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Chocolate Comparison and Survey: Piron (Evanston) vs Chocolate Box (Winnetka) and Other Chocolatiers

Both of these chocolate shops were featured in articles in the Chicago Tribune recently, so I decided to do a comparison between the two. As I started writing up my experiences, I realized that there are other high-end chocolate shops in the area and elsewhere that have been opening recently, so I decided to expand the scope of this topic to include information on many of those as well.

First, it will immediately become obvious that none of these chocolates are inexpensive. If you are happy with chocolates from your local Fannie May or elsewhere for a fraction of the prices noted below, and you think it's silly to spend more, you are welcome to your opinion. I wrote this for those interested in hearing more about what else is out there.

Before I go on, I would like to note that I have observed a very disturbing trend in the sale of high-end chocolates: more and more places are pricing their chocolates by the piece, rather than by the pound. IMO, places are doing this because - just using some typical numbers - chocolates don't SOUND as expensive when they're priced at $32 for a "16-piece collection" as when they're priced at $64 per pound. It's the same reason places sell items for $19.99 instead of $20.00. Now, I don't mind that places price their chocolates this way; that's just marketing. What I STRONGLY object to is that some places actually refuse to tell you how many pieces are in a pound. Product weight is basic information, and is how most foods are sold. Refusing to disclose it smacks of deception and subterfuge; it's one thing to make the price SOUND better, and quite another to refuse to provide basic information about how much product you're actually buying. I have a strong aversion to buying from places that engage in practices that strike me as deceptive. (Maybe others don't, and of course that is your opinion and you are welcome to spend your money wherever you see fit.)

Moving on, here's what I've found.

Belgian Chocolatier Piron

I admit, I'm a longtime fan of Belgian Chocolatier Piron in Evanston. They make the chocolates in the back of the shop nearly every day, using techniques learned in Belgium and chocolate imported from Belgium. Their chocolates use relatively traditional flavors - hazelnuts (gianduja), raspberry, cognac, passionfruit, marzipan, pecans, chocolate truffles, mocha, etc, using white, milk, and dark chocolates - although they recently introduced a chocolate with chipotle chili pepper. In the store, you can pick out the individual items you want. IMHO, they are consistently delicious.

Belgian Chocolatier Piron
509-A Main Street
Evanston 60202
Chicago Tribune article:
Price per pound: $36 for their premier filled chocolates, $23 for nut barks

Chocolate Box

The other day I went to a new place, the Chocolate Box in Winnetka. They specialize in more exotic ingredients in their chocolates, such as herbs (e.g. basil) and spices (e.g. habanero peppers, anise). In the store, you can pick out the individual items you want.

The Chocolate Box sells their chocolates only by the piece, not by the pound. They are $1.69 each, or you can buy boxes of various sizes. The largest size is 24 pieces for $36.00. I asked how many pieces there are to a pound and the person in the shop said she did not know. As noted above, the Chocolate Box gets a big THUMBS DOWN from me for this - both because (1) not disclosing this information strikes me as deception and (2) I really doubt that they don't know how much their product weighs.

I bought three pieces of their chocolate, took them home, and weighed them on a postal scale. Based on their weight (1.1 ounces), there are 44 of their chocolates to a pound.

As for taste, they taste very good, but there is an important difference between these and Piron's. Each of Piron's chocolates has a single flavor; their marzipan tastes like marzipan, the fruits de mer taste like hazelnut, the Grand Marnier tastes like... well, you get the idea. The chocolates at the Chocolate Box are entirely different. Each chocolate at the Chocolate Box is made from a combination of ingredients, including fruits, herbs, spices, etc. As a result, no single flavor predominates or is even necessarily identifiable. I bought three chocolates, and I know that the first ingredient listed in each of the three were pear, apricot, and white chocolate. However, when I got home, I could not tell which was which, because none of them tasted a lot like pear, or like apricot, or like white chocolate (and no, that one was not distinguishable by color, either). Maybe you like the blended flavors of their chocolates that result, or maybe you prefer chocolates with a stronger, individual flavor; that's strictly a matter of taste/opinion. Regardless of your preference, if you go to the Chocolate Box, my suggestion is that you take notes and write down the names and/or ingredients of the pieces you buy; that way, you will know which is which when you're eating them, and you'll be able to know which ones you want to buy again in the future.

Chocolate Box
725 Elm St.
Winnetka 60193
(no website AFAIK)
Price per pound: $65.45 (based on $36 for 24 pieces weighing 8.8 ounces)
Chicago Tribune article:

The Winner

So, which of these two places "wins" my vote for the "best" chocolate? I think both places offer delicious, very high quality chocolates, but my personal preference is for Piron's chocolates because of the single taste ingredient in each chocolate, rather than the blends of unidentifiable ingredients in the Chocolate Box chocolates. Piron also gets my vote for value in addition to taste, since the Chocolate Box chocolates are almost twice the price per pound as the premier chocolates at Piron. And, again, the Chocolate Box gets brickbats for refusing to disclose their product weight.

But Wait, There's More - Chicago

There are other high-end chocolate places in the Chicago area and elsewhere, most of which I have not yet tried. Here is more information about some of them.

The Tribune article which featured Piron (see link above) also featured three other places:

Love in Disguise of Chicago
2010 W. Fulton St.
Price per pound: Unknown. I just tried calling them and left a message asking about how many chocolates are in a pound; unless and until I hear back, they get a THUMBS DOWN. ($45 for 24 piece truffles, $48 for 24 piece "cocoa sutra" collection)

Chocolate Gourmet
1635 W. Walnut St.
Price per pound: $35 or more. (I called to ask how much their chocolates weigh and they said they "think the 16-piece box of truffles weighs a pound or slightly under", in their words.)

