On the second floor of a nondescript two-story building in Hicksville, near offices for a driving school and teachers union, sits a 600-square-foot, vaguely triangular-shaped room where Katya Witthuhn does her own triangulating, balancing the duties of wife, mother and artisanal chocolatier.
“When our daughter was born, I decided that if I was going to spend time away from her, I wanted to do something I was passionate about,” said the Glen Head resident, who opened a wholesale and catering concern, Bluebird Chocolates, in September. With the support of her husband, Witthuhn abandoned a thrilling career in something called trade credit insurance, enrolling in the pastry program at the Institute of Culinary Education in lower Manhattan, from which she eventually graduated first in her class. (“I have a medal, too.”)
On a metal worktable in the center of the room sat a tray of 100-plus freshly airbrushed chocolate bonbons. Some of these handmade candies were a shiny cornflower blue, others silver, still others pink or black-and-orange — all with flavors equally bright. There were chocolates flavored with black currant, peanut butter and jelly chocolates, chocolates filled with pistachio ganache, chocolate infused with honey and Earl Grey tea. Even the vegan chocolates — made with oat milk and coconut oil — were beautiful.
“Chocolate has a terroir just like coffee does,” said Witthuhn, pulling bags filled with coins of Valrhona from a shelf next to the tempering machine. (“They have the best chocolate, but they also pay their farmers a fair price.”) The Madagascar chocolate tasted distinctly fruity, while a southeast Asian varietal had a more traditional dark flavor. Also on the shelf: tubes of cocoa butter in a rainbow of shades. Cozy though the space is, Withhun seems to possess all the ingredients necessary to create excitement both palatal and palettal.
Currently, Bluebird chocolates may be purchased at such places as Southdown Coffee’s Oyster Bay location, while blood orange olive oil-infused candies can be found at Vines and Branches in Rockville Centre. As of this week, Withhun’s work is also on sale at Hitch, a Babylon boutique devoted to artisanal products.
“This is also where I will host wine-and-chocolate tasting events,” Witthuhn said. She'll also do a pop-up for customers of Cold Spring Harbor Wine Shoppe on Nov. 22. “I will work with them to select wines which will pair nicely with chocolates.” Boxes of her wares will also be for sale.
“I thought of going into wedding cakes when I was in school,” said Witthuhn, walking past her daughter’s Halloween costume draped over a chair (Elsa, “Frozen”). “But when we got to chocolate, something just clicked with me, and here we are.”
Bluebird Chocolates, 516-253-0585, bluebirdchocolatesny.com