In recent years, I have gravitated towards asking for a special outing with family members rather than birthday gifts. We get so busy that it is often hard to remember to take the time do something just for fun. Since I am a certified chocolate addict, I suggested to my son Michael that an afternoon with Mom on the Philadelphia Chocolate Tour would make a fine gift for my recent birthday. Good sport that he is, he agreed.
The creator of the Philadelphia Chocolate Tour is Valerie Beck, a Harvard-trained lawyer who decided that teaching people about chocolate was much more fun than practicing law. Since she hatched this idea, she has created tours in Chicago, Philadelphia and New York (next stop: Boston).
The tour started at the entrance to Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market, which is filled with all manner of excellent food purveyors and is worth a special trip on its own. We began our chocolate journey by getting some chocolate education from Jaylene, our bubbly and enthusiastic guide. She told us a few facts about the history of chocolate and let us sample a cacao bean. After getting our taste buds all worked up, she brought us into the market for our first chocolate stop at the Famous Fourth Street Cookie stall. There, we were treated to a huge chocolate chip cookie that was brimming with choice chips. Needless to say, our cookies were devoured faster than you could rip open a candy bar wrapper.
With tour company owner Valerie along for the stroll, we continued on to the next stop in our chocolate quest: Marcie Blaine Artisanal Chocolates. The chocolates are made in the back of a cute little gift shop called Verde, located at 108 South 13th Street in Philadelphia. We each got to sample all of the amazing flavors. In addition to ingredients like lavender and mint, there was also chocolate infused with bacon. I never thought of this combination before (I know, my bad) but, Wow, were they good! How appropriate to enjoy bacon when you are totally “pigging out” on chocolate!
Teuscher Chocolates in the Park Hyatt at the Bellevue (200 South Broad Street) was our next stop. There, we were treated to an educational talk about how high quality Swiss chocolates are made. From getting your piggy down at Marcie Blaine, you could go on to get a bit tipsy at Teuscher, since some of their chocolates are filled with a Dom Perignon champagne cream. To keep us in check, we were only allowed to sample one piece of these rich morsels (although I observed a number of fellow tour members buying more for some post-tour imbibing…I meant snacking).
Think that we were done? Not even close! Our next stop was at the Rittenhouse Square Farmer’s market, where we sampled some divine and delectable John and Kira’s chocolates. John and Kira’s chocolates are locally produced, and they try to source as many ingredients as possible from area farmers. A couple of Philadelphia schools grow the mint that they use. We decided to buy some of their yummy hazelnut bark. I thought I would enjoy some a few days after the tour, until my sheepish (and slender) son told me that he had devoured the entire 1 pound bark box!
Next, we mixed it up a bit by stopping at an old school Philadelphia bakery called Swiss Haus (35 South 19th Street). There, we were treated to some seriously rich chocolate cake and a few other non-chocolate samples, too. Our final stop was Capogiro Gelato, where we all got 4 teeny tiny spoons that were used to dip into 4 different types of gelato with a chocolate influence, such as chocolate banana and peanut butter chocolate. Each flavor was smooth, rich and creamy.
After all of this chocolate, I was glad that we had a fair bit of a walk back to our car. I needed to walk off some of the damage. The Philadelphia Chocolate Tour was a great way to learn about local chocolate sources. They vary their stops depending on the day of the week, so even after the first tour, you can go back and discover all new chocolate sins that await you.
We used two Groupons for the tour, and Valerie let us know that if you “Like” Philadelphia Chocolate Tours on Facebook you will have access to more specials.
Beth Christian subsisted primarily on cheeseburgers and liverwurst sandwiches during childhood and refused to try most new foods. Her culinary horizons were expanded during her college days in Schenectady, New York, where she learned the joys of trying slow-simmered Italian dishes, Szechuan cuisine, and everything in between. When not engaged in the practice of law in Monmouth County, Beth is busy scouting out interesting restaurants, farmer’s markets and food purveyors near her home in Burlington County. Beth’s primary dining sidekick is her husband John, but she also enjoys having her daughter Meghan, son Michael and her wonderful friends come along for the ride. Email Beth at [email protected]