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Wicked Chocolates 'pushing the boundaries'

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(H. Rick Bamman - hbamman@shawmedia.com)
Wicked Chocolates in Algonquin offers chocolate hearts filled with Baileys Irish Cream with a dash of sea salt and dark chocolate filled with cayenne zen cream.
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(H. Rick Bamman - hbamman@shawmedia.com)
Wicked Chocolates' co-owner Brian Green carries a tray of freshly made Artisan Chocolates from the kitchen to a display case at the shop in Algonquin.
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(H. Rick Bamman - hbamman@shawmedia.com)
Fillings of dark chocolate, strawberry and cayenne zen cream are ready to be placed into chocolates made in the Wicked Chocolates shop kitchen in Algonquin.

ALGONQUIN – Wicked Chocolates owner Brian Green came across chocolate as a happy accident and his new retail space is four years in the making.

Green met his wife and co-owner Cyndi four years ago. On their first Christmas together, Cyndi, a hobbyist chocolate maker, was cooking peanut butter cups when a brave Brian offered her suggestions on how she could improve upon her treats.

"I said, 'they're good, but' ..." Brian said, trailing off and smiling at his wife.

"I was still in love then," Cyndi said, laughing.

A seasoned pastry chef, Brian always has been fascinated by chocolate.

"It was something I always wanted to play with," he said.

So he began research. At the time, he worked at a bakery in Park Ridge and as he improved his chocolate-making, he began selling his creations from the bakery's front counter.

Once he had the peanut butter cups down, the self-taught chocolatier started experimenting with fillings. In the end, his chocolates are a far cry from the pieces one might expect at a traditional chocolate shop. Sure, there are the vanilla-filled cremes and raspberry truffles, the chocolate-covered strawberries or butterscotch treats one might find elsewhere, but Brian just couldn't settle on ordinary.

Brian began playing with and perfecting alcohol-reduced chocolates, like his cabernet-, riesling- or zinfandel-infused chocolate top sellers, and even the Baileys Irish Cream-filled chocolate topped with sea salt, a fan favorite.

He started experimenting with other unusual fillings and flavors, such as the blueberry crumb cake, a dark chocolate with cayenne pepper, one called "vanilla shake and fries," or for Valentine's Day – champagne rose petal.

"These fillings cross the line with some chocolatiers," he said. "I"m pushing the boundaries with my fillings."

Once the chocolates started taking off, the Carpentersville couple started looking for a storefront, and landed a 1,400-square-foot space off Route 62 in Algonquin next to Mandile's Italian Restaurant.

But the Greens said they couldn't make the business work on chocolates alone.

"Just doing chocolate will never make money in today's society," he said. "It's such an occasion thing now. I can't live for just for Saturday chocolate sales."

Wicked Chocolates has various lunch specials throughout the week, and offers a variety of petite pastries, cookies and savory scones. These treats are small and priced accordingly to encourage customers to try a variety. For example, a small savory scone sells for 60 cents, a cookie 35 cents.

But the chocolates still are a big draw.

Behind the pastry and chocolate cases, there is a dual kitchen – one for baking, and a second heat-and-humidity-controlled chocolate kitchen.

"Chocolate is very temperamental," Brian explained.

From there, Brian creates what he calls small-batch artisan chocolates. He only cooks seven pounds at a time, and his chocolates have only a six-week shelf life so they're constantly fresh, he said.

Of the many questions new customers have for the business that opened in September, is how they got their name. No, they're not from the East Coast, and yes, they loved the play of the same name, but that wasn't their inspiration.

Simply put, it's how they view their products.

As the business was emerging and still needed a name, the couple went out to eat and were seated at a table with a paper tablecloth. Over a bottle of red wine and crayons in hand, they were determined to have settled on a moniker before the check was paid. They scribbled ideas on the paper tablecloth. When Brian finally had a name, he covered the words, and asked his wife to take a peek.

"It hit me," Brian said. "We think our chocolates are wicked."

* * *

Wicked Chocolates:

What: Valentine's Day delights include the Three Heart Special: champagne rose petal in dark chocolate, cayenne zen in dark chocolate, and Baileys Irish Cream in milk chocolate, and assorted other flavors.

Where: 2140 Lake Cook Road, Algonquin

Information. Call 847-844-0334, or visit www.wickedchocolates.com

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