Home > Uncategorized > Take a Chocolate Tour

Take a Chocolate Tour

The day after I returned from the Philadelphia Chocolate Tour I had a melancholy moment. “I’m only now realizing that I may never have a day quite that chocolate-y again,” I sighed to my daughter. Indeed, I’m fairly certain that I experienced the apex of all possible chocolate adventures. Despite the inevitable let-down afterwards, there were a lot of things to love about the tour–not the least of which was all the chocolate we got to taste.

1. I went with friends: I drove into Philly with four friends, including our trusty organizer Michelle, who not only encouraged us to buy groupons for the chocolate tour last fall (thereby inducting me into the strange and wonderful and sometimes frustrating world of groupons), but also scheduled our tour during Philadelphia’s restaurant week. That meant we could eat a three-course meal at a great restaurant for only $20 after the tour. This was the perfect activity to do with a group of friends because, well, chocolate always taste better when it’s shared.

2.The tour started at Reading Terminal Market: Wow, last time I was at Reading Terminal Market was at a work-related lunch several years ago. I never went on a Sunday morning. It was awesome just to be there. There were so many interesting foods to look at, I found myself wondering at why I don’t go there more often. Probably because I have other things to do, but still…Anyway, we met our guide outside the market. She was an actress, she told us, and she ran the tour with an overwhelming degree of enthusiasm. If she was sometimes over the top, she was never boring. From her I learned that chocolate was first discovered thousands of years ago in South America, and that it was consumed as a drink, and made with spices. But listen, I learned a lot of stuff that day, so that might be wrong. Just in case, I’m including a link to the wikipedia page on chocolate so you can check for yourself (I have a lot more to write here or else I’d check for you). Anyway, we also learned about the health benefits of chocolate (dark chocolate is best), and tasted a cocoa bean. It wasn’t sweet, but not as bitter as I’d expected either. And she reviewed our route,  a walking tour which included visits to five shops.

3. The Famous Fourth Street Cookie Company: This was our initial stop and the first sign that this tour was not going to disappoint, because as soon as we got there a saleswoman set out a plate of cookies. Sorry, I can’t tell you anything about the Famous Fourth Street Cookie Company’s history. I was pretty distracted by that plate of cookies, which were thick and scrumptious looking. But I can tell you this, they were absolutely the best store-bought chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever tasted. I bought six and brought them home. They were gone the next day.

4. The Pennsylvania General Store: This shop marketing all Pennsylvania made items, was also in Reading Terminal Market. We tasted Wilbur buds, upon which Milton Hershey supposedly based the candy kiss, and candy scrapple, a strange and wonderous conglomeration of popcorn, nuts, marshmallows, etc, mixed into choclate.  My friends and I were fascinated by the truffles which sold for over $100 a pound. My friend Sandy bought us each one–this cost about a dollar a piece. I chose a mocha truffle, but they came in dozens of flavors. It was, like most of the candy we tasted that day, rich and intense and worth savoring.

5. Verde:  Our next stop was a neat little boutique called Verde on 13th Street, which sold trendy hats and bags, and included in the back a small chocolate making kitchen where Marcie Blaine Artisanal Chocolates are produced.  I realize as I write this that I could have been a better listener here. The sales clerk described the chocolates. I’m not sure what she said. But I bought four pieces including one with elderflower and champaigne, and another with chile. Again, these all had an intense and amazing flavor–think of the taste of Easter basket candy and multiply it by, say, 100. Pure happiness. (Wondering what the elderflower one tasted like? Strangely, sort of like rye bread. Deep, rich chocolate rye bread, of course.)

6. Teuscher: Next on the list, Teuscher Chocolates of Switzerland, located in The Shops at the Bellevue on Broad Street. Initially, it appeared as though we were entering into a hotel lobby, but, while this was a hotel, the building housed a number of high-end shops including Tiffany’s, Williams & Sonoma, and, of course, this pricey but amazing little chocolate boutique featuring Swiss imported candy that sold for $78 per pound. This was a beautiful shop because in addition to chocolate, it also sold colorful handmade “fantasy boxes” for gift-giving. Here, we each got to taste a champaigne truffle. Pretty amazing. Again, I purchased four pieces of chocolate, pondering over which to choose as if it were a difficult math problem. I shared these with my family over the next few days, cutting each piece into quarters. I was pretty sad when they were gone.

7. Gelato: Our final visit was to Capogiro Gelato. I first tasted gelato several years ago on a vacation in Italy and have loved it ever since. But if it is possible to have too much chocolate, at this point in the tour, I had done that. Nevertheless, I didn’t pass up the opportunity to taste four tiny spoonfuls of different flavors–all with chocoloate. My favorite: chocolate hazelnut. It was intense, creamy and delicious.

8. Max Brenner’s: Where else for lunch after all this but Max Brenner: Chocolate by the Bald Man? I chose simple foods like salmon and salad, but it just so happened that dessert came with our meal. A hazelnut-chocolate banana crepe. Suffice it to say I couldn’t eat the whole thing. Or even half. Of course it was good, though.

9. I would definitely recommend this: This tour took me to shops I never ever would have gone into otherwise. It introduced me to a new way of tasting chocolate–small bites, savor, think about the mix of flavors. And most of all, it reminded me that there is so much to explore and discover and experience in the world that even something as seemingly simple as chocolate is actually complex , multi-dimensional and intriguing.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. October 19, 2011 at 2:16 am

    Love these tips – thanks for sharing!

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