Have you seen Chicago Chocolate Tours in the media? See below for the delicious details!
Our Chocolate + Cupcake Tour was seen on ABC TV as a hot Valentine's Day pick!
Click to listen to a podcast of Chicago Chocolate Tours Founder Valerie Beck's 8.4.12 interview with Bill Moller on WGN Radio!
Valerie's new book *Positive Parables for Winning in Business and Life* is discussed in the interview; click www.chicagochocolatetours.com/books for more info!
Also discussed: Women's Innovation Network - WIN, an association of women entrepreneurs who believe in innovation, inclusion, and inspiration. Visit www.ladiesofwin.org for details!
Here we are on ABC TV's 190 North, summer 2012!
New ~ Click for video: ABC TV's Karen Jordan takes a Geneva Chocolate Tour with us!
New ~ Click for video: WGN TV features Chicago Chocolate Tours as a Valentine's Day pick
The Chicago Tribune's Chicago Shopping section lists our private tours, romance option, and Chocolate + Champagne Tour as unique Valentine's Day dates!
Chicago Chocolate Tours has been named one of NewCity's "Best of Chicago" for 2011! Click here for the article or scroll down:
Chicago Chocolate Tours
Guided two-hour crawls lead as many tourists as locals through one of Chicago’s most notoriously vice-ridden underbellies: that of our sugary network of cupcakeries. “Cupcakes have been around long enough now that they are more than a trend; cupcakes are here to stay,” says Valerie Beck, president, founder and self-proclaimed “Chief Executive Chocolate Lover” of Chicago Chocolate Tours. The Downtown Loop Cupcake Route meets at the fountain at Macy’s on State Street and samples some of the more popular varieties at shops like Sarah’s Pastries and Candies (Black and White), Flirty Cupcakes (A Raspberry Stole My Heart) and at mySpa in the Fairmont Hotel. Beck’s Gold Coast Cupcake Route meets in the lobby at 900 North Michigan and tastes at spots like Swirlz Cupcakes (gluten-free pumpkin cream cheese), More (Bacon Maple; Feta Cranberry) and Hendrickx Belgian Bread Crafter. Beck says the current trend is salted caramel, a flavor evident in samples at tour spots like Loop-route stop Toni Patisserie (Salted Caramel Tarts). A nominee this year for the tenth annual Chicago Innovation awards, the six-year-old tour company has expanded to guide tours in Boston and Philadelphia.
Chicago Chocolate Tours
Downtown Loop Cupcake Route
Tuesdays at 3:45pm, meets at Macy’s, 111 North State
Gold Coast Cupcake Route
Thursdays at 4:45pm, meets at 900 North Michigan
Best of Chicago 2011
Our 2011 Chocolate + Fashion Tour attracted some sweet press:
Now You Know Events says:
The B.A.F.F.L.E.D Blog on fashion and law says:
Chocolate Tours are a MUST!Chicago Chocolate Tours was founded by attorney Valerie Beck, whose lifelong adoration for chocolate has masterminded an amazing business. With tours in Chicago's shopping mecca, as well as Boston and Philly, the tours are wonderful ideas for bachelorette parties, new hire orientations, team building events, or just a good time for any chocolate lover. We had an amazing time on the tour, and would recommend the fun to everyone!
This week's Dessert Alert from Dessert Deck featured Chicago Chocolate Tours! Click here to read the full article and use their handy link at the top to share the Dessert Alert with your followers on Twitter and Facebook!
CBS Chicago just featured Chicago Chocolate Tours on their "Best Of" page! Click here to read the full article and learn about marriage proposals on Chicago Chcolate Tours!
Blogger Jenise Celestin recently attended a Chicago Chocolate Tour and blogged about it on Well Community! Read the full blog post here.
Fellow chocolate addict,
John Lendman featured Chicago Chocolate Tours in Metromix for our new, delicious cupcake tours! Definitely a yummy way to explore Chicago!
Chicago Chocolate Tours President and Founder Valerie Beck in Today's Chicago Woman!
Chicago Chocolate Tours was featured in Kane County Magazine for the "Chocolate Bliss" of Geneva Chocolate Tours!
Click here or see below:
By ANDREA CLADIS
|The Chicago Chocolate Tours will feature many delicacies in Geneva.|
Looking to satiate your sweet tooth?
Well, what could be better than an afternoon stroll through Geneva, sampling some of the finest chocolates in the Chicago area? From Cocoa Bean to Graham’s Fine Chocolates, Geneva is a perfect host for Chicago Chocolate Tours.
Recently selected to be a featured “special edition” spot for the popular Chicago Chocolate Tours, Geneva is proud to reveal another hidden gem — the town’s affinity for decadent chocolate.
The Chicago Chocolate Tours are primarily in different areas of Chicago and involve year-round walking tours that highlight select chocolate shops, bakeries, cafés and more. The guided educational tours last about three hours and include visits to traditional and nontraditional chocolate stores.
Not only will you learn about the rich world history of chocolate (as well as its presence in Chicago), but you also will get the opportunity to discover local chocolate treasures in Geneva.
Considered by Valerie Beck, founder and CEO of Chicago Chocolate Tours, to be the “sweetest tour in town,” the tour offers participants an opportunity to taste savory chocolates and “walk off the calories” between stops.
Beck began the Chicago Chocolate Tours five years ago as an entrepreneur in Chicago.
“I have been a chocolate maniac for my entire life, and it has been a thrill to see the business grow,” Beck says.
Chicago was the perfect city for her to start in, and opened tours in Philadelphia and Boston.
So what brought the chocolate tour to Geneva?
Beck has been coming to Geneva for years as a destination for rest and relaxation. And because she’s always “sniffing out the finest chocolates around,” she found Geneva has an “amazing concentration of chocolate genius.”
From world-renowned, professionally trained chefs to local business owners who are incredibly persnickety about the foods they serve, Geneva is known for its culinary prowess. Beck wants to capitalize on the unique spot chocolate has in Geneva.
“I have not found any other small town like Geneva with such a high concentration of really good, real chocolate genius,” Beck says. “I prefer chocolate that is handmade with all natural fresh and pure ingredients. Geneva’s chocolate often exceeds all expectations.”
For $40, you can enjoy a little exercise and a lot of chocolate.
The remaining limited-edition tours scheduled in Geneva will begin at 2:45 p.m. March 16 and April 20. But because the tour has been so popular in Geneva, it’s likely it will continue to be hosted on the third Wednesday of every month. Private tours also may be arranged. Tours in Geneva start outside Cocoa Bean, 11 S. 7th St., and from there proceed to Moveable Feast, Graham’s Fine Chocolates, Preservation Bread and Wine, Chef Roby’s All-Chocolate Kitchen and, finally, Graham’s 318.
During the walking tour, participants will be invited to sample some of the best chocolate desserts, drinks and almost anything else that can be made from chocolate! An added bonus of the Geneva tour is the private cooking demonstration with Chef Paul at Cocoa Bean and its sweet finish of a flavorful wine tasting.
“Our motto is ‘Uplift through Chocolate,’ because we want everyone who comes on a tour to have a positive experience through learning, sampling and being entertained,” Beck says.
One of the scrumptious items on the tour menu includes the “Oprah-famous” brownies from Moveable Feast. Deliciously rich, fudgy and wanted across the U.S., those brownies will leave your taste buds in awe. And perhaps best of all, they are baked fresh every day.
“Geneva and chocolate is a perfect combination,” Beck says. “I am always finding new restaurants in town to feature on the tour. Anywhere there is good chocolate, you can be sure I will find it. Geneva deserves to have this opportunity to shine. I hope to expose Geneva for the special gem it truly is!”
One Sweet Tour
For more information about Chicago Chocolate Tours in Geneva, go to chicagochocolatetours.com/geneva-il or call 312-929-2939.
Chicago Chocolate Tours has 2 new all-cupcake routes, featured in the March 7, 2011 Red Eye and on Metromix as a great way for a bride to satisfy her sweet tooth in Metromix Chicago's Bachelorette Party Planner: In-the-know ideas for a blowout bachelorette party!
Click here or see below:
THE SWEETIE PIE
FIRST: Help an undoubtedly stressed-out bride satisfy her sweet tooth on Chicago Chocolate Tours’ two-hour walking tour of downtown cupcake shops. Choose either the Loop or Gold Coast route to go behind the scenes at Sarah’s Pastries, Sugar Bliss and even meet up with the Flirty Cupcakes truck. Groups of 15 or less can sign up for a public tour ($50) or set up a private tour customized with a limo or champagne for an additional cost. Call 312-929-2939 for tickets and view routes on chicagochocolatetours.com.
Chicago Chocolate Tours is featured as Publisher's Pick in Key Magazine for the week of March 4, 2011! Click here and turn to page 12!
Read about Chicago Chocolate Tours in Travel with Terri here at AroundWellington.com!
Chicago Chocolate Tours is featured in the new Chocoholic Traveler App for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad!
|Chicago Chocolate Tours|
|My kind of town|
|Burn off the calories as you traipse to a variety of chocolate shops, bakeries and cafes.
The 2.5 hour guided walking tour delves into chocolate’s history before you hit the chocolately stops. Along the way, discover the city’s diverse architecture .
Easy to moderate walking routes include the South Loop, Downtown Loop, the French Market, Lakeview, Magnificent Mile and Gold Coast. Each flavor-filled itinerary falls on a different day.
The French Market, for example, showcases Canady le chocolatier, Flip Crepes, raw, Vanille Patisserie, Pop This, Sweet Miss Giving’s, Delightful Pastries, Pappardelle’s and Pastoral.
|Copyright (C) 2010 Kay Harwell Fernandez. All rights reserved.|
Chocoholic Traveler aims to take you on an enticing world journey to chocolate festivals, museums, factory tours, spas, attractions, artisan chocolatiers and other chocolate-themed travel. Each place exudes a whiff of chocolate. It's not only a travel experience, but a sensory one as well. Enjoy every morsel!
RedEye takes Chicago Chocolate Tours founder Valerie's expert advice on the perfect Chocolate Crawl! December 10, 2010
Neighbors of Geneva lists the new Geneva, IL, route of Chicago Chocolate Tours, on p. 15!
Sample the sweet side of Geneva on a guided walking and tasting tour of chocolate shops, bakeries and cafes including Cocoa Bean, Graham’s Fine Chocolates, Graham’s 318, The Latest Crave, Moveable Feast and Preservation Bread and Wine. Tours are offered at 2:45 p.m. Wednesdays, Nov. 17 and Dec. 15.
At the Chicago Chocolate Tours event, participants sample special chocolate creations, meet chefs and chocolatiers, and learn about the history of chocolate, while enjoying holiday sights and shopping.
AOL lists Chicago Chocolate Tours as a City's Best Food Tour!
Chicago Chocolate Tour: It's clear that those going on the Chicago Chocolate Tour will sample loads of chocolate. What tour-goers find out, however, is that the chocolate comes in many forms, including in truffles, bread and tea. A recent tour took a group of 14 people on a stroll to Teuscher Chocolates for a Champagne truffle, More for a "chocolate chocolate" cupcake, Hendrickx Belgian Bread Crafter for Belgian Dark Chocolate Cake, Sarah's Pastries & Candies for a Crunchy Chocolate Peanut Butter Bar and to Argo Tea for Pumpkin Chai with Dark Chocolate. Tour founder Valerie Beck, who went to Harvard Law School and practiced as an attorney for several years before deciding she would much rather spend her career in chocolate, popped in to join in the sampling fun mid-tour, declaring, "I'm a chocolate maniac."
