Tag Archives: toronto

Green tangerine, where have you been all my life?

A quick Google search of “green tangerine” turns up a scrapbooking store, a spa, and a whole bunch of media companies. I just want to know where to get the damn things so I can try to reverse engineer Soma Chocolatemaker‘s green Tangerine chocolate bar.

Of course, that’s silly. I don’t have a grinder or a conch, or a reliable supply of cacao beans from Madagascar. But, in my dreams I have all those things – and granite countertops, too.

This microbatch chocolate bar is called Dark Fire, and rings in at 66% cocoa content. And it made me say wow. It tastes like 7 am on a beautiful spring day when you went to bed early the night before, and now you’re awake and ready to spring out of bed.

This chocolate is actually refreshing. There’s an immediate kick of bright, acidic lime that mellows to a darker orange-y flavour and just hints at the bitterness of lime zest. Thankfully, it never quite gets there. Chocolate from Madagascar is notorious for its full-on red fruitiness, but I don’t get that from this bar. I’m not sure if the red fruit is just not apparent (whether accidental or intentional) or if it’s just masked by the strong citrus flavours.

I don’t really care, actually. I just want to have another piece.

A toast…to toast

I remember attending a friend’s wine tasting, and tasting a white wine that tasted like broom. No joke. I was really skeptical when someone described it that way, but then I tasted it and got what they meant. I can’t say that I really enjoyed it, nor have I tasted it since, but it was definitely memorable.

Along the same lines, Soma Chocolatemaker‘s Black Science bar is a wee bit unusual. It’s a microbatch bar made of beans from Papua New Guinea, coming in at 70% cocoa content. It smells smoky and sweet, and – wait for it – tastes like toast. Toast is actually not unheard of as a chocolate tasting note, but I rarely experience it. Well, it’s in this bar, and it kind of mellows from breakfast toast to toasted almonds. It’s slightly sweeter than I expected, but not cloying. And there’s this satisfying astringent pucker on your tongue afterwards.

Tonight, I will raise a glass to unusual flavours. To broom, and toast!

Chocolate bars and chocolate confections

Most chocolatiers don’t make their own chocolate, nor do they have to. I don’t know when people started thinking that these were one and the same skill, because they’re very different. Making chocolate isn’t something the average person can do in their kitchen. It can be done, but it’s pretty messy and the results aren’t pretty.

Making chocolate confections, on the other hand, is something that you can do in your kitchen, with varying degrees of success. And most chocolatiers stick to making things out of chocolate, rather than making chocolate.

And let’s be clear: the skill set required to make chocolate and to make confections is quite different. Both are a science and an art, but most people concentrate on just one.

There’s also the misconception that a “good” chocolatier will make his or her own chocolate, or that it’s a “lazy” chocolatier who doesn’t. That’s as preposterous as thinking that a good baker will grow his or her own wheat.

Anyway, Soma Chocolatemaker, as I’ve discussed in previous posts, makes delicious chocolate drinks and confections. But, they also make some pretty mean microbatch chocolate bars…

(How’s that for a teaser?)

Soma Chocolatemaker (pop) rocks!

I have no willpower. None whatsoever. And when it comes to a case full of chocolates, all shiny and beautiful, I usually err on the side of lavish and try one of everything. Now, if it’s a chocolatemaker in Vancouver, I can pace myself and try a few on each visit. But when travelling, I usually get one piece of everything that’s available. It’s a hard-knocked life.

So when I was in Toronto, I bought a giant box of truffles from Soma Chocolatemaker. They range from classic (fleur de sel caramel, orange marzipan) to modern (single-origin flavours) to unusual (Douglas Fir, olive oil). I’m impressed at the range of flavours, but more importantly, with the execution. Each piece was perfect, each shell was uniform and thin, and the fillings all delivered what they promised.

The standout, though, was Sparky: gianduja laced with poprocks. I know it sounds gimicky. But the gianduja (a combination of caramelized hazelnuts and milk chocolate) was the perfect vehicle to deliver those long-lost childhood exploding candies. It was entirely delightful, entertaining, and whimsical – which is, actually, what the experience of tasting chocolate should be like. It’s a seasonal truffle, but maybe if we all request it en masse, it’ll win a permanent spot on the chocolate menu.

Soma Chocolatemaker
55 Mill Street, Building 48
Toronto, ON
416-815-7662

Bicerin: elixir of my dreams

There’s a lovely beverage bar at Soma Chocolatemaker. Pull up a bar stool and sip on something warm as you watch the staff work their magic behind the glass walls of the chocolate and gelato laboratories.

