Cocoa + Co – A Chocolate Lover’s Paradise
By Christina Ruiz
The wonder I felt upon entering Cocoa + Co. is only rivaled by Charlie’s awe as he entered Willy Wonka’s factory. The smell of La Colombe coffee washed over me as I gazed at the chocolate selection; over 175 ethically sourced chocolate varieties line the walls of the café, fresh pastries sit in glass stands on the counter, and Turtles and S’mores Chocolates fill the counter case. A glass-walled tasting room near of the back doubles as a quiet space for customers to sit and work while they enjoy the cafe’s snacks.
Kim Hack, owner of Cocoa + Co., left her career as a Marketing executive to open the cafe in 2015, which she spent over ten years perfecting. I spent nearly three hours with Kim, constantly wiping chocolate from my lips, as she explained the inspiration and ingredients in the delicious treats. I sipped a bright and fragrant Frozen Lavender Lemonade while Kim described the meticulous thought involved in curating and developing the store’s delicacies. All the pastries are produced locally; most are made using Kim’s own original recipes, but she frequently draws inspiration from her friend Gale Gand. Kim has an ongoing partnership with Heather Johnston of Veruca Chocolates, who produces many of the various chocolate confections sold at Cocoa + Co.
Following our Frozen Lavender Lemonde, we were served a Salted Caramel Mocha Frozen Hot Chocolate topped with a heaping mound whipped cream. Single-origin Ecuadorean dark chocolate contributes to the drink’s deep flavor and is rounded out by a espresso powder and finishing salt. Pleasantly granular and surprisingly light, Cocoa + Co.’s Frozen Hot Chocolate makes for the perfect treat on a hot day. If you want to get creative, start your morning with a sugary kick by adding a splash of espresso to create a “Dirty” Frozen Hot Chocolate.
A recent addition to Cocoa + Co.’s menu is their Ice Cream Sandwiches, currently offered in four flavors: Peppermint, Coffee Toffee, Vanilla Oreo, Chocolate Chocolate Chip. Each of the sandwiches are made with Homer’s Ice Cream, a childhood favorite of Kim’s. Kim worked closely with the iconic Homer’s to develop a perfect balance of flavor and texture. After unwrapping the bright foils, Kim and I set the sandwiches out on a plate only to savor them one by one.
Each of the ice cream sandwiches are assembled by hand using 3” Oreo cookie tops, which provide a soft but sturdy base that doesn’t slip apart or crumble as you eat it. We began with the Vanilla Oreo Ice Cream Sandwich, Homer’s Classic Vanilla Ice Cream between two large cookies and rolled in pieces of crushed Oreos. This new-and-improved classic brought back favorite memories of after-school snacks of cookies and milk.
Next, we unwrapped the Chocolate Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Sandwich, a true chocoholic’s dream. This decadent indulgence includes three types of chocolate from French chocolatier Barry Callebaut: a custom blend of two types of cocoa powder and dark chocolate chunks. The chocolate chunks are incorporated into the ice cream and coat the outer rim of the sandwich. We moved onto the Coffee Toffee Ice Cream Sandwich, rolled in pecan pieces, highlighting the butter and caramel flavors in Homer’s Coffee Toffee Ice Cream.
To finish, Kim and I split the Peppermint Sandwich, Cocoa + Co.’s original ice cream sandwich. Bright pink and festive, pieces of crushed peppermint candies are mixed into Homer’s Peppermint Ice Cream, doubling the sweet, crisp flavor and giving the sandwich a satisfying crunch.
Cocoa + Co. is located at 1651 N Wells St. in Old Town and is open Monday-Thursday 7-7 pm, Saturday 7-8 pm, and Sunday 8-7 pm.
Pop into the cafe to pick up a chocolate treat. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to plan a tasting or a choc-tail party (a chocolate party with drinks and passed hors d’oeuvres). Otherwise, sign up for Cocoa + Co.’s newsletter at cocoaandco.com to hear about limited edition products, special events, and classes.