A Tryste with Truffles
A flirtation with temptation is always close at hand for Toronto chocolate lovers
By KATHE LIEBER | photography by Jodi Pudge | Styling by LYNDA FELTON
It starts out innocently enough. You stop at the drugstore on the way home from school. Soon you’re making excuses to swing by the joint that stocks your favourite brand. Next thing you know, you’re hooked on the hard stuff. Toronto foodies are fortunate – nearly every neighbourhood boasts a boutique whose owners will happily talk for hours about the joy of chocolate. Let’s take a little tour of Toronto’s top chocolate makers – traditionalists and innovators alike – and learn a thing or two from our resident experts. Grab a Mayan hot chocolate to sip while you explore soma Chocolatemaker. Owners Cynthia Leung and David Castellan (a former architect and pastry chef respectively) designed their first store in the Distillery District, a former whiskey factory, with a sciencecentre- meets-chocolate-factory vibe. “With a few vintage chocolate-making machines and a whole lot of gumption, we set out on our little venture,” Leung recalls. That success spawned a second location, on King Street W., which opened last summer. Soma, a bean-to-bar chocolate maker, is constantly developing new products. Leung is particularly partial to their balsamic vinegar truffles and the new wild apple caramel with walnuts and grey salt. Special Christmas products are currently in “creative and recipe development.” Moroco Chocolat in Yorkville bills itself as “Toronto’s finest and most flirtatious chocolate bar.” This is the place for an elegant afternoon tea or dinner, chocolate and champagne tastings, macarons, and chocolate of every description in a setting that features lush displays like a jewellery store and enough velvet to furnish a Parisian lounge. Executive Pastry chef chocolatier Liam DeSouza, who’s from Kenya, is working on special Christmas truffles and a chocolate snowman.
Stubbe Chocolates started out in Germany in 1845. Daniel Stubbe, sixth generation of the chocolate dynasty, sounds like a kid in a candy shop, literally, describing Christmas in the chocolate shop as “awesome.” Stubbe’s hugely popular truffle trees are “so much fun to put together,” and Advent calendars can be filled to order and even refilled. “Many factors contribute to our complex and longstanding love affair with chocolate, from childhood nostalgia, to romance, to foodieism, even gift giving dynamics,!” says Jordan LeBel, associate professor of marketing at Concordia University in Montreal, who has created a popular online course called The World of Chocolate: Explore, Experience, Enjoy.
LeBel has worked with many large and small chocolate producers on both sides of the Atlantic, trying to understand the universal appeal of chocolate. He draws a further parallel with wine: “As you learn about chocolate, your enjoyment increases, but not your consumption.” Your palate becomes much more perceptive, you start to detect acidity or tropical fruit flavours, and soon you’re savouring small quantities of high-quality products. Where does this city fit into the universe of chocolate? “Toronto has that very cool balance of being a working city and a creative city, where people support independent small businesses and new ideas,” says soma’s Leung. “Through the Internet, social media and user groups, there is a strong [chocolate] community, which definitely ups the knowledge base for superfans and makers alike.”