The Perfect Match: Credo Coffee and Jacek Chocolate Tasting

It’s great to see when local businesses team up to support one another, whether that’s Dovetail Deli providing shelf space to sell products from Gold Forest Grains and McKernan Food Works, or Remedy Cafe stocking vegan Bloom Cookies at the counter. There is strength in numbers, as awareness is half the battle, and it takes a community to move these independent brands forward.

The tasting organized by Credo Coffee and Jacek Chocolate Couture is another great example of this. When the tickets were released in late summer, I jumped at the excuse to enjoy two of my favourite things. Mack and I had attended a wine and chocolate pairing two years ago at Baseline Wines, and had found it to be a fun and educational experience. And given Mack’s already a fixture at Credo, he didn’t need any additional incentives to come along this time around.

Credo & Jacek Coffee & Chocolate Tasting

Coffee and chocolate

In mid-November, Mack and I bussed over to Credo on 124 Street. We joined a fairly small group, less than two dozen in number, who seemed just as excited for the evening. Chelsea (from Credo) and Jamie (from Jacek) welcomed us and explained that the partnership between the two businesses began in 2010, when Credo became Jacek’s first retail partner. They have collaborated since then, working together to produce The Credo Bar earlier this year, a dark chocolate combined with espresso beans, and then, most recently, to organize a series of tastings.

Credo & Jacek Coffee & Chocolate Tasting

Jamie and Chelsea

The focus of the evening was on “mindful eating” – to deliberately and thoughtfully experience each taste, as opposed to what we’re all guilty of at times – consuming in haste or (for me, with coffee in the mornings) for pure sustenance. For reference, we were provided with copies of the Taster’s Flavour Wheel, which would aid us in articulating the notes detected in coffee and chocolate. Both Chelsea and Jamie emphasized that everyone has a different palate, and as such, can pick up different flavours.

Credo & Jacek Coffee & Chocolate Tasting

Flavour Wheel

We started with tasting three of Credo’s coffees, all roasted by Chicago-based Intelligensia. Intelligensia rotates through several regions of coffee as they become available seasonally, moving from Central America in the spring/summer to Africa in the fall/winter. We started with perhaps my favourite single-origin, the Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, a light and floral roast. We moved to the Itzamna from Guatemala, a coffee grown on the grounds of a former silver mine. The farmers are committed to organic practices, choosing a labour-intensive path of applying clay to the roots of the plants to regulate their temperature. This coffee was definitely much fuller-bodied, with a toasted flavour. Lastly, we sampled the Ethiopian Kurimi, grown by farmers interested only in planting varieties indigenous to the area. Our fellow tasters noted the Kurimi had hints of lychee and jasmine.

Credo & Jacek Coffee & Chocolate Tasting

Ethiopian Yirgacheffe

Onto chocolate, I was happy to learn about Jacek’s new Fabric Collection. Launched on November 13, 2015, it is Jacek’s first foray into bean-to-bar production. In the past, they’ve relied on Valrhona as their chocolate supplier, but now, they have the capacity to sort, roast, winnow and refine cocoa beans at their facility in Sherwood Park. Currently, they are producing three 70% single-origin varieties, all of which we tried that night.

Jacek Fabric Collection

Fabric Collection

The Dominican Republic, refined for seventy two hours, had tropical fruit undertones. I already knew I would enjoy the Venezuela, typically the single-origin I choose, creamy and balanced. The Peru was a surprise – unlike the subtle flavours of the previous two, for us, it had very distinct notes of dried fruit.

The evening cumulated in two pairings. The first was to sample The Credo Bar, made with the Dominican Republic and Black Cat espresso (we were told this iteration was selected from twelve combinations). The flavour profile reminded me of the Mocha Bar that the now-defunct Kerstin’s Chocolates had produced with beans from Transcend Coffee, but instead of the added texture of whole beans, The Credo Bar conches the cocoa and coffee beans together for a smooth finish.

