choklat opens tomorrow! See you there!
Went to check it out yesterday, and some things I love, and other parts mightneed tweaking. My biggest concern is ultimately that the passion and love for chocolate, and hence, quality control, are not as paramount to the owner, as the bottom line and franchising the concept.
The good: You have to love the concept: chocolate made literally from scratch (pretty rare), without preservatives/fillers etc, and you get to create your own truffles from the inside out (choose the chocolate, filling, and what it's rolled in). Cool. The shop is perfectly cute, and fun enough to attract a following. The 70% dark chocolate is fabulous!
The bad: The in-store payment system sucks! If you go into the shop, there are 2 computers, so even in the store, you are paying online using paypal only. Then you wait for your truffles to be created (fine, but probably not good for most people, and there isn't much parking, so it probably isn't convenient for some) But mostly, I don't want to use paypal, on an instore computer, with the owner standing over my shoulder. There should at least be some truffles already created, for those in a hurry. Not that I am, or was in a hurry, but I can see this being a problem. Also, not everyone really cares, or knows what combinations will taste good together. They might just want a box, and not care about what is in it (a gift)
How about extremely high quality chocolate, filled with a raspberry buttercream, and then rolled in oreos??? Well, not for me, but probably someone, but I'm sure there could be more guidance for those who are stupefied by the ordering. Or if the idea is to be gluttonous, then there should be even more toppings/rollings like sprinkles (fun for kids) etc. If there were some signs around the store with some suggestions (cute, hilarious, witty signs - like - a "You know you want to try a raspberry snowball! Start with ocumare chocolate, add a raspberry buttercream, and then roll in toasted coconut).
Without any truffles sitting in a display case, or something just to show what the product is, that would help a lot of people. I can sense MASS confusion.
The ugly: The truffles are FAR too sweet (and I LOVE sweets!). There's a lot of sugar in these, and since the chocolate is not bitter, it's a bit overdone. When our truffles were made, they said, "these ones are REALLY good, we haven't quite got the chocolate coating quite down yet, so there's lots of chocolate on these!". Fine, but not what I have in mind when it comes to fine chocolate, instead it's entirely gluttonous. How many people also sit down and decide, in-advance, that they want a chocolate bar? OK, OK, yes us chowhounders might, but I sense that these tend to be spur of the moment decisions for most. So, I hope everyone figures out the online ordering thing, as it's really the best way to get the stuff. Yes, you can pay cash at the shop (thank goodness!) Credit card would be good (not using a foreign computer)
Anyone else been?
The chocolate that they are making is sublime. This is one of only 2 chocolate makers in Canada actually making chocolate. Every other chocolate maker buys chocolate to work with. The beans are roasted and ground on site. Just get a bar and skip the whole truffle thing. You will be amazed. Another great foodie addition to 9 Ave.
I too went. I too can appreciate the artisan fashion of chocolate production from the bean to the final truffle. The process starts off incredibly strong. Imported cocoa beans...avoiding wholesalers, markets and co-op's. The farmers are supported, the quality is retained and as a young city we are being exposed to yet another concept that is new to us, but familiar to others. The combinations are mind boggling...between the different cocoa percentages, fillings and toppings... it is quite indefinite the possibilities... The chocolate itself does taste wonderful, even if it is too sweet. UNfortunately, the excitement stops there. The store is particularly sterile. How about some pretty displays of chocolates pre-made (ready to buy...when I am in a rush). How about products we can purchase so the customer might try a hand (just once) at making a chocolate at home? There needs to be ideas of what might be good...give us, the uninformed chocolate customizer some ideas... how are we supposed to know what tastes good with what? In my opinion, I would have just cut the door in half and provide us, the customer with a service window, because with all do respect by the paypal system at the counter (no visa machine) and a pretty [bare bones store front it would have been a better idea to make the kitchen larger. It seems as thought the business is confused, if they are online, then no store front is required, and if they elect to invite the customer into the store, the customer should be invited in, educated and whisked away into a chocolate experience that is unforgettable... something like....
Maison du Chocolat
Jacques Torres Chocolate
I would think, the whole experience of customization of a truffle from the finest cocoa beans would be to be whisked away into a land of chocolate. Just get a bar and forget the truffles...they are too big and selecting your variation is a bit too laborious.
