Coffee affogato. Smoked butterscotch cream. Bergamot jellies. Salted caramel dark chocolate. These chocolates and sweets alike conjure feelings of warmth, comfort, and decadence, all things we crave in a (near) post-pandemic world. And in our world,
indulging in chocolate is self-care.
Lauren Robbiani, one of several co-founders at Catskill Chocolate Co., understands this. The talented chocolatier has been a part of the sweets industry since she was 14.
“I worked at a chocolate shop in Catskill called The Candy Man. I learned how to work with ice cream, with confections, with chocolates, with enrobing, and making fudge and things like that…really old recipes,” Robbiani says.
Now, Robbiani is taking all that she’s learned from her previous chocolatier experience and applying it to her own shop, which, after months and months of planning, is ready for its grand debut in the Hudson Valley.
For locals and visitors in Greene County, Catskill Chocolate Co. is situated in a 200-year-old corner storefront in town.
“We’ve been working for like six months or more. I’m building out a space and filling it with antiques and painting the floors and, you know, doing everything to make it really special,” Robbiani explains.
On the Catskill Chocolate Co. team with Robbiani is Natasha Witka, co-founder; Nicole Mower, co-founder and chocolatier; and Katherine Gormaley, pastry chef and chocolatier. Together, they make a superb team that’s ready to take on any sweet treat under the sun.
These four women didn’t just meet out of the blue, however. Robbiani has been close friends and neighbors with Witka and Mower since childhood. The three friends ruminated on the idea of taking on a fun project during the height of the pandemic. They quickly came up with what is now Catskill Chocolate Co. Gormaley reached out to the three friends before they opened their doors to see if they needed some help.
“We didn’t know her before then, but she’s been a solid member of our team ever since,” Robbiani notes. Gormaley’s alma mater, The Culinary Institute of America, is where she learned all she could about chocolate and baking. Since joining the shop, she has developed chocolates with the team and made an amazing pastry program. But that’s not all this talented baker has to offer.
“We’ve been playing with these really old recipes that I’m familiar with, and we’re using Kat’s CIA experience to make a cleaner, fresher product that can utilize local farms to combine our two worlds, old and new,” Robbiani remarks.
Not all chocolate is made the same. Most, if not all chocolate you buy at a standard grocery store is not ethically sourced. Unfortunately, this chocolate is made without the planet nor the chocolate laborer’s rights in mind. The people at Catskill Chocolate Co. denounce this practice. The shop proudly sources its chocolate from Guittard Chocolate Company in California. Their ethically-sourced beans come from South America, and Guittard is involved in a lot of reforestation efforts.
The shop is even using locally-sourced ingredients, herbs, and spices in its products, hoping to garner interesting flavor profiles. Nowadays, visitors can sample the wide variety of tempting treats at the Catskill sotrefront.
“We have fudge, truffles, creams, jellies, peanut butter cups” Robbiani enthuses. She continues, including “desserts like peanut butter pie, cookies, brownies, and all the fun things like that. There will be classic flavor profiles and also some experimental ones.”
Along with all these sweet treats and offerings, the shop is also selling gelato.
“Right now we have vanilla bean gelato. And it’s amazing,” Robbiani notes. Along with its vanilla offering, the store is working to make classic Italian flavors like hazelnut and pistachio. Plus, as seasons change, so do cravings. During the hotter months, the team is planning to make peach and cream and lavender with fresh fruit. On top of it all, the shop is working on selling ice cream cakes, (or in this case, gelato cakes).
“We’ll have lavender fudge. We’ll [also] have the Americana which is going to be a classic vanilla and chocolate gelato with fudge and cookie crumbles,” Robbiani says.
The delightful chocolates and sweets sit inside stunning glass and wood cases and cabinets at the Hudson Valley store. Mirrors are scattered all over the walls, and the floor tails are hand painted as well. Everything at Catskill Chocolate Co. is hand-picked, with many pieces obtained from various auction houses. The team’s vision for the shop’s interior was to draw inspiration from old Catskill, harkening back to some decades prior.
“Catskill used to have really beautiful fountain shops and amazing, charming locations. So we were using that as inspiration,” Robbiani explains. “We’re starting off with a very approachable and limited idea or program right now, but we have big dreams as far as really expanding.”