On my first of three, yes three, trips to Smorgasburg this year I was introduced to The Brownie Boy. What stuck out was the lovely sea-foam colored banner and of course the reasonable pricing. And, as you know, I am always on the lookout for the newest in baked goods in NYC. I owe it to you to spread the word after all.
The Brownie Boy is Mario Grosso, a new entrepreneur in the food field and the man knows his brownies! Each time I went to Smorgasburg I urged those with me to try his delightful delicacies. My fave is his walnut brownie, but the dulce de leche was the first to catch my eye. Mario noted that he takes great pride in making his bars the right consistency. I replied that I highly appreciated that.
My friends, food bloggers and foodies alike, who've tried his brownies and blondies agree, he's one of the new bakeries that we have to watch out for as The Brownie Boy business grows.
The ‘Story’ section of your website nicely details the memory of sneaking that first bite of a really good brownie. Do brownies (and blondies) hold a particular memory for you? Was this the dessert that made you passionate about baking overall?
I have always loved brownies more than any other dessert, and I think that a lot of people can relate to the scene in my story. Brownies are very popular with kids, and very nostalgic with adults; they are true crowd pleasers. Brownies were one of the few treats that my mom would bake in the oven. So, brownies definitely hold a special place in my heart. What made me passionate about developing my own recipes was discovering the overwhelming amount of disappointing brownies on the market, and the tendency of people to not only rely on boxed mixes, but consider the results authentic. The inspiration behind The Brownie Boy is the 1950s, before the advent of brownie mixes, artificial flavors, and preservatives; an era centered upon baking from scratch. At the same time, the mission of The Brownie Boy is to take the “one bowl” dessert from simple to gourmet, by using the finest ingredients to create a scrumptious assortment of unique flavors. There has been no greater feeling than being able to share my interpretation of the perfect brownie!
The Brownie Boy was officially introduced to the larger public at Smorgasburg this year. How has that experience been for you as a new vendor? Do you plan on going to other fairs during the year or next summer like Hester Street Fair or Brooklyn Flea or branching out in other ways around the city?
Being at Smorgasburg has been an absolutely amazing experience, and a great platform for launching my business. For sure, there is a chance that I might expand to other markets and fairs next year, or even delve into wholesale, but the top priority for me is to open an online shop
. Smorgasburg has been great for building a customer fan base and putting my name and product out there, for which I am extremely grateful.
Despite the name will The Brownie Boy extend beyond bars? Are cupcakes or cookies in the future as delicious and easily transportable baked goods?
There is a possibility of expanding the menu
beyond brownies. I actually sold cookies at Smorgasburg on two separate occasions. Once, I offered a milk and dark chocolate chunk cookie with fleur de sel; on another, I offered a white chocolate macadamia nut cookie with fleur de sel. Both of these flavors sold out and received great feedback. It was good to let customers know that I have other recipes in my repertoire (and that I’m capable of baking other goods besides brownies), and even better to know that they really enjoyed them. However, I definitely want to establish myself as a brownie company before officially adding different products to the menu
The Red Velvet Brownie! This is being rolled out at Smorgaburg this coming weekend. Yet, there had been a previous variation. I was particularly excited to see this was on the menu but you’ve perfected it. Red velvet can be quite controversial in the baking world as to what makes it ‘good’ or ‘real red velvet.’ What, for you, makes good red velvet?
That’s right! And they sold out pretty quickly. Since its introduction, Red Velvet has become my second most popular flavor, following Dulce de Leche. I had to play with it because my original recipe and design was not package-friendly. I’m very happy with the new results.
I’ve had a lot of mediocre and/or faux red velvet, so it was my goal to offer something worthy of the name. In my opinion, authentic red velvet needs to have buttermilk, vinegar, and only a hint of chocolate. As a chocoholic, it was pretty hard to resist using too much chocolate in the recipe, but I restrained myself! Turning red velvet into a brownie was particularly difficult, while staying true to the traditional recipe, because buttermilk tends to give baked goods a fluffy, tender, and light crumb. But, after painstaking experimentation, I figured out a way to keep my red velvet brownie dense and fudgy!
Your brownies and blondies are fabulously moist yet not under cooked at all! My friends and I noted this when we tried both blondies and brownies at Smorgasburg a couple weeks ago. Making bars can be such a challenge with finding the right texture between dense, fudgy, and cakey, and people can be particular. Do you think that the right texture is what captures the perfect brownie or is it more about the flavor or a mixture of both?
Thank you! One of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to baked goods is lack of moistness. I’ve had my fair share of dry brownies, and that’s one of the many reasons for starting this business. I am very opinionated when it comes to the taste and texture of brownies. I do not believe in cakey brownies (there’s cake for that!), so I always strive for dense with a texture balanced between fudgy and chewy. In terms of flavor, brownies should be rich and bold. I have a “go hard or go home” philosophy with flavor. So, in short, I do think that texture is what defines a brownie, but flavor is just as important (it can have the perfect texture, but it still needs to taste great if you want people to eat them!).
One of The Brownie Boy’s trademarks is using the best ingredients, like fleur de sel on top of the dulce de leche brownie, are there other types of flavors you may be trying during the season(s), and be inspired by as fall becomes winter becomes spring? Or will The Brownie Boy focus on expanding what is offered year-round?
That’s right. I am trying to elevate the brownie to gourmet dessert status by using premium ingredients. For example, I use Valrhona
chocolates, King Arthur Flour
, and Nielsen-Massey vanillas
. Every ingredient plays a critical role in the final outcome of a finished product, so it is very important that each is of the highest quality. It is extremely likely that I will introduce seasonal flavors in the future. I always have flavor ideas running through my mind, including two personal favorites – pumpkin and peppermint, both of which are considered seasonal. At this stage, it’s more important for me to build a ‘base’ menu of flavors that are available year-round. Then, I’ll start focusing on flavors with limited availability.
Beyond Twitter, Facebook, and your website are there any other types of social media that you’re on? You've already had features on the Village Voice blog and Just Desserts NYC, so will The Brownie Boy have a blog in the future? Also, how else can people attain goods once Smorgasburg ends later this month?
Those are definitely the best sources for information, especially my official website
. It’s also a good idea to “like” us on Facebook
or “follow” us on Twitter
to stay in the know regarding the latest recipe experiments, special deals, and all other business updates. I don’t think that The Brownie Boy will venture into the blogosphere, but you never know! Once the 2012 season of Smorgasburg
closes, I am hoping to open an online store. I’ve gotten a lot of inquiries regarding shipping from out-of-state visitors and locals alike. I’m also looking into wholesale as well, so you may be able to find my brownies elsewhere in the city!
Thanks so much for the interview, Mario. Wishing The Brownie Boy continued success. And I'll definitely be ordering the red velvet.