- Isa Giallorenzo
Eat chocolates, little girl; Eat chocolates! Believe me, there is no metaphysics in the world other than chocolates; Believe me, all the religions together do not teach more than the candy shop,” wisely wrote the late Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa. His words came to me after I entered the Logan Square storefront of Katherine Anne Confections. The salted-caramel iced drinking chocolate ($5, with a flight of three for $9) obliterated any further considerations from my mind. It was just me and chocolate, its sublime taste both powerful and subtle, with just the right amount of sweet.
I'm not the only disciple. Katherine Anne's salted-caramel drinking chocolate mix ($24) has taken prizes at the Specialty Food Association's prestigious Sofi Awards, and was declared one of the top 15 places in the U.S. for hot chocolate by Fodor's. But the confectionery is best known for its truffles ($2.75 each, with boxes starting at $10), which they make in quantities of up to 10,000 a week and sell at Whole Foods and other local markets.
An experienced chocolatier, Katherine Anne's owner, Katherine Duncan, has been selling her sweets since the tender age of 14. "I grew up making truffles and caramels with my family over the holiday season, and sold caramels at my dad's work for 25 cents each—or five for $1, so savvy! After I moved to Chicago in 2002 and started giving them out for the holidays, people went wild for them. I did some research and found out there weren't a lot of artisan, small-batch confectioners in Chicago, so decided to give it a try and see what happens," says Duncan, 33, who started her business in 2006. These days she employs nine staff members in addition to her husband (and father of her two young children), Frank Duncan, who works for the business full-time.
One of the secrets of their success seems to be in the sauce: "To make a stellar product, you have to start with stellar ingredients, so sourcing is at the top of the list," says Katherine, who makes everything she sells from scratch. "Honey is used in place of corn syrup in all items, and comes from Sunny Hill Honey out in Harvard, Illinois. Cream comes from Kilgus Farmstead in Fairbury, Illinois—they have a herd of 120 Jersey cows that produce incredibly rich, decadent cream. Stone fruits and berries are from local farms—we love Seedling, Ellis, and Hardin's, which are from Michigan and Wisconsin. Even ingredients that we use sparingly are sourced locally—our sunflower oil (for our vegan truffles) comes from an organic farm in Wisconsin; our teas are blended on the south side of Chicago by SenTEAmental Moods artisan teas; curry powder comes from the western burbs." Her goal? "To make each product the best version of themselves," she says. "Generally, we aim for intense, powerful flavors where tasters know what they're enjoying before we tell them." Mission accomplished. Katherine Anne Confections, 2745 W. Armitage, 773-245-1630, katherine-anne.com. v