Chocoholics aren't known to be a picky bunch, but just because you're happy to pop Hershey kisses in a pinch doesn't mean you don't recognize quality. Luckily Chicago has its fair share of luscious chocolatiers selling indulgent, decadent truffles, from ganache-laden wonders that make us weak in the knees to exotic-touched truffles that are decidedly racy.
And if the thought of roasted corn—or even caramelized maple bacon—in your chocolate gives you pause, Erika Panther, co-owner of Coco Rouge invites you to jump right in. "As professionals we never put something together just for the pure wow factor. It has to taste really good. When you go into a fine chocolate shop you kind of have to just trust them and give up some control and realize you're here to be pampered."
Here's where we head when nothing but truffles will do.
Canady Le Chocolatier It may be hard to believe that the intricately decorated chocolates at this South Loop chocolate shop are all made by hand, but Chicago native Michael Canady invites non-believers to step up to the glass-walled kitchen and have a look for themselves. Seeing (and tasting) is believing—especially if you're smart enough to snag Canady's most popular truffle, creme brulee made with white chocolate ganache and topped with crunchy burnt sugar. Other flavors run toward the traditional, such as out-of-this-world chocolate cream, cherry cream and peanut butter, along with liquor-spiked favorites like Champagne Cream, Irish Cream and Amaretto. Four truffles cost $5.
Coco Rouge The husband-and-wife team behind Coco Rouge have snubbed standard ganache fillings and fixed their site firmly on honey—a move that’s earned them a cultish following of fans and a waiting list for their most popular treats. If you still think there's only one kind of honey and it comes from a plastic bear, it's time to haul it here and have your mind and palate expanded. Coco Rouge's most popular truffle is made with caramelized leatherwood honey mixed with sweet ganache and topped with sea salt and bee pollen. Decorated with pulverized rose petals, blueberry brittle and roasted raspberries, these honey-touched truffles also boast longer shelf life than their ganache cousins. Four truffles cost $9.
Vosges Haut Chocolat For most chocolate fans, Vosges is near-synonymous with exotic decadence. Owner Katrina Markoff's creations are inspired by the global apprenticeships she's taken in France, Spain, Italy, Southeast Asia and Australia, meaning you're as likely to taste a hint of Taleggio cheese as you are Ancho chili in one of these chocolaty treats. And while many new to this luxe line may opt for the safer offerings, a good rule of thumb here is that the wilder it sounds, the more addictive it is. Despite recent expansion, Markoff still handpicks every spice, flower and chocolate that makes it into the Chicago kitchen, including the shop's notorious notes of wasabi, ginger and sweet Indian curry. Four truffles cost $10.50.
bon bon The astrology vibe of this Andersonville chocolatier carries right into its handmade truffles, made with yummy fillings like Chai tea spices, curry and lavender. The shop uses only French and Belgian couverature, the name given to the highest quality chocolate in the world, according to the shop's mother-and-daughter team. Elizabeth Hulme credits the truffles' unusual shapes—everything from crocodiles and ruby gems to Buddhas and figures from the Kama Sutra—on her insomnia, which she passes by searching for quirky moulds. An added bonus for an oft-overlooked crowd: Bon Bon's got white chocolate truffles in spades, whether it's dotted with cardamom or flavored with Lady Grey tea. Four truffles cost $9.
Moonstruck Chocolate Cafe The truffles at this chocolate mecca aren't made on-site, but they're still handmade and shipped from Portland. You'll quickly notice that all of the sweets are elaborately decorated, to the point of being downright cute. The cinnamon roll latte truffle, made with a creamy chocolate and espresso center, resembles a tiny little cinnamon roll and is designed to be sipped with the cafe's eponymous latte, while the ivory cat—toffee ganache wrapped in ivory chocolate—comes complete with a kitten's face that's (almost) too cute to devour. But the most popular truffle here is one of the plane-janiest: the Mayan truffle—almond, cinnamon and milk chocolate ganache rolled in cinnamon and sugar. Four truffles cost $9.