Thursday, November 17, 2011

'Tis the Season

It's NEVER too early to start thinking about your holiday orders! 

Friday, November 4, 2011

Newest Members of the Cocoa Dolce Family

We are happy to introduce two new members of our Cocoa Dolce Family!  These bundles of joy arrived in October. We are so happy to have them in our "extended family".  We'll have more of their stories after their moms and dads can catch up on sleep and get used to being first-time parents.  Congrats James and Molly and Leah and Ben on these amazing new little ones! 

Adelaide Noel Tully
Born October 12th at 3:28 pm
10 lbs 13 oz
20.5 inches long

Ethan James Jung
Born October 22nd at 1:25 pm
6 lbs 9 oz
19.25 inches long

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Guest Writer--Palazzolo's Artisan Gelato and Sorbetto

We decided we wanted to have select "outsiders" write on our blog.  In an effort to get a different perspective on some of our products, chocolates classes, wine/beer tastings, etc...we will have periodic blogs from those outside the official "Cocoa Dolce Family". 

Davie Seidel, the Head of Accounts and Business Development with Palazzolo's Artisan Gelato and Sorbetto, is a great example of this.  He was the first person we talked to about the possibility of carrying Palazzolo's products in our store.  Thank you, Dave, for taking the time to tell us his version of this story...

Roasted Pistachio

White Chocolate Raspberry
I hadn't been working with Pete Palazzolo for very long when Beth Tully rang in. Actually...I think the first call was from her husband. He was doing some checking around for her as they were looking for a good gelato manufacturer and a quality gelato display source. Luckily...we're both!

After he understood that our gelato is from all real and perishable ingredients...(versus the artificial and powder-based ingredients that most of the other manufacturers rely on)...he cleared the way for his wife.

 The next contact from Cocoa Dolce was Beth. Gotta love Beth! I simply informed her of our products and our ability to produce whatever our customers want...and she was quickly up and running. I remember thinking...well...this should be a fun job if other customers like the Tully's keep calling. And they have. We're truly not salesman over here...we simply answer the phone and offer up the information.

Join us if you can and we'll have as long a relationship as we're currently enjoying with Cocoa Dolce.

Thanks again Dave!!  Until next time....that's the sweet stuff!  You can find out more about Palazzolo's by checking our their website

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Blast from the Past--Hello/Good-bye Parties

The Hello/Goodbye Party came up on us quick this year.  It’s the party we have right before our college-bound girls leave and after we have hired our new employees. It sounds like a great idea but it always comes around the time when everyone is taking last minute summer vacations and we really don’t have enough hours for new employees. Inevitably, it ends up being more like a Goodbye Party than a Hello/Goodbye but it’s always a good time to get everyone together, regardless.

This is the one party of the year that is Potluck style. Everyone is assigned a dish and Cocoa pays for the main course (this year, it was hotdogs and hamburgers that Mr. Frederick nicely grilled for us). Traditionally, we always try to play a game and have some prizes. The main game this year was a rendition of the Bobby Bones’ Show “Name That Tune” where someone reads the lyrics of a song in a normal tone and everyone guesses the song title and artist. (It’s actually a lot harder than you think but is super entertaining when people realize the song afterwards and beat themselves up about not knowing it beforehand).  

Although it’s fun and games and relaxing with co-workers at a non-work event, it’s also sad to realize that several members of our Cocoa Dolce Family are leaving us. It’s hard to grasp the thought of these young, semi-mature girls we hired just a couple years ago are actually grown up enough to go out into the real world on their own. We hope that they will always take a little bit of Cocoa Dolce with them wherever they go. 

Until next time...that's just a bit of flavor!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Blast from the Past--Christmas Parties

December is the month that we prepare for all year long. It’s a love-hate relationship leading up to Christmas with all of the early morning prep, the never-ending line of customers, making (what feels like) 100 hot chocolates a day and trying to stay on top of the chocolate inventory. Nevertheless, there is ironically always a sense of cheer during this month despite all the craziness. It’s sort of a month-long practice run for what Valentine’s Day will be in just a couple months. It’s literally a huge sigh of relief when Christmas Eve rolls around and we can finally relax.