Five different chocolate tours given year-round, $40
Si está buscando algo diferente para hacer con su pareja ó con sus amigos no busque más su mejor opción es el paseo turístico de chocolate en chicago. Conocido como Chicago Chocolate Tours, que consiste en deleitarse de muestras de chocolates mientras quema calorías al caminar por las calles de Chicago.
Puede iniciar desde el 900 al norte de la calle Michigan en donde guías turísticos le enseñaran un poquito de la historia del chocolate. En cada sitio que visiten en su caminata recibirá una suculenta muestra de la especialidad de chocolate que cada tienda ofrece. Chicago Chocolate Tours fue fundada en el 2005 por Valerie Beck una abogada que prefirió seguir su pasión y hacer lo que más amaba y disfrutaba; dar a conocer el verdadero placer de saborear el chocolate mientras se pasea por nuestra ciudad y admira los rascacielos de una manera educativa, alegre y deliciosa.
Cada establecimiento tiene su propia historia así como cada rincón de la ciudad lo que haré de su excursión una aventura afrodisíaca e inolvidable en Chicago. Convirtiéndose en una buena opción para su primera cita amorosa e inclusive Chicago Chocolate Tours ha servido de inspiración para hacer proposiciones de matrimonio.
Hungry Z reviewed us on The Local Tourist and said we're "a blast!"
Mmm…chocolate. Is there a more sinful or even sexy word associated with food? The mere mention of chocolate sends one into a state of euphoria! With that said, is there a better way to spend a couple of hours than sampling chocolate? Of course not! While that Hershey bar from the drug store will do in a pinch, a Chicago Chocolate Tour takes you on a fine chocolate journey!
There are 5 available tours for Chicagoans to take including Lakeview, Mag Mile, south Loop, downtown Loop, and the French Market. My Mag Mile tour started bright and early at 9:45am and is deemed the “Breakfast of Champions” by founder Valerie Beck. Our day starts at the 900 shops and a visit to Teuscher. This Swiss chocolatier offers up a champagne truffle made with a Dom Perignon cream center surrounded by a dark chocolate ganache, coated in milk chocolate and sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar. Chocolate and a little “Dom” before lunch, why not?!
A short walk down Delaware takes us to More Cupcakes. With cupcakes exploding in popularity, it’s only fitting that we stop in for a chocolate/chocolate cupcake. Rich and very moist, this little treat made me come back after the tour to pick up a few of their other varieties. Next stop is Oak street, not for the shopping but rather more chocolate! Sarah’s candies offered up a dark chocolate, caramelized almond, roasted pistachio, and crispy rice brittle that tests the strength of ones teeth.
A stroll down Walton brings us to Hendrickx Belgian Bakery. The twist here is that we are not having a piece of chocolate or something that outwardly even looks like chocolate. Nope, instead we sample a flaky hand made croissant filled with heavenly Belgian chocolate. This hand made treat is so special that it actually takes 18 hours for them to create it! Last stop is at Argo Tea for a surprising cup of chocolate chai. Sweet and spicy, this tea is a nice way to cap off our chcocolate adventure.
Each tour includes a knowledgable guide to help navigate your journey and even offer some chocolate fun facts. Tour prices are $40 per person for public tours and $50 for group tours. Tours run from Wednesday thru Sunday and operate all year long. Bottom line is that food tours are fun, chocolate food tours are a blast! Grab a friend and get ready to smile for the next 2 hours!
Today's Chicago Woman interviewed Chicago Chocolate Tours founder Valerie Beck in the August 2010 edition! You can read the full article here.
Thank you, Chicagonista, for a scrumptious review!
Dawn Bertuca | May 06, 2010 |
WGN-TV Chicago's Allison Payne interviewed Chicago Chocolate Tours founder Valerie Beck for a segment on Chicago entrepreneurs that aired in February 2010.
Chicago Chocolate Tours
Two-and-a-half-hour guided walking tours include traditional and non-traditional chocolate locations and are scheduled Wednesday through Sunday year-round. Cost: $40 per person. Call (312) 929-2939 or visit www.chicagochocolatetours.com for times and locations of upcoming tours and to reserve your space.
Tours sweet on Chicago's chocolate legacy
Food fads come and go but chocolate love is constant.
Happily, Chicago is awash with chocolate-inspired fun. Next week, the Chicago History Museum will launch its Sweet Home Chicago lecture series. Those who remember the Field Museum's Chocolate exhibit, which moved on a couple of years ago, may be delighted to know it is still accessible on the museum's Web site.
And then there are the walking tours, which blend history, nutritional information and yummy samples with the guilt-assuaging benefit of exercise.
On a recent Sunday, I met with about two dozen other Chicago area residents inside the 900 N. Michigan Ave. building to begin a sweet trek through the city's Gold Coast neighborhood.
Chicago Chocolate Tours, founded by attorney Valerie Beck, offers several $40 sample-laden strolls through Chicago neighborhoods.
We were immediately split into two groups, ours consisting of market researchers, graphic designers, empty-nesters and a doctor. The common thread was, of course, a professed love for chocolate, although we equally split among those who favored milk, dark and white.
Sue and John Brack, of Kankakee, took the train into the city from the University Park station.
"I work for Trader Joe's in Orland," Sue Brack said. "We sell a lot of chocolate from other countries so this will help me be more knowledgeable."
The two-hour tour included six stops within a mile of our starting point. The first was a virtual one.
Guide Heidi Holladay, a graduate of Chicago's French Pastry School, introduced us to a German chocolate company that invites candy lovers to create their own chocolate bars. Want yours dark with coconut shavings and black sesame? Or milk with apple bits and cinnamon?
Order online. It takes about two weeks for your creation to be made and shipped. We sampled white chocolate with orange bits and a sprinkling of oregano.
Next up was Teuscher Chocolates inside the Bloomingdale's building. The Swiss company is famous for its whimsical creations and its truffles, including the Dom Perignon champagne ones we sampled.
From there, we ventured west, to More cupcake shop, which, by the way, holds happy hour from 5 to 7 p.m. every Friday. We sampled a mini morsel topped with gold leaf and learned that cupcakes are just as likely to be savory as sweet.
John Brack said, "Who would have thought all these unique flavors could be added to chocolate? Bacon cupcakes?"
Next on the tour was Sarah's Pastries & Candies, where we got to peek into the kitchen and sample hot cocoa as well as owner Sarah Levy's famous Chocolate Delight, a mixture of almonds, pistachios, Rice Krispies and dark chocolate.
At each stop, Holladay explained chocolate's history, its impact on Chicago and its health benefits.
"Did you know that chocolate, the seed of the fruit of the cacao tree, is technically a fruit," she asked.
The real benefits start, she said, with chocolate that contains at least 70 percent cocoa. The more cocoa, the greater the nutritional benefits. Chocolate's antioxidants can elevate mood, lower blood pressure and help prevent dementia, Holladay said.
After a visit to the Frango shop inside Macy's at Water Tower Place, where we sampled the new pineapple coconut chocolates, we headed over to Argo Tea for a sip or three of the seasonal special, white chocolate Frosttea.
There, our appetities and curiosities satisified, we parted ways, each of us toting the goodies we purchased along the way to share with family members.
Chocolate Atlas mentioned Chicago Chocolate Tours as part of Swissotel Chicago's Chocoholic package:
Swissôtel Chicago is offering The Chocoholic package Oct. 2 through Jan 31 2010. It includes
Overnight accommodations in one of Swissôtel Chicago’s newly renovated rooms
Warm brownies and hot chocolate for two and made-to-order chocolate fondue at The Lobby Lounge at Swissôtel Chicago. Served in traditional fondue style, the Toblerone Fondue arrives in a pot with bananas, pineapple, strawberries, marshmallows and pound cake to dip.
Two tickets to the Chicago Chocolate Tour, a 2 ½ hour guided walking and tasting tour of chocolate shops and cafes.
Chicago Chocolate Tours was featured on The Local Tourist for Sweetest Day, which in 2009 is on Saturday, October 17! You can read the entry at the above link or below:
Submitted by The Local Tourist on October 14, 2009 - 3:53pm
Hunh. So Sweetest Day isn't a Hallmark Holiday
I don't know about you, but I've always "pshaw-ed" Sweetest Day as a Hallmark holiday. I figured it was a bit over halfway between Valentine's Days and was an opportunity to capitalize on the love market. Mind you, I've never researched this and my feeling is more of a single woman's Bah Humbug than anything based on fact.
Today I learned it actually was started back in 1921 and was literally all about the sweets. A group of Cleveland confectioners gave over 20,000 boxes of candy to the "poor, elderly and orphaned".
Where did I get this information? From a press release! Chicago Chocolate Tours offers year round tours of chocolate shops and cafes and they sent out a reminder promoting them for this weekend. When I can learn something that removes a fairly jaded misconception - and involves chocolate - I'm happy to put the word out. It doesn't hurt that it's also a walking tour so you get to see some fantastic architecture and be guilt-free about all those confections you'll be sampling.
A public tour is $40, and their Sweetest Day schedule is:
Thursday, 12:45 Loop
Friday, 12:45 Loop
Friday, 5:45 Lincoln Park
Saturday, 9:45am, 12:45pm, & 3:45pm Gold Coast
Sunday, 1:45pm Gold Coast
Chocolate Shops of the South Loop
There’s a whopping six boutique sweet shops in the wee confines of the South Loop. And one tour company has figured out how to sample them all in one evening: Since 2005, Chicago Chocolate Tours has offered folks—mostly sweet-craving bridal parties, lovey-dovey couples and gastro-curious tourists—a back-door tour of local chocolatiers. I joined a group of ten cacao lovers on a journey of the South Loop’s sweet side.
I’m a salt junky, but the aroma from Canady le Chocolatier’s handmade yellow lemoncellos, green pistachio-encrusted truffles, and red and dark-brown honeycombs was as inviting as Michael Canady, the laid-back owner. The well-traveled confectioner, with the Middle Eastern artwork to prove it, casually spoke to our guide CatieLeigh in Italian, while we munched on frutti di bosco, a ganache so moist I barely had to chew.
On to the next stop. At a traffic light, CatieLeigh shelled out tourist-friendly Chicago facts, wobbling through a description of Grant Park’s Agora sculptures—maybe not the sweet eater’s strong suit.
We followed our pied piper to Panozzo’s Italian Deli for Baratti e Milano chocolate chunks with strangely savory toppings: white chocolate with a dried Torremaggiore olive and dark chocolate with balsamic vinegar and toasted fennel.
Then we headed next door to Marble Slab Creamery, a local ice-cream maker. The glass jars of trimmings—sprinkles, candy bars, nuts and cookies—would put Wonka and his factory to shame. We sampled three flavors of our choice and ate one scoop of Almond Joy—a double dark chocolate mix with almonds and coconut that’s not cloying like the ubiquitous Baskin-Robbins flavor.
Without a guide, I would never have found our next destination: Smartly decorated with wooden carvings and tree-stump bar stools, the aptly named Little Branch Café resides in a nook overlooking the The Field Museum. Tatted duo Andrew Baker (mixologist) and James Kubie (baker) created the Robin, a smoothie with chocolate chunks, gelato, fudge and strawberries—a bit too rich for my liking, but the tour group left pleased. Fluffy cupcakes, both red velvet and buttermilk, along with the brownies, also passed our crew’s taste test.
