You’re driving along Route 28. En route to the majestic Ashokan Reservoir, you spot something on the side of the road. A quaint, blue and gold building stands out in the distance. Fruition Chocolate Works loom ahead, tempting with deliciously dark bean-to-bar chocolates and a slew of other confections.
This Shokan chocolate shop recently celebrated 10 years of business in the Hudson Valley. To coincide with its anniversary, Fruition reopened its shop for in-store consumption for the first time since the pandemic began. In addition, CEO Dahlia Graham unveiled the renovated space, a clean, bright update to the rustic roadside shop.
“I feel really proud of where we are right now. We’re 10 years in….there are always problems and challenges, we’ve been through so much. Now, we can move forward knowing no matter what comes our way, we’ll get through it,” Graham says. She contracted Von Miller Workshop to design custom shelving and furnishings. For Graham, the updated look better highlights the Fruition brand and showcases its products.
“We stepped up the look and feel of the space, so when people come in they are really excited to have happened upon it.”
However, that excitement’s been building for years. Her husband and CIA-grad Bryan founded Fruition Chocolate Works in 2011, with ambitions of crafting some of the finest chocolate in the Hudson Valley. Of course, they succeeded.
“This is a growing movement in the U.S. When we started Fruition Chocolate Works about 10 years ago, there were only about a dozen craft chocolate makers that we knew of in the whole country.”
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A decade later, several Culinary Institute of America students serve on Fruition’s creative staff. Their one-of-a-kind treats sustained passersby in the Catskills for the duration of COVID-19. Weary hikers could pop up to the takeout window and grab an 85-percent Columbia Tumaco dark chocolate bar or one of Fruition’s decadent hot chocolate mixes. Something luscious and indulgent can bring levity in difficult times.
The Fruition Chocolate team mainly sources cocoa beans from Central and South America. Graham and her husband only use ethically sourced, organically grown cocoa beans in their sweets.
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“So, we’re going the extra mile to make sure that everything that goes into the chocolate is top-notch. We hope that shines through in the final product,” Graham says.
Once ripe, cocoa pods are cut off the trees. Then, they’re extracted and fermented in bins. Usually, workers cover these receptacles with banana leaves or burlap. After that, they rest for several days, until it’s time for the beans to be dried. Finally, Fruition’s chocolatiers step in. They roast the beans onsite, heightening their flavors and aromas. Ultimately, Graham’s team refines and tempers the chocolate for use in a pantheon of tasty treats.
Fruition puts high-quality ingredients at the center of its ethos. In a similar vein, Graham adores collaborating with other Hudson Valley creators.
Nearby, Kathryn Spata infuses every chocolate ice cream at Nancy’s of Woodstock Artisanal Creamery in Woodstock with a special blend from Fruition. In fact, Spata and Graham worked together on the exact mix. Further afield, Peekamoose Restaurant and Taproom in Phoenicia makes a show-stopping chocolate mousse, and the Phoenicia Diner elevates hot chocolate and a number of other items with Fruition chocolate.
“We love doing projects like that with other Hudson Valley businesses,” Graham says. And the collaboration goes both ways.
For Fruition’s ever-popular brown butter bourbon caramels, Graham chose Hudson Whiskey’s Bright Lights, Big Bourbon and dairy from Ronnybrook Farms. ImmuneSchein’s ginger elixir finds its way into Fruition Chocolate’s ginger lemon ganache. The team freeze-dries pumpkins from Westwind Orchards for a pumpkin spice bar. The brand uses other Westwind fruit in a series of bars, including toasted white chocolate with apple and granola, raspberry dark chocolate, and a bar with red chili peppers.
However, the local collaborations extend beyond the edible. Firstly, Ulster County artist Eugene Stetz created Fruition’s colorful new mural. Inspired by Peruvian textiles, this work depicts cacao pods split open with plenty of flowers. Stetz completed the work in conjunction with the O+ Festival in Kingston. Secondly, Will Lytle of Thorneater Comics, also based in Ulster County, illustrated the wrapper for the festival’s corresponding Atmosphere Bar. Find a satisfying crunch from caramelized puff rice in this dark chocolate dream.
“The idea with that is we only ordered a limited number…500 wrappers to be exact. So, each bar is a collector’s addition of that artwork. You can enjoy the chocolate, and then save the wrapper as a keepsake,” Graham explains.
Likewise, Fruition Chocolate Works’ new garden may offer similar inspiration for interesting flavor combinations. Chocolatier Rachel Etting brought her green thumb to work, cultivating tomatoes, dill, tarragon, basil, wild bergamot, orange mint, and more. If the confectionery kitchen needs a sprig of rosemary or a bit of fresh mint, the team can simply go outside. In addition, the brand can lower its carbon footprint.
Of course, it’s also nice to relax in a garden environment. Customers can grab a seat at a picnic table, a swing bench, or one of the many stools that line the building. Soft-serve ice cream cools them off in the summer, while bourbon caramel lattes warm them up in the winter. From trays of brownies to small-batch bonbons, there’s a world of bean-to-bar chocolate to explore in the Catskills—for years to come.