Sweet Endeavours
1101 Tower Rd.
Price per pound: $64 (based on $32 for their "16-piece classic collection" which I called to ask about and they said weighs "around half a pound")

Other chocolate shops that have appeared in the area recently include:

Chocolates by Bernard Callebaut
1970 Tower Drive
825 S. Waukegan Road C-3
Lake Forest IL 60045,
Price per pound: $49.50

Canady le Chocolatier, Ltd.
824 South Wabash Ave.
Chicago 60605
Price per pound: $33 (according to a 2005 article in the Tribune quoted on their website)

Coco Rouge
1940 West Division
www.cocorouge.com (They do not yet sell chocolates on their website, but they plan to do so in the near future.)
Price per pound: $82-84 (I called and they said that they offer two 16-piece collections for $41 and $42, and each is half a pound.)

Vosges Chocolate
Chicago – Downtown
520 N. Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611
951 W. Armitage
Chicago, IL 60614
Price per pound: $73 (based on $73 for their 32-piece "exotic truffle collection", which they told me weighs one pound in response to an e-mail inquiry)

But Wait, There's More - Internet

By way of comparison, an article in the current (February) issue of Consumer Reports rated upscale chocolates available on the internet from many places (none of the above Chicago chocolatiers were included). They noted per-ounce prices in the article. The highest rated were these eight (the first three have more exotic ingredients like herbs and spices, while the other five are more conventional):

Norman Love Confections
Price per pound: $74

Woodhouse Chocolate
Price per pound: $69

Jacques Torres
Price per pound: $48

Price per pound: $42

John & Kira's
Price per pound: $58

La Maison du Chocolat
Price per pound: $67

Price per pound: $59

Price per pound: $56

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  1. Nice review. As for other stores in the area, don't forget Leonidas in Wilmette. They are on the more resonably-priced end of the spectrum.

    2 Replies
    1. re: CathleenH

      I didn't realize there was a Leonidas store in Wilmette; thanks for the tip. According to their website, their chocolates are also available at Treasure Island stores in the area.

      Leonidas Café - Chocolaterie
      1157 Wilmette avenue
      60091 WILMETTE
      Tel : 0847 256 5250
      231 South Lasalle Street
      60604 CHICAGO
      Tel : 0312 251 8850

      I mentioned that the eight chocolatiers listed by Consumer Reports are the ones they liked the best; all were all rated "excellent". They tried six others which they rated "very good", but which I didn't bother listing; Leonidas was among these, along with MarieBelle, Moonstruck, Chuao Chocolatier, Godiva, and See's. They quoted the Leonidas price as $30 for a one-pound assortment.

      1. re: nsxtasy

        Another late enty is Bon Bon on Clark in Chicago. They make artisanal chocolates of the kind you are rating. On their website they sell assortments by number of pieces, but I believe they give the price per pound in the store.


    2. I like Poiron and have supported them for years. And, I recently posted on this board after getting chocolate from Chocolate Box which I found to be exquisite. I've subsequently visited Chocolate Box and the had the same experiece. Three pieces, is not enough to pass judgement, IMHO.

      The criticism about price per pound is misleading. The vast majority of their product is priced by the pound and roughly competitive with Poiron which is to say moderately expensive. Having bought bon bons at Poiron and Chocolate Box, I agree that Poiron is cheaper and also feel strongly that there are heavy style and quality differences.

      Some of the other chocolatiers mentioned on this chain and recently in other posts group stylistically. Poiron, Callebaut and Leonidas are "old world" but I think all have there merits. The latter two are chains/franchises and my bias is to support the small producers like Poiron.

      Bon Bon (recommend), Canady (who I strongly recommend -- south Loop...worth it), Chocolate Box (strongly recommend), Vosges (a bit expensive and I don't think better quality than the others) and Cocoa Rouge (strongly recommend) group differently. They are conemporary, nouvelle American chocolate which is where my personal taste is right now.

      There was a post last week on Cocoa Rouge which opened a storefront. Good product. Beautiful truffles.

      Poiron, which can be great at times, deserves major kudos I think. He really laid the groundwork for the others. They are also very nice people.

      Ethel's is M&M Mars owned and I think creeps for opening up near Poiron.

      It's a nice problem to be debating who is the best small chocolatier in Chicago with so many quality options.

      1. I'm surprised no one else has mentioned Vanille Patisserie on Clybourn.

        Great truffles (and other stuff). Give them a try.

        1. As Marilyn noted, it's great having so many "artisan" chocolatiers in Chicago. This seems to be a nationwide trend as well. More choices, especially top-quality ones, is always a good thing for us 'hounds. Especially in chocolate. ;)

          I was not familiar with Vanille, but they show some mighty fine chocolates on their website. Here is their info:

          Vanille Patisserie
          2229 N Clybourn Ave
          Chicago, IL 60614
          TEL: 773.868.4574
          Price per pound: $56

          I haven't been all that impressed by Ethel's, but here is their information:

          Ethel's Chocolate Lounge
          (5 locations in Chicago, and 5 more in its suburbs)

          1. I just heard back from Love in Disguise, which I mentioned above. They told me that the chocolates in their Cocoa Sutra collection, and in their truffles, are eight to the pound. So their 24-piece Cocoa Sutra collection ($48), and their 24-piece Signature Truffles collection ($45), weigh three pounds each. So their chocolates are $15-16 per pound.