Footing it through the residential area, we arrived at Three Peas Art Lounge. The 1,100-square-foot hip gallery features a smattering of local art—and a dessert bar. The night’s offering was chocolate cake with a tart cream-cheese frosting. By now, the bite-size pieces had me feeling stuffed. Instead of skipping my morning workout, I wished I’d passed on my lunch.
With only a few more blocks until our final destination, CatieLeigh began to discuss the nabe’s history, pointing out the architecture of the Chicago Firehouse Restaurant and Old St. Mary’s Catholic Church. For the finale: paired drinks and desserts at WineStyles, a mellow wine bar. We nibbled lavender-infused, black-cherry and black-currant Belgian-style chocolates from local chocolate makers and sipped three smooth, berry-flavored wines including a ruby port.
Our stomachs told us a couple of hours had passed, and I left a salt lover converted.
Sign up now! To register, call 312-929-2939 or go to chicagochocolatetours.com. Meet at Canady le Chocolatier, 824 S Wabash Ave; Wednesdays at 5:45pm; $40.
Chicago Chocolate Tours got lovely mentions in the print and online editions of the Chicago Tribune:
July 30, 2009
Chicago Chocolate Tour
(Tribune photo by Zbigniew Bzdak)
Pictured: Teuscher Chocolates of Switzerland, one of the tour stops (photo #8 in the online article)
Examiner.com's "Chicago Dessert Examiner" wrote a yummy article on Chicago Chocolate Tours! You can read it here, or below:
Chicago's sweetest tour
Bretzel, Argo. Meet at the old Marshall Field's / Macy's at 111 N. State Street, by the information desk on the ground floor by the fountain. Walking level: Easy to Intermediate.
Bretzel, Argo. Meet at the old Marshall Field's / Macy's at 111 N. State Street, by the information desk on the ground floor by the fountain. Walking level: Easy to Intermediate.
For more info: Chicago Chocolate Tours
Copyright 2009 Examiner.com.
Chicago Chocolate Tours got a mention in a July 18, 2009, RedEye article about tours that are also great for Chicagoans! You can read it here.
Chicago Sun-Times columnist Brad Spirrison gave Chicago Chocolate Tours a mention for winning the 2009 Elevator Speech contest held by the Chicago City Treasurer's office! You can read the mention here (scroll down), and you'll find the video of the winning elevator speech written by Chicago Chocolate Tours founder Valerie Beck on our Video page or here. And here's the text:
Take the sweetest tour in town! Chicago Chocolate Tours brings you on a guided walking and tasting tour of select chocolate shops, where you'll enjoy tastings at each stop, plus information on the fascinating history and health benefits of chocolate, America's favorite flavor. Bring your office, bachelorette party, or other group on a private tour on one of our four neighborhood routes, or join one of our public tours and make new chocolate-loving friends. On a Chicago Chocolate Tour, you'll savor the flavors, and walk off the calories!
Chicago Chocolate Tours was featured in a chocolate tour roundup on cnn.com; you can read the full article here, and the excerpt on us is below:
Sweet satisfaction: Five chocolate tours
By Marnie Hunter
Chicago Chocolate Tours offers tasting trails in the Loop, Magnificent Mile and Andersonville neighborhoods. Started by Harvard grad Valerie Beck, "who used to practice law and is now happy," the tours will provide guests with nuggets about the history and health benefits of chocolate, as well as more treats than most people can finish, according to its Web site.
On February 13, a special Chocolate and Champagne Girls' Night Out ($50) includes visits to three sweet shops, a goody bag and a champagne toast at the Signature Room, which overlooks the city from the towering John Hancock Building.
Regular tours are available every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Standard tour tickets are $40 each.
Chicago Parent Magazine found "Chicago's chocolate heaven" on a Chicago Chocolate Tour!
The Bitter Lawyer site sweetened up with an interview about how Chicago Chocolate Tours founder Valerie Beck went from working as a lawyer to being an entrepreneur. You can read it here - please enjoy! http://www.bitterlawyer.com/valerie-beck-chicago-chocolate-tours/
Chicago Chocolate Tours founder Valerie Beck was photographed on the street by roving style photographer for Chicagoist's "Whatcha Wearin'" feature.
Valerie Beck was a guest on Bill Moller's show on WGN Radio 720 on Christmas Eve - big fun!
Tourguest Jennifer Schiff gave Chicago Chocolate Tours a nice entry in her business blog:
I always love to read or hear about personal success stories, particularly when they involve women who followed their passions. Over Thanksgiving break, during a trip to Chicago, I met one such woman, Valerie Beck, and got to experience her business, Chicago Chocolate Tours, first hand and speak with her.
Valerie, a Harvard-trained lawyer, started Chicago Chocolate Tours in 2005 as a way to combine her various passions — namely chocolate, bringing people together, and starting new ventures. The business was an instant success, garnering accolades from chocolate lovers and the media.
A savvy businesswoman, Valerie wasted no time expanding her business to include corporate and private tours, gifts (which she sells online), even a Cocoa Cruise, all in keeping with the original business and her passions.
A big part of Valerie’s success: putting her passion (and work ethic) into everything she does — and the Web. As Valerie told me, the company’s Web site, www.chicagochocolatetours.com, is the number one source of traffic/referrals, even though the bulk of her business involves physical tours of different Chicago chocolate shops, bakeries, and eateries. The Web site is a both a vehicle for e-commerce (selling tickets and gift baskets) and a powerful marketing tool, and it costs less than having to run big ads in expensive publications (and is easy to maintain and update).
Asked if she missed the law, Valerie says no way. How many people, she says, get to do what they love for a living? Indeed.
Chicago Chocolate Tours and our special holiday visits with tour guests to the German Christmas Market in downtown Chicago are featured in the Crain's Chicago Business list of"10 things to do this weekend."
10 things to do this weekend
By: Margaret Littman Nov. 26, 2008
INDULGE. The regular Loop CHICAGO CHOCOLATE TOURS adds a stop at the Christkindlmarkt at Daley Plaza for the holidays. Find the best in the German chocolate wonders and more. Nov. 28, 12:45 p.m. Tickets are $40. 231 S. LaSalle St., (312) 929-2939, www.chicagochocolatetours.com or www.christkindlmarket.com.
Nationally-known dietician Tara Gidus took a Chicago Chocolate Tour recently and had absolutely lovely things to say in her blog, which you can read below or by clicking here!
|Tara Gidus, MS, RD, CSSD, LD/NA Guide for Healthy Nutrition|
Saturday, October 25, 2008 Tara Gidus, MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N I am in the Windy City for the American Dietetic Association's Food and Nutrition Conference that begins today. I arrived a day early to spend with my friend. We wanted to do something a little different, so we found the Chicago Chocolate Tour! Even though I am a dietitian, I can appreciate the incredibly good taste of chocolate. Of course, there are also numerouos health benefits of chocolate.
We made 6 different chocolate stops, and some of them were in places you would not expect. I loved this tour because I thought we would stop at 6 chocolate shops and maybe view how chocolate was made, but that is NOT what we did! We did stop at a few traditional chocolate shops, but we also "found" chocolate in some everyday places.
The Chicago Chocolate Tour was started by Valerie Beck, a Harvard trained lawyer who got fed up with the lawyer rat race and decided to follow her passion...eating chocolate! As a tiny petite and very fit-looking woman, she is a perfect example of someone who can fit chocolate calories into her life and still maintain an amazing figure.
My favorite stop was actually the first stop at Leonidas. They have 1,400 stores around the world and they have over 100 kinds of Belgian chocolate. Oh....these chocolates will send you into a state of euphoria and wanting more. A great way to start a chocolate tour!
The other stops we made were at a tea house called Argo tea where we sampled chocolate brownies and chocolate tea, and an Italian coffee house called Lavazza where we had vanilla gelato with drinking chocolate on top. Exquisite!
We made another stop at the "Wall of Chocolate" at Hannah's Bretzel where Jeff took us through the wall, breaking open several flavors of American and Eurpoean chocolate. One called Vosges even had pieces of bacon in it! I did not sample that one, but everyone else was raving about it. I did purchase a white chocolate Vosges bar with Kalamata olives. I will let you know how it is once I break into it!
The last stops were at the old Marshall Field's building. This building has a Tiffany ceiling and is absolutely gorgeous! We visited Frango, famous for it's mint chocolate and a cute little pastry shop called Sarah's Pastries and Candies.
If you are in Chicago and in the mood for Chocolate (who isn't?), check out Chicago Chocolate Tours!
A Chicago Tribune / RedEye reporter interviewed Chicago Chocolate Tours founder Valerie Beck, took a chocolate tour, and wrote a lovely article about Chicago's exciting chocolate scene. Click here to read all about it, or see below for an excerpt:
Cuckoo for cocoa
By Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz
October 18 2008
Chocolate lovers can find cocoa heaven in Chicago, where a chocolate aroma wafts through the city when the wind is just right, and specialty tours lead people around town trolling for truffles.
Valerie Beck, who founded Chicago Chocolate Tours three years ago, organizes about 10 tours a week to some of her favorite chocolate shops in the city ($40 per person).
"I choose the ones where, when I take a bite, I'm transported," said Beck, a petite, giggly woman who gave up a career as a lawyer to pursue her chocolate dreams. "It's like an uplifted feeling of happiness."
RedEye tagged along on a Sunday afternoon tour of Gold Coast chocolate shops with a dozen women (about 90 percent of the people who go on the chocolate tours are women, Beck says). The tour started at the flower-filled Teuscher shop at 900 N. Michigan Ave., which imports its chocolates fresh from Zurich, and where an 8-ounce box of the signature champagne truffles will set you back $38. It ended at Sarah's Pastries and Candies, 70 E. Oak St., founded four years ago by 27-year-old Sarah Levy, where the chocolate delights made on-site boast caramelized almonds, roasted pistachios and Rice Krispies.
The diversity of Chicago's chocolate scene--from European chains to independent artisans--is what makes it "the best chocolate city in the world," in Beck's opinion.
"We have this wonderful mix of high and low culture in America that leads to great creativity," Beck said.
The Daily Herald ran a fun article about Chicago Chocolate Tours in the Day Trippin' section, which you can read here.
Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate AroundChicago!
July 16, 2008 by dccrenshaw
Almost everyone loves chocolate, or at leastcrave a little a bit of chocolate every now and then. Although I’m not a huge connoisseur of chocolate, I do partake in nibbling when I get that “chocolate feeling”. However, for some, chocolate means a little more than just a nibble here or a bite there. In-fact, for Chicago native Valerie Beck, chocolate is her passion andChicago Chocolate Tours is her creation.
AHarvard College and Harvard Law School grad, Valerie founded Chicago Chocolate Tours in late 2005.She lived in Europe for 5 years, sampling her way through the chocolate shops of the continent.Back homein Chicago, she used to sneak out fromher law firm for a daily chocolate fix, and one day she didn’t come back. She realized that there was an incrediblyvibrant chocolate community right outside her door, and she set out to link members of that community, and members of the chocolate-loving world.
