Sep 17, 2012

Philadelphia's Chocolate Walking Tour

Two things are touted as being good for one’s health – walking and chocolate. John and I decided to get healthy by taking the Philadelphia Chocolate Walking Tour while in Philly. We met Shanna outside Reading Terminal Market, a foodie heaven with over one hundred merchants vending all kinds of food items from fresh fish to Philly Cheesesteak Sandwiches, and, of course, chocolate. Shanna gave a brief infomercial on chocolate from the time when the cocoa bean was used by the Mayans for money to when chocolate drinks were so expensive only the elite could afford to imbibe. Shanna said the tour was the “best reason to walk” because both chocolate and walking are good for us.

Our First stop was The Famous 4th Street Cookie Company for one of their chocolate chip cookies which John, who is a lover of chocolate chip cookies, declared the “best I have ever had.” While we were noshing – and sneaking a second cookie – Shanna shared some cookie trivia including the fact that the first official Girl Scout cookie sale took place in Philadelphia in 1933.

Around the corner was Chocolate by Mueller where they are known for their chocolate covered pretzels, which only seemed right since Pennsylvania is the center of American pretzel production having been introduced by the Pennsylvania Dutch in the 1800s. Mueller’s are the home of the anatomically correct chocolate heart, brain, lungs, nose and so on. Quite clever, I’d say. The chocolate heart must be a great heartfelt gift. Then it was down the aisle to the Pennsylvania General Store where they sell an amazing variety of Pennsylvania-made items. You have heard of scrapple? It is a mess of pork scraps and trimmings that can’t be used elsewhere mixed with cornmeal and flour with spices added to make it somewhat solid. Well, the scrapple at Pennsylvania General Store is the best scrapple you will ever have. There is no pork in it but a sweet, crunchy mix of chocolate, popcorn, caramel, marshmallow and nuts. Made scrapple lovers out of us.

It was time to leave the Reading Terminal Market and head down the street to Verde, a boutique shop specializing in women’s jewelry and accessories and home of Marcie Blains Artisanal Chocolate. We agreed with Shanna that Marcie Blains is truly “a hidden treasure.” We walked through the store past a slew of trendy items to the studio kitchen at the rear of the store where a young lady was stirring chocolate. Then it was tasting time. Shanna handed us a piece of chocolate bark and said, “First you look at it, then smell the aroma, then take a small bite, savor it on your tongue, then eat it slowly, one bite at a time.” We waited for John to buy a selection of truffles then crossed the street to our last stop – Capogrio – named Number 1 by National Geographic as the “Coolest Place to Eat Ice Cream.” The artisan gelato is made fresh daily. We sampled Stracciatella (Italian chocolate chip), Chocolate con Banana, Ciocolato Messicano (spicy Mexican Chocolate), and Ciocolato Scuro (bitter chocolate). The more we walked and sampled the chocolate the healthier we felt.

We like one-topic walking tours. I wish we had known about the Free and Friendly Tours and Free Tours by Foot. Both offer a variety of tours based on tip-only fares. More reasons to visit Philly again.