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Friday, February 13, 2009

Chocolate Travels

From salsa-tinged Humboldt Park, to jollof rice-scented Uptown, Chicago offers some great cultural experiences. You don't have to hop a plane to absorb some of the sensations of India, Mexico, Puerto Rico or Nigeria. Although I love the neighborhoods that supply these escapades, I have to admit that one of my favorite Chicago cultural experiences doesn't involve an actual area or just one culture. Katrina, the genius/diva behind Chicago-based Vosges Haut Chocolat, combines her love of world travel and sustainable chocolate so seemlessly that I swear I didn't notice that I was munching on candy that represented my favorite places until last week. I stop into the purple swathed (always a good sign) Vosges boutiques about once every 6 weeks to stock up on my fave $7-$8 chocolate bars. They happen to be deep milk chocolate and smoked almonds sprinkled with fleur de sel grey sea salt, for the Barcelona bar. Then there's the dark chocolate spiked with Mexican ancho and chipotle chillis, topped with Ceylon cinnamon for the Red Fire bar. Last week, I discovered the addictive crunch of Ecuadorian plantain chips in deep milk chocolate of the Habana bar. Each bar conjures up a heady, sensual explosion of flavor. Each bar also represents places that I either already travel to frequently (Mexico) or have longed to visit (Barcelona, Havana). A coincidence? I don't think so. Traveling through chocolate is one sweet escape that I can't stand to miss.

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