I discovered a surefire way to make people instantly hate me. Okay, not real hatred, but at least an intense pang of primeval, involuntary jealousy.
I’ve only recently started calling myself a writer. Even though pretty much my entire career has been as a writer of one sort or another, it was well over a decade before I gave myself permission to say so. When asked about my profession I would always say something like “Oh, I’m in marketing” or “I work for a travel company.” Then one time a couple of years ago we were crossing the border to Buffalo and the border guard was giving us the third degree where they ask the same question a bunch of different ways to try to trip you up. He asked what I did for a living and I responded, “I’m a writer” and it felt right.
Nowadays I have the audacity to call myself a travel writer because that’s what I do. I write about travel. When you tell people you are a travel writer folks react about the same way that they would if your job title was “Astronaut” or “President of the United States of America” – amazement tinged with envy.
So, how do you take that over the top and make people believe that you don’t deserve to be living the life you are blessed to lead? Tell them you’re going on a chocolate tour.
Audrey at Tasty Tours Toronto invited me to try her Trinity-Bellwoods Chocolate Tour, and you can be certain that I didn’t need to be asked twice.
At the beginning of the walking tour, Audrey explained where chocolate originates from, how the cacao beans are grown and the process of transforming cacao beans into chocolate. She also taught us how to properly taste chocolate and gave us morsels of chocolate from Cocoa Camino to practice with. Unlike piano lessons, chocolate tasting is something I could practice with a great deal of dedication.
Our first stop on the tour was at Le Dolci, a culinary studio where they give classes in making cakes and other sweets. They also have house-made lemonade that we sampled before drooling over (figuratively!) their showcase of cupcakes, macarons, and other goodies.
I learned a few things about Toronto’s past while we made our way south to Nadege Patisserie. Audrey told us a bit about the history of Trinity-Bellwoods Park, which was once a university campus before Trinity College merged with the University of Toronto.
We had unbelievably perfect weather for our tour. It was the first sunny, warm, summery day of the year, so we shouldn’t have been surprised when we arrived to find the café at Nadege completely jammed with people shopping for mouth-watering sweets while out for a weekend stroll. Luckily this saved me from potentially blowing a whack of both cash and calories, as I was too daunted by the throngs of people in line to purchase any of the sweets that were calling my name. They are known for their macarons and they had a whackload of flavours in the showcase.
What fired up my inner word nerd is that the cornerstone of Nadege’s range of confections is a line of chocolate bars with flavours for every letter of the alphabet. We sampled W. You might be thinking walnuts, or that irritating pretender of a flavour called wildberry. Try wasabi. Wasabi and ginger gelee in dark chocolate to be precise. Pungent and delicious.
Our next stop was a familiar one, though I’d never viewed it in the context of chocolate. Sanko Trading Co. has been a fixture of Toronto’s Queen West neighbourhood for years and years but I always thought of this Japanese variety store with its cheery sign as the place where we bought big tubs of miso and beautiful crockery, not as a place to get my candy fix. Well, there’s this one aisle that holds all kinds of goodies. Stephen, one of the owners, had us gather round while he handed out samples of two of the many confectionary items he imports from Japan – Meltykiss and matcha-flavoured KitKat bars.
We concluded our tour back on Dundas West at Odile Chocolat. This tiny shop is a treasure trove of artisanal chocolates, all handmade by the proprietor, Odile Chatelain who is originally from Paris, France. Her specialties are origin chocolates and combining unusual flavours in her truffles. She and Audrey explained more about chocolate is made, with a cacao pod on hand to show us where it comes from. We even tasted raw cacao beans. Odile was very generous with her time and answered all of our questions. All the while we were surrounded by rows upon rows of Odile’s tantalizing creations. At last we were each given a truffle to taste! I chose one flavoured with Niagara Icewine.
The tour finished here and it was time to say goodbye to all the fun and interesting folks I’d spent the afternoon with. There was a 5-15minute walk between each of the tour stops and it was a lovely opportunity to visit and make new friends, such as Noelia and Tommy who gave me top tips on things to do in Tipperary. The day that I took the tour, the group was all people from Toronto and area who were looking for something fun and different to do on a Saturday. There’s no reason a tourist wouldn’t enjoy the tour as well, and I suspect Tasty Tours Toronto may see more visitors as word spreads.
Overall the Trinity Bellwoods Chocolate Tour was great fun. Audrey made it interesting and informative. If you want to know where chocolate comes from and how it’s made, this is a good place to start. On the other hand, if you’re a bit of a chocolate geek like me and have read a few books on the subject, you’ll find that this tour covers just the basics. Let’s face it; a chocolate tour is about the tastings! We sampled several things at each stop, but not so much that you’d need to skip a meal or feel like a glutton as a result. I would recommend this tour for anyone who likes chocolate and wants to make people incredibly envious.
Not many people know this, but when I was laid off in 2009 I came very close to embarking on a career as a chocolatier. Chocolate is an immensely fascinating substance to me and my first impulse when I received my severance package was to enroll in a pastry arts program somewhere. Then I went for outplacement counselling and in talking to my career coach I realized that even though I was fed up and burned out from that job, beneath all the stress and discontentment one fact remained. I am a writer.
Disclosure: I received free admission to this tour for the purpose of reviewing it.