Chocolate balls, that is. Chocolates filled with whiskey. It's more than a confection and less than a cocktail: It's a head-spinning way to end a meal at the Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange, the two-month-old restaurant located in the old Rieger Hotel at 1924 Main.
It's not just a dessert, but a potently sweet homage to the history of the building.
The Rieger Hotel was opened in 1915 by local businessman Alexander Rieger, the son of Jacob Rieger, a major whiskey distributor in the Midwest in the days before Prohibition. Ryan Maybee, the co-owner of the Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange, has blogged about tasting a few drops of 100-year-old Rieger rye whisky, offered to him by a collector of vintage whiskey memorabilia in Topeka.
The Rieger Hotel was built with whiskey money, and the lobby (and notorious basement) was the setting for several bawdy bars for much of the latter half of the 20th century -- including the raucous Dixie Belle Lounge -- so it's fitting that co-owner and executive chef Howard Hanna decided to offer a dessert that did justice to the Rieger name. Hanna arranged for local pastry chef Carter Holton to create three intoxicating chocolate balls: milk chocolate filled with scotch; a dark-chocolate confection filled with Jameson Irish whiskey; and the one that many patrons seem to like the most, a chocolate ball dusted with powdered cocoa and filled with sweet, smooth bourbon that Maybee smokes himself with a hunk of smoldering applewood.
A friend of mine sampled the chocolates one day at lunch and got a little tipsy after mastering the art of chewing chocolate and swishing whiskey in his mouth at the same time.