By Jacky Runice
Visions of sugarplums danced in heads in 1823 when “Twas the Night Before Christmas” was written. This is the 21st century when salty complements sweet, truffles are filled with herbs and even the lowly marshmallow is elevated beyond its campfire roots. A box of sweets is an easy gift that can be really thoughtful when you choose from these special Chicago confectioners.
Katherine Anne Confections
2745 W. Armitage Ave.
Chicago, IL 60647
When you buy treats from Katherine Anne Confections, expect handmade confections created from scratch with no artificial preservatives, flavors or colors, and a barely visible carbon footprint. Founder and “confectionista” Katherine Duncan uses the finest natural ingredients and many are local or organic. Each truffle is hand dipped and caramels are made with local Illinois honey and organic sugar. The company works with area farms to get local, seasonal ingredients. You’ll thrill recipients with flavors like pomegranate, cherry amaretto and pineapple-upside-down truffles, apple cider and rosemary sea salt caramels and handmade pillowy marshmallows in astonishing flavors from Earl Grey tea to vanilla black pepper. Order online or pick them up at various Chicago retailers and at the recently opened Katherine Anne Confections storefront on Armitage Avenue. Gift wrapping is provided.
Sweet Sensations Pastry
1918 W. Montrose Ave.
Chicago, IL 60613
Sweet Sensations Pastry is a full-service bakery in the Ravenswood neighborhood in which everything is made from scratch using all-natural ingredients. It’s not unusual to hear customers gushing, “The carrot cake and German chocolate are perfect.” The holiday choices here are dazzling. Pick up a gingerbread cake filled and frosted with a cardamom cream cheese frosting, topped with gingerbread men; gingerbread cupcakes done the same way; luscious nougats (pistachio, cherry, almond) individually wrapped and bagged; chocolate, cherry, pistachio biscotti; or go all out with the Santa head cake. Chef/owner Sharin Nathan will also arrange assorted holiday platters with cookies and bars. After all that work, she’ll place your purchases in a bakery box and tie a pretty ribbon around it.
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The Elixir of Love Fine Chocolates & Confectionery
“L’Elisir D’Amore” is an Italian opera that translates into “The Elixir of Love.” It was an inspiration for pastry artist Deana Burrows to begin her own line of seasonal truffles different from any other chocolatier because each package is a one-time collectible, the flavors are exquisite and all chocolate is made fresh to order. “I wanted these chocolates to be intimate like a love letter,” says the artist, “with each box looking like a tiny work of art.” How can you go wrong with her holiday collection and other gorgeous boxes of confectionery including hand-painted petit fours, caramels, toffee and signature original confections like the Japonaise mini truffle torte. Look for her wares at the Urban Folk Circuit (a traveling year-round craft-market series), Komoda Chicago (Humboldt Park) and Kitchen Sink Chicago (Edgewater) or order by phone or online. Pick up and delivery is available.
The Cookie Joint
Founded in 2010 by Jill Balick and Susie Schuster, The Cookie Joint offers fun and festive treats in five varieties: original, chocolate chip, double chocolate chip, cinnamon spice and chocolate toffee crunch. Dipping sauce flavors include tangy raspberry, lemon, salted caramel, hazelnut, chocolate, marshmallow and peanut butter. The recipient of a Cookie Fries Gift Tray will enjoy shortbread cookies shaped like crinkle-cut French fries and served in traditional fry cartons with sweet dipping sauces as condiments. Packaging can be customized for any event or occasion and the holiday packaging is outright adorable. Orders can be placed online or by calling (847) 461-3068. Customers can also make arrangements with the bakery to pick up gifts.
Garrett Popcorn Shops
625 N. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611
27 W. Jackson Blvd.
Chicago, IL 60604
26 W. Randolph St.
Chicago, IL 60601
The scent of caramel wafting out of Garrett Popcorn Shops turns tourists into zombies needing a fix of fresh, hot-popped corn. Thrill out-of-towners and locals alike with a tin of Garrett’s limited-time holiday flavor – gingerbread CaramelCrisp. Subtle, comforting ginger spices are partnered with the famous CaramelCrisp® recipe taking you back home to the cozy kitchen of your youth. Choose from retro red, snowflake or red and green signature striped tins. The gift set combines Cashew CaramelCrisp®, Almond CaramelCrisp® and Pecan CaramelCrisp® into a stylish collection. It’s available online only for shipping.
Jacky Runice has been a columnist with the Daily Herald Chicago since grunge music and flannel was the new black. Her fingers and gray matter have been busy as travel editor of Reunions Magazine; penning a column that was syndicated around the nation via Tribune Media Services. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.