            This points out exactly why weight is important; each piece from Love in Disguise is huge, weighing almost six times as much as each piece from the Chocolate Box. Particularly when you're ordering from a website, you have absolutely no idea how big the chocolates are unless you know their weight.

            1. Thanks for the helpful info, but I used to live right around the block from Piron, and I still have not found a place I like better. The people are extremely nice there and the chocolates are even better, especially the romanas and the toffee! The pecan bark is superb as well.

              1. In the further pursuit of research, I recently visited five more high-end chocolatiers in the Chicago area and bought chocolates there. It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it! ;) It was actually quite fun, of course. If you really and truly enjoy chocolate, I suggest going out and doing the same. Try them all for yourself, and see which ones YOU like.

                When all is said and done, out of the seven specialty chocolatiers I visited in the Chicago area, I liked the chocolates at four a LOT more than the other three. Here is how I rank them in order, from one to seven:

                THE BEST:
                1. Belgian Chocolatier Piron (Evanston) - $36/lb - www.belgchocpiron.com
                2. Chocolates by Bernard Callebaut (Glenview, Lake Forest) - $50/lb - www.bernard-callebaut.com
                3. Vosges Chocolate (Chicago) - $91/lb - www.vosgeschocolate.com
                4. Canady le Chocolatier, Ltd. (Chicago) - $33/lb - www.canadylechocolatierchicago.com

                THE REST:
                5. Vanille Patisserie (Chicago) - $63/lb - www.vanillepatisserie.com
                6. Chocolate Box (Winnetka) - $66/lb (no website AFAIK)
                7. Coco Rouge (Chicago) - $109/lb - www.cocorouge.com

                In each case, I bought a variety of their top-line chocolates, the specific ones that sounded best to me, in order to evaluate their products. Some chocolatiers (e.g. Coco Rouge) recommend that their chocolates are stored at room temperature, while others (e.g. Piron) recommend storing in the refrigerator and removing them about an hour before consuming to allow them to come to room temperature. For my evaluation, I stored the chocolates according to the recommendations of their respective makers.

                Here are details about each of them, including a few additional notes on Piron and Chocolate Box, which I already evaluated in my original post here. Incidentally, I mentioned above the need to write down a description of what the chocolates were for the Chocolate Box; some chocolatiers are better than others as far as identifying which is which, and I'll provide details on that below.

                1. Belgian Chocolatier Piron (Evanston) - $36/lb - www.belgchocpiron.com

                This is still the best chocolatier in the Chicago area, in my opinion. Their white chocolate manon melts in your mouth, their truffles are great, the gianduja shells are creamy smooth, the marzipan is the best, and just about every item they carry has a nice strong flavor of its main ingredient.

                A gold box is provided at no extra charge. Piron also has a printed catalog indicating what each of its chocolates looks like, so you can use that as a guide to which one is which.

                Their storefront is small and not particularly fancy. Meter parking on the street in the area is generally available; there are some twenty-minute meters (which can be both good and bad) and there is a metered lot around the corner.

                2. Chocolates by Bernard Callebaut (Glenview, Lake Forest) - $50/lb - www.bernard-callebaut.com

                These chocolates are very, very similar, in style and quality, to Piron's. The manon is nicely creamy, the fruit creams are similar, the gianduja is just slightly grainier, and the marzipan is not quite as strong in flavor. The differences are minor but they favor Piron over Bernard. All in all, these are excellent chocolates if you enjoy molded, Belgian-style chocolates; if Piron didn't exist, I would probably say these are the best chocolates in Chicago.

                No printed materials are provided, but there is a photo on their website showing all of their chocolates, that you can use that as a guide to which is which.

                Their Glenview storefront, in the new Glen development (next to the control tower of the former Naval Air Station), is smallish but pleasant. Parking in the immediate area is plentiful and free.

                3. Vosges Chocolate (Chicago) - $91/lb - www.vosgeschocolate.com

                I liked these a lot. They had a nice strong flavor of the primary ingredient of each chocolate, and they were very high quality (great "mouth feel", etc). In addition to the more conventional contents, some of these had more unusual ingredients, like curry powder, ginger, wasabi, etc. If this is what you are looking for, I liked the ones from Vosges better than the others (below) who had similarly unusual ingredients.

                Vosges had the best packaging (at a price, though) and the best guide to which is which. Like Piron, Vosges has a printed catalog showing all of their chocolates, with a separate insert for special selections which change over time. When buying 9, 16, or 32 pieces, they also offer a fancy gift box which arranges the chocolates, and they prepare a "map" to the arrangement which labels which item is which. It's a very nice touch, but I didn't realize I was paying extra for it till I got home. I bought nine truffles which would have been $2.50 each, but the total was $4.50 higher, so I assume that amount was for the gift box.

                Also, you will note that the price here is higher than in my original post above. That's because I was told over the phone that 32 truffles (selling for $73) were approximately one pound, but when I actually brought some home and weighed them, I found that they are exactly 0.4 ounce each, not 0.5 ounce.

                I went to the Lincoln Park location. Their storefront has several nicely-appointed rooms, full of all their many chocolate products (they carry exotic ice cream, beverages, and chocolate bars as well as the truffles). This was easily the most upscale, luxurious environment of any of the chocolatiers I tried. Parking in the area is difficult.

