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

Charity Fall Fair at the Salisbury Farmers’ Market

Though the Salisbury Farmers’ Market in Sherwood Park is year-round, it’s a little out of range to be our weekly winter market. That said, I hadn’t been back to Salisbury since visiting one of their Christmas markets last year, and with the excuse of having to run some errands on the south side anyway, Mack and I stopped by again last night.

Salisbury was having their first annual Charity Fall Fair, with the MS Society chosen this year to benefit from proceeds collected during a special supper. The BBQ featured products that had been donated from various market vendors.


Banquet set-up

It was quite the spread they were offering, and all for a minimum donation of $7 a plate: hickory-smoked pork from Johnson Family Farms, buns from Prairie Mill, potato and pasta salads from Earthly Delights, vegetarian chili from Mixes R Us, all finished off with a cookie from Confetti Sweets.


Yes, it all tasted as good as it looks!

It was a little cool eating outside as the sun was starting to disappear, but the festive atmosphere made up for the cold – there was a petting zoo set up nearby, with the delighted sounds of children encountering miniature horses, goats, chickens, bunnies and (yes) a pot-bellied pig floating joyfully in the air.


Geese and goats and bunnies, oh my!

After devouring our supper, we headed inside to warm up, and to check out the market. The greenhouse really is a lovely place, with inviting, cheerful seasonal displays by the entrance.


Who doesn’t love decorative gourds?

Of course, their Christmas section had also been set-up, much to Mack’s dismay. I didn’t mind so much, particularly because we will be buying our first tree this year.

Christmas time!

About two months to go

The market section of the greenhouse was equally merry, the lively mood partially attributed to The Dirt Merchants (such a great name) who were playing up a storm – music and markets definitely go hand in hand!

The Dirt Merchants

The Dirt Merchants

There seemed to be more vendors at this market than at the one we visited last year, but some people we talked to said several vendors (including Belua Designs) were there specifically for the special event. The lighting also seemed to be a bit better, which definitely helps when the space is void of natural light!

Salibury Market


It was great to see Smoky Valley Goat Cheese out, as well as Steve and Dan and Prairie Mill (the latter two being our City Market mainstays).

Salibury Market

More vendors

We were also excited to finally be able to try Jacek Chocolate Couture, a chocolatier based in Sherwood Park that has been much buzzed about for their beautiful creations. Jacqueline Jacek changes her collection regularly, with the Winter 2010 collection coming out next month.

We picked up a box of her current LouLou Belle collection, coloured pink in recognition of breast cancer awareness month ($2 per box is donated to Rethink Breast Cancer), but were happy to hear that her truffles are also being carried at our neighbourhood Credo (she recently started making their hot chocolate base for them). My favourite of the four varieties was the pink grapefruit sherbet – similar to the citrus/white chocolate combination of Chocophilia’s Lemon Dream, I loved the smooth centre that encased chewy bursts of grapefruit. Jacek will also be participating in the upcoming Rocky Mountain Wine and Food Festival.

Jacek Chocolate Couture

Jacek Chocolate Couture

Salisbury is a charming market out in the ‘Park. Make sure to check it out Thursday evenings from 4:30-8 p.m. if you’re in the area!