As if the name weren’t a giveaway, Chocolate Grape (2113 W. Division St.; 773-772-3990), slotted to open in early April, specializes in pairing wines and chocolates together. “The concept came from my family,” says Rehanna Grady, a partner in the 65-seat café. “My brother, in earning his master’s from DePaul, had to create a business plan and a pro forma to show that the business would be profitable.” The plan was for a wine and chocolate café, and the family thought it was such a good idea that they asked Grady to do it for real. Originally, she had planned to get wholesale chocolatiers to bring in their chocolate, but then Pat Karpowski, the executive sous-chef of the Sheraton, signed on as a partner. His regular menu incorporates chocolate into unlikely dishes, such as seared sea scallops dusted with curry and dark chocolate. As for the wine, Chocolate Grape has 50 selections, 30 by the glass. “We’re choosing based on trends,” says Grady. “A white chocolate orange truffle paired really well with a four-blend white wine from California called Freak Out.”Quotable
“Don’t wreck a sublime chocolate experience by feeling guilty. Chocolate isn’t like premarital sex. It will not make you pregnant. And it always feels good.” –Lora Brody, American chef/writer6 Questions for Eric Martinet
Martinet is the vice president of gourmet for Barry Callebaut North America, which is opening its first American “chocolate academy” in September at 600 West Chicago Avenue (on the top floor of the Japonais building).
D: What exactly is a chocolate academy?
EM: It’s a school, a big laboratory with ten working stations. The classes have up to 12 people, and each person will get his own equipment. We chose Chicago as the headquarters in North America because it’s centrally located. [Facilities exist in Belgium, Canada, France, Poland, Singapore, Switzerland, and England.]
D: We see you will offer seminars, demos, and theoretical classes. What are theoretical classes?
EM: From the collection of cacao beans to the chocolate you bite into, the chocolate is a long story. A very complex process. The classes explain all these steps.
D: For example?
EM: Have ever tried to melt a chocolate bar and tried to get it back into a solid shape, beautiful and shiny? It will never happen. You have to do something to make that happen. We show you how. We teach how to work with chocolate. Not only how, but why.
D: Who are your instructors?
EM: We will have European chefs come in to run the academy, people with a lot of experience in pastry, chocolate, and training. Also technical advisers. We work with what we call ambassadors: chefs and chocolate experts.
D: Are the classes for professionals or home cooks?
EM: Both. Mainly for chefs but we will do some classes for home chefs. Most of the people who come to us are already working in the business. We give them one to three days’ training. Each training has a specialized theme.
D: Who is Barry Callebaut?
EM: Not a person. The name of the company is a merger of two different companies, each in the chocolate business for over 150 years. Callebaut [founded by Eugenius Callebaut] was a Belgian company. The other was Cacao Barry, a French company. In 1996, these two companies merged.
Le Chocolat (129 S. Washington St., Naperville; 630-355-5720), a gourmet chocolate store/café/lounge that relocated to downtown Naperville last December, is a love letter to the cacao bean. “We’re planning chocolate soup and chocolate pizza,” says Cathy Bouchard, the owner, who spent years studying the history of chocolate. “There’s Belgian-dipped chocolate chip cookies, brownies, and dessert bars baked daily. I’m very passionate about chocolate.” She ought to be: Bouchard, who suffered for nine years from fibromyalgia, a chronic condition characterized by widespread pain and fatigue, claims she was cured—by dark chocolate. “I tracked down dark chocolate that contained at least 70 percent cacao at a little gourmet shop and bought all that they had so I could eat one ounce a day,” she says. “Two months later, I realized: I don’t have pain. I was cured.”6 reasons to seek out Let Them Eat Chocolate (5306 N. Damen Ave.; 773-334-2626)
- Debra Gregory-Voss’s new chocolatier in a coffee-house setting imports its chocolates from Belgium.
- It has a fireplace.
- It gets its gelato from the Oprah-approved Palazzolo’s Artisan Gelato & Sorbetto in Saugatuck, Michigan.
- There is a little stage with live acoustic music some nights.
- It showcases local artists’ work.
- A storyteller comes every other Saturday morning to read to children.
“We make real frozen custard, here on the premises with a machine that’s about the size of a car. At this point we have chocolate and vanilla, but in summer we will have a flavor of the week: strawberry, peach, Oreo, blueberry cheesecake, butter pecan. You know, the good ones. We also have Intelligentsia coffee and Chicago Chocolates, pastries, cupcakes, specialty cakes. And popcorn, which we make on the premises. Plain, butter, cheese, and caramel. . . . We have a walk-up window, so if you don’t want to come in, it shouldn’t stop you.” –Mia DeLaney, co-owner of Just Indulge (1755 W. North Ave.; 773-486-6680), a custard shop in Wicker Park, which opened on March 6th.Things to Do
- Watch Hershey’s cheesy-but-fascinating video about how chocolate is made.
- Register your sweetie for this ”pastry experience”.
- Add this to your Netflix queue.