We ended with an unconventional pairing – while I have incidentally enjoyed chocolate alongside tea, it’s not a classic match. Here, we sampled maojian green tea with the single-origin Venezuela, and it worked. Jamie shared that this has been the gateway for staff to consider other unusual pairings, and future tastings may feature more tea than coffee.

Credo & Jacek Coffee & Chocolate Tasting

Coffee cheers!

We enjoyed our first foray into coffee and chocolate tasting, and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to others. Jacek and Credo have just added another pairing date on January 15, 2016, so it’s something to consider as a gift this holiday season. Tickets are $40 each.

Date Night: Pasta Pantry and Jacek Chocolate Couture Tasting

The weekend prior to Valentine’s Day, Mack and I headed to Sherwood Park for dinner and a paired wine and chocolate tasting. The latter was the primary reason that drew us to the suburb, but we decided to take advantage of that excuse and have dinner nearby as well.

I had heard of Pasta Pantry through work colleagues, and a quick gander on their website gave me the impression that dinner would be an inexpensive affair (a small pasta was advertised at $7.95). Given the $65 tickets to the tasting were on the high end of the spectrum, we thought this dinner would help balance things out.

We arrived at a non-descript strip mall just after 5pm, and were surprised to find an absolutely frenzied restaurant. I would not have guessed that a cafeteria-style cantina would be the most hopping place in Sherwood Park on a Saturday night, but I was wrong. We queued up, doing our best to scan the whiteboard menu quickly, and eyed our options on the other side of the glass. I probably should have taken more time to consider the possibilities, but I didn’t want to hold up the growing line behind me, and hastily chose a small pasta topped with alfredo sauce and one meatball. Mack ordered a large pasta with the four cheese sauce and two meatballs. Our total bill was just under $25.

Pasta Pantry

Pasta Pantry

As we had dinner, we couldn’t believe the number of people streaming in – the line was consistently out the door for the duration of our meal. Most were take-out customers, but given the very basic sauce over pasta in front of us, we had to wonder if there was something we were missing. Mack’s four cheese sauce was the better of the two, and sure, the meatballs were tasty, but we were hard pressed to say the fare at Pasta Pantry was much better than dishes found at an Italian food court kiosk (we heard later that their pasticcio is their specialty, but they were out when it was our turn to order).

Pasta Pantry

Pasta with alfredo sauce

Pasta Pantry

Pasta with four cheese sauce

Service was speedy, and the owner made the rounds to check in with diners. We appreciated that personal touch, but what stood out most from our dinner was actually the live music. A young duo, led by Jordan Kaminski, played an assortment of pop covers and originals during our visit, and really helped elevate an otherwise bland experience. Given most of the customers didn’t stay, I would imagine the entertainment wasn’t the primary draw for the restaurant, but it should have been. Though we likely won’t be returning to Pasta Pantry anytime soon, we will be keeping an eye out for the talented young singers!

Following dinner, we headed over to Baseline Wines. About a year ago, the store moved from Baseline to a brand new space on Athabascan Avenue, and before the tasting, we wandered the store to peruse their displays and inventory.

Jacek Chocolate Couture & Baseline Wines Tasting

Baseline Wines

We also couldn’t help but admire the glassed-in tasting room, minimally decorated but stunning. Mack and I had to restrain ourselves from indulging right then and there!

Jacek Chocolate Couture & Baseline Wines Tasting

Beautifully set table

After all the guests had arrived. we took our seats. Ryan, Manager of Baseline Wines and Jacqueline, the Jacek Chocolate Couture Cocoanista herself, would be leading the tasting. As the evening went on, we found out how fortunate we were to have a wine and a chocolate expert at our disposal, as each of them shed insight on how each pairing worked. Ryan explained that chocolate was inherently difficult to pair with wine (contrary to popular belief) because the amount of tannins in the cocoa most often react negatively with wine. As a result, Ryan shared that he tried to either complement or contrast with the flavours in each piece of chocolate.

Jacek Chocolate Couture & Baseline Wines Tasting

Jaqueline Jacek

We were served a total of seven wines (one reception wine, and six to be paired with the six chocolate pieces in front of us). Ryan and Jacqueline guided us through each pairing, providing background on the chocolate and wine, and then encouraged us to sample each individually, then together.

