Ah…Chicago, Chicago…my kind of town.
If you were a Chicagoan living before 2004, three things were certain: 1) the city would be windy (and I’m not just talking weather, here; read Blagojevich), 2) Marshall Field’s and the Sears Tower would always be Marshal Field’s and the Sears Tower, and 3) Frango mints.
Number one should be left alone.
Number two needs some discussion. Marshall Field’s was a high-end department store started by Marshall Field that revolutionized department stores in general.
The flagship store was unfortunately acquired by Macy’s in 2004 amid an outrage from the Chicago people. The store’s merchandise was cheapened, the production of the famous Frango mints changed, and people vowed to boycott the store because it simply wasn’t their Marshall Field’s anymore. (Side note for the Chicagoans: Did you know that the Field Museum of Natural History was commissioned by Marshall Field for the Columbian Exposition’s World Fair?)
And along those same lines of outrage, any true Chicagoan will never call the Sears Tower by it’s new name, the Willis Tower.
But now to Number three. Frango mints are a chocolate-mint, truffle-like candy that melts in your mouth. They were produced on the 13th floor of the Marshall Field’s department store in Chicago until the demand grew too high in 1999, when it was moved to Pennsylvania, again amid outrage (am I seeing a pattern here?). Since then the production’s moved back to Chicago, but no longer in the store.
When I was little I remember Frangos as being a “big thing.” It was always a special treat to go down to the basement of the store and look at all the candies in the candy counter. It was even more of a treat to get some.
Sometimes we would go for lunch in the famed Walnut Room near Christmastime. There would always be a giant Christmas tree, decorated differently each year. You needed to get there early to be assured a seating, and even then you’d have to get a pager and wait in a velvet-roped queue.
Right after Christmas we went downtown and decided to stop in the old Marshall Field’s. Lo and behold, a holiday box of Frango mints was on sale, so we bought them.
And they taste just like I remember.