Dive into chocolate at Evanston shop

February 19, 2008 11:15:40 AM PST
ABC7's Hungry Hound visited an Evanston chocolatier who hasn't changed much in over two decades. There is a lot of talk in the chocolate business these days about cacao content, the origin of the beans and even the percentage of cocoa in a candy bar. But for more than 20 years, Bob Piron and his brother have been quietly doing things the same way they always have -- transforming giant blocks of Belgian chocolate into tiny, handmade creations that will satisfy both milk and dark aficionados.

A lot of people claim they make everything from scratch. Yet at Belgian Chocolatier Piron in Evanston, you know they're serious, because everything here is done the old-fashioned way.

"We're staying very true to my education; I was trained as a classical Belgian chocolatier in Antwerp, Belgium, and I've not found any real reason to deviate from that path," said Robert Piron, Belgian Chocolatier Piron.

So nothing too avant-garde; just down-to-earth, quality chocolates.

"We use the Callebaut brand of chocolate we import from Belgium and we use their top grades; we melt it, temper it, and make all of our cream centers from scratch; we do the shell molding, the enrobing, the dipping, all right here in back," said Piron.

The hum of a tempering machine can be heard throughout the day. Bob's brother, Fred, also helps out. Take molds for example: the custom molds are first placed beneath a waterfall of dark chocolate; they're set on a vibrating part of the machine to get out the air bubbles, then turned over, to get rid of excess chocolate. After a minute or two, they're turned over on a cooling rack, and as the chocolate cools and hardens, any excess chocolate is scraped off. At this point, they can be filled with just about anything.

"We have a lot of ganache pieces, passionfruit, plain, nuts, some liqueurs; but we also have buttercreams, chocolate-based buttercreams," said Piron.

Even tiny, brandy-soaked cherries might be covered with a homemade filling. Piron says Valentine's Day weekend is certainly busy, but he and his brother never really have a chance to slow down. Someone, afterall, has to go in the back, and make the chocolates.

"We make beautiful chocolate together," said Piron.

If you really want the full Belgian experience. Pick up a box of chocolates from Piron, head over to Hopleaf in Andersonville for dinner, and choose from over a hundred Belgian beers to go with your mussels and frites. Then go see the movie "In Bruges" which just came out, and after the film, dig into your box of chocolates.

Belgian Chocolatier Piron
509 Main St., Evanston