Heather Johnston took a 180-degree turn to a new vocation after nine years as a pediatrician at the University of Chicago.
Now, she is crafting what she likely had been telling her patients to enjoy sparingly: chocolate.
With a French Pastry School class under her belt, Johnston spent years practicing for family and friends, and recently landed a space at Logan Square Kitchen. Her elegant, hand-painted confections, sold under the name Veruca Chocolates, are befitting of her art-major beginnings.
Ingredients are mostly organic, and all are cloaked in dark-chocolate shells. Inside, you'll find ganache scented with lavender and vanilla bean, saffron, or lemon and mint. Hazelnut-cinnamon is a knockout.
Johnston has a way with familiar flavor combinations, too. A square of burnt caramel is superb, its yellow-painted exterior hiding a darkly sweet center. Ditto the peanut butter-sea salt, with its aggressively salted filling. Both are available as bars, too ($8), and the peanut one, with honeycomb-like divots and a sprinkling of gold dust, could easily win a candy-bar beauty pageant.
Purchase the chocolates online, in packs of four, eight, nine or 18 ($9 to $40). Stock up for your valentine, and for yourself--they are, after all, doctor-approved.
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