Jacek Chocolate Couture & Baseline Wines Tasting

The spread

Though this wasn’t my first time sampling Jacek chocolates, it was the first time I’ve been able to listen to Jacqueline speak about her creative and production process in a detailed way. Her attention to detail absolutely blew me away, and was something I wouldn’t have appreciated without such a measured opportunity to learn about her chocolates. Her current Spring 2013 collection is all about nostalgia, so it is no surprise to find childhood throwbacks like old fashioned root beer celebrated. But what I didn’t expect was for Jaqueline to tell us that instead of reducing down store-bought root beer, she sourced the needed roots like sassafras from Chinatown herbal stores for the syrup. And to simulate the froth of a root beer float, she sprinkled each truffle with citric acid for a pop on the tongue – genius.

Jacek Chocolate Couture and Baseline Wines Tasting

Mack takes a whiff of the root beer syrup ingredients

My favourite truffle that we sampled that night was the Shirley Temple. I loved the bright and creamy citrus flavour, but even better was the way the grenadine drop bled into the ganache. For Jacqueline, this was a representation of the coloured layers blending together when one stirs up a Shirley Temple.

Our favourite pairing was a Quinta de La Rosa Port with a single-origin Mokaya Mexican chocolate (unfortunately, not available for sale). I’m not a fan of port, but I found the dark chocolate complemented the smooth port perfectly.

Baseline Wines and Jacek Chocolate Couture partner for these tastings on the release of every new collection (this was their third pairing event). Based on our experience, we thought the tickets were well worth the price (we even got to take home a box of chocolate each!), and was a wonderful way to learn about chocolate and wine. Sign up for Jacek’s mailing list to keep informed, and make sure to reserve your tickets early!

Pasta Pantry
305, 101 Granada Boulevard, Sherwood Park
(780) 467-3777

Baseline Wines
11 Athabascan Avenue, Unit 172, Sherwood Park
(780) 449-4448

Jacek Chocolate Couture
406 Kaska Road, Sherwood Park
(780) 464-5200

Chocolate + Bacon: Epiphanie Chocolate

As we walked past several storefronts to Myhre’s Deli, we noticed Epiphanie Chocolates (did I mention that the entire little block, with its small corner grocer, a décor shop, and of course, a chocolatier, is utterly charming?).

Never having been able to resist chocolates, we stepped into the small store, and found that its simple but elegant décor (complete with a window seat peppered with brightly coloured cushions) reminded us somewhat of Bling. It turned out the shop’s chocolatier, Debra Fleck, is originally from Edmonton, having opened the business in November with her husband John.

Interior of Epiphanie, with John Fleck in the background

Their focus is on truffles, although other products (such as pop-rock filled guitar moulds, drinking chocolate, and a selection of single-origin vanillas and cocoa powders) can be found on the shelves. The display case held nearly two-dozen varieties, some of them brilliantly decorated in bright, tropical colour coatings or adorned with miniature designs. At $2 each, the prices are comparable with Kerstin’s Chocolates and Sweet Lollapalooza in Edmonton. John offered us a few samples – ginger, earl grey and strawberry, and we found the latter to be our favourite, with a smooth, not overwhelmingly sweet centre, still containing crunchy strawberry seeds.

We decided to zero in on one of their feature items, priced at $2.31 each – the double-smoked bacon truffle. It was covered in a Calgary Herald article just a few weeks ago, along the same lines of an Edmonton bacon-centric article that appeared in the Journal in February. Mack and I were fortunate to have tried Kerstin’s chocolate-covered Berkshire pork bacon last year, so the flavour combination wasn’t new to us. Epiphanie’s version involves double-smoked bacon from Valbella and Davao, a dark milk chocolate from the Philippines. I have to say I loved the little pink pig atop the truffle.

