How sweet it is.
For those of you who adore chocolate ( and I'm pretty sure that's most of you ), Cocoa + Co. ( 1651 N. Wells St.; cocoaandco.com ), is an adventure in pleasure.
You'll find pastries, bonbons, a wall of bars from chocolatiers around the world and even drinking chocolates at this establishment, which has only been around for about six months but has its share of regulars. ( Cocoa + Co. also offers soups, packaged goods and even high tea, with reservations required for the latter. )
As one might gather, the owner must be someone with a longtime love stepped in the sweet stuffand, indeed, Kim Hack is such a person. Cocoa + Co. is a labor of love for Hack, who admitted that it took more than a decade ( and a "sheer force of will" ) to make the idea real. "I'm married to a risk-averse lawyer," she said with a laugh. "But after 14 years, I wore him downand he's become my biggest supporter."
After considering various neighborhoods ( including Andersonville and the Gold Coast ), Hack settled in on this spot because of a variety of factors. "I used to live [nearby], so I knew this area," she said. "Also, there's a variety of exciting businesses that have opened up here. It's very light-filled, and the landlord and neighborhood are supportive of independent businesses."
Indeed, a walk through Cocoa + Co. is quite a sensory experiencebut it's also quite an education. Hack is likely to be present when you're there, and she's more than happy to walk you through everything from the flavors combinations to the provenances of the items there. She maneuvered me through a few drinking chocolates ( including the seductively named Mocha Ecstasy ), each more delicious than the last. "Drinking chocolates tend to be not as sweet as cocoa, and they're a little thicker and richer."
The wall of chocolate bars "has some items you'll find in other placesbut most you won't," Hack said. She provided back stories on some of the chocolatiers behind the items, including one out of Amsterdam who "is an ex-UN conservationist [who] decided to try to protect the rainforests, which is where the cacao trees grow."
"I'm a total chocoholic," said Hack, who said she'd like to expand the business someday but is stopping short of Starbucks-type domination. "Some days, I want a bonbon, other days I want a pastry and other days I want a drinking chocolatebut I didn't really find a place that combined all those things." Now, thanks to her efforts, we can drink ( or eat ) it all inwith a smile.