                I had previously heard a few people criticize the quality of Vosges products, but based on actually buying some and trying them, I found that they were very good. It's possible others were basing their opinion on buying them elsewhere, as Vosges are the only chocolates among these (AFAIK) that are available at other stores (e.g. Fox and Obel, Sam's Wines) as well as their own. I purchased mine at one of their two "Vosges Haut-Chocolat Boutiques" in Chicago, just as I purchased all the other chocolates from the storefronts of their respective chocolatiers. One huge disadvantage of buying them elsewhere is that you cannot select the individual pieces that most appeal TO YOU; you can only buy a pre-packaged selection. You also will encounter a narrower selection, and it's possible that there may be additional issues of freshness and storage that affect product quality, since these are out of the control of the chocolatier when sold elsewhere.

                4. Canady le Chocolatier, Ltd. (Chicago) - $33/lb - www.canadylechocolatierchicago.com

                Most of Canady's chocolates were very good indeed. Some, like the gianduja feuillete crunch, are wonderful, as good as anything from the other places described above. They also do an excellent job with creams and cordials. There were a few that didn't quite measure up (e.g. the white chocolate which had neither the strong white chocolate taste nor the creamy consistency of the manon from Piron or Bernard, or the coconut which seemed little different from a Mounds bar).

                Canady's has two additional advantages worth noting. First, they were the least expensive of the seven shops I tried. Not that this is the MOST important quality of high-end chocolate, since it's an expensive product to begin with, but when you get three times as much chocolate for your money from one shop than another, that's important.

                Second, they were the most beautiful chocolates of anyone's, with the most strikingly different appearance from each other. Some of the colors and appearances gave clues to the contents, such as the red cherries on one, the swirl shape of the banana, the yellow coloring on the amaretto filled one, and making the red pepper one look like a metallic bomb (explosive type "bomb", not a "bombe" pastry). Canady's does not have a catalog so you have to take notes to keep track of what's what, but at least the appearance of some pieces sometimes helps you remember what's inside.

                The shop is a small, crowded storefront, nothing overly lavish but perfectly acceptable given its prime Printers Row location just south of the Loop. There are plenty of expensive parking garages in the area, and limited two-hour meter parking which you may or may not find available.

                5. Vanille Patisserie (Chicago) - $63/lb - www.vanillepatisserie.com

                I did not mention Vanille in my original post, as I was not aware of it until gleam posted about it (thanks for the recommendation!). Here is their information:

                Vanille Patisserie
                2229 N Clybourn Ave
                Chicago, IL 60614
                Price per pound: $63 ($1.10 each, approximately 57 pieces to the pound)

                This is the only chocolatier I tried that is more than just a chocolatier; they have a full line of French pastries, and the chocolates are just a small part of what they offer. I LOVE this place, but primarily for the pastries, rather than the chocolate. You can get anything from a fruit tart to a croissant (chocolate or otherwise) to french macaroons (thin almond paste macaroons with a buttercream filling). The BEST things they have are called "entremets", wonderful mousse cakes which are pictured on their website.

                As much as I loved their pastries, I was not all that impressed with their chocolates. They are small, "cut praline style" chocolates (think of making chocolates in the shape of a stick of butter and then slicing pats off and dipping/coating them). I really don't care that much about looks, one way or the other, but Vanille's chocolates just didn't hit me as strong in flavor or rich or overly wonderful. There is no guide to which chocolates are which, so take notes.

                The shop is small but nice. Parking on the street is difficult.

                6. Chocolate Box (Winnetka) - $66/lb (no website AFAIK)

                I described the chocolates from the Chocolate Box in my original post. Again, their blended flavors just didn't have much taste of their original ingredients, and just didn't do anything for me. But try them yourself; maybe you'll like them better than I did.

                The shop is small but nice. Meter parking on the street within 1-2 blocks can be difficult, but further than that is plentiful. (The shop is on the other side of the tracks from most of Winnetka's central business district, so once you get more than a block away from Elm Street, it's residential and parking is easy.)

                7. Coco Rouge (Chicago) - $109/lb - www.cocorouge.com

                Coco Rouge uses some unusual ingredients in their chocolates (e.g. tea, truffles), like Vosges and the Chocolate Box do. However, what struck me the most about their chocolates was a lack of strong flavors. I would describe them as "bland", although I'm sure their defenders will argue that their flavors are merely "subtle". In any case, I was quite UNimpressed with these chocolates.

                Both the size and price of Coco Rouge's chocolates vary depending on the piece. I weighed the pieces I bought and the price averaged out to $109/pound.

                Coco Rouge provides a small brochure picturing many of their chocolates. Unfortunately, the photos are close-ups of a portion of the surface, so it's more difficult to match them than it would be with a photo of the entire piece, but at least it's something. I suggest writing notes on the brochure to help you remember which ones you got. The box provided with the chocolates was rather plain.

                Their storefront is quite a sight. The frontage is somewhat narrow, but once you enter, the inside is quite spacious. Think of a huge, huge room with a few small displays on one wall, a TINY counter table (maybe four feet long and a couple feet deep) displaying their chocolates, and a whole lot of empty space. I think this kind of hip/minimalist interior is intended to convey that something special is going on, but based on the actual chocolates themselves, the only thing I found special was the price (which was the most expensive of the seven shops).

                Parking in the area is difficult.


