Saturday, May 16, 2009

Chicago Chocolate Tour

Hey Gang!! I'm in Chicago - the weather is to die for, the architecture is fantastic, and the chocolate is plentiful. I think I want to move here. Or at least spend the next four days here.

The flights were easy, but the traffic from the airport was a bitch. However, our van driver was festive and some businessman gave me his card and told me to call him if I wanted to have drinks. (Um - no. But flattering nonetheless.)

I dumped my bags and hit the streets - I decided to walk the 17 blocks to make plenty of room for all the chocolate I was about to eat (a decision that seemed brilliant at the time.) My hotel is across from Millennium Park, which is gorgeous. Here are a couple of pics from my walk:

Can you tell how gorgeous the day is? And do you like the way I have juxtaposed the natural beauty of the tulips with the man made beauty of the sculpture? Hey - I didn't get that undergraduate degree in art history for nuthin'!

Well, you just gotta shoot the lions in front of the Art Institute:

And check these out! Notice the human at the base - they are gigantic!! American Gothic in front of the Chicago Tribune building. How cool is Chi Town?

As I was walking toward Bloomingdale's (which was the meeting place for the tour) - I saw a woman in a lively yellow jacket with a purple purse. I think - "Look at her - she is so petite and looks so great in those bright colors." Then I notice she is carrying a chocolate tours sign! I kid you not - I say' "Valerie?" And she turns around - it's Valerie Beck from the website! She is very nice and gracious, loves both Chicago and chocolate. And she walked with me about 9 more blocks to the tour site.

My tour guide was actually Heidi Holladay (Valerie was leading another tour at the same time), a pastry chef and tour guide extraordinaire. She did a great job - taking us to six different sites and giving us loads of information about chocolate and Chicago along the way. The tour was supposed to last two hours, but ours lasted about three. No one complained - it was a fantastic time. But if any of you decide to go, budget extra time. You'll want it anyway - you might want to go back to some of the sites or stay longer at the last one.

Because I was carrying large bags of chocolate and a twelve pack of Diet Sierra Mist for my 17 block return trip, I am tired, so I'm only going to review the first two stops tonight. Now you might be thinking - why did Denise carry so much soda? I am addicted to diet soda and would rather get a lot at a drug store than try to find some at outrageous hotel rates. You might also be thinking - why did she not call a cab if she was carrying all this? IBecause I am stubborn (I really felt I should do some exercise after all this decadent eating) and I am essentially cheap. Why pay cab fare if you can manage to hobble 17 blocks with your arthritic hips carrying 20 pounds of chocolate and soda?

Remember, I have never claimed to be either sane or issue free.

I did have several interesting conversations with the homeless as I struggled along.

But I digress.

The first stop was teuscher Chocolates of Switzerland. I have written of teuscher before.

My friend Katie and I stopped in a teuscher store in New York when I was there for the Chocolate Show. I wasn't impressed then and I'm not impressed now. The prices are insanely high in my book and the decor says funeral parlor more than chocolate shop. I can't help it - it just creeps me out. They gave us a sample which was fine, but nothing that made me go crazy and buy a bunch of stuff. In both locations I found the staff snooty. Please - it's chocolate. Get over it. And you're in a mall. If you work in a mall, you really need to get over it.

Next stop was More Cupcakes ( Now this was something - look at how this place is designed:

It's like a cupcake gallery or museum - gorgeous! And they have some amazing and creative flavors. They have more flavors in the shop than are listed on the website. We got to taste two mini cupcakes - the first was chocolate with chocolate icing; the second was chocolate with a vanilla icing. After the first sample (I didn't know there was going to be a second sample), I was so smitten I bought a full size cupcake - salted caramel. A yellow cake with caramel in the center and a light caramel frosting. And they pack it up in a great, sturdy box with a cool More Cupcakes sticker- very nice packaging. Woowee!

The small cupcakes were the perfect size - you could pop one in your mouth. They were fresh and delicious and the frosting was amazingly light.

But when I got back to my room and devoured - I mean daintily ate - the larger cupcake, I was disappointed. To be honest, it tasted a little stale. : (

I still think these were awesome cupcakes and this was most people's favorite stop on the tour. I would definitely give them another chance.

Okay - I'm smoked!! I'll give you more of my chocolate adventure tomorrow. Until then, sweet dreams!!!


jeff said...

Denise, I don't know how you could hope to exercise off both chocolate AND pizza, but on the other hand, I don't know how anyone could spend more than one night in Chicago without getting a pie. Pizza is one thing that Chicago can say it does really well...maybe the only thing.

Thinking...thinking...yep, pizza's about it.

I would go for it, and worry about the calories another day. Uno or Giordano's if they're not too far...

Denise Ryan said...

Jeff - you are sooo right!! I've been strong, but I'm sure I'll be caving soon. (You don't think Chicago does government well?) : )

jeff said...

*Sighing and rolling my eyes*