What happens on a Chicago Chocolate Tour? You’ll be escorted by a lively and knowledgeable tour guide on a fun and fascinating walking tour to a variety ofchocolate shops, where you’ll sample the specialties of the house and meet the chocolatier, owner, or manager, for a behind-the-scenes talk about what makes the chocolate unique. You’ll also learn about the history and health benefits of chocolate, and about the special role of chocolate in Chicago and on the world timeline. Test your chocolate knowledge intheir “choc quizzes”along the way, and find out whether chocolate hascaffeine, why 18th century doctors prescribed chocolate to women, or whether chocolate is really an aphrodisiac!
Where will you go on a Chicago Chocolate Tour?
Choose one of fourroutes in different neighborhoods - the Magnificent Mile, Gold Coast, Downtown Loop, or Andersonville - and experience six wonderful chocolate shopsor bakeries on each route. Depending on the route, you’ll experience chocolate shops from famous favorites to hidden treasures, and from big brands to small often women-owned chocolate boutiques.
How much chocolate is there on a Chicago Chocolate Tour? More than you can finish!They willply you with so many treats, from truffles to tortes to tasty cocoa beverages, that most people can’t finish it all.They willgive you a goody bag to take the rest home, so that you can keep enjoying the tour the next day.
Help Save the World?
When you take a Chicago Chocolate Tour, you help save the world. For real!In addition to providing you with a one-of-a-kind experience involvingscrumptious chocolates, education, camaraderie, and fun, Chicago Chocolate Tours donates a portion of proceeds to CARE (www.care.org), an international humanitarian organization that helps women around the world exit poverty through entrepreneurship.The cost of the tour is $40 per person. Choose a private tour for a group of friends or clients, make a private tour part of your bachelorette party or birthday party,or take a public tour and make new chocolate friends.
Sign up at www.chicagochocolatetours.com
2 Responses to “Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate AroundChicago!”
- on July 16, 2008 at 3:01 pm1 hungryz
I love it! This is definately up my alley. Needless to say, but my wife was super excited and said we have to do it. Thanks D.C.!
- on July 16, 2008 at 6:32 pm2 DC Crenshaw
Thanks Hungry Z! Your wife will love it!
Chicago Chocolate Tours founder Valerie Beck was quoted in the Business Herald about chocolatier Cyndy's Sweet Treats, and you can read the article here.
Chicago Chocolate Tours is featured on a new women's travel site called Galavanting, which focuses on topics such as how to interact with the communities you visit.
Co-editor-in-chief Katy Quissell took a Chicago Chocolate Tour and described it as "one of the lovliest afternoons" she'd had in some time! You can read her article here.
Growing Wealth Magazine profiled Chicago Chocolate Tours founder Valerie Beck in the July 2008 issue, in an article on strategies that women business owners are using to succeed in the current economy. As the author of the article put it, "When the going gets rough, the tough need chocolate." You can read the article here, on pp. 54 - 56, and will see Valerie on p. 55, as well as below.
TRIPS WITH A TWIST: Chicago's tasty getaways -- delightful chocolate tours
Posted by Bill Truesdell | Opinion May 19, 2008 10:55AM
Published May 19, 2008.
Is this a great idea or what? Next time you're headed to the Windy City, you might consider a chocolate tour. Talk about a taste of Chicago! The lady behind the tours is Valerie Beck, former attorney and now self-proclaimed "Chief Executive Chocolate Lover" of Chicago Chocolate Tours.
Cities the likes of Boston, New York, San Francisco and Charleston also offer chocolate tours. There's even a seven-day escorted Chocolate Lovers Paradise Tour in Europe if you're really into it. But closer to home, Valerie is blazing the chocolate trail a couple hours west of us.
Although Ms. Beck is Chicago born and raised, she lived for five years in Europe where she organized informal chocolate tours for friends. Doing the same once she arrived back in her hometown seemed like a natural next step. Chicago Chocolate Tours was born in 2005 when Valerie guided a group of friends to some of Chicago's chocolate hot spots.
What is a chocolate tour and what happens on one? Well, I haven't personally sampled one yet, but they sound pretty sweet, no pun intended. Sign up for a Chicago Chocolate Tour and you'll get a guided excursion to some of Chicago's best known chocolate outlets as well as other less-obvious boutiques a little further off the beaten path. In addition to sampling chocolate, you'll interact with chocolate shop owners and get a taste for chocolate's fascinating history -- all part of the lively, educational guided walking and tasting tours, courtesy of Valerie and her friendly tour guides.
Not up to walking? Not a problem because Chicago Chocolate Tours also offers private seated chocolate tastings, gift baskets and memberships in the Chocolate of the Month Club. According to Valerie, the tours are popular with conventioneers and for those planning events as varied as family reunions, girlfriend getaways, bachelorette parties and employee/client entertainment outings. But the appeal of chocolate is nearly universal, so I'm guessing there are as many motivations out there as there are chocolate lovers. Besides, they sound like just plain fun -- not to mention a new twist for a tried-and-true Chicago weekend.
Chocoholics can choose from a number of established tour routes:
• Chocolate Shops of the Loop
• Chocolate Shops of Andersonville and Uptown
• Chocolate Shops of the Magnificent Mile and State Street
• Chocolate Shops of the Magnificent Mile and Oak Street
Year-round tours are scheduled for Fridays at 12:45 p.m., Saturdays at 10:45 a.m. and 3:45 p.m. and Sundays at 1:45 p.m. To check on the availability of other days and times on any of the routes, call (312) 863-8614.
"We do take walk-ins," says Valerie, "but we encourage advance reservations." Her one suggestion for those planning a tour? "Come with an appetite . . . we give you so much chocolate." You can also book private tours (which you can help customize) on any of the routes. Call for details.
Chocolate tours are $40 per person, and you can reserve your spot on a tour and buy tickets online at www.chicagochocolatetours.com. If you prefer to call, the phone number is (312) 863-8614 (e-mail Valerie@chicagochocolatetours.com.
Next time: Green travel intro
Bill Truesdell is a longtime business and travel writer living in a restored Victorian home with his librarian wife, Bobbi. For more travel content or to review his custom travel guides, visit www.tripswithatwist.com. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bridal parties find new ways to celebrate
'I do,' but first ... Crafts, chocolate and Wrigleyville rooftops just a few ways to have a memorable time
May 4, 2008 Recommend (4)
By Anna Tesauro, Staff Writer
Before the big "I do" day, there usually is a night or two - sometimes three - devoted to male bonding and female fun.
The final days of singlehood often are crowned with silly, serious, classy and sometimes raunchy send-off parties. But these days, the party is no longer resigned to the bachelor pad, and many are taking the festivities on the road for unique and memorable bachelor and bachelorette parties.
For the guys, there are more creative options than the stereotypical strip club-bar combo.
Matt Meinheit, of Peotone, will tie the knot July 25 and plans to spend part of his bachelor festivities at the Cubs game for a rooftop party in Wrigleyville.
"I've been a lifelong Cubs fan. I've been to a few games each season, but I've never done the rooftop thing before. I told my best man I would like to check it out, and he was pretty excited about the idea," Meinheit said.
Meinheit says the rooftop party price ($100 per per person and higher) includes the game, food and drinks, and is a good starting point for the night.
"It's a nice way to get the dads and under-21 guys involved," he said.
At Dave and Buster's in Chicago, sales representative Dayneil Westbrook says a lot of guys start or end their bachelor parties at the grown-up arcade and game restaurant.
The two-level restaurant has 11 billiard tables, four shuffleboard setups and more than 200 games and simulators.
"We usually do several bachelor parties every weekend. Depending on the group size, we reserve a billiard area with buffet and bar packages," Westbrook said.
Instead of video games, a lot of guys may plan a golf outing or a day at one of the area's many paintball parks.
For the more adventurous, weekend trips to go whitewater rafting or camping are popular.
For women, the final days of being single go beyond a night of rowdy dancing.
If you have a sweet tooth, the Chicago Chocolate tours is a must.
Valorie Beck created the guided chocolate tour company two years ago and says many bachelorettes opt for the sweet tour ($40 a person with samples) before a fancy dinner.
"We help them choose the best restaurant afterward. We help them put together the perfect day, with the tour as a centerpiece," Beck said.
Chocolate acts as an appetite suppressant, but Beck says women are walking for the tours, so calories are burned. "Women may not order seconds at dinner," she said with a laugh.
Women can choose among four tours: the Magnificent Mile and State Street; the Magnificent Mile and Oak Street; the downtown loop; and Andersonville and Uptown. Each tour has six stops and include savory samples.
"This is a chocolate city. There's more chocolate factories in Chicago than any other city," Beck said. "We go behind the scenes and meet the owners, and learn what makes each type of chocolate so special."
For those not wanting to push the insulin envelope, there's purse-making.
Women need not be super creative or crafty. The Lisa Lill Studio lets women pick out material and choose their own handbag or wallet out of 20 styles, without having to sew the garment. In three weeks, the purse is ready to be picked up or sent out.
The boutique started in Chicago in 1999 and now has locations in Kansas City, Philadelphia and Boston.
"You can design your own keepsake with your friends. We have bridal and bachelorette parties in the store, and we come to homes, too," said Sarah-Ann Soffer, account manager for Behrman Communications. Those who take a group to the store can bring in snacks and drinks while they work, and the store accommodates groups from five to 70 in the two-story store located in Lincoln Park.
Short travel trips are another way bridal party members can mark the occasion.
Sarah Claunch, of Lemont, went on a three-day trip with the bride-to-be to Denver to visit the matron of honor.
"We went up into the mountains and wandered around Rocky Mountain National Park. We also toured Estes Park and the hotel where Stephen King wrote 'The Shining.' We took a lot of photos and creeped ourselves out," said Claunch, a bridesmaid, who also said the pace was relaxed and void of "tacky strippers."
"It was a fantastic way to get to know more about the bride and to really get to know the matron of honor," Claunch said.
For those not wanting to carpool or get stuck as the designated driver, renting a limo charter bus may be the perfect solution. Many companies offer shuttle services, including Chi-Town Party Bus, which offers 18-, 25- and 40-passenger charter buses fully stocked with beer and water, and also lets guests bring their own beverages.
Joanne Jakubowski books the tours and says the 25-passenger bus is the most popular among the bachelor and bachelorette parties.
"Fifty percent of our business is for bachelor and bachelorette parties," she said.
The company has a four-hour minimum and most buses out for about five hours.
"The bulk of our market is from the suburbs to the city, but we go anywhere in Illinois," Jakubowski said. "We are licensed up to 50 miles outside of the state."
Also popular is wedding party garb, such as T-shirts and hats designating the bride and groom. Web sites such as zazzle.com and bridalpartytees.com offer customized T-shirts for the bride, groom and wedding party to be worn on party night.
Anna Tesauro can be reached at email@example.com or (708) 802-8813.
On the Net:
The first Chicago edition of BizBash features Chicago Chocolate Tours as a great entertaining idea for summer associates or others.
Chicago Chocolate Tours founder Valerie Beck participated on a chocolate tasting panel for the Daily Herald, and you can read about the panel's picks here.
Chicago Chocolate Tours is featured in the online and hard copy versions of the 2008 annual Magnificent Mile Tulip Days brochure.
WHERE Magazine's April 2008 edition contains an article with photo about Chicago Chocolate Tours:
Dig into Chicago
Take a bite out of Chicago with these tours highlighting some of the city's most delectable sites:
Chicago Chocolate Tours.
