“Dreams don’t work unless you do,” says a small signed displayed on the glass vitrine in Kelly Dantas’ new desserts and coffee shop in Cos Cob. As both a dreamer and a tirelessly hard worker, Dantas should know. Since arriving in the United States a decade ago from her native Brazil, her creative talent, inherent business acumen and all-round determination to succeed have resulted in 19 awards in business marketing.
That’s not all. Her entrepreneurship has earned her a US EB1 Green Card, also known as the “Einstein visa”, one of the most exclusive and difficult to obtain Green Cards, awarded by the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) only to people of “extraordinary ability” in their field. To quote the somewhat highfalutin language used to explain the requirements, the petitioner must show that the individual has “risen to the very top of the endeavor with national or international acclaim.” Recipients of “Einstein visas,” who number only a fraction of 1% of all successful Green Card applicants, tend to be business giants, internationally recognized performing artists, Olympic athletes — or Melania Trump.
But this isn’t a story about winning over Immigration Services, or prizes, or models-turned-first ladies. This is a story about chocolate and fresh-baked desserts, about cookies and coffee served myriad ways, the whole show curated with enthusiasm and élan by Greenwich resident Dantas, whose interest in chocolate you might think borders on the obsessional. In her new shop, Chocoylatte Gourmet, which occupies a sunny corner lot, she offers an array of handmade freshly baked desserts, cookies, pastries and assorted fine chocolates made with the finest ingredients available. Every item is prepared from scratch each day and handcrafted onsite.
Dantas spent years traveling the world — Central and South America, Europe and Asia — taste-testing and sampling chocolate from 180 different suppliers, before finally settling on what she believes is the “purest and finest chocolate anywhere.” Along the way, she was also introduced to native spices to create fusions of different flavor combinations, all of which has resulted in her exclusive recipes. But when I inquire as to what constitutes the “purest and finest chocolate,” I’m rebuffed. Dantas isn’t at liberty to confirm where the chocolate is from, although I am able to discover she works with nine different suppliers.
Chocolate, indeed, is my own obsession. (Put it this way: I never met a chocolate yet, fancy or plain, I didn’t like.) I’m the living incarnation of the old expression “a minute on the lips, a lifetime on the hips.” So when I meet Dantas, with her glossy auburn hair that seems to tumble effortlessly on to her shoulders and with a winning smile that could launch a thousand candy bars, I cannot help but feel a slight pang of jealousy at how remarkably slender she is for a chocolatier. Some people have all the luck.
“Chocoylatte Gourmet has been a labor of love for many years and I’m excited to finally share my sweet creations with the rest of the community,” she adds. “Since work began on the shop, I have been overwhelmed by the support of so many people. I can’t wait for guests to experience our welcoming atmosphere and our delicious desserts.”
The shop, which opened back in July with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by Greenwich First Selectman Peter Tesei and State Representative Fred Camillo, was designed by Dantas to capture the feel of a French parlor, with its small café-style tables, plush bench seating and witty “chandeliers” made of teacups. An orange colour scheme runs throughout, making the shop bright and cheery.
Apart from teas, coffees, exotic fruit smoothies and an irresistible hot chocolate (which is going to win plaudits in the colder months,) Chocoylatte serves freshly made sandwiches, croissants, quiches, brownies, cookies and an array of indulgent cakes. Plus, chocolate of course — always lots of chocolate.
Dantas also designed the beautiful decorative jewel-inspired cake packages and gift boxes for takeout. The distinctive boxes are all part of the experience. So attractive are they that frankly you would be happy taking a couple home even if they contained nothing at all. As she puts it: “Per Steve Jobs words, ‘Packaging can be theater. It can create a story.’ We are here to create our story.”
Chocoylatte Gourmet’s story also includes green initiatives and incorporating sustainability practices throught the use of paper straws, gift bags and gift boxes. Dantas says she will continue to work and identify other green and recycling solutions to reduce harmful effects on the environment, so while you may never be entirely free of dessert guilt, at least you can sugar-splurge with a clear conscious.
Then again, nicely attuned to dietary sensitivities, customers can enjoy recipes containing less sugar — though as Dantas herself says, “the body needs a bit of sugar.” Added to which, Chocoylatte uses no trans fats, preservatives, chemicals, artificial sweeteners or artificial flavors, only non-GMO, high-quality ingredients baked with thoughtfulness and care.
Plus, chocolate, of course, is nowadays believed to be good for you, at least in moderation. A 2017 study by researchers Valentina Socci and Michele Ferrara from the University of L’Aquila, Italy — just one of many similar studies — found that flavanol-rich cocoa consumption has been linked to improving memory, short-term cognitive function and counteracting cognitive decline.
All of which leads me to ask, could it be that Dantas’ business success, resulting in her “Einstein visa,” is attributable at least in part to her love of chocolate?
I don’t have the answer to that, but, encouraged by her example, it does mean I won’t be giving up chocolate any time soon. I also see multiple trips to Chocoylatte in the stars.
Chocoylatte Gourmet is at 121 E. Putnam Ave. in Cos Cob. For more, call 203-900-1622 or visit chocoylatte.com.