The excitement comes a couple weeks later when we arrive at the Cocoa Dolce Christmas Party. This party is the main event of our year. It’s the first time we actually get to see our fellow workers with their hair down, a time to get both the kitchen and retail staff together, a time for delicious food, great drinks, touching speeches and awesome presents!

Even though I didn’t start working at Cocoa until after the first Christmas Party, I have seen it grow so much in the last 5 years. So much that we now have the entire backroom of Chester’s Chophouse instead of just a few tables lined up in the “normal” seating. It’s kind of like our own VIP party back there. We have expanded the party to fianc├ęs, husbands and wives and have introduced fun trivia and games, along with a raffle of prizes. It’s the perfect way to celebrate a year’s worth of accomplishments with the staff that helped get us to where we are today.  I’m looking forward to it already!

Until next time...that's Just a bit of Flavor!

Just trying to take a group picture takes more organizations!!  (2010)

One of the first Christmas Parties! 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Blast from the Past--Sitting at the Big Kid's Table

At every holiday gathering, when the entire family was over at the house, we were always at different tables. You know, the “adult table” and the “kid table”. My cousin’s and I were always so jealous of the adult table because it looked like they were always having so much fun. By the time some of us were old enough to sit at the “big kid’s table”, as we nicknamed the “adult table”, it was like our dinner tasted so much different. After all, we had finally made it to the Big Kid’s Table!!

In a similar story, we (Cocoa Dolce) thought we had made it to the Big Kid’s Table (of the candy world) when we exhibited at the Fancy Food Show in January 2011. This is one of the major specialty food shows held in the United States. It has over 17,000 show attendees throughout the weekend with around 1,500 exhibitors. This was a big difference for our exhibiting past experiences here in Wichita.

The preparation for this show is crazy! We wanted to make sure we had enough literature and samples for everyone that may be interested in us. And, we didn’t want to look like we had just pulled our booth display out of the trunk of our car…so, we went through the process of getting a custom display made.

So, we were off to the show in San Francisco.

Luckily, our hotel was just a couple blocks away from where the show was held. I mention this because we had to carry all of our display pieces, samples and literature to the show. And here’s the “kicker”, we literally had to CARRY everything. There was some rule about not using any rolling items. So, here we are, looking like the Clampit’s from Beverly Hillbiliies, carrying boxes and display pieces down this street in San Francisco. Yep…we really looked cool!

Within a few hours, our booth was ready to go. The show lasted 3 days. We got several compliments on our booth, our colors and even our staff clothing. Whether it was the main food buyer at Nordstrom’s or a local coffee shop owner in Massachusetts….we talked to everyone that walked by.

We went into this trip hoping we would make some great connections with different vendors and potential customers. Although we didn’t catch our “big break”, it was a great first time experience of exhibiting at a major candy show…and sitting at the “Big Kids Table”.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Blast from the Past--President Obama

*#$% Oprah, Let’s Go to the White House!

One of the challenges of promoting a small business is getting your product or service in front of influence-makers, whether they are local or more well-known.  Such had been our practice of routinely sending media kits and samples to celebrities, newspapers and magazines.  And one celebrity in particular had been on our radar since our opening.  You guessed it; we wanted Oprah Winfrey to taste our chocolates.  After several failed attempts, one day I said, @#&! Oprah, let’s go to the White House!

Fortunately, I said that to a friend of mine, Judge Richard Green.  Judge Green is the Chief Justice for the Kansas Court of Appeals and a good friend of our former governor, Kathleen Sebelius.  In fact, then Governor Sebelius appointed Judge Green to the bench.  All it took was a little wine and brainstorming and we were on our way!  Richard dropped a letter to Secretary Sebelius and asked if she could lend a hand in presenting chocolates to the White House.