Double-smoked bacon truffles

Just like with Kerstin’s concoction, however, in spite of the salty-sweet interaction, the chewy, almost-crunchy texture of the bacon and the velvety chocolate did not make for a pleasing match, at least for us. It’s definitely worth a try (especially because it is all the rage right now), but the next time I’m at Epiphanie, I think the strawberry truffle will be my treat of choice.

Epiphanie Chocolates
1417 11 Street SW, Calgary, AB
(403) 370-4592
Monday- Saturday 10am-6pm

Kerstin’s Chocolates’ Name That Origin Finals

A few weeks ago, I participated in the Name That Origin contest at Kerstin’s Chocolates, more to be able to sample different single origin chocolates for free than to actually attempt at securing a spot in the finals. As I was only able to correctly identify one out of four samples, my only chance at entering the finals would be as a wildcard. And wouldn’t you know it, they chose me.

As this was the first Name That Origin contest Kerstin’s has ever held, Cyrus was sure to explain the rules – the prize was a $400 gift certificate to Kerstin’s, after all. In the first round, all contestants would taste six single origin varieties, with the task of matching them to a supplied list of six possible countries of origin. Based on our responses, four would be selected to move on to the semi-finals, with “lighting round” taste-offs. Two pairs of contestants would square off, alternating their answers until the correct answer was given. The finals would see the last two contestants face off in a similar manner. To ensure no foul play, Jennifer Cockrall-King and Scott McKeen were on hand to monitor and observe the proceedings.

Cyrus introduces the monitors

Water and crackers were provided as palate cleansers, but regardless, I knew there was no hope for me – my single origin palate is not refined at all, as evidenced from my poor showing in the preliminary round. Still, I was happy to be included – it was nice to be among fellow chocolate lovers!

Readying our ballots

Possible countries of origin

The eight contestants were given about 15 minutes to taste samples of the six chocolates, and were allowed to try multiple pieces. I did my best to jot down notes on the distinct flavours of each piece, but with no real point of reference to match it to, it was a fruitless task for me.


My guesses

Cyrus called time, and the ballots were collected and tallied. Though I wasn’t dead last, I was only able to correctly identify one chocolate (SaoTome & Principe, which had a smoky flavour and a grainy texture). Kristina, Erin, Jason and Jessica were onto the semi-finals.

Kristina and Erin were up first, and had to taste and identify one of the six varieties from the first round. Erin was the winner, correctly naming the origin on her first try.


Jason and Jessica were up next, with Jessica emerging as the winner.

Tasting chocolate is very serious business

Though the final was originally meant to include a previously untried chocolate, Cyrus said that the possible countries of origin would be too numerous and thus too difficult to identify. So, one of the remaining four chocolates from the first round was chosen for the last taste-off.

Erin vs. Jessica

The winner? <drumroll please> Erin, who was able to identify Papua New Guinea as the origin of the chocolate. She attributed her success to a website called All Chocolate, which has a guide of tasting notes by country, and she had also purchased several single-origin bars to try at home.

Erin collects her prize from Kerstin

The seven runners-up were each given a box of Ghost Chile Salted Caramels by Theo Chocolate – not a bad consolation prize at all (I had one afer I returned home – delish).

Delectable consolation prize

Cyrus said that they would be holding more Name That Origin contests in the future, and that the contest really helped them fulfill one of their original intentions of the shop – to help spread awareness and educate people about chocolate.

Thanks again to Kerstin’s for the invitation to participate, and I look forward to continuing to learn more about single origin chocolates!

You can check out my photoset here, and Jennifer Cockrall-King will be uploading a video of the finals soon to her website.

Kerstin’s Chocolates: “Name That Origin” Contest

I popped over to Kerstin’s Chocolates after a meeting in the area late this afternoon. I had heard about their Name That Origin Contest a few weeks ago, and was intrigued.

Kerstin’s all decked out for the holidays

Anyone can enter the free contest by simply going to the shop. I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, besides being provided four different single origin chocolates to try (and really, who could turn down free chocolate?).

Chocolate samples

Kerstin walked me through the process – I would fill out an entry form and if I was correct in identifying all four chocolates, I would be given a container of Kerstin’s Drinking Chocolate, as well as invitation to their final tasting challenge to take place on December 22. If I failed, I would be given a 20% discount card for the shop (bonus!).