Indulge your chocolate yearnings without the guilt -- this is a walking tour, after all -- and get the inside scoop on chocolate history on this sweet stroll to top chocolate shops like Leonidas, Godiva, Vosges, and Teuscher. F12:45-3 pm; Sa 3:45-6 pm; Su 1:45-4 pm. $40. Call for meeting locations. 312-925-5377, www.chicagochocolatetours.com.
The March/April 2008 edition of Packaged Travel Insider features Chicago Chocolate Tours:
Midwest Living featured Chicago Chocolate Tours in the March/April 2008 edition:
Chocoholics on the prowl
Lose the guilt! Yes, you sample some of Chicago's best chocolates on a Chicago Chocolate Tour. But you're also learning chocolate history -- and working off a few of those well-chosen calories -- by walking a mile among some of the city's best architecture.
Founder Valerie Beck designed each of her three downtown tours to cover five or six of Chicago's top chocolatiers, all within a few blocks of each other.
For two hours, guests meet with a representative of each store to learn a bit about the place's history and sample goodies, such as Teuscher Chocolates of Switzerland's champagne truffles. At avant-garde Vosges Haut-Chocolat, the samples may include chocolate-bacon bars, bee-pollen caramels and chocolate tortilla chips.
Tours cost $40. To book a private tour or for advance tickets, call 312/863-8614 or visit www.chicagochocolatetours.com.
Chicago Chocolate Tours is listed in the spring/summer '08 Chicago Visitor's Guide:
Radio show host Linda Padgurskis welcomed Chicago Chocolate Tours founder Valerie Beck to her Financial Wellness show, on 1530 AM, on Valentine's Day 2008.
Chicago Chocolate Tours is featured on the front page of the February 6, 2008, edition of StreetWise:
... Founded by former attorney and Harvard grad Valerie Beck, a Chicago Chocolate Tour is a guided walking and tasting tour of some of the city's finest and most interesting chocolate shops in the downtown area. On a Chicago Chocolate Tour, you'll get to sample the specialties at each store, meet the owners or managers, and experience a fun, fascinating, and delicious chocolate adventure. ...
Chicago Chocolate Tours offers the first ever "Cocoa Cruise" abroad May 15 to May 24. Participants meet in Barcelona, Spain on May 15. They tour Barcelona chocolate shops for a day, then board a Royal Caribbean liner for a cruise.
The cruise includes stops in Nice, France; and Florence, Rome, Naples and Palermo, Italy. Tour participants visit chocolate shops at each port, including the oldest chocolate shop in Rome, and enjoy chocolate activities on the ship.
Prices start at $1,859. Partial proceeds from the Cocoa Cruise benefit the Conservation Fund's "Go Zero" program.
For more information visit ChicagoChocolateTours.com/International or call (866) 780-0840.
Chicago Chocolate Tours founder Valerie Beck spoke with radio host Bill Moller on WGN Radio Chicago on Christmas Eve 2007, about Chicago Chocolate Tours e-gift certificates, our support of CARE, and our upcoming Cocoa Cruise!
Watch the NBC TV Chicagovideo clip of Chicago Chocolate Tours founder Valerie Beck, as she talks about Chicago Chocolate Tours gift baskets and other items featured at the NAWBO Holiday Party and Shopping Bazaar.
Chicago Chocolate Tours founder Valerie Beck was photographed for Chicago Social Magazine (in the green wrap)at a party to launch the Vosges "Sensory Collection" of single-origin chocolates.
World's Best Chocolate: A Chocoholic's Travel Guide
The Travelhacker blog included Chicago Chocolate Tours in a roundup of world chocolate happenings! Click here to read the article.
You can read her article below (see number 3!), or click here:
Get a feel for the real Chicago
By Dalia Wheatt, Times staff writer
Published November 11, 2007
CHICAGO - The Sears Tower is huge. There's no way you'll miss it.
Same goes for the Chicago River, which slices through the city, and the Magnificent Mile, that come-hither stretch of Michigan Avenue that seduces pedestrians with its Burberry and Cartier.
But in the space between Giordano's deep-dish pizza and Garrett Popcorn's caramel and cheese mix, on the blocks separating the Millennium Park's shiny "bean" and Wrigley Field, lies a cache of metropolitan treasures.
Every major city has a list of landmarks its residents brag about, the ones so well-known, even a foreigner could rattle them off. And like a lot of cities, Chicago has a slew of treasures that many locals have yet to check out.
The next time you're in the Windy City, put touristy spots on the back burner and plan your trip around some underrated attractions. You'll fit in the Mag Mile - we promise - and just look up at any time to see all 110 stories of the Sears Tower.
As for Giordano's, stop by the Brandon or Port Richey location on your way home from the airport.
1. Eat ice cream for breakfast
When something in a restaurant tastes insanely delicious, I like to think someone's grandmother is in the kitchen making it.
Margie's Candies founder Margie Poulos died in 1995 at age 80, but the recipe for her homemade fudge sauce lives on. It's almost like she's in the back, whipping up a sundae just for you.
Against the backdrop of Chicago's skyscrapers, Margie's Candies is an anachronism. Inside the combination diner/candy shop, wood paneling covers the walls, the analog clock is stuck at 7 p.m., and the tabletop juke boxes offer the Everly Brothers' Wake Up Little Susie and Engelbert Humperdinck's Quando, Quando, Quando.
In the off-season, regulars stop by at their customary time and order their usual. During summertime, tourists swamp the place. By and large, everyone wants the same thing: Margie's turtle sundae.
Mine arrived at my table at 11:52 a.m. in all its glory - two scoops of French vanilla ice cream, cookies, caramel, a sprinkle of nuts, a mound of whipped cream, topped with a cherry and accompanied by a gravy boat full of liquid fudge.
Ice cream before noon - I know, I know. But isn't that what grandmas are for?
Margie's Candies, 1960 N Western Ave., Bucktown, (773) 384-1035
2. Go for a spin in Wicker Park
After all that fudge, the only things spinning more than my head were the LPs at Reckless Records.
Since the late 1980s, the secondhand record, CD and DVD shop has been a playground for those who refuse to accept Fergie as real music (although, for the record, all three outlets have multiple copies of The Dutchess for $9.99).
Beyond the requisite flavor-of-the-month pop stuff, you'll find a musical selection ranging from mellow John Coltrane to the funky British group Go Team. Pick out a couple of faves and then spend a few hours meandering through the Wicker Park district. Once Chicago's undisputed bohemian neighborhood, it's becoming increasingly gentrified. Case in point: Four Starbucks shops share a ZIP code with Reckless Records. But you can still find a used Fendi bag for $45 or a pair of silver earrings for a fraction of what you'd pay on Michigan Avenue. When your feet can't stand any more walking, take a load off in one of the tiny Parisian-style chairs at Sweet Thang, a bakery that makes one heck of a quiche and plays French hip-hop over the loudspeaker.
Reckless Records, 1532 N Milwaukee Ave., Wicker Park, (773) 235-3727; for additional locations, see www.reckless.com
3. That chocolate town
"There's actually a Chicago Chocolate Tour? How did I miss that?" a man in the Lindt chocolate shop asked Valerie Beck.
As founder and self-proclaimed "chief executive chocolate lover" of Chicago Chocolate Tours, Beck gets that question a lot.
Chicago has deep-dish pizza, hot dogs and the frenzy-inducing Garrett Popcorn Shops. But this is a town that wants to be good at everything.
On the tour, Beck took me to six chocolatiers along Chicago's swanky Magnificent Mile while keeping up a running commentary on the history of the sweet stuff. (The Aztecs valued chocolate over gold. It's nice to know I'm not the only one.)
I bit into a chili-infused chocolate bar at Vosges. At Teuscher, I sighed as a truffle filled with Dom Perignon melted on my tongue. By the time we reached Hershey's, my stomach cried mercy. I took my Reese's crispy crunch bar brownie in a to-go bag and ate it for breakfast the next morning.
I never said I was proud of myself.
Chicago Chocolate Tours, (312) 925-5377; www.chicagochocolatetours.com. $40 per person, $55 for a private tour
4. Stand in silent awe of the Baha'i House of Worship
You wouldn't know the Baha'i temple was there unless, well, you knew it was there.
Nestled on a brick street in an tony residential neighborhood, the Baha'i House of Worship is one of only seven such temples in the world. This one took 32 years to build.
Arrive by 5 p.m. to check out the visitors center, or get there in the evening to gape at the temple's 90-foot dome glowing in the twilight. If you drive, park in the free lot, then climb the stairs and enter the 1,192-seat auditorium. Look up to read an Arabic prayer on the ceiling ("O Glory of all the Glorious") and messages inscribed around the room, like "The light of a good character surpasseth the light of the sun."
On your way out, stand at the top of the stairs to look out over the garden. Breathe deeply and take in the splashing of the two fountains and traffic so distant it sounds like the ocean.
The Baha'i House of Worship, 100 Linden Ave., Wilmette, (847) 853-2300; www.bahaitemple.org
5. Hit the jazz club, daddy-o
For many Chicagoans, jazz is a religion in itself.
Calling a nightspot cool automatically makes it uncool, so I'll just tell you that the Green Mill jazz club was once a hangout for mobster Al Capone. Actor Vince Vaughn is known to drop by when he's in his hometown, and Friends alum David Schwimmer liked the former Tuesday night band, Mighty Blue Kings, so much that he put them in his 1998 movie Kissing a Fool. Oh, and Green Mill has been hosting the legendary Uptown Poetry slam every Sunday since 1986.
On a recent Tuesday night, I grabbed dinner at the upscale Indian restaurant Marigold before heading down the block to catch Deep Blue Organ Trio at Green Mill. Despite the club's celebrity, I found that patrons at the narrow, softly lit watering hole were still about the music.
"We kind of downplay the mob history," said manager Jason Cole. Still, ask to see the hatch behind the bar. According to Cole, it leads to an underground tunnel that bootleggers once used to ferry booze to the nearby Aragon Ballroom.
Pretty cool - er, neat.
Green Mill Cocktail Lounge, 4802 N Broadway Ave., Far North Side, (773) 878-5552; www.greenmilljazz.com
6. Treat your feet
The next afternoon, my fellow passengers on the El train's blue line probably thought I was a freak, but I barely cared. Like a fiend, I kept slipping off my shoes and caressing my feet. They were irresistibly soft. And they smelled like honey.
All great spas have a signature service, and at Honey Child Salon and Spa, it's the beeswax pedicure. So, earlier that morning, I plunked down $75 to find out what In Style and Oprah, among others, had been raving about.
I climbed to the top of the three-story spa and settled my feet into a basin of warm water, coconut powder and smooth stones. Michael Jackson's Off the Wall played on the loudspeaker, revitalizing me as much as the sugar-milk-honey concoction that the pedicurist slathered onto my feet and legs. Well, almost. And who doesn't want their feet cocooned in beeswax?
In a walking town like Chicago, every commuter's feet deserve some TLC. Those folks on the El train were just jealous.
Honey Child Salon and Spa, 735 N LaSalle Ave., (312) 573-1300; www.spasalon.com/honeychild
7. Get some culture
Hot fudge before noon, a chocolate binge down the Magnificent Mile and honey slathered on my feet. Chicago had me in its caloric clutches. I wanted to stroll through Pilsen, the city's predominantly Mexican district, but I wasn't sure my blood sugar levels could handle any more wanderlust.
