MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

The chocolate cure

When winter drags on, drown your sorrows with sweets.

Candinas chocolates in Madison.

© Beth Gauper

Candinas chocolates, made in the Madison suburb of Verona, are among the nation's best.

In February and March, most of us are getting tired of winter . . . time to eat some chocolate.

As everyone knows, chocolate has unique restorative qualities. It's effective draped on strawberries, whipped into mousse, covering cakes . . . you get the idea.

Here's where to go to thumb your nose at winter (and your diet). Pick from tastings, tours and road trips.

Here's how to take the chocolate cure in 2018.

In Lake Geneva, there's a Cocoa Crawl Feb. 2, with businesses offering free samples. Participants vote on their favorites, and there's also a free showing of "Frozen."

On Feb. 10-11, vintners on Michigan's Leelanau Peninsula offer Taste the Passion, A Celebration of Wine, Chocolate & Love.'' Seventeen wineries offer sweet and savory pairings with their wines.

In the Twin Cities suburb of Bloomington, Richardson Nature Center is offering the romantic Candlelight & Chocolate, with desserts, a campfire and a luminary-lit walk in the woods.

In Appleton, Wis., Feb. 10 is Death by Chocolate, a progressive tasting at 20 restaurants, bars and coffeehouses along College Avenue.

In Galesburg, Ill., the historical society hosts a buffet of homemade and commercial chocolate treats at its Chocolate Festival Feb. 17-18, only $8 in advance.

In Kohler, Wis., Destination Kohler offers In Celebration of Chocolate Feb. 16-18, with high-end chefs leading demonstrations, tastings, pairings and classes, including one of making chocolate sculptures.

The multi-course deals offered during Restaurant Weeks always include dessert, and Chicago, Minneapolis, and Traverse City hold them in February and March. For more, see Time to eat.

In March, bed-and-breakfast inns along the St. Croix River between Minnesota and Wisconsin put on the Chocolate March. Tour three or four different inns plus one or two historic-house museums, each offering a buffet of treats.

In Madison, the shops along Monroe Street hold a Chocolate Walk in April, with treats at more than 16 shops and restaurants. It benefits the free Vilas Zoo.

In the southeast Wisconsin town of Burlington, the Chocolate Extravaganza is part of the Home Expo on March 10.

Beerntsen's in Manitowoc.

© Beth Gauper

In Manitowoc, Wis., Beerntsen's Confectionary still is run by the family that founded it in 1932.

It's for people who just can't wait until the town's huge Chocolate Fest Memorial Day weekend, May 25-28. Burlington is the home of a Nestlé chocolate plant and calls itself Chocolate City USA.

On Lake Michigan, Traverse City's Chocolate Festival is April 15, with sampling, a chocolate-sculpting workshop and music.

A chocolate getaway

If you'd like to go on a chocolate getaway any time, head for Chicago's Gold Coast. Stay at the Peninsula Hotel, which offers an all-you-can-eat chocolate buffet in its lobby from 8 p.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays.

For everyday chocolate, head for the historic Water Tower area. The Hershey's store is at 822 N. Michigan, and its neighbor, the Ghirardelli store, is at at 830 N. Michigan.

In the West Loop, the Blommer Chocolate Company has a small Chocolate Store at its factory, famous for the chocolate aroma that wafts over the neighborhood. It's across the river from the Merchandise Mart, at 600 W. Kinzie St.

A chocolate road trip

Wisconsin has a lot of chocolate as well as cheese and beer.

You can spend a very fun day visiting the many artisan chocolate shops of its capital city, as we did in A chocolate tour of Madison.

And the New York Times has mapped out a tour of chocolate shops in what it calls the Wisconsin Candy Delta between Appleton, Oshkosh, Green Bay/De Pere and Manitowoc.

The shops are Wilmar Chocolates and Vande Walle's Candies in Appleton, Oaks Candy Corner and Hughes Homaid Chocolate Shop in Oskhkosh, Beerntsen's and Kaap's Old World Chocolates in Green Bay and Seroogy's in De Pere and Beerntsen's in Manitowoc.

If you can do that in one day, you deserve an award.

Chocolate-factory tours

Quality Candy in St. Francis, Wis. See how chocolates and Buddy Squirrel nuts, snack mix and gourmet popcorn is made on the Candy & Nut Tour in this south Milwaukee factory.

They last 30 to 45 minutes and are given Monday through Friday.

Tours are $3 and include samples. Reservations are required; call 414-483-4500.

The company holds an annual Easter Open House the Sunday before Palm Sunday. Families can meet Buddy Squirrel and Mr. and Mrs. Easter Bunny and sample creme eggs and caramel corn.

The plant is just west of Wisconsin 794 at 1801 E. Bolivar Ave.

Long Grove Confectionery Co. in Buffalo Grove, Ill. Free tours of this family-owned chocolate company, which produces many fun novelty items, are given on the hour at 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays, and no reservation is necessary.

Tours between 10 a.m. and noon Tuesdays and Wednesdays include a view of production and packaging lines as well as a short video about how cacao is grown and made into chocolate. They cost $2 and must be reserved, 888-459-3100.

Both tours end with stops at the factory shop for discounted chocolate.

Buffalo Grove is a northern suburb of Chicago, west of the intersection of I-94 and 294. It's just east of Long Grove.

Last updated on January 11, 2018