February 22nd, 2005


IFFA and A Day for Chocolate

For many of the internet's food bloggers, today is a celebration of food in general. Today is the first annual Independent Food Festival and Awards, in which a jury of sorts makes up a food-related award and then awards. This means that I have a handful of mouthwatering tabs open right now, full of tempting foods. And some of those foods are obtainable in Canada.

The Domestic Goddess awards the World's Best Mustard award to The Mustard Maker in St. Lawrence Market. Vittles Vamp awards the Best Under-the-Radar Dessert Wine, Starting to Gain Popularity award to Brachetto d'Acqui, available at many of the better LCBOs in Toronto. A la Cuisine awards The Maple Syrup Confection Worth its Weight in Gold award to DC Duby Chocolatier in Vancouver for their Wild Squash Truffle.

But good as all of those sound, I have something even more exciting to look forward to tonight: my first cooking class, Introduction to Working with Chocolate at JS Bonbons!

Cooking Class: JS Bonbons

Location: 163 Dupont, at St. George. Toronto.

Several months ago, I decided that cooking classes sounded like fun, and promptly signed up for three of them. Tonight was the first, but they're coming in rapid succession: all three are in the next two weeks. Despite a lifelong patronage of chocolate, I really knew nothing about how it was made, so many basics which are old hat to the experienced chocolate-makers among you (evieb, wibblepot) were entirely new to me.

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The class began with a series of comparative chocolate-tastings, one white, one milk, one milk-with-hazelnuts, and three dark chocolates with various percentages of chocolate. Jenn Stone, the instructor and owner of the JS Bonbons chocolate stores (there are two), talked through tasting notes with the different chocolates which represented an assortment of brands, including Callebaut and Valrhona. My favorite was a very flavorful dark Valrhona chocolate, made with beans from Madagascar.

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I came away feeling that chocolate really isn't hard at all to work with. There are a number of tools - marble slab, palette knife, instant-read candy thermometer - which would make it easier, but ultimately, it's not very complex. I feel I know most of the really important tips for working with it, and have an appreciation and understanding of what makes good chocolate, the ways that high quality chocolates are made compared to lower quality ones. I didn't leave with an immediate feeling of having learned a great deal, but the more I think about it, I really did learn quite a few important things. And even better, I feel empowered to make chocolates.

Note: JS Bonbons now offers a wide variety of chocolate and candy-making classes. The Intro to Chocolate Making, the class I took, is a prerequisite for many, but not all of them. Recently added classes include making a full meal, all courses having a chocolate component, and a marzipan and gum paste class.