Not only was she thrilled to lend a hand, she offered to hand-deliver our goodies to the President of the United States at the first cabinet meeting of the New Year.  Needless to say, we were thrilled beyond belief!  And so the waiting and planning began—what should we send?  How much chocolate?  After much thought and research, we decided to send a box of our assorted chocolates along with several boxes of Grey Salt Caramels and a Chocolate Survival Kit for Michele and the kids (why not?). 

We formulated a letter of congratulations to President Obama on the anniversary of his inauguration and threw our hat in the ring to be the Official Chocolatier to the White House!  Richard Green drove our goodie bag and letter to Topeka and personally delivered the package to Secretary Sebelius the week after Christmas.  About two days after her arrival in Washington, Richard got a call from her staffers informing him that the chocolates had been delivered.  Not only that, they were so well-received that President Obama requested an official White House photo of the event.
We could not have been happier!  And the waiting began in earnest!  Finally, in late April Richard dropped off the most amazing envelope we had ever seen.  Inside were a lovely handwritten note from Secretary Sebelius and a very official envelope from the White House.  The envelope contained a wonderful photo of the president with the inscription, “Beth, thanks for the chocolates!  Barack Obama”.

I’m not sure about you, but that was one of the coolest gifts I’ve ever received.  How many of us can say that the leader of the Free World took a moment to write a personal thank you to them?  I can tell you, not many!  We proudly display the photo on our ‘brag wall’ and continue to hold out hope that maybe, just maybe we will be appointed Official Chocolatier to the White House!

Remember, unless you dream it, you can’t realize it!  Dream Big!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Blast from the Past--Dean and Deluca

This “Blast from the Past” series was an idea to catch up on some amazing things that has happened to Cocoa Dolce the past few years. One of these great stories is when we were featured in the Dean and Deluca’s Halloween Catalog. The story follows…

If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again!

At one point, we had been asked to submit some of our chocolates for review by the Chocolate buyer with Dean and Deluca. We were all elated at this opportunity. The company (Dean and Deluca) had always been a subject of interest with Beth. So, when we were asked to “try-out” we were all so excited!

This excitement helped “fuel the fire” in making an assortment of chocolates for review. Since we had never been asked to do this before, we apparently over-shot this a little. I guess they buyer had wanted just a sampling of our chocolates. Instead, they received a sample of almost everything we made. Little did we know, when they ask for a small assortment that’s what they really wanted. Oops!! The feedback was mixed. The flavors were good but the size of the chocolates were a little too big..among other comments. All in all, it was constructive criticism that helped us get better.

After a little while, we had one of our regular customers send a gift to Leslie Rudd, the owner of Dean and Deluca. After he tried our chocolates, he wanted us! We were a HIT! Our product “Cranky Jack-O-Lanterns” was added to the 2008 Halloween catalog. And, here’s the best part…we were the #1 seller the week before Halloween! All of our hard work had paid off!

Lucky for you, these little “cranky” creations are still a big seller at our retail location in Bradley Fair.

And...that's the Sweet Stuff!!

The front of the Halloween Catalog

The Back: to include our "Cranky Jack-O-Lanterns"

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Coming Soon!

In an effort to be better bloggers, we have taken a little time off to create some exciting topics to write about.  We are almost finished compiling our list. Stay on the look-out for some exciting new posts.  Some include a "Blast from the Past" series,  Cocoa Dolce "in house" traditions, "Get the Know the Staff" series and much more!  

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Cocktails & Cookies

For the second year now, we have participated in an event called "Cocktails and Cookies".  It benefits the Girl Scouts of Kansas Heartland.  Their event is the culmination of another successful cooking-selling season.  Since half of our staff was a Girl Scout at one point or's hard to say no to participating in this event.  Plus...who doesn't love Girl Scout cookies!!

