Food Notes for October 25, 2021

Jacek Chocolate Couture Shifted Online To Meet National Demand

When the pandemic shut things down in March 2020, Jacek Chocolate Couture was forced to shift their business online like so many others. Owner Jacqueline Jacek recalls wondering whether people would still be seeking out the company’s products during that time. “When the pandemic started, we thought, ‘Who is going to be buying luxury high end chocolate?’”, said Jacek. “But our core purpose of spreading joy is what made the difference.”

Early on, Jacek launched a campaign allowing customers to send sweet hugs to loved ones, offering chocolates with messages such as ‘thinking of you’ and ‘virtual hugs’. “More than ever, we see people sending love and joy through chocolate,” said Jacek. “In seasons where they couldn’t catch up with people, people are choosing Jacek to spread joy.”

Jacek Chocolate is among the few chocolate suppliers in the province who have achieved certification with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, which enables them to ship their products across the country. This was especially important in the pandemic, as the demand for Jacek has grown Canada-wide.

Jacek Chocolate also had to shift their popular chocolate tastings to a virtual model, where chocolates are now shipped to attendees prior to the session. While Jacek won’t rule out a return to in-person events in the future, there are certain advantages to the online model. “It breaks down geography,” said Jacek. “Now we can present to guests across Canada.”

the business did have to make some significant changes as a result of these shifts, including closing their 104 Street boutique back in May 2020. In hindsight, Jacek acknowledges that it was the right call. “When the pandemic hit, we didn’t know it would last two years,” said Jacek. “But it wasn’t like we had to pull our brand completely, as we are still downtown through retail partnerships like Credo.”

Last week, the business announced that their beloved advent calendars sold out online in less than two days. Even Jacek couldn’t pinpoint the reason behind the frenzy. “It was our eighth year [of offering advent calendars], and they usually sell out in two weeks,” said Jacek.

The business is not publicly sharing the numbers of calendars they are producing, but Jacek did say the quantity exceeds previous years. “Our real struggle is that we don’t freeze the chocolates; we make them à la minute, and they are hand packaged,” said Jacek. “That is our true limitation and we’d have to compromise.”

For those disappointed that they weren’t able to reserve a calendar, the business is in the process of readying other special holiday products, including egg nog meltaways and limited edition hand-painted chocolate ornaments. People are encouraged to join the mailing list as subscribers are notified about new items first.

Jacek has learned a lot about her business over the last two years. “One of the biggest lessons was simplification,” said Jacek. “And really understanding what your core business is and focusing on that.”

COVID-19-related News

  • Spruce Grove restaurant Broadway & Grand had originally chosen not to participate in the Restrictions Exemption Program, but has since reversed this decision because they are “days away from going out of business due to these new restrictions.”

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What I Ate

  • We grabbed take-out from JustCook Kitchens for the first time on Friday. The ordering interface on the app wasn’t as seamless as we thought it might be, as separate orders had to be initiated for each concept. We also couldn’t place an order ahead of time, which seems like a pretty basic function (and one we rely heavily on for take-out orders). The Backstairs OG burger itself was good (the bacon was especially crispy), but hopefully the process eventually matches the quality of the food.
  • Backstairs Burger

OG Backstairs Burger

  • We were also invited by Explore Edmonton to try some of the businesses included on their Old Strathcona Dining Pass. The deals are valid one year from the date of downloading the pass, but some of the offers are valid for those dining in only. As our family isn’t comfortable with indoor dining, we chose to grab take-out. The arepas from Avila Arepa were fantastic. I had the namesake arepa, with oven roasted pork, cheddar cheese, tomato, arugula and mild spicy aurora sauce. Mack ordered the chacaito, with pulled beef and house-made cheese. We were both wowed by the portion size and the freshness of the ingredients. For those dining in, Avila Arepa’s offers a free order of arepitas with the purchase of two arepas.
  • Avila Arepa

Avila arepa’s namesake arepa

  • At Yelo’d (who has the cutest outdoor take-out window, not dissimilar from Overflow across the street), their buy one, get one free offer is hard to pass up. We each got a scoop of ice cream. Emily downed her mango ice cream, and Mack and I loved the full flavours of our respective coffee and chocolate peanut butter scoops. We were appreciative that the ice creams also weren’t overly sweet. Thanks again to Explore Edmonton for hosting us!
  • Yelo’d

Chocolate peanut butter ice cream from Yelo’d

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