Fortunately there's the National Museum of Mexican Art, whose multimedia exhibits offer a feast of colors and sounds that won't go to your hips. The 20-year-old museum, formerly called the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum, traces Mexican culture from pre-Columbian statues to modern mother-daughter conversations recorded in local homes. Papel picado, a handicraft of intricately cut tissue paper, sways from the ceiling like oversized magenta, purple and green snowflakes. Artificial marigolds line the altars in the Dia de los Muertos room, which commemorates the Nov.1 Day of the Dead.
After the museum, if your eyes can stand the sensory overload, wander through Pilsen to check out the elaborate murals on every block.
If you can make it through the neighborhood without stopping at a bakery for tres leches cake, then you're a bigger person than I.
National Museum of Mexican Art, Pilsen, 1852 W 19th St., (312) 738-1503; www.nationalmuseumofmexicanart.org. Admission is free.
The press release belowfrom the National Confectioners Association was picked up by newspapers across the country. Check out #5 below, particularly the last words!
NATIONAL CONFECTIONERS ASSOCIATION UNMASKS TOP 10 U.S. CANDY DESTINATIONS
New National Survey Reveals Americans’ Top Picks for Halloween Trips and Treats
Vienna , Va. (October 4, 2007) – Scenic and sweet, and just in time to trick-or-treat, the National Confectioners Association (NCA) announces America’s Top 10 Sweet Spots for Halloween. Based on new consumer data from NCA’s annual Halloween poll, and an abundance of local candy manufacturers and attractions, NCA selected premier candy destinations for bewitching Halloween travels.
“From Wrigley Field to Hershey Park, to Ghirardelli Square and even the world’s largest Pez dispenser, we asked Americans to weigh in on the most mouth-watering candy attractions and pinpointed the most delicious destinations to satisfy trick-or-treaters this Halloween,” said NCA Spokesperson Susan Fussell. “Making it feel like candy time, any time, the top 10 cities provide a real sweet treat for travelers.”
Each top 10 city tempts trick-or-treaters’ taste-buds with a sweet trip they won’t soon forget:
- Hershey, Pa. – Living up to its nickname “The Sweetest Place on Earth,” Hershey, Pa. ranked number one with a 61 percent consumer rating. Trick-or-treaters of all ages can delight in free samples on a free tour ride at Hershey’s Chocolate World; dare to ride the more than 60 exhilarating rides at Hersheypark; and indulge in a chocolate treatment at The Spa At The Hotel Hershey. Both Hersheypark and Hershey’s Chocolate World will host trick-or-treaters the last two weekends in October.
- New York, N.Y. – Fifty-four (54) percent of Americans want a sweet bite of the Big Apple. Home to landmarks like the imaginative and interactive M&M’s World, 16-story tall Hershey’s Time Square store, Jacques Torres Chocolate café and Dylan’s Candy Bar, it doesn’t need to be Halloween in New York City to find treats on every corner!
- Orlando, Fla. – Ranking third, 53 percent of Americans agree that sunshine and sweets can’t be beat. This Halloween indulge in the sweet treats at Downtown Disney’s whimsical candy, ice-cream and soda shops, including a replica of San Francisco’s Ghirardelli Square!
- San Francisco, Calif. – Fifty-two (52) percent of Americans say they want to go to Frisco for main attractions including Ghirardelli Square and renowned Scharffen Berger chocolate factory. Also nearby, explore fruity and fun Jelly Belly factory or see the world’s largest Pez dispenser (yes, it really works!).
- Chicago, Ill. – Home to more than 100 premier candy manufacturers and attractions, Chi-town offers a taste for every trick-or-treater. Crack open a box of Cracker Jacks at landmark Wrigley Field, or take an evening stroll down Michigan Ave. for a glimpse of the illuminated Wrigley Building. For indulgent delights, visit one of five Ethel’s Chocolate Lounges and don’t miss the free treats on The Chicago Chocolate Tour.
- Los Angeles, Calif. – Nearly half (48 percent) of adults say they’d like to get the star treatment at Disneyland’s Candy Palace with an extensive assortment of retro candies. And trick-or-treaters won’t want to miss nearby Godiva Chocolatier, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and famous See’s Candies factory.
- Boston, Mass. – Forty-seven (47) percent ofAmericans want a taste of Bean town and its rich candy history. Crowned the 2006 U.S. Trick-or-Treat Capital, Boston is known for “Americanizing” Halloween by launching popular traditions like carving pumpkins, wearing costumes and trick-or-treating. Discover the treats of Halloween’s birthplace at they city’s popular Sugar Heaven candy shop or dip into The Chocolate Dipper for handmade chocolates packaged in unique Boston themed assortments like ‘lobster’ and ‘clam chowder.’
- New Orleans, La. – At Halloween everything goes down easy in the Big Easy, like the classic pralines of the French Quarter and confections from local favorites including Evans Creole Candy Factory, Laura’s Candy Shop and Aunt Sally’s Praline Shop.
- Las Vegas, Nev. – Cash in your chips and enjoy the sweet side of Vegas. Candy lovers can check out a replica of the M&M’s sponsored #38 NASCAR racecar and catch a 3-D movie at M&M’s World, or enjoy fondue for two at landmark Ethel’s Chocolate Lounge. This Halloween, treat yourself to Vegas Images’ chocolate poker chips as you learn the tricks of the poker trade.
- Kansas City , Mo. – Kansas City entices more than a third (34 percent) of Americans with Russell Stover headquarters and Andre’s (Andre’s Confiserie Suisse) elegant Rivaz Tearoom. Don’t miss the creative artisan chocolates costumed in hand crafted designs by world-famous confectionery chef Christopher Elbow this Halloween.
Check us out in Grandparents.com, and ask about our Family Packages!
We're listed in wonderful WHERE Magazine found in upscale hotels across Chicago!
Chicago Chocolate Tours founder Valerie Beck was interviewed for Karyn Pettigrew's Zesty Life web TV show at Chicago's Transitions Bookplace. Big fun!
Fox TV Chicago featured Chicago Chocolate Tours on Monday, May 7, on their morning show, in a segment on fun and differentthings to do for Mother's Day. Click here to watch the clip, shot at Hannah's on our tour. Thank you to Kimberly Turner of Flaunt Boutique for recommending us!
WRMN broadcast live from the Chicago Chocolate Tour on April 20, 2007, and a magnificent time was had by all!
Chicago Chocolate Tours founder Valerie Beck gave an interview to radio host Bill MolleronChicago'sWGN Radio 720 AM, on Easter Sunday, April 8, 2007at 11:15 am CST. Topics included: the connection between Easter and chocolate, what's new in the world of chocolate, and how to find Chicago's specialchocolate treasures!
From www.fodors.com, on the Hot List, April 4, 2007:
Made-to-Order: Walk the chocolate walk in Chicago
If you think you've heard of every kind of walking tour, think again. Chicago Chocolate Tours takes you on a walking and tasting tour of the city's chocolatiers, from the ones you know and love to a few you've never heard of. You'll learn interesting facts about Chicago architecture and the history of chocolate along the way. Tours run Friday, Saturday, and Sunday afternoons. The $40 cost per person includes samples at each shop and VIP treatment at stores.
Keeping to her resolution in Crain's to go to one more party or function per week, Chicago Chocolate Tours founder Valerie Beck attended a spa fundraiser for the American Heart Association's "Go Red For Women" campaign and isshown in the April edition of Today's Chicago Womanin the first photo in the upper left, with Jon Imerman, founder of non-profit cancer service Imerman Angels.
Thursday, February 8, 2007
Pick your date for Valentine's Day
By Monica Eng, Fauzia Arain, Trine Tsouderos
Tribune staff reporters
Published February 8, 2007
The first date, the platonic outing or the Thai outing.
2. PLATONIC OUTING
By Fauzia Arain, Tribune staff reporter.
The holiday season is barely wrapped up when it seems stores are stocked silly with Valentine's Day gear to prep eager lovebirds: chocolate, candy hearts, pink and red all over the place. And so begins a dismal season of discontent for the unattached--or at least that's what societal pressure has conditioned the single among us to feel.
I've never been one to cry into a carton of Haagen-Dazs if I find myself alone on Feb. 14, but I know the type. You know who you are, too, and I'm here to help you dry your eyes, grab your closest single buddy and enjoy Valentine's Day.
No matter if your platonic V-Day date is of the same gender--just pick a pal and you're sure to have the best, least-stressful Valentine's Day yet. We crafted a day and night full of feel-good activities aimed at keeping your chin up and your spirits high.
With hopes of wiping away any traces of self-pity right off the bat, my friend-date and I signed up for a Chicago Chocolate Tour (www.chicagochocolatetours.com, 312-863-8614). We met with perky guide Valerie Beck, her assistant and two other tour-takers (a bona fide couple visiting from out of town) at 900 N. Michigan Ave., ready to visit seven chocolate shops along the Mag Mile and learn about the history of the tasty, mood-enhancing cocoa treat. Highlights include soul-soothing, creamy and rich hot chocolate at Godiva (835 N. Michigan Ave.; 312-280-1133), a divine truffle at Teuscher (900 N. Michigan Ave.; 312-943-4400) and our ending point--the new boutique wine, chocolate and cheese lounge Eno (505 N. Michigan Ave.; 312-321-8738). We could have hung out at their cool communal tables all evening.
Being serious was decidedly not a priority for our carefree date, so we decided to kill some free time before dinner by dropping in for an early evening visit to one of the many psychics in town. We ended up at Wrigleyville Psychic (3456 N. Clark St.; 773-525-6888), fully expecting to be taken for a frivolous ride by our hostess Leeanna and her also-psychic sister Chanel. My friend-date and I had simultaneous palm readings in separate rooms. We compared notes later and, sure enough, the young sisters suspiciously had plenty of similar things to say about my friend's and my individual futures. Still, it was a quirky way to waste time ... oh, and $20 each.
On to bustling hot spot Japonais (600 W. Chicago Ave.; 312-822-9600), where we indulged in some fancy eats without feeling like we needed a better reason for being there. We started our visit with a fun wait in the sceney, packed downstairs bar for a beverage and plenty of eye candy before settling in for dinner upstairs. The trendy restaurant buzzed with music, chatter and laughter, and the open rooms and industrial-chic Eastern-influenced design didn't lend themselves to whispering sweet nothings--or anything at all for that matter. In fact, our table was so close to the couple dining next to us that we spoke to them nearly as much as we spoke to each other. Also, while the sushi, self-cooked marinated beef slices and ceviche we ordered were all delish, the messy fare did its best to make us both look fairly unsuave--perhaps even a bit slovenly--while we dined. But who cared?
We ended our night on an uplifting note: A visit to Ravenswood tap The Rail (4709 N. Damen Ave.; 773-878-9400) provided a dazzling display by the fast fingers of a local magician who entertains patrons (around 10 p.m. about three nights a week). A few good tricks later, my platonic date and I were ready to call it a night. No regrets, no frayed nerves, no built-up-but-disappointing V-Day rituals--and no gaping questions about commitment or future plans.
- - -
Platonic date: $287
Because you don't have to have a significant other to splurge on yourself in the name of good times and distraction from Hallmark holiday depression.
Chicago Chocolate Tour: $40 each
Psychic reading: $20 each
Parking during reading: $15
Dinner for two at Japonais: $118
Tip for tableside magician at The Rail: $10 (plus whatever you spend on drinks)
Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune
|Date:||Feb 11, 2007|
|Headline:||Sign language / Tucked among the skeptics are a few therapists who seek answers from the stars|
|Credit:||Julie Cellini can be reached at Jcellini@ameritech.net.|
|PhotoBy:||Kathleen Riley Young|
Valentine's Day can be brutal.
