Tahini in Valentine’s Day sweets?
Yes, if your destination is Confectionary!, home of new-fashioned Feb. 14 treats for your honey, your bestie — or even yourself.
The vegan, organic fair trade candy shop on E. 9th St. says that as Valentine’s Day nears, customers are snapping up non-traditional confections like Tahini Meltaway Hearts, made with white chocolate tahini and dark chocolate with sesame seeds, then edged in salt.
“Sometimes people will say, ‘This is all vegan? I had no idea it could taste this good!’” said Victoria Tieman, 28, who runs Confectionery!. “People in the neighborhood might know, but good stuff is good stuff. They don’t care.”
The shop is part of the candy realm of Lagusta Yearwood, whose main store, Lagusta’s Luscious, is in New Paltz in Ulster County.
“A lot of Valentine’s Day things celebrate only one kind of love.” says Yearwood. “There’s love for yourself, love for your best friend, but a lot of it is focused on ‘You’re my one person.’”
Yearwood, 40, moved to New Paltz from New York City in 2004 for its proximity to the farms that contribute to her peerless creations.
She co-owns the East Village shop with friend Maresa Volante, whose company Sweet Maresa’s turns out baked goods based on the same principles as Yearwood’s confections.
Yearwood’s small group of employees lack the traditional résumé for the business. During the winter candy rush, some of her employees are off-season farm workers.
“No one’s a trained chef, no one went to pastry school,” she says.
Her offerings are just as unique as her staff.
The mold for one of her creations came through a collaboration with the 3D printing lab at the State University of New York New Paltz. The Love is Dead chocolate skull, originally commissioned by actress Emily Deschanel for a “Bones” wrap party, is covered in charcoal cocoa butter to give it a matte black finish. When cracked open, caramels and chocolates are revealed.
Intense Anatomical Hearts are made with cherries, coffee and dark chocolate, and colored deep red with a hint of bitterness and a salty finish.
Lagusta says her business is also LGBQT-friendly.
“We’re very queer-focused,” she said.
Yearwood says some sweets in the collection recognize Noel Furie and Selma Miriam, co-owners of vegan restaurant Bloodroot in Connecticut — where she started working at 22.
Vandana Shivas are named for the physicist, author and eco-activist from India, and Pauline Benjamin’s Peanut Butter Cups are a culinary tribute to Yearwood’s late mother.
After years of running a vegan meal delivery service in New York, Yearwood narrowed her focus. She made her first chocolates in 2003, and caramels in 2010.
“Chocolate just seemed simpler, so neat and tidy,” she says.
Confectionery! opened in 2016.
Despite the high demand for their sweets in the run-up to Feb. 14, Yearwood says her operation isn’t going to expand into a conglomerate any time soon.