Preceding the spaces where my answers would go on was a paragraph highlighting tasting notes to look for in cocoa from a certain region, whether it be citrus, floral or fruit notes. It was a good place to start, even though only one of the chocolates had a flavour distinct enough for my palate to identify. Regardless of my limited success though, I really appreciated the opportunity to taste the different chocolates (I have attended their formal tastings before, and I highly recommend it as a fun way to learn more about chocolate).

Of course, I put the discount card to good use, and picked up a few bars of Chocophilia. The shop is just bursting with decadent gifts for the chocoholic on your list, with beautifully packaged Kerstin’s gift packs, tiny bundles of Valrhona squares, and amusing Michel Cluizel confections like this one:

Good thing they’re not sardine-flavoured chocolates

The Name That Origin Contest runs until December 22.

Kerstin’s Chocolates
10139 112 Street
(780) 990-0011
Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday 11am-5pm, Thursday 11-7pm, Saturday 10am-5pm, Closed Sunday and Monday

Get Your Chocolate Fix: Sweet Lollapalooza

Sweet Lollapalooza is the newest chocolate boutique in Edmonton, and just opened up its doors on Monday. After I read Foodie Suz’s post about tucking into goodies from the shop, I decided to stop by after work today.


Located on the ground floor in Commerce Place (directly underneath the McDonalds), the shop is easy to miss, tucked behind the escalators. The interior is functional (Mack said they were still painting and finishing other touch ups when he walked by last week), but the store is designed so customers have a full view of the chocolate room. Chocolatier Brett Roy was busy embossing (is that the right word?) chocolates during my visit.

Brett smiles

The friendly clerk was forthcoming with several samples, including their signature buttercrunch and rich hot chocolate. One taste of the toffee, coated in milk chocolate and hazelnuts was enough to push me to buy a bag ($12). Once home, I thought I would eat the entire package in one go, but it turned out a small piece really was enough – the textures and layers are deceivingly satisfying.

Buttercrunch and a sample of hot chocolate

Sweet Lollapalooza is a welcome addition to the city’s burgeoning fine chocolate purveyors. Stop in soon for a taste yourself!

Sweet Lollapalooza
Lower Level, Commerce Place, 10155 102 Street
(780) 436-3190
Monday-Friday 9:30am-6pm, Saturday 10am-4pm, closed Sundays

Fine Gelato: Chocolate Exquisite

So much food. So little time. At least when it comes to the places on my “to try” list, anyway.

I was able to strike one off the list last weekend, when Mack and I made a concerted effort to ruin our dinner with gelato (though I’m sure there are worse ways in which dinner can be ruined). After an “independent panel” declared the gelato from Chocolate Exquisite to be the best in the city, I was eager to give their dessert a spin.

Chocolate Exquisite interior

Located in the semi-sprawled Oliver Square complex, Chocolate Exquisite has been producing their own line of chocolates for several years. Owner Dennis Yurkiwsky sampled over 70 varieties of cocoa beans sourced from all over the world, and from that number, picked 18 to make bars of single-origin chocolate. They are all beautifully wrapped, with small squares priced at just 90 cents, meaning a gift box containing some variety could be relatively inexpensive. Yurkiwsky was extremely generous in providing me with samples of the types I expressed an interest in (with many bite-size samples ready to be doled out, the “try before you buy” policy is their common practice). I also tried the 99% cocoa mass, which is described to be for a “connoisseur’s palate”. It wasn’t for me. Yurkiwsky made clear, however, that the value of variety was being able to offer a specific product that would appeal to individuals as opposed to a crowd.

It’s worth noting that Chocolate Exquisite runs tasting workshops for $35, which includes samples of all 18 single-origin varieties, as well as dessert wines and port (the shop is equipped with a few small tables and chairs). It would make a fantastic girls night out. The next one is scheduled for October 20; call for more information.