What do you do when there are no chocolates, no mushy Hallmark card and the candlelight dinner is for one, not two?
"Look to the stars," suggests Catherine Baskett, an astrologer and licensed psychotherapist in Tucson, Ariz.
Baskett is one of two astrologers on staff at Canyon Ranch, a health resort that emphasizes all manner of alternative approaches to physical and mental well-being. She also sees private clients and prepares astrological charts to help couples build better relationships.
At her seminars she hands out roses, heart-shaped candies and advice to those looking for loving relationships. Her goal is to get singles and couples with sun signs such as intense, controlling Scorpios and social, superficial Geminis to better understand each other and take advantage of optimum times for growth in their relationships.
"It begins at birth," she says. "The position of the 10 planets in the solar system at the place and time you are born is unique to you and reveals your strengths and challenges. Astrology shows you how to use your planetary cycles to your advantage and allows you to apply your energy pattern more effectively. We're part of the universe, not separate from it.
"We're all balls of electro-magnetic energy. If the people who come to my office knew how much I can see in their charts, some probably wouldn't show up."
Baskett also uses the position of planets projected onto a world map to locate the most auspicious places people should travel for love, money and adventure. For fun, she charts hot celebrity couples like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and reveals in her lectures the challenges they face in their high-profile relationships.
So what do the planets say about the stars?
"Brad is pragmatic," she says. "A born business man. His chart shows an extremely ambitious person with his feet planted firmly on the ground. He's experiencing 'growing pains' in terms of what he wants to do next, but this is a very good year for him. I see that in the position of his planets - that's his basic energy pattern.
"Angelina is more like a grizzly bear mother - she's headstrong and fiercely protective. She can be hasty and outspoken, and she requires a lot of freedom. Their positions of the planet Mars, which indicates desire, are so alike they are almost at a deadlock. They need to do some major bridge building, because when they disagree it can be very stressful. What I don't see in their charts is that the two of them will get married."
Basket says astrological charts aren't destiny. They reveal periods, and even actual dates, of both positive and negative opportunities for each individual. Unlike generalized horoscopes in newspapers and magazines, charts are specific to the individual. They reveal obstacles and psychological blocks of which people usually are not aware.
Not surprisingly, when it comes to romance, Baskett says she looks at the cycles of Venus, the love planet, as it circles the sun.
"If Venus is in the Virgo sign on your chart, you'd be more likely to find love at your workplace. Venus in Sagittarius can indicate you'll meet your love while traveling. Venus in Neptune - well, that can be you'll find the love of your life in a bar.
"There's nothing 'woo-woo' or new age about astrology. People have been practicing it for 5,000 years. Walt Disney, Stephen Spielberg, Nancy Reagan - they all practiced it at one time or another. It might surprise you to know there are plenty of astrologers on Wall Street."
Astrology has plenty of skeptics, too.
Dr. Joseph Bohlen, a psychiatrist with a practice in Springfield for the past 20 years, had his own astrological charts done in the 1970s when he was an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota. He says it was a fun thing to do and talk about, but he doesn't vouch for its credibility.
"Astrology data can be so over-interpreted," he says. "Making deeper and deeper correlations, I think it gets beyond being meaningful. There are a couple psychotherapists in Springfield who also practice astrology, but it doesn't get talked about. It isn't something readily understood or accepted.
"What I know about the human psyche is that it's very formative, plastic and open to suggestion," Bohlen says. "A third of the people in any medical trial will feel the medicine is working even if it is just a sugar pill."
Couples make up about 25 percent of his practice, Bohlen says. Often, the major concern that brings them to him is that they feel stuck in a relationship, unable to improve and grow. His approach to couples therapy is to work with them to explore their options.
He first helps them examine what he calls their "tool kits" - the lessons they were taught by their parents, plus what they learned in their own adult experiences. He works on what is missing, such as communication, introspection and listening skills.
Good relationships are based, he says, not on the stars but on shared vulnerability. The capacity to be transparent to someone else and let them get beneath the armor and facade that human beings put up to protect themselves.
For Chicago entrepreneur Valerie Beck, relationships need an even more basic element - time.
Author of "Romance Around the Corner: 8 Steps Toward Attracting the Man of Your Dreams and Having Fun in the Process," Beck was a Harvard-trained corporate finance attorney working 80-hour weeks at a prestigious loop law firm when she decided life - and love - were passing her by.
"I never set out to write a book," she says. "I just needed to figure out how to get a date."
Married at 22 and divorced at 29, Beck said her problem wasn't getting back into the dating mix. She was never in it in the first place.
So she gave up a lucrative career in law and used her experiences in the dating scene and her ability as a researcher to self-publish her book. It's available on Amazon.com and at Barnes & Noble Booksellers.
She's also giving seminars on how to go from being a dateless wonder to a dating diva in eight steps. And she recently started Chicago Chocolate Tours, a guided walking and tasting adventure at various high-end chocolate shops. Her customers range from bachelorette parties to conventioneers. Her dream is to make it an international enterprise with romantic chocolate tours of the world's great cities, including, of course, Paris.
"What in the world could be better," she asks, "than romance and chocolate?"
Well, how about an astrology chart chock full of opportunities for love and romance?
"I think astrology is a way to open doors to self-knowledge," Beck says. "Like I tell the women in my seminars, when you know yourself, you're a lot more likely to find Mr. Right, instead of settling for Mr. Right Now.
"I'd definitely study the stars for that."
February 9, 2007
The Valentine's spirit is in the air, with chocolate tours, a diamond prize entry, and an ice sculpting event.
Valerie Beck, proprietress of Chicago Chocolate Tours, offers special "Valentine's Day Edition" tours, including a special Valentine's Day goodie bag and hot chocolate along the route. Tourees learn chocolate fun facts along the way.
The Valentine's Day edition tours are offered Sat. Feb. 10 at 3:45 p.m., Sun. Feb. 11 at 1:45 p.m. and on Valentine's Day at 12:45 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $40. Reservations are required. For info and reservations, visit www.chicagochocolatetours.com or call (312) 925-5377.
During the tour, people may sign up to win $1 million worth of diamond jewelry at Godiva Chocolatier. One may also enter to win online at www.godiva.com.
I detailed this in my column, Letter from Chicago, and here's a reminder. "The Look of Love" ice sculpting event begins in Millennium Park, near the Cloud Gate sculpture (or, "The Bean") Sat. Feb. 10, noon-4 p.m. The event continues, with changes made to the sculpture every day around noontime.
Find more weekend Windy City events listed in yesterday's post. Meanwhile, let me know if you have any questions, have a fabulous weekend, and stay warm. Cheers!
February 1 - 7, 2007, Around Town, Saturday 3, City Picks
Sugar and spice
Red Kiva, 1108 W Randolph St at Aberdeen St (866-533-9884, firstname.lastname@example.org). El: Pink, Green to Clinton. Bus: 9 (24 hrs), 20 (24 hrs), 127. 2-5pm, $10. Love it or hate it, Valentine's Day is just around the corner. At this event geared to both men and women, love experts, authors and poets such as "romance coach" and Chicago Chocolate Tours founder Valerie Beck will discuss her book on an eight-step plan to help you find the man of your dreams. Get a Life in the City-Chicago author Sheena Jones will also be on hand, as well as poet Paulette "Passion" Stinson, and author and poet Tia Dionne. Making a special guest appearance is sensuality training coach and founder of Good Gyrrl Inc., Relana Johnson, who will give a brief demonstration of moves to awaken your inner vixen. Special activities for men are also on tap.
Chicago Chocolate Tours was on the radio! Founder Valerie Beck (right, in photo) talked about entrepreneurship on Linda Padgurskis's (left, in photo) Financial Wellness show on Chicago's1530 AM radio station, on Thursday, January 25.
Did you make a New Year's resolution? Chicago Chocolate Tours did, and it's in the "Focus" section of the January 8, 2007, edition of Crain's. Click here for the full article, or see below for the part on our resolution.
Another fresh start
Jan. 08, 2007
How do you plan to do a better job in 2007? We asked 10 Chicago entrepreneurs to tell us their New Year's resolutions. If you don't have one, maybe you can steal one of theirs.
Valerie Beck, 36
Chicago Chocolate Tours
Tasting tours of chocolate shops
Annual sales: $500,000
"In 2007, I'll accept one additional invitation per week, whether it's a business luncheon or charitable fundraiser. And I'll bring my team members to show them how networking can help increase sales and keep work fun."
CHICAGO DAILY VIEW: 6/7/07 - Treat Dad to a Sweet Father's Day with a
Chicago Chocolate Tour! On June 16 and 17, Chicago Chocolate Tours will host
a special guided walking and tasting tour for dads. Visit select chocolate
shops along and around the Mag Mile, complete with history, delectable
samples and VIP treatment. Time: June 16, 3:45 pm and June 17, 1:45 pm.
Location: Meet at 900 N. Michigan Ave. Click here for details and
1/23/07 - Sweeten Up Valentine's Day with a Chicago Chocolate Tour. Take a guided walking and tasting tour of an array of unique fine chocolate shops. Learn the world history of chocolate while savoring the flavors and walking off the calories. Tours run Saturdays at 3:45 pm (concluding with fireworks over the Chicago River) and Sundays at 1:45 pm. Special Valentine's Day tours are offered the weekend of Feb. 10, and on the holiday itself - Feb. 14. Depart from 900 N. Michigan Ave., ground floor. Click here for tickets.
Chicago Chocolate Tours is front page news! Read founder, president, and "Chief Executive Chocolate Lover"Valerie Beck's story in the January 1, 2007, Chicago Tribune by clicking here for the full story, or seeing below for the piece on the tours.
Wishing, hoping, doing
By Bonnie Miller Rubin and Johnathon E. Briggs, Tribune staff reporters
January 1, 2007
Is there anything so exhilarating as a fresh start?
A new year carries infinite possibilities. The mere turn of the calendar's page makes us vow to weigh less and exercise more, to gain more autonomy or plug a hole in the soul. And yet, as much as we thrill to every story of a banker-turned-bookseller or a police officer who hit it big in Hollywood, most of us are still here, tethered to our keyboards and cubicles.
We want to address that canyon-size gap between our expectations and our reality, but something holds us back. Maybe that explains why fatigue and depression are two of the most common health complaints for Americans.
So, on this first day of the new year, how can we tackle this epidemic of malaise?
"Start by doing something different, even if it's as simple as changing your route to work," advises Diane Grimard Wilson, a Chicago job consultant, author and firm believer that small steps can lead to big changes. "Just the declaration of `I'm going to change something' can bring out your intuitive intelligence ... triggering an awareness of those gut feelings we all have but often ignore."
And once that door is open, who knows where you will go? Here are four Chicago-area residents who resolved to reinvent themselves--to find more meaning, seek more adventure and have more fun.
Name: Valerie Beck
Goal: More fun
For a woman who describes herself as a "5-foot-2-inch giggle," Valerie Beck found little to smile about at her job.
The Harvard-trained corporate finance attorney worked grueling 80-hour weeks at the Loop offices of Winston & Strawn, rising before dawn and returning home just in time for "Law & Order"--on a good day.
She was frequently sick, underweight and so sleep-deprived that she once fell asleep on a date. Ouch.