Hornvixen....what makes you say the owner is only interested in the bottom line? he seemed pretty passionate about the chocolate when I spoke with him.
once I heard about this on chow, and being a self professed chocolate snob, I had to check it out. I am up in edmonton, but travel to Calgary frequently, so I placed my order on line for pick up on Friday Aug 8th. I did not realize that was grand opening day. My order was not ready, nor were all the bars I ordered available. This was very disappointing since I ordered it a week earlier. I am an understanding person as long as things are made up for in other ways. Brad (owner) is couriering the rest of my order up (Monday) and sent me home with a good chunk of untempered Porcelana to try out on the house, so far I am placated, as long as things show up this week as planned.
On the other side...the chocolate is amazing! IMHO
I had a milk truffle and a dark truffle (no flavors). The filling was different then I was anticipating ( I was expecting something more like a ganache filling). I did not find them too sweet at all, just decadent.
The bars are the winners by far though. We have the Ocumare 43% and 70%. The dark is silky and sensuous, the milk creamy and luscious. I am a HUGE dark chocolate fan, the darker the better, and this was amazing, no bitterness whatsoever, and yet, not overly sweet. My hubby hates dark...this he'll eat with a smile. He is the milk fan, I find it sickly sweet, however this one I can eat without getting tooth pain.
I find that the real difference is in the undertones of taste. It is like tasting a big fat Aussie Shiraz that smacks you in the face with bold flavors (other dark chocolate), vs. the sublety of a French Syrah that delicately invites you to behold the many layers of flavor (Choklat). It is the fine wine of chocolate.
I was impressed to be able to taste the different notes of tropical fruit and nuts. I cannot wait to try the other 2 bars (Porcelana & Brazilian dark) and compare.
As far as marketing and storefront, I don't mind not having truffles available, I will mostly order the bars. But that is just personal taste. I do agree it was confusing when you go in, maybe after the first while it will run smoother, but it could scare some people away.
I think that he should market some smaller packages with all of his bars so that people can really taste the difference b/w the different chocolates.
The prices seem reasonable, I buy the same size of bar from Green & Blacks for about the same price (however, that is organic).
I like the look of the packaging, but not the fact that it is a plastic outer covering, not environmentally friendly at all!
I will definitely keep ordering them, as long as they get my orders correct next time!
It seems the bars are the biggest hits, and I greatly enjoyed the one I purchased. I am also curious about the other 2 bars (porcelana & brazilian dark). It doesn't really bother me, that there are quirks such as the unavailability of a few of the bars for the grand opening (good reason to back right?), but I do hope the in-store payment system improves (a credit card swipe would be perfect!)
Thinking about it more - 2 light blue plastic signs hanging from the ceiling over the computers could say - order here, or design your perfect truffle here etc. And another sign that says, something about pick-up. Even a bit of direction would be nice, especially if there are other people waiting in the store or you'd never seen the website and wandered in. If I wandered in, I'd be terribly confused!
If there are not going to be any truffles available for those in a hurry, it would be hilarious if there was a sign that said, "hurry up and wait", or "have you heard about slow food?" I think clients take direction well, and like a bit of attitude (think the Seinfeld "nazi soup kitchen" vignettes) Then people just laugh about it, and it is great marketing, since it gives people something to talk about it!
The reason I say the owner is only interested in the bottom line is because if I had spent all this time researching how to make chocolate and securing quality beans etc (a sizable feat in itself!)., and I had a fierce passion for what I created and the product (chocolate), then I would never let one ounce of that gorgeous chocolate be masked by toasted coconut, or rolled oreo crumbs. I would only want to enhance that chocolate, or be bold enough to say that it can't be done. I would be searching the world over, for unusual flavour combinations for my truffles - earl grey, cardamom, lavender, green tea, or pink peppercorns. I would be in the front of the shop educating the clients on the delicate flavours of the chocolate, why there are different percentages of each cocoa bean (ie. why did he decide 70% was best etc.). Why this particular chocolate is heavenly, and such a pleasurable product to eat. Or, why we only sell plain chocolate in different percentages, because otherwise it would be ruined. (and no truffles at all)
The other reason I say that the business owner comes across as interested in the bottom line (which I can't blame him really) is that the shop is strategically designed so that it can easily be replicated; a simple storefront, with minimal staff involvement necessary with the customer (although perfect for labour shortages!). The customer orders online, or on the in-store computer and either picks it up or waits a short time. It's the concept of "make your own truffle". Concepts have marketing appeal, and people will hear that the chocolate is good, but not appreciate it for what it is because there is the distraction of the truffles. But I hope people DO appreciate the chocolate itself for what it is, and try the truffles, but I would sooner make truffles with Choklat's chocolate myself.
