While the cold weather outside may be frightful, the Winter Menu at The Chocolate Sanctuary is purely delightful. I love restaurants that offer seasonal selections, ensuring that the food elements served are at their peak freshness and taste for the year. I also appreciate a restaurant that takes creative license with their menu, and really turns up the taste and dining experiences. The Chocolate Sanctuary elevates seasonal, creative dining to a new level in Lake County. From drinks to desserts, and everything in between, join me on a whirlwind tour of all things chocolate and wonderful on the Winter Menu at The Chocolate Sanctuary.
Start with one of The Chocolate Sanctuary’s signature cocktails: The Escape Martini or the French Martini. The French Martini is refreshing and not at all too sweet, and contains one of my favorite liquors–Chambord–plus vanilla vodka and a splash of pineapple juice. The Escape Martini includes a mixture of chocolate vodka, Godiva dark chocolate liquor and simple syrup, and arrives with a swirl of chocolate inside of the glass. This, too, is decadent, but not “over the top” sweet either. Both cocktails are delicious, and offer a great introduction to the overall dining experience here.
Don’t miss out on the fabulous appetizers, such as Chicken and Goat Cheese Wrapped in Cocoa-Candied Bacon and Cocoa Mascarpone Apple Tartin. The cocoa-candied bacon offered a nice balance to the savory goat cheese, and the chicken is tender and flavorful. The Apple Tartin features apples sandwiched between layers of puff pastry with blackberry gastrique (a vinegar-sugar reduction infused with berries), garnished with cocoa nibs. The tartin is pleasantly flavorful, and topped with microgreens grown in Lake County by Grow Well Farms.
The Chocolate Sanctuary’s Cocoa-Spiced Butternut Squash Soup topped with bacon, and the chocolate brioche rolls, served with chocolate infused, whipped butter will warm you up. This soup makes you want to lick the bowl clean, and if you are bread savvy as I am, you will be sure to reserve just enough of your roll to enable yourself to consume every last bit of the soup, and rather efficiently. Waste not–want not, right?
The Chocolate Sanctuary has several delicious seafood entrees. My tasting menu included Pan Seared Chilean Sea Bass, served on a fried green plantain with baby spinach and a roasted sweet potato, and topped with whole grain mustard buerre blanc (butter sauce). Your tastebuds will dance from the flavor of a Cocoa Pan-Seared Scallop nestled on top of a breaded zucchini chip with truffle mashed potatoes and miso buerre blanc. Each dish reflects exceptional seasonal flavor and culinary mastery.
The piece de resistance of the entrees, however, is the all-natural, grass-fed rib eye served with thinly sliced Brussels sprouts and potatoes, and topped with Cafe de Paris (herbed) butter. The meat is melt-in-your-mouth tender and full of flavor. The dinner entree is served in a 10-ounce portion, and is definitely a must-try for anyone who cherishes a tender steak.
Between the entree courses and the dessert courses, I sampled the Sanctuary Old Fashion, which is a mixture of Amador organic bourban, Teapot bitters, Angostura bitters, simple syrup, and expressed orange peel, and served with a cherry. While I don’t typically order bourbon, this is definitely a libation I will order again. It was delicious, and offered a lovely balance of warmth and sophisticated flavor, and was the perfect segue to the dessert courses. Yes, the dessert courses.
Behind the doors of The Chocolate Sanctuary lies a world of ultimate chocolate indulgence and elegant desserts that will curb any craving and satisfy every sweet tooth. I highly recommend trying the house-made beignets, which are filled with creamy chocolate and accompanied by a mixed berry compote and vanilla creme anglaise. The beignets are extraordinary: light and airy, with just the right amount of powdered sugar. Paired with a warm, liquor-infused coffee, it is truly a treat. And who knew we could find world-class beignets in Gurnee? Let’s try to keep that our little secret, shall we?
Next up was the Raspberry Opera, which consists of layered almond cake with dark chocolate raspberry ganache and raspberry buttercream. The texture and vibrant red color of this dessert is strikingly festive and pleasing. Don’t miss the molten chocolate cake, adorned with a chocolate flourish. And be sure to save room for the Banana Tower: a gravity-defying, vertical delight constructed of a honey lace tuile tower enveloped in chocolate and filled with sea salt and caramel fudge gelato, and topped with chocolate creme diplomat (sweetened whipped creme) and carmelized bananas. I am officially in dessert heaven here.
The Chocolate Sanctuary raises the dessert experience to surpass new heights with the addition of the Sanctuary Turtle Mousse Mist. The plate is served tableside, surrounded by a serene veil of mist, as if the heavens have opened up and rained down chocolate paradise for all to enjoy. The dish itself is a combination of milk chocolate mousse, sea salt caramel, and a chewy, dark chocolate pecan brownie. I can honestly say that the Sanctuary Turtle Mousse Mist rivals the experiential dishes served at restaurants in downtown Chicago.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that The Chocolate Sanctuary also has a lovely boutique. The boutique houses an array of gift baskets, gifts sets, assorted chocolates, chocolate bars, bread and other treats. For the discerning chocolate-loving relative or neighbor, why not gift a monthly loaf of artisanal chocolate sourdough bread or a Chocolates of the Month subscription? And if you need a last-minute hostess gift, simply drop by the boutique and fill up a box with a selection of handcrafted chocolates. You’ll also find gourmet coffee and tea sets, including beautiful carafes and pots, and handcrafted wooden trays.
In the words of Charles Schultz, “All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” As part of the Giving Tuesday campaign, The Chocolate Sanctuary is donating $1.00 from the sale of each salted dark chocolate candy bar to the Lake County Children’s Advocacy Center. The donation will support the important mission of creating a safe environment for victims of child abuse. Surprise a friend with this dual-duty, decadent treat.
Make your reservation now to cozy up to the fireplace or take a seat in the bar area at The Chocolate Sanctuary and warm up with the seasonal Winter Menu offerings. Your taste buds will thank you, as will anyone who is dining with you. Be sure to also try The Chocolate Sanctuary’s Sunday Brunch; read Melissa’s recent review here.
What is your favorite indulgance at The Chocolate Sanctuary?
The Chocolate Sanctuary provided the writer with a complimentary Winter Menu tasting for the purpose of facilitating this article. No further compensation was received.