"I realized that if I didn't make a change, nothing would ever change," Beck said.
So in 1999 she started moonlighting as a Mary Kay cosmetics representative. Soon she left the $130,000-a-year law job and became so successful in sales that she twice earned bonuses that Mary Kay awards to top-performing sales directors.
"I wasn't really looking at it as a future," said Beck, who now coaches a team of 50 women.
"It was just to have some balance in my crazy law life. Something feminine and fun."
In 2005 the Gold Coast resident had another idea: What could be more fun than romance and chocolate?
That year she self-published a book, "Romance Around the Corner: 8 Steps Toward Attracting the Man of Your Dreams and Having Fun in the Process!" and began giving monthly seminars on how to go from "dateless wonder" to "dating diva."
On a shoestring budget, the self-confessed chocoholic launched Chicago Chocolate Tours, a guided walking and tasting tour of the city's most popular chocolate stores.
Beck offers the 90-minute tour three times a week to groups ranging from bachelorettes to conventioneers. The tour's motto? "Uplift through chocolate."
"I wanted to do something where people on their way to meet me are really excited and, when they leave me, feel better about themselves and the world," said Beck, who envisions expanding the tours to New York, London and Paris.
Beck concedes that stepping away from the status of being a high-powered attorney to a hawker of cosmetics, romance and chocolate was a bit intimidating.
But relatives, especially her mother, were supportive because they saw how miserable her life had become.
"People always ask me, `Isn't it scary giving up that job security?'" said Beck, whose ventures brought in $500,000 last year.
"I feel more secure now than I did then because my job was dependent on all kinds of forces that were not under my control. Now it's up to me."
Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune
Chicago Chocolate Tours was reviewed for the New Year's Day 2007 edition of Centerstage Chicago:
|Chicago Chocolate Tours Sweet dreams are made of chocolate sampling tours. Monday Jan 01, 2007 by Albrey Nuss|
Chocolate and I have a love/hate relationship: I love the way it tastes and I hate that I can't get enough of it. I've had dreams that look like the opening credits of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, where chocolate drowns every morsel on the conveyor belt; except in my dreams I'm the candy waiting for its chocolate coating. When I found out that Chicago has a chocolate tour, I had to check it out for myself.
The Chicago Chocolate Tour is a chocoholic's dream come true, but it's more than just a sampling of mouth-watering chocolate treats—although there's plenty of that. The tour also dishes interesting tidbits about the history of chocolate and its production, as well as info about the companies that sell it, all wrapped up in one tasty package.
Sign me up: The winter version of the tour begins in the lobby of the 900 Shops Mall at 1:45 p.m. every Sunday. There's no strict time schedule to follow, which allows time for questions and purchases, but the $35-per-person tour usually runs under two hours. Occasional Saturday tours are also available, and private or special romantic tours (which include a horse and carriage ride) can be arranged in advance.
Sites you'll see: After meeting up with the tour guide and learning some of the chocolate basics (like the properties and qualities of the different varieties), you'll visit six chocolate shops all located within a quarter-mile of each other. Fortunately, the tour ensures that you're exposed to the elements for no longer than two minutes during cold weather, while the warm weather tour takes you to off-the-beaten-path locales.
The first stop on the tour de chocolate is the 900 Shops' Teusher, and from there you'll venture to Elephants Etc. in the Hancock building, Water Tower's Lindt and Godiva shops and wrap up at Hershey's and Ghirardelli. While gathering free goodies, like Teusher's champagne truffle and Elephant Etc.'s handmade chocolate-covered pretzels, you'll also collect a handful of trivia. For example, Lindt discovered its technique for making its chocolate extraordinarily creamy in a fortuitous accident when a chocolatier inadvertently left the automatic mixing machine running overnight.
Golden nugget: Unanimously voted the best part of our tour, we all loved Godiva's generous sample of hot chocolate (made from melted-down Godiva chocolate bars rather than a packaged powder mix).
Who's da guide: Sweet-as-can-be Valerie Beck, the tour's founder, guides most of the outings herself. Her enthusiasm for the sweet stuff is boundless, and she's eager to share her vast knowledge of everything chocolate. In the rare instance that she doesn't know something, the shops' managers are happy to chime in with the details.
Fuel your tank: If the free samples leave you craving more, you can buy treats to take home at any of the shops along the way.
Snooze-fest or eye-opener: The tour is delectably fun and the guide's enthusiasm for chocolate, and sweet treats in general, is highly contagious. Not to mention the inevitable buzz: The members of our tour were soon running around like kids in a candy shop, bright-eyed and giggling, pointing out which treats they used to love when slurping on a ring-shaped sucker was still cool.
Even locals will learn: Fannie Mae isn't the only company making chocolate history in Chicago; for instance, the owner of Elephants Etc. has made the store's chocolate in her own home's kitchen for the past 20 years. Plus, after downing all that cocoa, we felt like royalty when we learned that hot chocolate originated as the drink of the Aztec kings. It is said that Aztec King Montezuma would drink 10 golden goblets of it before visiting his harem; talk about a sugar rush.
Check out http://www.chicagochocolatetours.com/ for more information about Chicago Chocolate Tours.
Watch Chicago Chocolate Tours President and "Chief Executive Chocolate Lover" Valerie Beck on the television show Lorraine's Chicago, hosted by Realtor extraordinaire Lorraine Denham.
The show is scheduled to run on Chicagocable channel 25 on the following days and times:
- Wednesday, January 3 and 10, 11:30 pm
- Thursday, January 4and 11 at 6:30 pm
The theme will be "Pets in the City," because your Chocolate Girl, though an animal lover and no-kill shelter donor, lives in a pet-free building.
Chicago Chocolate Tours is featured in a new promotional website at http://fordedge.msn.com/, sponsored by msn and Ford, to launch the new Ford Edge.
The website is an interactive map and guide to exciting new destinations and experiences across the country. To see Chicago Chocolate Tours, visit the website, click on Chicago, and then on Indulge. It's fun and fantastic! Here's what the site says:
Upton Sinclair may have made Chicago famous for meat production, but today Chicago—especially the Magnificent Mile—is known for a sweeter treat. Take one of the weekly Chicago Chocolate Tours and you’ll get more than an hour’s worth of insight about mankind’s favorite dessert, not to mention samples. Most stops are in the tall buildings and malls along Michigan Avenue, so the tours are a great way to stay inside during wicked winter weather.
President and "Chief Executive Chocolate Lover" Valerie Beck of Chicago Chocolate Tours was photographed for the December 1, 2006, edition of the Chicago Defender, while attending the "Go Red for Women" breakfast sponsored by the American Heart Association and Macy's (bottom left photo, first cutie from the right). For a larger view, go to the Photo Gallery, under Parties, and click the photo twice.
Check out our listing at StyleChicago.com, in celebration of the one-year anniversary of Chicago Chocolate Tours.
|Event:||One-Year Anniversary Special - Free Hot Chocolate
Chicago Chocolate Tours
|11/13/2006 - 11/30/2006
150 N. Michigan Ave.
|To celebrate their one-year anniversary, Chicago Chocolate Tours is offering you free hot chocolate when you take a tour.
Book your Chicago Chocolate Tour and enjoy a fun, education guided walking and tasting tour of select chocolate shops. You'll visit some of Chicago's most popular chocolate stores, and some of the city's secret chocolate treasures, as you delve deeply into the rich history of chocolate.
Tickets are $35 per person, which includes samples. Call 312.925.5377 to schedule your tour.
Private group tours and open tours are available. Ask about their Romance Package.
Savor the flavors and walk off the calories.
For more information or to make a reservation, call 312.925.5377.
Chicago Chocolate Tours is featured in the November 2 edition of Crain's 10 Things To Do This Weekend. See below, orclick here to read the fulllisting.
10 things to do this weekend
Nov. 02, 2006
TRY. Take a taste of some of the sweetest stops on the Mag Mile on a CHICAGO CHOCOLATE TOUR. Come prepared to sample. Nov. 5, 1:45 to 3 p.m. Tours are $35. 900 N. Michigan Ave., (312) 925-5377, www.chicagochocolatetours.com.
Chicago Chocolate Tours will appear on the Nude Hippo TV show - watch this space for details!
So a few chocolate lovers walk into a ...
By JACQUEE THOMAS
OK, so, a few folks from Chicago, a few folks from Michigan and a few folks from Idaho walk into a chocolate shop, and the shop owner says, "Here, try a champagne truffle."
And the folks from Chicago, Michigan and Idaho say, "Yum!"
It's no joke, at least not on a Chicago Chocolate Tour. Tour participants are the only patrons offered a free champagne truffle sample at one of the stops.
I know because I attended a Chocolate Tour last Sunday, along with other Chicagoans, and folks from Michigan and Idaho. There were 11 participants in all. Three of them were from a Channel 25 television show, taping the tour.
We all assembled at the 900 North Michigan building, and began a walking tour of six chocolate shops along The Magnificent Mile. Valerie Beck was the hostess.
We were about to embark upon many "places and spaces," of chocolate, she said. We were to learn of its history, and of chocolates from around the world.
She first led us to level five of 900 North, to Teuscher Chocolates of Switzerland. (It's pronounced "TOY-sher.")
That's where we were invited to try the champagne truffles. They're made with a Dom Perignon cream center in a chocolate ganache, and coated in milk chocolate.
"Two bites" was what it took to taste this chocolate piece, the shop owner, Gilles, said. One bite to see the champagne inside, and a second bite to finish.
Miss Beck informed us that Teuscher chocolates were flown in from Switzerland every week. This shop was the only Teuscher between the East and West Coast; however they shipped all over the United States.
The little shop offered elegant handmade candy boxes made with silk and paper, and fun boxes handmade with crepe paper, made as bumblebees and other fun shapes. Prices ranged from $10 to $130. Later I found that some of these products were available online at teuscherchicago.com.
The manager of the Godiva Boutique Water Tower Place, offered us a caramel chocolate elixir, a frosty, frothy chocolate concoction that enchanted all of us.
We were given other samples, including a chocolate-dipped strawberry, and we learned that Godiva was discontinuing its Godiva Gold, and starting a new line as of Sept. 29. This was a significant transition, the first change in the line since the company opened in 1926.
Godiva had a 40 percent off sale on many of its products while supplies last. Later I found an "up to 50% off sale" online at godiva.com.
Other shops we visited included Hershey's Chicago, where we saw Hershey's teddy bears, t-shirts and other paraphernalia, as well as Hershey's, Reese's and Jolly Ranchers products. We witnessed the Hershey's "singing chef" at the Hershey Bakery.
Miss Beck informed us about what a philanthropist Milton Hershey was, and the Hershey history was connected to the 1893 Chicago World's Fair.
We also went to Vosges Haut-Chocolat, and I immediately recognized that as the establishment that provided a four-course truffle tasting to audiences of the Red Moon Theater's musical "The Golden Truffle."
"Theobroma" was the Greek word for chocolate, Miss Beck told us, directly translated to "food of the gods."
We all felt pampered, and well-informed, on her Chicago Chocolate Tour. And the chocolate was delicious.
Chicago Chocolate Tours offers open tours Sundays at 1:45 p.m., at 900 N. Michigan Ave. Private tours are available by appointment.
The tours are $35 per person. Advance registration is required. For more information visit chicagochocolatetours.com or e-mail email@example.com.
Uplift Through Chocolate!