It's true. I spoke with the owner, and he alluded many times to opportunities for several franchises across canada. At this point in a business, I do not think that quality comes in masses. As well, he indicated, once the operation is functional, he is going to step back...and have someone operate day to day functions. What is the point here? Isn't the beauty of a chocolate shop to see the wonderfully passionate chocolate master clad in a convincing garb working studiously behind the counter dreaming up the next masterpiece. Perhaps I am a dreamer here...but again, I can't stress how important it is to convince us the customer that we are being whisked away into the land of the best truffles here... It is not believable, nor particularly sellable. I am in no place to tell someone how to operate a business, however he has placed the flagship of this kingdom of franchises in an area of Calgary that is predominantly owner operated. In inglewood the passion is paramount, money is secondary... but nothing less important. Inglewood is artisan, exquisite and very fine-...that means flawless experience from the front counter to the perfect chocolate truffle, packaging, owner, chocolatier, quality and smell..... in the mean time, I will be waiting patiently for Bernard Callebaut to open up in Inglewood for my quick fixes in between impulsive trips to visit Thomas Haas in Vancouver, or Jacques torres or Payard in NY. I wish Choklat all the success, but please- no plastic packaging!
I made my first visit yesterday & was totally impressed with the passion & innovative spirit of the owner, he took the time & trouble to talk me through his chocolate making process from bean to bar. In a world where the chocolate you eat, no matter how the marketing gurus dress it (and in this I include our hometown stars), comes from no more than a few global mega-factories, it is exciting to have someone here in Calgary creating their own unique product.
For what it's worth I loved the decor, clean, minimalist & totally in-keeping wth an operation that the great Heston Blumenthal would be proud of. This is food alchemy & to dress it up as a Victorian Chocolate box type shop from the streets of old London town would totally suck.
I bought the milk chocolate, Ocumare - which had a clean, slightly buttery taste - actually reminscent of a typical milky British chocolate. I was knocked off my feet by the strong, champagne like flavours of the porcelana dark chocolate bar!
I will be back for sure.
Bah! I forgot to report back!
Anyways, the order went through perfectly, my order was waiting for me. I didn't stick around for long at all as I was hoping to make a stop by Knifewear and Bite (off topic, Knifewear is one of the coolest shops I've ever been to. Service at Bite was a bit snooty. I know I look young, but I know a bit about food and I have money to purchase it, so I don't need your attitude thanks.) Anyways!
I ordered one each of the three bars, Ocumare, Brazilian and Porcelana.
The Ocumare is a great deal and was the favorite of most of the people I force fed it to. Spicy and fruity but still fairly close to a more traditional chocolate flavor profile.
The Brazilian was the closest to a regular chocolate. You can tell it's very high quality, and is still a great deal, but it's not as interesting as the Ocumare.
The Porcelana is a completely different bar of chocolate. Intensely fruity and tart. It kind of tastes like lots of slightly unripe raspberries were involved, but there's no fruit in this chocolate. Very close in taste to a young red wine. This was my favorite, if only for the wow factor of tasting something so profoundly different from regular expectations of chocolate.
Overall, the chocolate is very smooth and has a great mouthfeel. It is a bit on the sweet side which was surprising for a 70% cocoa bar.
I highly recommend visiting the shop.
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Wow that website isn't easy to use. So the only way to order online is to pre-order and then pick up? I'll have to wait to try it in that case.
I can definitely see how paying with PayPal in-store would throw people off. I wouldn't be comfortable using someone else's computer to do that. Obviously the owner is trying to save some money by not paying the fees for a traditional credit card system.
This is just a quick post from Brad Churchill at Choklat to say that we NO LONGER use the Paypal Payment system - either in our shop or through our public website. This was discontinued in December. We have switched over to another, much friendlier and easier system.
Thanks for your honest feedback. It allows me to continue to improve our products and services.