                While I found that I like four of these seven the best, I will be frequently returning in the future to just two of them: Piron and Canady. Piron has the best, highest-quality, most delicious chocolates in the area IMHO. I also enjoy the appearance of Canady's and certain of their items. I will probably not go back to Bernard Callebaut; as good as their chocolates are, Piron's are similar in style, slightly better in a few cases, and less expensive. I will probably not go back to Vosges, since you get almost three times as much chocolate for your money at Piron or Canady.

                Upscale chocolatiers are clearly proliferating and prospering in Chicago and many other cities nationwide. This is a wonderful trend for anyone who loves chocolate; more choices are just about ALWAYS a good thing for the consumer. The seven whose chocolates I bought and consumed all seem to be trying to do something unusual and creative. Although I obviously liked some more than others, taste is such a subjective matter of opinion - particularly with chocolates, where there are elements of style that appeal more to some folks than others - that there is really no absolute "best" other than personal preference. My personal preferences are noted here. I encourage all chocolate lovers to try ALL these chocolates, if you can, to form your own opinions, and to feel free to share them here.

                2 Replies
                1. re: nsxtasy

                  Thanks for the excellent post and all of your "hard" work. ;^)

                  I'm a regular at Canady, because the value is tremendous. I can't bring myself to pay 2 or 3 times more money elsewhere for a very similar product. Also, Mr. Canady usually is present to discuss his product and make recommendations.

                  1. re: maurice

                    Yes, the value is certainly there at Canady, and I enjoyed the unusual "look" of their chocolates. I had a nice discussion with Jared, including the difference between the cut praline chocolates, which he makes there, and the molded chocolates (and gelato), which Michael Canady makes there. I assume the chocolatiers are nearly always on the premises making the chocolates, except perhaps on weekends, for the single-location chocolatiers (Piron, Canady, Vanille, Chocolate Box, Coco Rouge), and not for those with multiple locations (Bernard Callebaut, Vosges) for which the chocolates are probably made elsewhere.

                2. the chocolates that you refer to as costing $109/pound are actually $80/pound the additional cost is in a handmade birch veneer box that they are packaged in if you wish to come in and just purchase truffles they are packaged for you in a black cardboard box, withour any additional cost and the more expensive ingredients do not stop at the chocolate they continue with ingredients used to produce the truffles, honey that can only be found inTasmanian rainforests made from bees that pollinate trees that are at the minimum of 100 years old, rose oil that takes 10,000 pounds of petals to produce one ounce. We are also talking about chocolates that are made by hand not processed in some factory. The process of handmaking chocolates is incredibly time consuming. We don't sell raw couveture so to take that as the only indication of a price is not really taking into consideration all of the elements of cost of production. this is in response to nsxtasy my link didn't seem to work

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: erika1940

                    Assuming you are referring to Coco Rouge, I paid $102 per pound for the chocolate, not $109 per pound - sorry for the error. I recently purchased six pieces of chocolate - five truffles and one sliver of peach, and it cost me $15.26 including sales tax. I now see that I must have paid $14.00 for the chocolate before sales tax. I took them home and weighed them (without the cardboard box or any packaging) and they weighed 2.2 ounces. That works out to $101.82 per pound. Maybe the larger assortments work out to $80 per pound (or $82-84 per pound, as noted in my original post above).

                    As for the price and the value, I think it's great that there are so many fine chocolatiers hand-making chocolates in the Chicago area, and we have so many choices. I encourage any chocolate lover to go to any of these chocolatiers and buy their products and decide for yourself which you enjoy the most and whether the more expensive ones are worth the price difference.

                    1. re: nsxtasy

                      I appreciate your honesty and the fact that you make it known that this is just your opinion however I have to side with marilyn and say that you are comparing apples to oranges the chocolates at Coco Rouge are not of the type of chocolate that you by "by the pound" it is a luxury that is better savored by the piece

                      1. re: erika1940

                        Of course the taste is all a matter of opinion! That's why I (a) noted, not just which ones I liked the best, but why, and (b) encouraged others to try them to see which ones *they* like the best, since not everyone likes the same things the best. I took all of these home, and tried to savor all of them by the piece, evaluating them the same way regardless of how they are sold or priced. (Actually, there were two of us doing the tasting, and we both agreed on which ones we liked and didn't like.) We formed our opinion entirely based on taste, not on how they are priced. The simple fact is, we really like the chocolates at Piron and Canady's (which are hand-made in the shop where you buy them for a small fraction of the price of some others) and also the ones from Vosges (which are made in Chicago where Katrina Markoff founded the company) and Bernard, and we don't much care for the chocolates we bought at Coco Rouge or the Chocolate Box or Vanille. The fact that we don't like the chocolates at Coco Rouge has nothing to do with whether they are priced by the piece or the pound; it is strictly a matter of taste. Others may have different opinions after trying all of these, and they are welcome to their opinions. De gustibus non disputandum.

                        1. re: erika1940

                          Erika, Coco Rouge is out of this world with quality. As is Chocolate Box and a few others in the city. Vosges, I think, touches that quality. I've enjoyed Bon Bon in Andersonville (teh experience as much as the chocolate) and would like very much to try Vanille.

                          The review above, which has its fair share of inaccuracies, does I think push price and value for those it chose (and it seemed to choose the winner before any chocolate was purchased IMO and from spending too much time on this board). My bigger issue was that the review seemed to be passing judgement on not a lot of information.

                          You've given a lot of information about Coco Rouge's ingredients. I've looked at, held and tasted their product. It is art. People serious about chocolate should try it at least once. I can't describe how beautifully it is done. It's in a whole other league.

