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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Discovering the Burlington Chocolate Trail

This year a brand new event was launched in Burlington to highlight some of the best artisans our city has to offer.  I’m not sure everyone fully understands the skill & passion that goes into the culinary arts, but after spending a day touring many stops on the Burlington Chocolate Trail, I’m convinced that these skilled professionals are long overdue for creative recognition!

Now we all know chocolate is best enjoyed with a good friend, so I grabbed my girl Krista (no arm-twisting required!) and we headed out bright and early to get in as much chocolate as the day would allow!

Photo Credit: BankoMedia
Our day began at Cupid’s Cupcakes (Walkers Line & Dundas) where we were treated to some history about the origins of red velvet cake (fascinating), and sampled some of the best cupcakes I’ve ever had.  Flavours like Commitmint (chocolate minty goodness) and Raspberry Beret did not disappoint!  Clearly eating breakfast was a giant mistake on my part.

Photo Credit: BankoMedia
Next we were treated to the extensive chocolate counter at the impressively renovated Longo’s next door, where their in-house chocolatier showed us how she makes some of their most decadent creations.  Chocolate-dipped strawberries, marshmallow & white chocolate bark, fresh caramel & pecan ‘turtles’, and Peruvian chocolate truffles left us barely able to walk.  I was compelled to grab a carton of milk to help wash it all down!   Even their artisanal bread shop has delicious chocolate bread!  Did I mention yet that breakfast was a giant mistake?

Our third stop was Mrs. B’s Gifthouse on Fairview Street, in business for more than 20 years now.   The charming owner, Angelo, offered us their always-free coffee, and we watched the lovely Paola make biscotti with orange zest and apricot from scratch.  I never realized how they got made into those perfectly sized long, slender shapes until now!  Aside from the gift baskets they specialize in up front, the back of the store is where the tasty magic happens, as Angelo’s team drizzled chocolate on biscotti, licorice, and their signature chocolate bark.  By now it was lunchtime, and we all agreed there would clearly be no need.  If it’s at all possible to overdose on chocolate, we were precariously close to doing so!

Photo Credit: BankoMedia
Fortunately our next stop gave our sweetened stomachs a welcome reprieve, as we headed to the Blair Lancaster Spa downtown.  I’ve known about Blair’s spa for many years, but today was my first time experiencing it in person.  I have to tell you, the chocolate pedicure we enjoyed was the best pedicure of our lives.  Who knew a chocolate footbath was detoxifying?  The peach infused paraffin treatment didn’t hurt either!  The atmosphere was relaxing, the staff was skilled and knowledgeable, and we left feeling refreshed and invigorated.  My feet haven’t been this soft since I was a baby, I’m certain of that.   I will be heading back for an organic spray tan before my April vacation, and saving up for some microdermabrasion treatments too! 

If you’re downtown, you have to make time to stop by Casteleyn Belgian Chocolatiers on Brant Street.  A family-run business (by a Belgian family who has a genuinely Belgian-trained chocolate maker in their midst), they only use the finest natural ingredients like Belgian chocolate (I suppose that’s a bit obvious), real cream, and fine European liqueurs. Be sure to enjoy a free sample while you’re on the Chocolate Trail!  Their hot chocolate is a stand-out, made with shaved Belgian chocolate, steamed milk, and no syrups.  Delicious! 

Photo Credit: BankoMedia
Our last stop was one of my favourite restaurants in town, The Martini House.  If you’ve never tried their Asian Nachos, you’re really missing out!  Their Chocolate Trail offerings were outstanding, as Krista enjoyed a not-too-sweet martini (just perfect) as I downed a giant icy drink aptly named Death By Chocolate.  I didn’t die, but it sure was heavenly!  Our layered dessert was the perfect ending to a wonderfully sweet & relaxing day!

The Chocolate Trail has many other stops to enjoy, with local vendors offering special creations & generous discounts as well.  The cupcakes we bought to bring home for our envious families were 25% off, any spa treatments booked at Blair Lancaster involving chocolate are 15% off, Longos has free samples to enjoy, and Mrs. B’s will give you 15% off if you say “I love Burlington”.  You can also grab a gluten-free mile high brownie from Kind Food on John Street, and get samples at chocolatiers like Purdy’s in Mapleview Mall and The Garden Café at the Royal Botanical Gardens (where an excellent exhibition on the history of chocolate starts on January 28th).   Just be sure to mention you’re on the Chocolate Trail and you’ll be well taken care of!

All in all you’ll find five chocolatiers, five restaurants, six artisan food producers and two spas to visit on the trail (grab the full details here).  If you can ever fit them all in one day, I’d be very impressed!  I suggest taking your time though, and savouring each one.

If you know any chocoholics, this is a great way to spend time with them.  A girls day out, a special Mother’s Day treat, or a fabulous date (especially around Valentine’s Day!) are all completely justifiable reasons to treat yourself to such wild decadence! 

Just take my advice first: don’t eat a big breakfast that day J

Victoria Hughes, Guest Blogger
Victoria Hughes is a local entrepreneur, social media specialist and website & blog author. Born in Burlington and living in the GTA her whole life, her professional career has taken her through the diverse worlds of leadership consulting, fashion retail management, fine dining, communications technology and online travel. After launching her own business in 2008, she began authoring the daily Girl It Up! fashion and discount blog, tweets on topics of the day @vbhughes and recently spearheaded a site full of guidelines and resources to keep youth safe & smart as they explore the ever-changing world of social media: safesocialmedia.ca . Her greatest loves are travel, shoes, laughter and family. 

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