While travelling, I love to go on food tours as it is always a wonderful way to sample the culinary scene in an area. Despite being an Ottawa local, who has lived in this city for most of her life, I decided to try C’est Bon Cooking which offers gourmet food tours. I signed up for the Chocolate Lover’s Tour, as while I do try to test out as many new restaurants as possible, I tend to skip dessert, so I was eager to explore Ottawa’s restaurants and chefs that cook with or make chocolate as part of the 1.5-hour tour.
The C’est Bon Cooking chocolate tour began at Stubbe Chocolates, the oldest family-owned business in the Ottawa Valley which opened in 1989. For years I’ve walked past this chocolate shop, so I was pleased to start the tour here as I’ve meant to visit for a long time.
On the visit of his store, Chef Heinrich Stubbe explained the process of harvesting and selling chocolate before it becomes the sweet truffles available for purchase in his shop.
One of the major highlights on the chocolate tour was entering the kitchen at Stubbe Chocolates where master chocolatier Heinrich Stubbe explained the process of making all the various chocolates in the store. Behind the scenes in the kitchen, I got to watch two local chefs who graduated from the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu cooking school here in Ottawa, mould and paint the decorate chocolates.
It was impressive to see all the chocolates are made by hand, with the beautiful decorative designs also being hand-painted with coloured cocoa butter.
After being educated about chocolate, and watching the process of making them it was then time to eat! I was given three amazing chocolate samples to try. Needless to say after tasting the quality of the chocolate produced, I’ll be returning to as the assortment of over 39 flavours of truffles would make a fantastic gift for the chocolate lovers I know.
Just a short walk away is Cacao 70, which is in the heart of the Byward Market. It was my first time visiting Cacao 70, so I was eager to see why this restaurant is always full of students or couples on dates.
At Cacao 70, the chocolate fondue, crepes, and rich hot chocolates are the most popular dishes, but there is an extensive menu that was a bit overwhelming with all the various options of chocolate dishes available. With 15 types of chocolate available from around the world, there is certain to be the perfect chocolate flavour for your palate.
On this part of the tour, the focus was simply on tasting the food, and we were presented with a chocolate fondue platter to start that had a dark, milk and white melted chocolate, with waffle pieces, brownies, strawberries, pineapple slices, and bananas pieces to dip into the chocolate.
Everything was delicious, but what surprised me was normally I despise white chocolate, but here the rich white chocolate was rather good. By far was the dark chocolate, and I could see myself wanting to return to share a fondue platter, it was a fun experience just chatting and snacking on chocolate-dipped sweets and fruit.
After sampling all three types of chocolate, everyone was able to pick one hot chocolate to taste, my friend tried the traditional white chocolate, while I went for the Italian dark chocolate which was the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had. Unlike the traditional American hot chocolate that I’m used to, which is weak and watery, this was very rich and creamy with a thicker consistency than the American version.
After a variety of rich chocolate treats the tour headed to the Tea Store to have a lighter chocolate beverage, a cup of chilli chocolate tea. The delicious tea blend was light with a subtle chocolate note that was an easy-drinking tea that would appeal to most people, even those who might normally drink tea.
I’ve been coming to the Tea Store for years to meet friends and chat over a cup of tea, as there is a massive wall of teas types. Despite me coming it for a while, while on the chocolate tour I did manage to learn more about the shop, for example, you can make you own custom tea blend, and the store will write down your signature blend so that the next time you visit they can make it for you. Another interesting feature was the Tea Store can take your discontinued teas, and recreate the blend for you.
The next stop was the Cupcake Lounge, which is another restaurant I had previously eaten at, but I was delighted to revisit. The Cupcake Lounge has two locations in Ottawa that offer all-natural gourmet cupcakes.
While visiting the Cupcake Lounge, we were able to ask questions about the cupcakes to the staff and were able to try a piece of one of the cupcakes available. One thing that I learned while visiting is the reason behind the smooth top icing, which is the way the cupcakes are iced is to prevent the cupcake from drying out by covering all the cake either with the paper wrapper or the icing which goes over the edge of the cupcake.
When I visited, there was a ton of chocolate cupcakes including, chocolate chocolate, chocolate vanilla, vanilla chocolate, oreo, red velvet and chocolate peanut butter. While all the chocolate options did sound amazing, one of the things the Cupcake Lounge is known for is using real fruit in the cake mix and icing in the fruit cupcakes, so to give myself a slight break from chocolate I tried the key lime cupcake which was moist and flavourful.
Play Food & Wine
Play Food & Wine is a gem in the Ottawa culinary scene and is a restaurant I have always enjoyed my dining experience. Part of Steven Beckta restaurants including Beckta, and Gezellig, Play Food & Wine focuses on small sharing plates that use 3-5 ingredients highlighting seasonal ingredients.
While visiting the restaurant Chef de Cuisine Tim Stock met us at the bar on the second floor that is in front of the kitchen. Here he provided everyone was a one-bite decadent dessert that met the high standards I’ve come to expect from any of Beckta’s restaurants.
The ability to meet the chef, and ask questions was certainly another favourite moment on the tour as it is something I couldn’t have done had I just eaten at Play Food & Wine as Tim would have been too busy in the kitchen.
For the final stop, we visited Mantovani 1946 which opened last summer, and it quickly became my favourite gelato place in the city because of the assortment of vibrant flavours available and the gorgeous interior decor. The all-white interior with gold accents makes this a very chic Italian gelato shop that offers Italian pastries, coffee, and 21 different gelatos daily.
For the final stop, I was able to have three samples of gelato, white chocolate, two different dark chocolate gelatos. For the second time on the chocolate tour, I found myself enjoying white chocolate, as the white chocolate gelato has small pieces of white chocolate mixed in which adds a little crunch to some of the bites.
Typically when visiting this gelato shop, I’ve stuck to flavours like lemon, pistachio but the chocolate was rich in flavour, and I can see myself ordering it to cool down this summer.
Another thing I discovered is this gelato shop makes fantastic espresso drinks. Truly, the coffee quality is better than many of the local coffee shops around, and I certainly plan on returning for pastries and coffee until things warm up a bit more and I start to want gelato to cool down.
Despite being an Ottawa local, who had previously been to several of the stops on the Chocolate Lover’s Tour before I still learned so much about the process of making chocolate, and by hearing first-hand stories of local chefs and the story behind the products or dishes they make. I found the entire tour to be enlightening and very fun. When I took part there was only 2 of us plus the tour guide, so the private tour allowed me to ask as many questions as I wanted.
Stefanie Siska led my tour, one of the two owners of C’est Bon Cooking and she did an outstanding job leading the tour. She was extremely knowledgeable about not only each restaurant we visited but passionate about highlighting local business, and I had a wonderful time visiting downtown Ottawa with her. I couldn’t imagine a better tour guide!
With most of the food tours being 1.5-2.5 hours and costing $45 – 55 certainly think it is worth the fee as you get enough snacks to make a lunch and get to learn in the process.
C’est Bon Cooking offers a variety of culinary tours including a maple tour, Lowertown, Chinatown, the Glebe, Wellington Street West and more. I know I’d certainly love to take part in another tour and think it could make for a fun birthday party or social event with friends.