The dreariest of winter doldrums are upon us. We know spring is coming, but the still-icy temperatures, gray skies and school stresses don’t give us much hope for brighter days. I know it’s bad to eat your feelings, and by no means do I endorse turning to food to combat your blues entirely, but this seasonal lack of happiness can be at least somewhat compensated for by indulging in a little pick-me-up in the form of sugar.
There’s always a reason for it — maybe you forgot this year to treat your Valentine to the box of chocolates they deserve (hint, hint) or maybe the stress of midterms is causing you to crave every comfort food known to man. In any case, it’s never wrong to enjoy sweets — in moderation –especially if they’re of the finely crafted, gourmet variety.
Luckily, you live in Madison. Sweet indulgences of this kind are readily available at a number of local businesses. A trio of local chocolatiers, a cupcakery and some good old-fashioned Wisconsin ice cream can do at least a little bit to help you maintain sanity throughout these winter blahs.
Chocolate is an art form at any true chocolatier, but this is especially evident at Candinas Chocolatier, my personal favorite. Walking into their swanky boutique-style store on the Capitol Square feels more like walking into a gallery than into a chocolate shop. Candinas specializes in expertly crafted gourmet truffles, with a small selection of different varieties available every day. Because Candinas doesn’t use preservatives in any of their recipes, the shelf life for their truffles is quite short, but this shouldn’t be a problem once you get a taste of one. Some of the smoothest and creamiest chocolate truffles to be found are available here, with flavors ranging from rich dark chocolate to jasmine and green tea infused chocolate. Try the hazelnut truffle, whose buttery smooth filling will make you realize you’ve just eaten something truly exquisite.
Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier
Eating one of Gail Ambrosius’s finely crafted dark chocolates is like an educational experience in itself. Many interesting gourmet treats made with cocoa from around the world are available at Gail Ambrosius’ Atwood Avenue shop, and you can learn about the origins, ingredients and inspiration for each and every chocolate made at Gail Ambrosius from a friendly staff member or their informative website. Many exotic truffle flavors like Lemongrass and Ginger or Sweet Curry with Saffron testify to the adventurous nature of Gail Ambrosius, and their traditional chocolates are worth tasting as well. Even true chocolate connoisseurs can be thoroughly impressed by Gail’s knowledge and expertise, and regular chocolate eaters will be equally as pleased by the cute and tasty goodies.
Maurie’s Fine Chocolates
Chocolate is traditionally a very luxurious indulgence and is said to be an aphrodisiac. Maurie’s Fine Chocolates takes note of the sensual nature of chocolate and produces tantalizing artisanal chocolates that literally make your mouth water. Boxed collections with sexy nicknames like Tryst and Cool Jazz make wonderful romantic gifts, and French-influenced truffles create an experience that goes beyond the taste buds and inspires the imagination. Eat Le Noir, a hand-rolled, cocoa-dusted truffle and be transported to a Parisian caf? to enjoy your delectable treat with an imaginary French lover. Maurie’s also offers festive and kitschy chocolate treats for a variety of occasions — so it wouldn’t be wrong to give Maurie’s chocolates to your mom.
Daisy Caf? and Cupcakery
This fun new restaurant on Atwood Avenue is already a Madison favorite. And really, there’s no mini shot of happiness quite like a cupcake. Daisy’s cupcakes are fluffy, moist and fresh, while the light, made from scratch frosting is sweet, melty and not at all overpowering. A best seller is the lemon-blueberry cupcake, whose tangy lemon cake is aesthetically and flavorfully complimented by a little mound of light purple frosting made with fresh blueberries. Fruity, chocolatey or rich, you can get a cupcake to suit any type of craving at Daisy’s. And it’ll be sure to brighten your day, at least until it’s gone.
Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream
This State Street staple is an obvious go-to choice for the best ice cream around, but did you know it originated right here in Madison? The Chocolate Shoppe has been operating since 1962, and its now-nationwide popularity is much deserved. With perfectly proportioned recipes, just the right amount of rich creaminess and the seemingly endless selection of original flavors, Chocolate Shoppe’s ice cream beats its several nearby competitors by a landslide. Try the Yippee Skippee, consisting of peanut buttery ice cream with a salty caramel ripple, chocolate covered pretzels and chewy brownie chunks, for the most perfect combination of salty and sweet you can imagine, or the Cotton Candy, if you have a craving for a childhood favorite. No matter what type of ice cream you enjoy, Chocolate Shoppe’s version is probably the best. Even though little-kid boo-boos aren’t our only source of the blues anymore, there are few ailments that a good ice cream cone can’t treat.
Hopefully by visiting one (or more) of these local confectionary havens, your mood will be lifted at least for a little while. With the quality and richness of any one of these gourmet goodies, you won’t have to eat very many to feel fully satisfied. That way, when spring break finally rolls around, you won’t regret your mini indulgences and hopefully, by that time, a week of freedom and sun will be all you need to feel happiness once again.
Elin Amundson is a senior majoring in history and philosophy. Comments and suggestions can be sent to [email protected]