I’m normally a fan of plain old hot chocolate, though a spicy hot chocolate hits the spot on a cold winter’s day. But before visiting Soma, I had never had the opportunity to try a bicerin. It’s a drink that the Piedmont region of Italy has claimed as its own. And having tasted it, I want to call it mine, too.

Take one part drinking chocolate and one part espresso. Make sure they’re piping hot and put them in the bottom of a bulbous glass. Then, gently float cold, softly whipped cream on the top.

Take a sip. And stop.

I dare you to not roll your eyes into the back of your head from sheer ecstasy as you taste the deep, dark chocolate; the rich, bold espresso; and the cold, surprisingly refreshing whipped cream.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that this simple drink is, well, simple. It’s a work of art. It’s an intoxicating balance of contrasts: temperature (hot/cold), texture (thick and rich/light and airy), and flavour (deep and dark/refreshing and creamy).

Even the experience of drinking a bicerin is fraught with tension. Clearly, something so deliciously beautiful should be savoured: slowly savoured, allowing your tastebuds and brain ample time to send happy nerve impulses back and forth that scream “oh my goodness!” and “ack!” and “egad!” and all other manner of sputtering. Sputtering, because your brain is wholly distracted trying to understand how one thing can be so amazingly tasty. You want to make the drink last an eternity.

Still, it’s so good that you just want more. And more, and more, and more. And before you know it, it’s all gone.

Thankfully, you took my advice at the beginning of this post and parked yourself at the beverage bar. Go ahead, order another one. You know you want to.

Soma Chocolatemaker
55 Mill Street, Building 48
Toronto, ON
416-815-7662

Soma Chocolatemaker’s English Toffee: yes, please!

When I visited Soma Chocolatemaker in Toronto, I felt like a kid in a candy store. I guess it’s not that far off from being a chocophile in a chocolate store. Hrm.

The high ceilings and brick walls make you feel like you’ve walked into a Dickensian novel, while the glass-fronted rooms (labelled as “chocolate laboratory” and “gelato laboratory”) make you feel like you’re in a futuristic space place. It’s a neat contrast that I would talk about in more detail, aside from the fact that I was distracted by chocolate.

Aside from their own microbatch bars (more on those in posts to come), Soma carries some other bean-to-bar producers. Again, more on those later. There’s no real logic to the selection, except that owner David Castellan likes them. And listen: if the head chocolatier, chocolatemaker and bossman wants to bring in chocolates that he likes, I’m not one to argue.

We met briefly to talk about bean sourcing and chocolate science, and he mentioned that his English toffee recipe was incredibly difficult to develop. Given that – and my love of all things toffee – I had to try it.

Oh, lordy. Tasty. Crunchy. Nutty. Sweet. Ever-so-slightly salty. Think buttery, snappy, caramel-y toffee, coated with Peruvian milk chocolate, and topped with toasted almonds. I had to email David to ask if he put magic fairy dust in it, which was restrained on my part. I really wanted to ask where he bought the crack that the toffee was so clearly laced with. I started with a wee chunk – a taste, you might say – and fifteen minutes later, was staring at a sad, empty bag. And that made me feel sad and slightly empty, except that I was actually quite full. Of intoxicatingly delicious toffee.

Soma Chocolatemaker
55 Mill Street, Building 48
Toronto, ON
416-815-7662

Soma Chocolatemaker

I love Toronto. I realize that’s a bold statement to make, since it seems like there are a lot of Toronto haters out there. But really, the vibrance, the nightlife, the diversity – I can’t get enough of it. You really have to let it grow on you, explore the neighbourhoods, and hang out with the locals. Please, for all that is sacred, don’t go down to Queen Street West, see the string of chain stores, and pronounce Toronto soul-less.

When I lived in Ontario, I was in Toronto once every 6-8 weeks for five years. In that time, I managed to see a lot of the city, and find some lovely gems. But even still, in a city that big, there are always things to discover.

Case in point: the Distillery District (beware, baaaad website). It’s tucked away in a little corner of Toronto, just east of the St. Lawrence Market and near the water. It’s home to really sweet coffee shops, chi-chi cafes, and – oh, right – Toronto’s very own chocolate maker.

Soma Chocolatemaker is one part bean-to-bar manufacturer, one part delicious truffle maker, and one part gelato maker. Chocolate heaven, I tell you what.