By the time we worked our way toward the gelato cooler, it was clear that Yurkiwsky prides himself in producing a consistent, high quality product. As expected, Mack and I both tried samples of the gelato of our choice before we were permitted to graduate to a full serving ($3.50/small, $5.50/large). Yurkiwsky described the gelato-making process that he uses, and suffice to say, he has undertaken great expense and pains to ensure his gelato is as authentic as possible.

And the result? The scoop of hazelnut I enjoyed thoroughly brought me back to my time in Italy. Velvety smooth, the balance between the nutty flavour and sweetness was just perfect. Mack’s strawberry gelato was light and fruity, and disappeared immediately under his spoon.

Hazelnut and Strawberry gelati

As Yurkiwsky himself indicated, Chocolate Exquisite is a destination. However, now that I’ve been oriented to their products, I will be sure to keep it in mind for any future gift needs, as well as a place to satiate my gelato cravings.

Chocolate Exquisite
11238 104 Avenue
(780) 488-7852
Monday-Thursday 11am-8pm, Friday-Saturday 11am-9pm, Sunday 12-8pm

Kerstin’s Chocolates’ Chocolate Covered Bacon

Today I brought home a gastronomic gem never before seen in Edmonton: chocolate covered bacon.

Chocolate Covered Bacon

To commemorate Father’s Day, Kerstin’s Chocolates pulled out all the stops – sourcing prized Berkshire bacon from local farm Sunshine Organic, they created a treat worthy of conversation. Crispy strips of bacon are dipped in Venezuelan single origin 49% dark chocolate, then sprinkled with Madagascar cocoa nibs – a sweet and savoury confection that would certainly add something special to the Sunday brunch table.

I picked some up after work this afternoon (limited quantities are available at The Cocoa Room until Saturday, June 20), with the intent to share the discovery with Mack. The two strips cost me $5.25 at $15.00/100g. While I am a huge fan of Kerstin’s Chocolate (my favourite Chocophilia Bars are Mocha Bean and Educador 72%), Mack’s love of bacon is unrivalled. We thought it might be best to capture both perspectives in one post.


On the idea:

Sharon: I was intrigued, though I know from past experience, sweet and salty combinations are hit or miss for my palate – salty caramels: yes. Chocophilia’s Fleur de Sel: no.

Mack: Did someone say bacon?

On first glance:

Sharon: I’m not sure I was expecting whole slices of bacon, but I suppose they are more presentable, and pleasing to the eye that way.

Mack: Somehow a strip of chocolate covered bacon looks underwhelming relative to the idea.

On initial contact:

Sharon: Cutting to divide the strip in half with a knife, I didn’t expect the resounding crunch.

Mack: Looking at the cross-section, I was happy to be able to distinguish the layer of bacon in between chocolate.

On first taste:

Sharon: Nothing beats Kerstin’s dark chocolate! But I’m not sure about the chewiness…

Mack: First the chocolate, then a hint of bacon, and an unfamiliar texture. Interesting.


Sharon: I can’t say the bacon really came through for me – the star of the show was definitely the chocolate. The nibs were supposed to add another element I suppose, but they weren’t necessary.

Mack: I wish I loved chocolate as much as I love bacon.


Sharon: It’s definitely a conversation starter (or shocker). Mack Twittered that he was about to try chocolate covered bacon, and received numerous replies in a matter of minutes!

Mack: I’ll stick to plain bacon and deep-fried Mars bars, but cool concept.

Kudos to Kerstin’s for highlighting a local farmer, and for getting people excited about an unusual product. Who knows what they will cover in chocolate next? Send your requests to Kerstin’s via Twitter. Sunshine Organic will be offering samples of the bacon at their City Centre Market booth on Saturday.

Kerstin’s Chocolates, The Cocoa Room
10139 112 Street
(780) 990-0011

A Customized Treat: Choklat

Also gleaned from Where Calgary, I read a brief introduction to one of Calgary’s chocolatiers called Choklat. Located in the Inglewood neighbourhood just a few minutes from the core, Choklat prides itself in being only one of two chocolatiers in Canada that actually make their own chocolate. They buy raw cocoa beans, roast and grind them all on their own. As I had been meaning to check out Inglewood anyway, a promise of fresh chocolate provided a nice incentive.

