While in Lisle, Illinois, last weekend, your Chocolate Priestess found and visited a local chocolatier named Violeta Karalis who has a long history in the catering business. Three years ago she started a "chocolate and gelato cafe" called Traviata after the opera. Let me explain, Sisters and Brothers, why you should strongly consider visiting her at 1111 Burlington Ave, Suite 101. I'm going to include lot of photographs the Milk Chocolate Acolyte took so enjoy -- note that is my head over in the lower right hand corner.
First, don't let these external photos fool you, the place is much deeper than you might image from the outside. While there isn't much seating inside, Violeta goes out of her way to make you feel welcome and help you celebrate. In fact while we were there she helped a young man plan a special surprise for his lady by taking items he wanted placed out by a certain time and making notes about the little party he wanted to throw.
That was just one of the ways that Violeta showed her love of chocolate and focus on customer service. She was more than happy to talk to us about her business, all of her products, and offer me free samples. Her cafe has seasonal business. They always make the candies but in the summer the gelato and other types of candies sell more than the truffles or hot drinks. That makes perfect sense but the range of products in this store also demonstrates that they understand that and offer such a wide range of products on purpose.
First we tried the gelato, sharing one scoop of the chocolate variety. I remember gelato from Rome, Italy, that I had many years ago while studying abroad for a year and this reminded me of that. Gelato is slightly healthier than ice cream but the outstanding characteristic it has for us, Sisters and Brothers, is that the flavors are stronger in gelato. This was very much like eating a rich milk chocolate in every bite, nothing dulled by the cold or added ingredients.
Violeta offered me a taste of her hot chocolate drinks but your Chocolate Priestess really limits such drinks to the cooler or cold months just as I limit ice cream and gelato to the warm or hot months. I find a nice contrast with the environment helps me appreciate the cocoa more. Besides hot chocolates, the large red poster to the left, Traviata also has coffees, teas and cold drinks. If you are having anything else that is chocolate, I have to recommend you stick to water so you can fully experience what you are eating.
Obviously one of the big draws for any chocolatier are the candies it sells. Truffles are big sellers during the cooler months and the regular school year, Violeta told me. To the left we see the truffle display which I was told has a smaller selection than it would have a month or two before. Up by the counter there are also other candy and cookie products and Violeta game me a box of 6 dark chocolate covered turtles that I'll discuss in a moment. I also bought two truffles -- White Lavender and Hazelnut -- and three dessert truffles -- Tiramisu, Caramel, and Mint. The truffles are about 1in in diameter while the dessert size are about 1.5in across. All tasted exactly as I'd expect given their names.
The turtles I bought were about 1.75in across and very thick with chocolate, caramel, and 2-3 pieces pecan halves in each. To the right you see the candies I bought and three of the turtles. The dark chocolate was wonderful bitter and balanced with the sweetness of the caramel that literally oozed from the turtle when I bite. The unique look of each, sometimes as you can see the pecan was visible, sometimes only caramel, confirmed these were handmade as Violeta told me. Each one was chewing and by the time I finished I had a definite cocoa high that opened my sinuses and eyes and lightened my head.
If we are ever back in Lisle, Illinois, again I will certainly stop by Traviata. Check it out if you are in the area not far from Chicago.
Sisters and Brothers, may you too take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.
If you are reading in the eastern half of the Midwest, don't forget The Chocolate Cult's first CONTEST.