                          It's a better value at $80 or $100 a pound, than many of those at 1/2 or 1/4 the price.

                          It's like comparing a competent bistro or trattoria to a Trotters or Avec. If you're having the discussion, you're probably in the wrong place.

                          Chicago is getting more sophisticated, but we do everything at our own pace. Which is to say, not too quick.

                          1. re: marilyn9

                            I had no pre-conceptions before tasting all of the chocolates from the six stores other than Piron. I hoped that I would like all six. I tried them, liked three (including Canady's, one of the three places marilyn9 had previously recommended to us - thanks! - and Vosges, the second most expensive of the seven), and didn't like the other three. I've looked at, held, and tasted Coco Rouge's product too. I didn't like Coco Rouge's chocolates much, for the reasons previously stated, which have everything to do with taste and nothing to do with being the most expensive chocolates in town. A chocolate I don't like is not a good value *to me*, no matter how much it costs, and the blandness of the chocolates from Coco Rouge just doesn't impress me at all. That's my *opinion*.

                            1. re: nsxtasy

                              "its bland taste doesn't excite me at all"

                              A lot of people don't know that the cheaper chocolates have sugar added to mask the taste of inferior and filler ingredients. Fanny May, Russel Stover and even some of the less sophisticated artisanal chocolatiers do this. To get as much "real chocolate" in one piece of Cocoa Rouge you'd need to buy four times as much of another product.

                              Americans have developed a taste for the high sugar, less real chocolate, chocolate varieties. I used to have to stock up when we went to Europe and New York, but no longer. This discussion has looked to me like the intersection of old tastes and new tastes.

                              It's like the difference between the green can of parmesan cheese that is sold on the grocery shelf and parmigiana reggiano. Now, the parmigian from Argentina is certainly better than the green can, but it's not reggiano.

                              There are some raised on the dust flakes in the green can who can never be sold on the reggiano and don't see a difference.

                              I haven't bought one of those green cans in over 20 years. Haven't bought anything but the parmigiano reggiano.

                              For me the extra value that comes along with the extra price is more than worth it.

                              And, I'd love to see anyone else criticise the quality and taste of the Cocoa Rouge product. I don't think it's going to happen (but I've been wrong before).

                    2. "Price per pound: $65.45 (based on $36 for 24 pieces weighing 8.8 ounces)"

                      can you really project an appropriate price/lb by doing this? are all the chocolates the same price per piece ala carte? I would think there would be more variables involved affecting price, such as the quality/rarity/trendiness of an ingredient or level of difficulty in crafting. Items with rarer ingredients and a more sophisticated artisan effort/technique should be priced higher, thus nullifying any simple plug and chug formula. I think assortments usually round out the individual price of any product, taking in account the high and low of the array that is offered. For example, at a restaurant you could order a flight of tuna that cost 36 dollars...lets say the flight contains 3 pieces toro, 3 pieces, albacore, 3 pieces big eye. You could surmise then each piece is $4 and then go on to say since each piece is half an ounce then the price per lb would be $128. However, each tuna is priced differently alacarte...toro being marked up much higher ($9-10/piece so $288-320/lb) than either of the latter tunas (which would be much cheaper per lb according to their ala carte values...closer to $64-.96/lb) So the previous estimate of $128 is kind of a misleading blanket statement...with much of the actual $/lbs being significantly higher or lower, and I could not say accurately that all tuna at X restuarant is $128/lb.

                      but if theyre all priced the same per piece ala carte then good sleuthing i guess :)

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: escolar

                        At most of the chocolatiers I visited, most of the premium chocolates were approximately the same price. For example, at Vosges, most of the truffles, including all of the ones I bought, were $2.50 each. A handful were $2.75 each, if I recall correctly.

                        Some of the chocolatiers had some chocolates (e.g. nut bark) which were lower in price and which I did not buy or include in my cost calculations.

                        1. re: nsxtasy

                          I recognized pricing as one of major inaccuracies in the review. The reviewer seemingly chose the most expensive items in each store, presented that information without other facts (like full product mix) and then went into great detail about "value."

                          Knowing some (but not all) of the stores myself, the review just didn't make sense (on price or taste).

                          But I guess that's the world of blogging. Enough of this already. I have to find something more interesting to pursue.

                          1. re: marilyn9

                            That is neither true nor accurate. As explicitly stated in my previous post, if there were a handful of items that were priced more than most, I did *not* purchase those, and did *not* include their prices in my calculations. I simply chose the items most typical of their premium product line (in the stores that offered premium products as well as a lower priced item like nut bark), as a representation of their best products. The prices noted above are what anyone would typically find going into the store and asking for one of their nicer assortments, or choosing the pieces similar to what one would find in one of their nicer assortments. I did this for all seven stores, all on an equal basis. Anyone going into Coco Rouge or Vosges is likely to pay $100-110 per pound for a few truffles, or $80-90 per pound for a larger assortment; anyone going into Piron or Canady is going to pay $33-36 per pound regardless of whether he/she is buying a few pieces or a pound or more (aside from the lower priced nut bark). These prices are *facts*, not opinions, and anyone with an accurate postal scale can (and is welcome to) verify them. And I consider this to be useful information to any prospective buyer, regardless of whose chocolates he or she may like better or may choose to buy.

