Conveniently held a week before Valentine’s Day, Je t’aime en Chocolat, the annual chocolate festival, was wall to wall… well, chocolate. And while decent chocolate can be found in grocery stores, it’s not the way you mark an occasion, even if that occasion is just having a good hair day. For good chocolate, the sort of chocolate that passes as an art form, you need a chocolatier. And where better to discover your new favorite dessert artiste than at Je t’aime en chocolat.
“People like chocolate because it tastes good,” says Marie-Eve, a shopper departing with several bags in her hands. “It makes a day special.” Most people leave the event with at least a bag or a box in hand because everything is so eye-catching.
The chocolatiers go out of their way to make special creations. “The muscadines are my favorite,” says one vendor. “They take the longest to make. Several days. There’s raisin paste, orange peel.” He rattles off a number of ingredients and yes, confirmed, they taste extraordinary.
I don’t know how anyone chooses a vendor, let alone chooses what to get. There are truffles and bags of chocolate molded into different shapes and all manner of confections. Some chocolates are so delicately painted, they look like tiny stone jewels in blue, gold, and green. Inside are thick delicious pastes like pistachio or orange mousse. Some flavours imitate what’s popular in coffee, such as London Fog flavored batons sold at T-Guru. FG Chocolatiers seems to have taken the lead with its unusual flavours with chocoaltes filled with balsamic vinegar caramel, yuzu, blue cheese, and madagascar wild pepper truffles.
For carnavalesque, memory-laden delicacies, try Capeline & Chocolat. From them, I bite into a chocolate covered marshmallow that oozes caramel with each bite.
In addition to chocolate, there is Solo Gelato, which offers individual servings of the dessert in dark chocolate and strawberry. Another stand has waffles and marshmallows that visitors can heat, creating a variation of the s’more. Forets & Papilles sells products made from foraged plants, like roses macerated in honey. There are also baking products on hand like maracrons by Point G, tarts by Carrement Tarte, and other artisanal goods.
Overall, most of those selling focus on offering locally and carefully sourced and produced products. This is perhaps exemplified best by Les Gens Heureux, a company that offers both a monthly chocolate service, but also functions to raise money for small non-profit organizations in need. All the packaging is reusable or biodegradable, such as the plastic-like packaging made from coconut fibres.
Another organization that seems to be present mainly to bring awareness to its cause is Cuisiners Sans Frontiers, that offers professional chef training around the world in vulnerable locations. The spokesman offers me a taste of their sample chocolate that features bugs protein as a topping. I’m not that adventurous, but the cause is one to pay attention to.
If you’re looking for a gift for Valentines Day, or any day, and especially for yourself, Quebec’s local chocolatiers have something special and delicious.
Je t’aime en chocolat takes place annually in February at Marche Bonsecours (350 St Paul E)