Hello and welcome to Chicago Sweet Treats!
Each week I will pick a local Chicago pastry chef, chocolatier, or sommelier to be the Sweetheart of the Week! This will include an in-depth interview, photos of the restaurant and chef, and some recommendations of some of their most fabulous sweet treats.
History of a Chocolatier
To kick off this series I interviewed Kim Hack, owner of Cocoa + Co in Old Town. Hack started Cocoa + Co in May 2015 after coming up with the idea while she was in the wine industry.
“I’ve always been crazy about chocolate but it wasn’t until I was in the wine industry that I had the idea for Cocoa + Co,” says Hack.
“In fact, it was after a week spent examining differences in terroir, the way in which a wine’s taste is shaped by the climate, slope and soil of the specific place where it’s grown, with winemakers Michel Chapoutier and Angelo Gaja that I was struck by the idea that cacao might behave similarly,” Hack says.
“This was back in August of 2001 and the chocolate world was completely different. Cacao was still a commodity crop and the choices were milk, white or dark,” explains Hack. “The idea that chocolate crafted from Madagascar beans was as different from Belize as Napa Cab was from Chile was, frankly, astounding.”
Unfortunately, history intervened in the wake of the tragic events of 9/11 when investment for her brilliant idea dried up. She kept her day job and launched an online store instead while helping other start-ups realize their dreams.
However, Hack could not shake the idea for her own place, so fourteen years later she and her husband decided to “bootstrap the dream” and use their savings to start Cocoa + Co. The chic chocolate cafe hosts a community of artisans and chocolate lovers daily, and has become a staple of Old Town.
Savory Dessert Trend
Recently, Hack has indulged in the exciting new savory trend that is popping up on many dessert menus this year.
According to James Beard Foundation Award-Winning Pastry Chef Johnny Iuzzini for Forbes, “chef-style desserts” with savory components instead of your “run-of-the-mill vanilla crème brûlée and fromage blanc panna cotta” are a hip new trend.
Michigan Avenue Magazine also highlighted savory desserts in the Chicago, including Hack’s unique drinking chocolate spiked with a medley of spices from The Spice House.
Moroccan Spice drinking chocolate
Hack says working with The Spice House on this exciting new drink was fabulous.
“I had a rough idea for our Moroccan Spice drinking chocolate that had a gajillion different spices in it,” Hack explains. “[The Spice House] nailed it and gave me three or four other wonderful options to test out. That was a ton of fun. I can’t wait to debut the winner!”
The winning Moroccan Spice drinking chocolate will include freshly ground spices like cumin, coriander, ginger, black pepper, cinnamon, and cloves.
The Moroccan Spice drinking chocolate is sure to be a hit along with the myriad of other chocolate-based products that Cocoa + Co customers love each season.
“Our drinking chocolates are certainly big, but confections, our pastries and, of course, the Wall of Bars are all favorites. And when the temps are this high, our hand-crafted ice cream sandwiches and frozen hot chocolates are flying.”
When asked what the one kitchen tool she cannot live without is Hack says her offset spatula, and her favorite sweet treat is Cocoa + Co’s Inside-out German Chocolate Cake.
“When I’m frosting it, it’s all I can do not to attack it!”
Have the sweetest day!