Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Fine Chocolate in Toronto - Shop for a large selection in little time

A few weeks ago, I went to Toronto with my family for a weekend getaway. I was fortunate to have a few hours to myself to do some fine chocolate shopping. Because I live on a rural Island in Northern Ontario, I have to make the most of my travel time to ensure that I arrive back home with a good supply of fine chocolate.

So with limited time to look, I immediately started at Soma Chocolatemaker, knowing that their bean-to-bar chocolate is always top quality and always offers a variety of interesting flavours. The following day I checked out mcewan's food market to look for a selection of international chocolate bars.

I zipped into Soma's newest location on King Street at about 8:45p.m. on Saturday evening. Thankfully they have great store hours. The King Street location was laid out very differently than I recalled from the Distillery District store;  it had a very distinct "cafe" feel to it.  I could see myself spending hours there drinking hot chocolates while relaxing, completely surrounded by chocolate. It really is a chocolate-lover's dream.

Besides the abundance of Soma-made products, they also carry a small selection of international chocolate bars.  For me, this was a highlight to my visit because I wanted to take home a great supply of chocolate products that I cannot find in my local area.  And it appeared that Soma had strategically found comparative products for tasting parties. I took home a selection of 75% single origin bars from chocolate makers like Original Beans, Pralus and Medécasse.

Although I have ordered chocolate bars from Soma online, nothing compares to standing in the store in front of the truffle and filled chocolate display while someone fills a box of my personal selections.  My favourites are the 8yr Aged Balsamic Vinegar and the "Sparky" Gianduja chocolate laced with poprocks - it is true kid-candy for the gourmand adult.  I also loved that Soma makes a range of chocolate ganache's from different single origin chocolate.  I bought all five and enjoyed each one, never really deciding on the origin that I liked best.

It was also fun to see what new products were on the shelves, like the Soma "Old School" bar or the milk chocolate version of their Starry Night bar - two chocolates that I might not have purchased had I read their description on a website.

On Sunday afternoon, I had a special chocolate-shopping trip in mind. Mark McEwan, the Canadian celebrity chef from the Food Network, created an upscale grocery store that offers "a food experience like no other". mcewan's is located at the Shops at Don Mills at 38 Karl Fraser and luckily I was staying close by.  I had never been there but had heard about it.  What I found was exactly as they promise on their website: many hard-to-find and specialty fine foods as well as a lovely selection of chocolate.

My favourite part of the store (aside from the Valet parking) was the area devoted to chocolate. There was a large glass counter display of filled chocolates and truffles made by Galler, a Belgian chocolate maker, along with a selection of Galler`s chocolate bars.  In addition, an aisle display nearby offered a selection of chocolate bars that included Vosges, an American brand out of Chicago, some single origin chocolate bars and all sorts of chocolaty confections.  mcewan's grocery store is definitely a great place to refill your fine chocolate supply.

I purchased a range of chocolates, including a small selection of Galler's filled chocolates, which I enjoyed (all of them!) later that day. There was not a huge supply of Vosges, as I had anticipated, but luckily the Vosges chocolate bars that were there, I had not yet tried.  I picked up the Vosges Smoke & Stout Caramel Bar, which pairs beer and chocolate into an oozy, gooey caramel-filled chocolate.  If you have never tried the wonderful flavours of Vosges Haut Chocolat, I highly recommend this as your starting point.

So after just two short shopping trips in Toronto and parting with a little under $200, my chocolate-tasting cabinet is refilled and ready to get me through the summer months, while I anxiously await the cooler weather when I can start ordering online again.

When I am next in Toronto, I plan to check out at least one of the three Pusateri's upscale grocery stores because they carry a selection of fine chocolate from Belgium, Italy and more, as well as fine chocolate gift baskets. And there are so many other chocolate shops in Toronto, such as: MoRoCo Chocolat on Yorkville Avenue, Stubbe Chocolates on Dupont Street, Ambiance Chocolat on Queen Street East and many, many more that I have yet to learn about. If you know of great chocolate in Toronto, please feel free to add it to the Comments below!

Links to Soma and McEwan's: 

McEwan's grocery store information and location details: http://mcewan.mcewangroup.ca/about/
It certainly was a food experience like no other, and I highly recommend a trip there if you are a self-proclaimed 'foodie'.

Soma information and location details: http://www.somachocolate.com/SOMA_home.html

Two locations at: 443 King Street West and the Distillery Historic District at 55 Mill Street.