The event promotes the Girl Scout cookies for that season.  Each chef is asked to create some sort of dessert using cookies.  The "hardest" part about this event is having to taste test each possible dessert.  Someone's gotta do it...right?!?

This time, we decided to do something a little different than last year.  (Last year we made a Trio of Mousses in Chocolate Cordial Cups) We decided to make a cookie with 9 layers.  We named our creation "The Kitchen Sink and the Baby Too!"  

The night of the event went well.  We heard great things about our dessert.  We even had people in the crowd trying to help us "woo" the judges. One lady, in particular, wanted to make sure the ABC Cookie Executive ate our dessert right in front of us.   The judges eventually did a Top Chef-type judging table and discussed each participants dessert to the crowd.  I believe the words "decadence on steroids" was mentioned when describing ours! 

Although we didn't win any prizes, we were nothing but positive compliments from the judges!  

We were happy to be a part of such a fun evening that benefited a great organization!  

Here is the case you wanted to give it a whirl!!

Kitchen Sink Cookie Bar
1 sleeve of shortbread cookie crumbs
1 sleeve of shout-out cookie crumbs
½ cup melted butter

Combine crumbs with melted butter and press into bottom of 9 x 13 inch pan.

1 cup chocolate chips (70% the best)
1 box Caramel Delites—cut in 1/8s
1 box Peanut Butter Patties—cut in 1/8s

Layer these in the pan, then top with:

1 can sweetened condensed milk

Add:  1 1/3 cups coconut and 1 cup chopped pecans.

Pat the coconut and pecans down into the sweetened condensed milk.  Bake at 350 degrees for 32 minutes.

Cut and drizzle with milk and bittersweet chocolate!  Makes approximately 90 one-inch servings.

Until next time...that's the Sweet Stuff!!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Introducing the Two Newest Members of the Cocoa Dolce Family!

Happy 2011!  Where did January and February go?  In a heartfelt effort to post some interesting content on our blog this year, here is my attempt. 

I get regular inquiries about how we develop new products and flavors.  It’s really pretty simple…we brainstorm and then we experiment.  A great example would be our new artisan bar flavors launching next week.  When we started our bar line, the first few were easy—solid milk, white and bittersweet chocolate and the obvious additional almond variations.  Then it got a little more interesting…based on staff discussions, we brainstormed additional chocolate amendments—cherries, raisins, peanuts, hazelnuts, etc., etc., etc.
Then the really hard work began.  We had to taste test these combinations—tough work, but someone had to do it!  After exhausting testing we chose our winners and produced them for sale.  Now let’s flash to fall of 2010.  At least once a season, we look at our sales trends and assess objectively AND subjectively our winners and losers.  One of the pillars of Cocoa Dolce is a commitment to creating great tasting chocolate confections that make our customers happy.  Sometimes even when we think we have a winner you, our real voters, tell us differently.

That leads me to our new flavor launch.  After our last rigorous analysis of which of our kids failed 5th grade, we found a couple of drop-outs.  After looking at flavor trends and, quite frankly, what our staff palates dictate, we proudly announce our two new bar flavors:  grey salt caramel in 57% bittersweet Belgian chocolate and toffee in Belgian milk chocolate. 

So here’s the scoop:  grey salt caramel bar--we made a fresh soft caramel and added French grey sea salt while it was cooling.  Once cooled to room temperature, we piped it into a bittersweet bar shell and then filled the rest of the bar with bittersweet chocolate.  When we break this bar into sections, it cracks and this delicious salted soft caramel oozes out…be still my heart!   Bar #2--we LOVE toffee and think that we make some of the best English toffee around.  So we crushed our buttery toffee base and mixed it with our premium Belgian milk chocolate.  It seems to us that we have a real keeper with this flavor combination…crunchy and sweet.

grey salt caramel bar

crushed toffee bar

Who could resist?  We hope you can’t!  Here’s to you loving our new kids.  If you do, drop us a line and let us know.  In the meantime, have a great March and here’s to dreaming big!