We parked our car and meandered around walkable Inglewood for a bit. Stocked with a variety of boutiques including home decor, houseware, clothing, and gifts, it reminded me of Edmonton’s High Street area. Some of the stores were closed on Sunday, however (including Spolumbo’s Deli), so we may have to return in the near future to get a full sense of the street.

We eventually made our way to Choklat, a small functional storefront. A jar of cocoa beans were on display on a shelf alongside packages of chocolate that could be purchased, while a display case next to the till tempted customers with large bars of dark and milk chocolate bars. We were interested in the custom truffles.


Choklat interior and truffle-making station

Priced at $1.99, they are definitely an occasional treat, but we liked the ability to create our own truffle. Apparently there are over 300 combinations, but on that day, we just put in an order for three. Mack liked that we could have placed an order online to be picked up at our convenience, handy, I’m sure, for those placing a large volume order.

After consulting the list of possibilities, we chose: a dark chocolate buttercream centre dipped in dark chocolate and rolled in cocoa nibs; a peanut butter buttercream dipped in milk chocolate and rolled in crushed brownies; (and for Mack) a milk chocolate buttercream dipped in milk chocolate and rolled in crushed brownies.


In about ten minutes, our order was ready (comfortable leather couches lined the waiting area). Presented in a translucent blue Chinese take-out style box, I knew part of the price had to be the packaging. We were also given a sheet of paper that listed which colour-coded truffle contained which combination.

Our order

About the size of a Timbit, it was evident that each truffle had been made with care. I liked the peanut butter version better, as there was a nice variety of sweetness in that truffle, and Mack enjoyed the crushed brownies on the outside of his, saying that it was surprisingly just sweet enough. I can’t say that I could “taste” the fact that they source and grind their own cocoa beans in the truffle, though the chocolate bar would have been a better buy for that purpose.

Choklat provides a nice alternative for those seeking a chocolate gift – the customized nature of their truffles, although pricey, is hard to beat.

1327A 9th Avenue SE
(403) 457-1419

Day 2, pm – Food: Today, Tomorrow, Together Conference

After lunch, I was finally able to move from the auditorium into the more small-group friendly rooms for the day’s second breakout session. Titled “The Capacity of the Alberta Food System”, I was disappointed that the content didn’t actually provide more information about the capacity of the Alberta food system.

Candace Vanin, an agrologist with the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation, Administration, Agriculture and Agri-food Canada provided some interesting facts:

  • 8% of land in Canada is suitable for food production, with over 80% of that farmland positioned on the prairies;
  • Edmonton has a fairly good agro-climactic zone (rated 2H on a scale of 1-7, with 1 being excellent for agricultural activity), and has 143 frost-free days due to the geographic “bowl” the city is situated in; and
  • there are 170 census farms in Edmonton, and that 80-90% of all broccoli, cauliflower and beets in Alberta are grown in the Edmonton area.

Paul Cabaj of the Canadian Centre for Community Renewal talked about the results of a survey he conducted, but didn’t have anything particularly of interest to contribute except a mention of a social enterprise project. Apparently a group in Edmonton would like to start a greenhouse on the lands around the Alberta Hospital site to sell half of the produce to local restaurants, and use the profits to be able to provide the rest of the produce to low-income families.

Someone at the end of the session asked the obvious question – “What is the capacity of Alberta’s food system?”, and while neither presenter had an answer (partly because the answer would change yearly and be completely hypothetical), local economist Mark Anielski, who had participated in a panel discussion earlier in the day has estimated that Alberta would be able to support less than 10% of its population on its current agricultural production.

The last breakout session of the day was my favourite of the entire conference – the “Realities of Farming” offered two producers the opportunity to talk about their firsthand experience. Gene Brown, a small rancher with 170 cattle, was so honest and so well-intentioned that I wished that more people could hear him speak.

