The perfect treat for that special someone for Valentine's Day — or for yourself, any day
By Natalia Manzocco
Feb 10, 2020
From left: ChocoSol five-chili and coconut bars, Chocolates x Brandon Olsen truffles, SOMA strawberry and white chocolate berry bars, Laura Slack skull chocolates, and Soul Madagascar and Ecuador bars.
Looking to give someone special some sugar for Valentine’s Day? Whether they’re into ethical eats or eye candy, or they’re just old-fashioned chocoholics, Toronto’s best chocolate shops and chocolate makers have something for everyone.
For those who want a little green with their red and pink Valentines, there’s ChocoSol’s uniquely eco-friendly sweets. The St. Clair West company’s chocolate uses stone-ground forest-garden cacao from Mexico, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic. (Other ingredients, like maple sugar, chili and pumpkin, are sourced locally.) Their chocolate is free of dairy, soy, palm oil, nuts and gluten – but the end result is nothing short of indulgent.
CXBO, as it’s called for short, is home to the city’s most Instagrammable chocolates – little geodesic domes of primary colour in perfectly imperfect boxes, each paint-spattered by hand. The company doesn’t sell individual truffles, just nine- and 18-piece “collections,” but the default selection includes knockout flavours like yuzu-sake and pistachio-orange-bergamot, so we doubt your sweetie will complain. For V-Day, they’re doing romance with a twist: a “love boat” collection of tropical flavours.
Chow spent seven years as the head of pastry at the Drake before striking out on his own with a chocolate-making business. His offerings range from perfect, polished little truffles in a kaleidoscope of hues to bars, bonbons and barks, each one a miniature riot of colour and flavour. (Case in point: A white chocolate matcha green tea bars with black and white sesame brittle and puffed brown rice, or a dark chocolate bar packed with spiced pecan, dried berries, cacao nibs and Aleppo chilli pepper.)
All of the truffles in the case at this precious Junction shop are organic and fair trade – and they pack a major flavour wallop, thanks to ingredients like BC smoked sea salt, Niagara icewine and organic dark-amber Ontario maple syrup. Want to really throw that special someone a curveball? Pop a blue cheese truffle (featuring real Quebec Bleu d’Élizabeth) into the mix.
For when you want to say “I love you, but in a totally badass and extremely metal kind of way,” there’s Laura Slack’s copper skull-shaped chocolates, each encasing a river of caramel. For the more traditional among us, Slack also makes truffles topped with glimmering iridescent paint or funky splashes, each packed with one of two dozen fillings (Earl Grey ganache, bacon caramel and apple jam, to name a few).
This patisserie-café does pretty much everything – macarons, take-away salads, croissants, fancy French desserts – but for gift-giving, nothing beats its house-made chocs and candies in striking multicoloured packaging. For maximum sweep-off-feet action, pick up a box of marble-like chocolate bonbons, featuring an assortment of flavours like pistachio praline, blueberry-cassis and passion fruit.
780 Queen West, 416-203-2009, and others, nadege-patisserie.com. See listing.
Every box of assorted chocolates by Parisian-born chocolatier Odile Chatelain forms a gorgeous mosaic thanks to the fetching designs dusted on top. The selection is dizzying – traditional and tropical truffles next to grappa, port and icewine versions – but with Belgian, Ecuadorian and Tanzanian chocolate at the base, you know they’ll all be quality.
For Soma owners David Castellan and Cynthia Leung, a married couple, chocolate is a labour of love: They laboriously produce bean-to-bar, single-origin chocolate in limited batches, on top of a massive slate of crowd-pleasing pralines, truffles, drinking chocolate and gelato. February specials for the lovers out there include a pale burgundy bar jam-packed (har) with raspberries, milk chocolate speckled with dried strawberries, and a white-chocolate mixed berry bar infused with Pop Rocks. At the end of 2019, Soma opened a long-awaited factory on Brock (and yes, you can do tours).
Husband-and-wife team Kyle Wilson and Katie Bartlett are avid travellers, and it shows in their single-origin chocolate bars. Each region’s beans are allowed to shine unadorned (their Papua New Guinea bar, for example, features notes of mesquite and molasses, while the Madagascar recalls red fruit and citrus), and the bold, eye-catching packaging is meant to evoke the spirit of each country.
With its roots going all the way back to 1845 in northern Germany, Stubbe has six generations of recipe-refining on its side. Spherical truffles in flavours like peach-champagne, apricot brandy and blood orange are the staple gift here, but also there’s Valentine’s specials like a chocolate stiletto stuffed with more chocolate (for that truly extra person in your life).
Toronto melts for Olenka’s thousand-flavour-strong gelato lineup all summer long, but this time of year, it’s the truffles, bonbons, “cakesters” and other sweets that fly out the door. Whimsy is big here – along with the usual hearts, you might find evil eyes, pineapples and Space Invaders. And just as they do with their frozen treats, they always make sure to look out for the vegans.
1056 Queen West, 647-350-7444, and others, sweetolenkas.ca. See listing.
Sharp graphic prints make the truffles at this recent transplant from Yorkville to the Annex stand out from the rest of the pack. (Can we have the hula girls from the toasted-coconut Lani truffle as wallpaper, please?) Adding to the out-of-the-box feel is a collection of unusual flavours – from boozy pink champagne to bold curry and ginger-wasabi.
215 Madison, 416-929-2424, morocochocolat.com. See listing.
This story has been updated from its original version (published February 1, 2017).
Natalia came to NOW as the food writer in 2015 before taking over the lifestyle desk in 2019. She has written about food, style, technology, life and travel for the National Post, Sun Media, blogTO and Metro. She enjoys thrift stores and bad puns.