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They say diamonds are a girl’s best friend. I beg to differ. I’d offer up chocolate from Chocolat Uzma Sharif instead. Ah, blessed chocolate! That delicious confection that is the Achilles heel of my diet (and my scale)!
In fact, if given the choice between Johnny Depp (*fangirl swoon*) and chocolate, I’d be hard pressed to choose the suave raconteur over this addictive, delicious treat. (Sorry, Johnny!). One could say chocolate is more than just a treat for me; it’s kind of an obsession. So it’s no surprise that after strolling East Pilsen’s art district in Chicago, I found myself at the sweetest spot in Pilsen, the chocolate shop Chocolat Uzma Sharif.
The shop boasts a swanky, minimalist interior that is both trendy and cozy. A perfect backdrop for those cold nights and chilly mornings. Located in the heart of an area known for its artfulness and creativity, it’s no surprise that Ms. Uzma Sharif, culinary extraordinaire, has been giving locals an experience in chocolate. With a firm handshake, twinkle in her eye and laid back disposition, Ms. Sharif has been leading the charge for chocolates that are not only delicious, artistic and decadent, but also have a personal touch.
“Our chocolates are handmade,” she tells me after I bite into her shop’s take on the turtle, an awesome concoction of black salt, dark chocolate, goat milk caramel, pecans and a hint of Himalayan sea salt. “We have an open kitchen, [people can] see us working every day, and everything is made on site, everything is packaged on site.”
That attention to detail and quality is evident in the heavenly way the chocolate melts on my tongue, and how the packaging catches the eye. There’s no stale factory-pressed chocolate here, and many of the fresh ingredients are shopped and shipped in from local areas.
“Our chocolates are handcrafted in small batches, but we infuse our South Asian heritage, Pakistani culture, into our French culinary training. So it’s you know, ingredients like black salt or coconut or lime or mint and rosewater. Anything we make I try to have a little bit of a twist.”
Taking quality over quantity and producing creative takes on old favorites has been a hit, and this chocolate shop is quickly becoming part of the intricate fabric of the vibrant, artistic community.
“It’s very inspiring to meet all a lot of the artists around here. And to see some of their work, it’s very cool. I’ve always had an artsy side to me and this is just a way that we can show our edible art.” Ms. Sharif says. And it is indeed art. The array of chocolates on display in her shop boasts milk and dark chocolates shaped like delicate butterflies, pralines, and espresso infused creations that come in a variety of awe inspiring colors. It’s just as delicious to look at as it is to eat.
Not only can one purchase chocolates at Chocolat Uzma Sharif, but the shop also offers classes to anyone who wants to try their hand at a bit of chocolate making. If you’re worried about being a novice surrounded by professionals, don’t be. The classes have individuals that have a variety of skill sets and levels and range from ages 17-60. Ms. Sharif shares “I’ve found that people like a little bit of education. but a little bit of fun. So our classes are b.y.o.b. and they learn how to make something at home. I don’t teach them something they can’t take with them and make at home. So they make about 2 or 3 different chocolates. And they take home a lot of chocolate. It’s chocolate overload. But they love it!”
And with the New Year comes some new things for Chocolat Uzma Sharif. They will be revamping in the upcoming month and the newer space will include an expanded variety of offerings. “[We’ll]expand our sipping chocolate bar and have more flavor combinations, and add one or two flavors at our chocolate bar section.”
I can’t wait to see what Chocolat Uzma Sharif comes up with next. And if you’re ever in the area, be sure to stop by and get your chocolate fix!