBrouwerij De Glazen Toren Ondineke Gilsjtersen Tripel
Current: Unibroue La Fin Du Monde
Dessert #2: Pistachio And Dark Chocolate French Macarons
My pistachio macarons are pistachio-loaded cookies with a dark chocolate whipped ganache filling, topped with dark chocolate and crushed pistachios.
The Pairing: 2016 Evil Twin + Westbrook Brewing Imperial Mexican Biscotti Cake Break
Current: Ongoing series
Dessert #3: Raspberry Chocolate Cake.
For my three-layer raspberry chocolate cake, I used fresh raspberries, freeze-dried raspberries, and frozen raspberries. I was jokingly calling it “death by raspberry cake,” but it really is.
The Pairing: 2015 Brouwerij Oud Beersel Oud Beersel Framboise
Current: Lindemans Framboise
Follow Stephanie Pino and her Pino Xocolates on Instagram, at @pino_xocolates, and her website at www.pinoxocolates.com.