He talked about some of the changes they had implemented on their ranch over the last few years to make their farm more environmentally sound, including rotational grazing and water pumping. They also adapted some methods to reduce the stress on animals, like utilizing plastic nose paddles for seven days prior to separating the calf from its mother (meaning that they cannot receive milk from their mothers, but they have the security of being by their side for a week longer), and planting shelter trees along the side of their farm that borders the highway. Gene was very positive in his assessment of their farming business, saying that it was a lifestyle he would not give up, as it allowed him to be close to nature, and have flexible days. He closed his presentation with this: “Of all the crops we’ve produced, the ones we are most proud of are our children.” Aw.

Gwen Simpson, of Inspired Market Gardens was up next. She heavily emphasized how difficult it is for farmers to make a living in the current climate. She provided an example of her counterparts at Sunshine Organic Farm, who only make $2 per organic, pasture-raised chicken, and that doesn’t include the wages they have to pay to employees, insurance, certification, or transportation to farmers’ markets. Other notable facts:

  • Alberta lost 7.1% of their farmers (since which year, I didn’t note down). The average age of a farmer in Alberta is 52, and in the last 5 years, the province has lost 25% of farmers under the age of 35.
  • Canadians surveyed by the OECD ranked communication and health the #1 and #2 things they would be willing to pay top dollar for. Food ranked #11.
  • In 1988, 1.44kg of pork cost $6.88. In 2002, 1.46kg of pork cost $9.54, with the difference collected by the retailer and the processor, and not the farmer.

Gwen introduced the idea that perhaps farmers should be seen more as our doctors, as what we eat has a direct impact on our health. She noted that people should be willing to pay more for good food, especially if one considers proper nutrition as a means of disease prevention.


Gwen Simpson

We had another open space discussion prior to dinner, but for the life of me, I can’t remember which group I huddled around – being reliant on the notes in my Moleskine is a detriment to some extent.

I returned from dinner refreshed and ready for the final portion of the evening – a lecture from Carol Off, journalist, host of a CBC radio show, and author of Bitter Chocolate, a book that exposed the human rights violations of the cocoa industry. Immediately after her presentation, I was a bit disappointed with what I thought was a lack of content, but now, a few days later, I think it was a well-rounded case study of a commodity, peppered with people that she met throughout her visit to the Ivory Coast to investigate the situation.

“Food is the biggest story of our time,” Off opened. She gave a brief history of cocoa, and how it eventually became a prized commodity in the Western world. Her lecture then centered around the three factors that in her opinion led to the destruction of modern Africa and cocoa production: the greed and corruption of Africa’s leaders, the Structural Adjustment Programs heralded by the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization, and corporate amorality by the multinationals that now “own” cocoa, and are able to drive down the price with their monopoly. On this last point, she explained, as farmers cannot afford to pay their employees because of the low rate they receive, they turn to the cheapest labour available – slave labour of children. Sadly, she even saw mothers purposely sending children into the Ivory Coast from neighbouring Mali – mothers that were hoping that being employed in cocoa plantations would guarantee them food they would not otherwise have. She herself does not eat anything but fair trade chocolate, or chocolate that contains cocoa sourced from anywhere but Africa, and reminded the audience, “When you take a bite of chocolate, just remember who’s life you’re eating.”

One of her suggested “solutions” to the problem was empowerment – of the cocoa farmers (to be able to organize, and to be aware of the true value of their product), and of us. She introduced the idea that would be rampant on day 3 of the conference that people need to stop viewing themselves as “consumers” – “The power to change lies with citizens and not consumers,” she said. Citizens can force the government to legislate the needed change – for example, introducing a bill that bans companies from importing cocoa farmed by children (in 2001, Senators Hawkin and Engel in the U.S. tried to pass what is known as the “Cocoa Protocol” to have done just this, but cocoa lobby forced their request to become voluntary only).


Carol Off

I was pretty beat by this time, but stopped in the cafeteria area to sample some included wine (from enSante, who, I am happy to announce, were granted an extension of their farmgate license and will be allowed to sell their wine at farmers’ markets this summer!) and cheese (from Sylvan Star Cheese, among others).