                            The results - the fact that we liked the chocolates from Piron, Bernard, Vosges, and Canady's, and didn't like the chocolates from Vanille, the Chocolate Box, or Coco Rouge - were based entirely on taste, which is a matter of *opinion*, and had absolutely nothing to do with price. We tasted them, we tried them, we liked four (including one of the two most expensive) and we didn't like three. The only point at which price entered into it was in my decision to spend my future chocolate dollars on the two we liked that were less expensive, rather than the two we liked that were more expensive. Again, this is our *opinion* - all completely and clearly disclosed.

                            I would encourage anyone here who is interested in chocolate to try any or all of these chocolatiers, and decide for yourself which ones *you* prefer. Heck, you can do the exact same thing I did! Buy some, take them home, ask any friends who really love chocolate to join you, weigh them and calculate how much you paid per pound, and form your own opinions - and let us know how *you* liked them, and why. Maybe you'll like the same ones I did, maybe not - but either way, you are welcome to *your* opinion.

                      2. The fact that Vosges is rated higher than the substantially less expensive Canady is very strong evidence that nsxtasy did not put very much weight on price / value. Price / value is relevant to any discussion and often comes up in Chowhound discussions of Trotter's, Moto, etc. Nobody is comparing these top chocolatiers to Fannie May or Russell Stover.

                        1. "Some of the chocolatiers had some chocolates (e.g. nut bark) which were lower in price and which I did not buy or include in my cost calculations."


                          "I simply chose the items most typical of their premium product line (in the stores that offered premium products as well as a lower priced item like nut bark)..."

                          this is bit confusing...as far as the whole price per pound debate....i think high quality chocolates are not really meant to be bought in a massive quanity anyways...i think its more sensible to buy it by the piece, since the good stuff is pretty rich and satiating. so i guess the whole by the pound stuff is pretty irrelevent...i appreciate the list though, its awesome that i can print out a list with all the addresses

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: escolar

                            Price per pound simply scales things so that you know you're comparing equal things - where price per piece would not necessarily be so. If you want to put it on a scale that makes more sense to the scale of the likely purchase/indulgence, convert it all to price per ounce.

                            My mom and I visited Canady's during our visit in April, and it was absolutely magical. The chocolate was wonderful, but add in Mr Canady's charm, and it was by far our favorite experience of the trip. I think I'd love to do a chocolate tour of Chicago next time I'm there... whenever that might be.

                          2. nsxtasy, thank you for an ideal post. I Love chocolate and have wondered about some of the places you rate but have not made the trek to yet.You gave the info and gave enough that I could get some good initial ideas about what I would like or not like based on your comments. Believe me, with the Dan Ryan ripped up, I would not be a happy camper to put all the effort into a subpar chow trek. Thank you

                            1. marilyn if you ever had the time i would be really interested in reading a review written by you on the different shops. The points you mentioned above sounded like a good rubric for judging chocolate, and in addition to nsxtasy's reviews, both matters of quality and value/cost would be covered.

                              im starting to get interested in chocolate, i didn't like it that much growing up (i know weird!), i guess for me price/value isn't really a priority, i mean i dont want to pay exorbitantly for disappointing product, but i wouldnt mind paying more for something pretty impressive. So all in all, cost aside, i would like to read a review more centered on flavor and degree of quality

                              1. Chapter 3. :wink:

                                I visited two more chocolate shops in the area. Thanks to CathleenH for suggesting both of them in her posts in this topic! Here is information about what I found there.

                                Bon Bon Chicago
                                5410 N. Clark St.
                                Chicago IL 60640

                                These represent yet another very different approach to chocolate.

                                I had trouble picking these chocolates out, because there are no labels next to each of the chocolates displayed. Instead, they have a separate, printed list of all the offerings, describing what each contains. There are no photos, but the chocolates are adequately identified by shape (fan, heart, pyramid, etc). I found that it was easier to order from that list, rather than from looking at the items. When buying, don't forget to get a copy of the list of the chocolates to help you remember which is which when you get home.

                                What I didn't realize at the time is that many of their chocolates are not *filled* chocolates, but rather, are solid chocolates infused/mixed with flavorings, so the chocolates have the texture and consistency of a chocolate bar. There's nothing wrong with that, it just wasn't what I was expecting when I ordered some of them.

                                A lot of Bon Bon's chocolates have spices and other exotic ingredients, including cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, Chinese 5 spice, curry, ancho chili, tea, ginger, lavender, bergamot, orange blossom, rose petals, etc. They also have chocolates flavored with liqueurs (Grand Marnier, Williams pear brandy, amaretto, Kirschwasser, Calvados). 80-90 percent of their chocolates contain one of these ingredients as the primary flavoring.

                                I liked these for their unusual flavorings. The flavorings were nice and strong, too; there was no mistaking the cinnamon, or the ginger, or the cardamom for anything else. The appearance was attractive, also, second only to Canady's in being unusually beautiful.

                                The chocolates were priced at $60 per pound regardless of how many pieces are purchased. They are made on the premises by the owners, a mother and daughter.

                                Parking in the neighborhood was difficult. The store is in Andersonville, next door to Pasticceria Natalina, the new Sicilian pastry shop, a block north of Swedish Bakery. Hours are not posted on their website; the shop is open 12-8, Wednesday through Sunday.

                                1157 Wilmette Avenue
                                Wilmette 60091
                                (866) 324 6716

                                Leonidas is a Belgian chocolatier. Chocolates are made in Belgium and flown in every couple of weeks.

                                The Leonidas shop in Wilmette is similar to Vanille Patisserie, in that it is a pastry shop and cafe as well as a chocolate shop. They have delicious French pastry as well as various coffees and other hot beverages. I was there shortly after they opened in the morning, and their croissants were still warm (and the one I had was heavenly). In addition to the individual chocolates, they also had various prepackaged chocolate bars.

