Thursday, October 11, 2012

Chicago Chocolate Tour

I have some GREAT friends!

My friend Nicole surprised me with a walking tour from Chicago Chocolate Tours.  Let's just say I was so excited I may or may not have squealed a pitch so high that only my dogs could hear it.  After a lot of deliberation, we picked the Chocolate Locations of Lakeview and on what could possibly one of the most gorgeous weekends of the year so far, set out for an afternoon of Chicago and chocolate.

I left my husband at home.  He was not pleased.  I did not care.

So we met up for some pre-chocolate lunch.  Yes, we ate in preparation for a chocolate tour.  We decided to go with sushi from Tank Sushi on Lincoln Avenue.  This is just a sampling of what we got:

Tank Sushi, how I love you

We planned on only eating a little to make sure we had plenty of room for chocolate.  Instead, we ate about $90 worth of sushi.  Yes, it was that good.

Not that I had any issues eating all the chocolate put in front of me, though.

We met up with our tour guide Sarah at Argo Tea in Lakeview.

Sarah is adorable and I wanted her entire outfit.

Sarah gave us an introduction to Chicago Chocolate Tours and gave us a quick history of chocolate.  It didn't take her very long to get to the good stuff and our trip started right at Argo Tea.

You're probably thinking, "Why on Earth would you go to a tea place on a chocolate tour?"  That's because they have a lot of delicious teas that can be blended with chocolate.

The representative gave us a brief description of the types of drinks Argo has to offer and went over their pastries.  Turns out they get their croissants from French bakers.  He then offered up a delicious sample of White Chocolate Chai and Chocolate Croissant.

It was delicious.  The croissant had to get by the taste test of Nicole's 15-year-old son.  He had been to France and, according to Nicole, refused to eat anything that wasn't the quality of the French croissant.  She bought him one and took it home to him.

It got an enthusiastic thumbs up.

We still weren't done at Argo though.  One of the drinks Sarah described to us was a Red Velvet Tea.  A red tea with steamed milk, raspberry syrup and white chocolate.  Nicole bought one for the both of us and we split it.

This was so incredibly delicious that I'm thankful there isn't an Argo Tea near my house.  It would definitely replace my Starbucks addiction.

Aaaaaand now I'm depressed I don't have an Argo Tea nearby.

We next skipped along to Bobtail Ice Cream Company.  And by skipped, I mean waddle because I had a bunch of sushi and tea in my belly.

I knew it was going to get real here.

What was brought out to us was amazing.  Feast your eyes on this:

Obviously, we had to sample their pumpkin ice cream.  'Tis the season, no?  But also in that little cup is their Lakeview Barhopper flavor.  It is Dutch cocoa ice cream blended with Jack Daniels® and yes... it was delicious.

Their hot chocolate was no slouch either.  Blended with their specialty homemade chocolate syrup, this was one of the creamiest hot chocolates I've ever tasted.

I was tempted to go inside and look around, but I knew I wouldn't leave there without a gallon or two.  How the heck was I going to carry that around AND continue to have both hands full of chocolate?

Our next stop was Spare Parts.  If you're familiar with this store, you'll note that it isn't food related at all.

This is Vanessa, the owner and her store carries local vendors' jewlery, handbags and a whole bunch of delightful accessories.  I am still weeping over the adorable green purse I so desperately wanted to buy.  Her store hosted a guest Chocolatier from Chicago.

This is Kevin Chocolatier-extraordinaire and president of Kokku Gourmet Chocolates.  His chocolate sauce can be eaten straight out of the jar.  In fact, these truffles he gave us, were simply scooped out of the jar with a melon baller and rolled in cocoa.

Of course I had to try this myself and he had an entire selection of his chocolate line with him.

I settled on the White Chocolate Sauce and the Gourmet Caramel Sauce.

And yes, you can eat this directly from the jar.  It took everything I could muster to put the lid back on the jar after scooping out a couple of mouthfuls.

Nicole bought the vanilla which had vanilla beans sealed in the extract.  The trick is when the vanilla is finished, you fill the bottle with vodka.  I certainly hope Nicole doesn't forget about me when that time comes.

Right around the corner we stopped at Loose Leaf Lounge.

This tea lounge was originally conceived to be a Kool-Aid Cafe (yes, I'm serious) but cooler heads prevailed and a tea lounge was opened instead.  They sell a variety of teas here and also have a decent menu that caters to all tastes, including offering several vegetarian and vegan options.

Mostly, the owners wanted this to be the ultimate hang-out place.  They frequently have live music and readings.

First, our host brought out a chocolate chip cookie and I apologize for the quality of the picture.  At this point, I didn't want to be shooting... I wanted to be eating.

Then he brought out a chocolate indulgence tea.  When I originally tasted the tea, there was something I couldn't quite put my finger on.  It turns out it was a delicate banana in the tea.  Now, I like bananas, but don't find myself grabbing them out of the fruit bowl first.  This tea made me crave bananas for days afterward!

The last stop on our tour was KC Chocolatier.  They carry chocolate from Belgium, which is some of the best chocolate in the world.

Our hosts gave us a brief overview of where their chocolate came from and then said we could pick any chocolate we wanted from the case.  The catch... we only got one piece.  Take a gander at all the different types of chocolate.

It was much more difficult than you think.  I settled on this:

I'll be honest, I'm not quite sure which kind it was.  All I know was that is was DELICIOUS.  

And with that our tour was over.  We are already looking forward to taking their cupcake tour.  I may have fast prior to the tour to keep my blood sugar in check.

I can't recommend this highly enough though.  And ask for Sarah.  I promise you'll love her.

Until the next time... happy eating!

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