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February 4, 2010

Cocoa V

Q&A with chocolate shop owner Pamela Blackwell

Chocolate Truffles, Plated

iStock

Pamela Blackwell, who owns the successful Blossom restaurant in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood, recently turned her attention to a new challenge: creating a line of high-quality, fair-trade, organic chocolates made without dairy. Since opening in November, 2009, her chocolate shop/patisserie/wine bar has been getting rave reviews. Ms. Blackwell shared with us her inspiration for Cocoa V, and what makes it special.

HSUS: Where did you get the idea for your new chocolate venture?


PB: There are no vegan, organic, fair-trade chocolate stores and I thought it would be wonderful to create one. I also thought it would be great to plate chocolate and pair it with wine; the two go so well together.

I searched a long time for the right chocolatier. The minute I tasted the chocolate sauce, I knew [Patrick Coston] was the one. He was willing to take on the challenge of creating a vegan line of bon bons, truffles, bark and a large number of specialty items and put his heart and soul into it, even though he'd never done it before. The chocolates are incredible. The chocolates and the pastries [both] are getting tremendous praise.

HSUS: Why are people so crazy about chocolate?


PB: Because it's comforting and just so delicious! I've had people tell me that if they are feeling stressed and they eat some chocolate it helps relax them. [Or] if they are feeling depressed and they eat some chocolate their mood is lifted. The smell alone is pretty intoxicating; nothing puts you in a better mood than the smell of chocolate!

HSUS: Is there something about small amounts of decadence/indulgence that has a special appeal these days?


PB: In these economic times, chocolate can be that guilty pleasure that's affordable. Before [opening], I read that the chocolate business has continued to thrive and even grow over the past two years.

HSUS: Is being dairy-free a selling point, or do you focus more on simply having a great product?


PB: We [focus] on having a solid, delicious product. When we first opened, we were telling customers that we were dairy-free and a lot of people were turned off by that, thinking the product wouldn't taste good.  [Now, we tell] people who want to talk to us about our chocolates and pastries that we are dairy-free, and they are always shocked. It's still an unfortunate misconception that vegan either tastes bad or strange.

HSUS: How important is it to you to educate or inform people?


PB: I knew that one of the biggest questions [from customers] would be "Why don't you use dairy?"  I realized that there is an incredible opportunity through Cocoa V to educate the public about what animals’ lives are like on dairy farms. The mistreatment of animals for food never enters the consciousness of many people. We produce a newsletter [available at Cocoa V that] talks about the truth of dairy farms and how the animals are suffering.

HSUS: What is your favorite item on the menu here?


PB: My favorite item is currently our hand dipped mint bon bon which is our version of a peppermint patty.  It's truly unbelievable!


Chef's Tip:


Cocoa V's chocolatier Patrick Coston offers advice on serving chocolate:

When presenting chocolate bon bons to your guests, you want to make sure the chocolates are displayed on a beautifully shaped white plate, rectangular is preferred. Dark chocolates showcase best against a white or silver backdrop.  It isn't necessary to garnish the plate with anything, this can actually take away from the beauty of the product. At Cocoa V, we hand paint a number of our chocolates and also have a number of designs that allow the chocolates to look spectacular when plated. 

If you are plating truffles, secure them in candy cups so they don't roll about, and remember not to overcrowd the plate. If you are offering them in a bowl, piling them high (but not too high) works well.

Store bon bons in a protective container and keep in a cool area, but not refrigerated until plated. Truffles should be refrigerated.

Cocoa V, 174 Ninth Avenue (21st Street), (212) 242-3339.

Editors’ Note: A portion of Cocoa V’s profits go to animal rescue organizations.

See Chocolate Pecan Pie Truffle recipe»

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