                                I liked their chocolates, too. They are similar to Piron and Bernard Callebaut in style; molded filled chocolates with fillings of conventional fruit and nut flavors. In quality, I like Piron and Bernard better, but these are still quite good, and similar in many cases. Their gianduja was very good, the gianduja crunch was excellent (almost as good as Canady's), and the marzipan was good (but not quite as good as Piron). One of their chocolates was a white chocolate with a pineapple flavored filling; the filling was an unusual whipped consistency, rather than the creamy truffle-like filling of Piron and Bernard. All in all, while I didn't think they were quite as overwhelmingly rich and fine as Piron's, they were still very good and worth trying.

                                There was no printed material about the individual chocolates, so take notes to remind you of what is inside each.

                                The chocolates were priced at $32 per pound regardless of how many pieces are purchased, which is the lowest of the nine chocolatiers I tried.

                                Street parking in the area is easy.

                                So now, adding these new entries to my list, here is how I would rank them (and I am updating the prices below by showing ranges of price to reflect differences where you can buy chocolates for a lower price in a larger collection than in a few pieces):

                                THE BEST:
                                1. Belgian Chocolatier Piron (Evanston) - $36/lb - www.belgchocpiron.com
                                2. Chocolates by Bernard Callebaut (Glenview, Lake Forest - made in Canada) - $50/lb - www.bernard-callebaut.com
                                3. Vosges Chocolate (Chicago) - $91-100/lb - www.vosgeschocolate.com
                                4. Leonidas (Wilmette - made in Belgium) - $32/lb - www.cafechocolaterie.com
                                5. Canady le Chocolatier, Ltd. (Chicago) - $33/lb - www.canadylechocolatierchicago.com
                                6. Bon Bon (Chicago) - $60/lb - www.bonbonchicago.com

                                THE REST:
                                7. Vanille Patisserie (Chicago) - $63/lb - www.vanillepatisserie.com
                                8. Chocolate Box (Winnetka) - $66/lb (no website AFAIK
                                )9. Coco Rouge (Chicago) - $82-102/lb - www.cocorouge.com

                                I will continue to update this topic when I try products from additional high-quality chocolatiers in the Chicago area. My purpose in compiling this information has been to help publicize ALL of them, in one place, so that anyone can find out more information about what's available in the area. I've tried to explain what the chocolates at each are like (you can't always tell from pictures and descriptions on websites, and some of them don't even offer that).

                                There are lots of different reasons for preferring one chocolatier over another. Some people may prefer chocolates with more conventional fillings and ingredients, while others may prefer the unusual tastes of chocolates flavored with spices and herbs. Some people may prefer one of the seven chocolatiers who are local entrepreneurs making their chocolates here in Chicago. Some may prefer the one(s) in their own neighborhood, or convenient to their workplace. And some may wish to let price differences enter into their buying decision. It is my sincere hope that the factual information in this topic will help make you aware of what the chocolate shops here have to offer and how they fit into what you may be looking for.

                                As previously noted, the preference for one type of chocolates over another is a matter of personal taste and OPINION. Still, where possible, I've also tried to explain exactly WHY I preferred some over others. Sometimes it's a matter of my own personal preference for a strong, identifiable flavor in a chocolate. Sometimes it's a matter of consistency and texture, and balance among flavorings and shell vs filling. In any case, I've tried to do more than merely say "I like X and I don't like Y". I hope this information has been helpful to others.

                                Again, I encourage anyone to try the fine products from any or ALL of these chocolatiers, and decide for yourself which ones YOU like best and where to continue to buy your chocolates.

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: nsxtasy

                                  There is (or was) a Leonidas right off of S. LaSalle St. downtown.

                                  1. re: maurice

                                    Yes, I should have searched for other locations in the Chicago area. Thanks for the reminder.

                                    The website link in my previous post is only for the Wilmette location. Their corporate website www.leonidas.com enables you to find all their locations worldwide. It lists six stores in Chicago, but four of them are Treasure Island stores, so I assume those are only stores where their chocolates can be bought pre-packaged, rather than displayed and chosen individually.

                                    The downtown location information is:

                                    Bank of America Building
                                    231 South Lasalle Street
                                    60604 CHICAGO
                                    Tel : 0312 251 8850

                                    1. re: nsxtasy

                                      Leonidas is the best! The Wilmette shop is cute, not overly snotty or anything. They also sell pastries, coffee.

                                      I LOVE the fancy, satin boxes the chocolates come in. What a nice gift for an out of town friend.

                                      1. re: stellamystar

                                        I like buying chocolates at Piron because they are made there, not flown in. There is a difference between day old chocolate and week (or more) old chocolate. If you like Leonidas, you will LOVE Piron.

                                        1. re: lulubelle

                                          I will have to give it a try! Thanks for the tip!

                                2. Chocolates by Bernard Callebaut has closed their location in Glenview. The location in Lake Forest is still open.

                                  1. bonbon chicago in Andersonville.

                                    Its a secret spot run by a really strange woman, but she has really unique chocolate concoctions. the first time we were in there Bill Murray was buying up the store for holiday gifts. She has been written up in Playboy and bunch of other publications.

                                    Check it out good stuff.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: tiger2925a

                                      Bonbon is okay, not our best. I mentioned it above, and ranked it sixth among the nine places I tried.

                                    2. Bon Bon and Coco Rouge have both closed.