It seems I always walk that very fine line between good and bad. I can go weeks and weeks on an internal high, created completely by aimless walks about town, white-hot yoga sessions, loads of smoothies and not an ounce of sugar in sight. Then I fall off the wagon and somehow manage to plow through vats of gooey cakes, cookies and candies like the curly-headed female version of Willy Wonka at the Chocolate Factory. Just like that, all my good intentions are out the door and I'm back to square one; a very fat and sassy square one, mind you.
Needless to say, after a week of smart eating and mad exercising, I was walking home from one of my sweaty Bikram yoga classes when I sashayed past a 7-11. I had noticed the last time I was in there that it was hawking some mighty fudgy brownies by the front register, and the image of that hulking piece of chocolate had seared itself into the back of my skull. Especially because the cost was a mere $1.39 and good ol' 7-11 is always open for late night cravings. I decided to give it a go.
After I'd purchased my little bundle of joy, the feelings of guilt started to creep up and my feeling-on-top-of-the-world vibe started to abate. Why ruin weeks of hard-ass labor for a friggin' brownie? I knew I'd snowball straight back into the wild sugar rushes that sometime fuel my blisteringly energetic personality, but whatever. There's always tomorrow.
To help diminish my guilt, I decided a small taste-test was in order. Just next door to 7-11 is the Chicago Diner. I love this joint for all its healthy, feel-good food and go there quite often for tofu cheesecake and big, fat seitan-filled salads. I knew it would have a brainy brownie lying around somewhere.
Never one to let a girl down, the folks at the Chicago Diner were whipping out prune-packed brownies for just under three bones. Whoa! Big difference for the sweet tooth, but that's what a taste-test is for. Which would rule the buds? The one that's good for me or the one that makes my eyeballs literally pop out of my head with anticipation?
I chose the cleanest, most pleasant spot I could find on the way home to test my wares. It happened to be a dingy sidewalk, but I laid them out anyway, examining each brownie from every angle until I decided to break off a wedge of the health-nut version. Bite one was interesting. It was actually quite delicious and tasted like pure, real chocolate mixed with a tang of prunes, berries and mixed nuts.
Time for the 7-11 version. The first bite rendered me slack-jawed. This is what a brownie is supposed to taste like, I thought. A real brownie tastes like nothing but sugar, chocolate and memories of days past. I kept taste-testing between the two until I proclaimed a bone-fide winner. Though the Chicago Diner brownie would keep me on my path to sanity, the 7-11 brownie made me feel "great" and just a little bit insane. I quickly determined that if you're gonna take the plunge, you might do it with the real thing, not a trumped up version of what dessert is supposed to taste like (no matter how good it is for you).
The Final Rave: I attempted to get a full-blown brownie trifecta going by getting HB involved. Though it's located across the street from 7-11 and Chicago Diner, these Food Network stars don't have a brownie in sight. C'est la vie!
Keep It Going:
Do it: Chicago Chocolate Company
This cocoa haven has a do-it-yourself sundae bar that included big chunky walnut brownies. Enough said.
Eat it: Ethel's Chocolate Lounge
Same thing. I tried stopping in here for a little more brownie tasting on the way home, but no such luck. It doesn't offer brownies, but it does have delicious little truffles that are mighty fine.
Drink it: Dinkel's
There is nothing more delightful than munching on a brownie and pounding a cup of coffee at this always-packed bakery, especially on a cold, rainy day.
Get crazy with it: The Chocolate Buffet at The Peninsula Chicago
Be prepared to gorge yourself on this ungodly array of chocolate desserts presented buffet-style. Call ahead for reservations, though. There are others out there like you.