Friday, December 3, 2010

Chocolate Chicago



I am recovering from a chocolate hangover. Like a love hangover, it has no cure.  It all started when I grabbed a Groupon for Chicago Chocolate Tours. Chicago boasts a long candy history and naturally, I'm very familiar with most of it but my husband isn't ( he just likes chocolate, not sugar in all forms). So we signed up for the Gold Coast Chocolate Tour and met are tour guide Jenny, above in the lobby of Bloomingdale's. Even though I possess a serious sweet tooth, I confess that I was not equipped to down pounds and pounds of chocolate over 21/2 hours.



We started at More cupcakes, a tiny gourmet cupcake boutique aimed toward cupcake snobs, which includes me.  As you can see from the display above, the shop carries a dazzling array of flavors, including savory versions like maple bacon, goat cheese basil and blue cheese walnut praline.


We sampled a tasting size of the chocolate fudge cupcake that was rich and moist. We planned to head back to stock up on red velvet, salted caramel and passion fruit cupcakes after the tour but little did we know, the thought of more desserts would not be at the top of our lists.


Next, we visited Chicago's only Belgian Bakery, Hendrickx Bread Crafter. We crowded into the kitchen where the owners demonstrated their old world techniques. We tasted fresh bread, chocolate croissants and a raisin and walnut roll that melted in my mouth. I admit, I questioned their sanity when the owners mentioned that they had moved their business from the Bahamas when they tired of the weather but insanity clearly creates amazing baked goods.

The chocolate for the croissants was whipped up from blocks of Belgian chocolate. It was heavenly but the real test of a good bakery? When the kitchen floor is slippery from all the butter used.


When we arrived at Sarah's Pastries, I was feeling a tiny bit of chocolate fatigue. We had also toured Harry & David, where they plied us with chocolate truffles,  chocolate and caramel moose mix popcorn, chocolate covered cherries, and a chocolate mouse so adorable, I couldn't bear to eat it. I crammed most of it into my purse because I just didn't have the strength for another bite. At Sarah's, we tasted chocolate peanut butter drops and something else that's a cocoa-covered blur.  The cookies above, were so cute but not cute enough to tempt me to eat one. My resolve to taste every sugary morsel offered had disappeared.


When I saw the sparkling Christmas display at Teuscher Swiss Chocolate, I perked up. The chocolates are flown in weekly from Switzerland and since my memories of eating fresh Swiss chocolate everyday in Lucerene remain fresh, I gathered my strength to nibble the champagne truffle, pictured above.


We were instructed to down the truffle in two quick bites, in order to savor the flavor of the Dom Perignon flowing through the chocolate.  It was good. I'm sorry I can't offer more details because by that point, my taste buds were starting to protest.   I wouldn't have agreed before but there really is such a thing as too much chocolate. My husband lounged on a bench as  I gazed glassy eyed, at the decadent chocolate arrangements. We had been defeated by chocolate.
The tour wasn't only about munching chocolate, however. We learned valuable chocolate facts such as, when chocolate was so valuable it was used as currency, pirates would make counterfeit cocoa pods by  removing the cocoa and stuffing them with a fake substance!  Chicago became a big chocolate center in the 1800s because the frigid climate is perfect for preserving chocolate. Did you know chocolate is a good remedy for coughs? I will be trying that this winter. I selected the Gold Coast tour because I love the landmark architecture. That's the John Hancock building, which used to be one of the world's tallest, rising into the sky above.


With all the chocolate, we did manage to pick out some favorites, mine was the cupcakes but my favorite memory was of these people above. They stood in the cold in front of the historic Water Tower offering free hugs. I watched several children take them up on the offer, while most adults were wary but I thought it was a lovely idea. You can have too much chocolate but you can never have too many hugs.

15 comments:

Kalyber said...

"You can have too much chocolate but you can never have too many hugs." But they both will make you giddy if done right.

Fly Girl said...

Katie, very true. It's just I was past giddy and on my way to chocolate overdose!

Heather Dugan ("Footsteps") said...

Love that first photo! Sounds like a great event. I haven't been to Chicago in ages. Need to get back!

Fly Girl said...

Heather, chocolate is a great excuse to come to Chicago!

A Cuban In London said...

Thanks a lot for such a yummy, chocolatey post. It also made me smile because after yet another week of student protest here in London against the cuts to university funding, to see someone like Jenny waving a placard completely unrelated to politics is a welcome sight for very sore eyes. Still the students do have a point. Do you think we should send them on your tour and give them a little hug after? :-)

Greetings from London.

Rachel Cotterill said...

OOOH. I definitely want to do that tour when I get to Chicago. Definitely!!

Mary R said...

I can so relate to the chocolate overload! When I did a similar tour in Seattle, I was sort of done after a few stops. Shame, really because there were lovely offerings. Like you though, give me a cupcake and I'm satisfied for a long time.

I'm curious about those cupcake flavors. How was the basil one?

How fun to stumble on people giving out free hugs. Was it some kind of sociology experiment? I participated in a youth experiment once where we tried to give away $1 bills no strings attached. Most people on the street wanted to have nothing to do with it!

Fly Girl said...

Cubano, I feel so bad for the students. I think chocolate and a hug would definitely do them some good.

Rachel,with your mince pie, I don't know that you'd be able to handle all that sugar!

Fly Girl said...

Mary, It is a total shame not to be able to handle all the chocolate. The basil sounded good but we never got a chance to go back and try more. It's on my to do list in the next few weeks. I'll be sure to post about it.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

Chocolate can be SO addictive!

eden said...

I can't resist chocolates. I love it with any kind of nuts. Sounds a great experience for your guys. I haven't been in a Chocolate Tour here but love to go some day. Thank you for the visit and comment. I am sorry for my late visit. We had an internet problem over the weekend. Have a great week.

Hugs from down under.

Fly Girl said...

Jean-Luc, it's addictive and good for you!

Eden, thanks for the hugs!

Catherine said...

oh my ..........how decadent and delectable!!

Fly Girl said...

Catherine, you said it! Although it did grow a little too decadent...

Bluegreen Kirk said...

Now you are speaking my language Fly Girl! Nothing like good chocolate. My wife gets mad and says I bring to much chocolate in the house (like I force her to eat it...lol) I would love to have been on that tour! Glad I decided to read some of your older posts.