Let’s face it. I do some pretty cool stuff.
I love being a tourist in my own city, I love going to new places, and when it comes to being outside, it pains me to let the cold Chicago weather take over my soul.
This past Sunday, as a celebration of my 24th birthday, a few friends and I took advantage of the Groupon to go on a Chicago Chocolate Tour for a discounted rate. Worth it? Oh yes.
The company has chocolate tours in a few different Chicago neighborhoods, including the Gold Coast, the South Loop, the Downtown Loop, the French Market, and Lakeview.
We chose the Lakeview neighborhood, since some of my friends live there now and I’m hoping to move there soon.
We met outside the House of Fine Chocolates, which happens to be in the heart of my “dream” neighborhood. This old-fashioned European bakery smells like chocolate, and has an extensive array of beautifully decorated cakes that looked too good to be real. We sampled a chocolate candy and a dark chocolate caramel square as we learned about the family-owned bakery.
As we walked to our next destination – Argo Tea on Broadway – we learned about the history of chocolate, beginning with its discovery in South and Central America. A few minutes later, we arrived at the tea shop, which I had actually visited for the first time only a few days prior. Our tour guide told us that you wouldn’t normally think of Argo Tea as a chocolate tour stop, but it actually has a great selection of chocolate. We sampled a sip of chocolate mint tea (which I plan on getting again), a chocolate-filled croissant flown in from France (chocolate-filled croissants became a daily obsession for me when I was in Israel, and this was delicious as well), and a piece of Vosges chocolate filled with ginger and orange (not quite my style).
Walking to our next stop – Bobtail Ice Cream – we passed by two giraffes, a monster, and a circus performer – all were children trick-or-treating from store to store. I guess when you live in the city, going house to house isn’t really an option.
At Bobtail, which the tour guide described as “an old-fashioned ice cream parlor with an urban twist,” they gave us samples of their ice cream, including chocolate mint and pumpkin. I’m not so much of a pumpkin fan (despite being born on Oct. 31), but the mint ice cream was very good.
Our next stop was the Loose Leaf Lounge, a chill coffee shop with comfy couches and artwork from local artists. We got to try some of their chocolate dessert teas, as well as some brownies and cookies from their pastry collection. Boasting its free WiFi, the lounge seems like a great place to get work done in a laid-back environment.
We spend the most time at our final stop – a place called Baladoché, famous for its Belgian waffles.
The owner of the store gave us a chemistry lesson about chocolate, and what it means to be 60 percent dark chocolate or 77 percent, and how dark chocolate is actually healthful if you buy the right kind. This owner described his frequent trips to Belgium, how he singlehandedly supplies the United States with Galler, a brand of Belgian chocolate that was made for the Belgian king. If you have leftover Euros from your last European adventure, bring them to Baladoché – according to their menu, they accept Euros for their creations. We sampled a waffle dipped in chocolate, some “sipping chocolate,” and a few kinds of extra smooth dark chocolate and chocolate with hazelnut. The store did not succeed in converting me into a connoisseur of dark chocolate, but it was definitely interesting and delicious.
So, if you didn’t get the Groupon for the tour and you’ve got $40 to spend, I highly recommend getting the chance to walk around on a sunny day, exploring and eating your way through your favorite Chicago neighborhood.
*Want to read about other cool stuff? Read my first installment here, read my second here, and be sure to read about my trips to Roscoe Village and Lakeview, Wicker Park and Bucktown, and Old Town, Rush Street, and the Gold Coast.