Posts Tagged ‘Hummingbird chocolate’

Share the love on Valentine’s Day with handmade local treats

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

Go local this Valentine’s with a heart-shaped chocolate torte from Carolina’s Box of Goodness.
Photo courtesy of Carolina’s Box of Goodness

Even with climate change, it’s unlikely that cocoa beans and sugar cane will ever grow in Ottawa. But that doesn’t mean sweet-toothed locavores are stuck with mass-produced candy on Valentine’s Day. Far from it. The region boasts a growing number of small-scale artisan bakers, chocolatiers, and confectioners who make their products from scratch, using local ingredients as often as they can.

With February 14 just days away, here are some ideas for treats made in the Ottawa region.

Auntie Loo’s Treats

Ottawa’s first 100% vegan bakery, Auntie Loo’s makes fresh desserts in small batches, from scratch, using organic and local products when possible. Many treats can be made in gluten-free versions.

  • Single-layer 6-inch cakes ($15 + HST)

Available in flavours such as champagne and chocolate strawberry, and decorated with Valentine messages.

  • Cake pops (6 for $15)

Choose from double chocolate and chocolate peanut butter.

  • Sugar cookies (6 for $15)

Available in sets with and without Valentine’s Day messages, and in mixed packs.

Other Valentine treats include: Cupcakes for 2 ($10 + HST), donuts with Valentine’s sprinkles (6 for $20), and a giant heart-shaped whoopee pie ($15 + HST).

Order online or call the store at (613)238-ALOO (2566). Arrange pick-up for February 13, 14 or 15.

Carolina’s Box of Goodness

Carolina Foresti, owner of Carolina’s Box of Goodness, specializes in artisan brownies, custom cakes and dulche de leche (a kind of milk jam similar to caramel but more complex). A native of Brazil, she creates her products based on family recipes and French baking techniques.

  • Valentine’s Sweet Duo ($12.50)

A small jar of dulce de leche and a large chocolate fudge brownie, packed in a craft box with red satin ribbon. The duo is perfect for sharing, Carolina says. “Just warm up the dulce de leche, cut the brownies in small pieces and serve like fondue, with berries. Or try a brownie a la mode, only add ice cream.” 

  • Heart shaped Chocolate Torte ($10.50)

Available in chocolate fudge, dulce de leche, caramel sea salt or raspberry swirls decorated with pearls of Belgian chocolate.

  • Box of 6 or 12 artisan brownies ($13.00-$25.00)

An assortment of chocolate fudge, caramel sea salt, dulce de leche, gianduia, cookie and raspberry swirl.

Place your order online.

Hummingbird’s Chocolate’s handmade, single-origin bars with Valentine wrappers.
Photo courtesy of Hummingbird Chocolate

Hummingbird Chocolate

A small-batch producer of dark, organic chocolate, Hummingbird Chocolate  is making a name for itself with handcrafted bars from single-origin Latin American and Caribbean cocoa beans. Owner-artisans Erica and Drew Gilmour make the chocolate using 19th century methods that bring out the unique flavours of the cocoa bean varieties.

  • Cinnamon-studded bars
  • Hummingbird’s regular bars (Bolivia, Bo-nib-ia, Hispaniola, Fleur de sel, Momotombo) with a Valentine’s wrapper

All bars are 50 g, cost $6.50, and can be found at locations such as: Red Apron, Thyme & Again, Kitchenalia, Pêches & Poivres, and Equator Coffee Roasters.

Hummingbird is also hosting a Valentine’s Day “Chocolate 101” tour of its workshop in Almonte; reserve at For the month of February, it also launched a series of Saturday tours.

Isobel’s Cupcakes & Cookies

A family-run business, Isobel’s Cupcakes & Cookies makes its treats from scratch daily, working from quality ingredients (no mixes, shortening or preservatives) in a 100% nut-free environment. All boxes, cups and napkins are made from recycled materials.

  • Valentine cakes, $25 and up

Choices include white chocolate, raspberry charlotte, bleeding heart chocolate mousse cake (shaped like a heart).

  • Valentine cake pops, $2

Other offerings include and several decadent chocolate cupcakes, and chocolate cookie sticks dipped in white chocolate with Valentine sprinkles.

What’s your favourite spot for sweets in Ottawa?

The gift of food: Stocking stuffers for locavores

Saturday, December 14th, 2013

(Photo: zaimoku_woodpile via Flickr

Good food is a welcome gift, no matter what the celebration. And with the growing number of Ottawa-area food artisans, it’s getting easier to shop for the locavores on your list.

Here’s my list of ideal stocking stuffers: compact and non-perishable, with most prices ranging from $3.50 to about $20. I’ve based the list on my visit to this year’s Locavore Artisan Food Fair, a showcase of products from 20 of Ottawa’s most creative food-makers.

These artisans produce in small batches and use local ingredients when possible. Many don’t have their own retail space, so plan to contact them online, or visit them at the Ottawa Farmers’ Christmas Market or Flavours of Ottawa Holiday Food Markets. I’ve indicated where products are available at local restaurants and stores.

Artisan brownies and dulce de leche from Carolina’s Box of Goodness

Carolina’s Box of Goodness handcrafts rich artisan brownies in flavours such as Chocolate Fudge, Dulce de Leche, Caramel Sea Salt, and Cinnamon Pecan Blondie. The treats come individually packaged or in boxes of 6 or more. There’s also a Boozy Brownies Collection featuring Bailey’s Irish Cream, Amaretto & Ginger and Grand Marnier varieties.

Another option is Carolina’s dulce de leche, a simple mixture of milk and sugar that’s cooked until it becomes thick, creamy and full of complex flavours. It can be served with fruit, toast, pancakes and ice cream – or eaten straight from the jar.

Chocolate bars and Mayan drinking chocolate from Hummingbird Chocolate

Almonte-based Hummingbird Chocolate handcrafts dark, organic chocolate from single-origin, ethically traded Latin American and Caribbean cocoa beans, using 19th century methods that bring out the beans’ unique flavours. In addition to bar chocolate, Hummingbird has come out with Mayan drinking chocolate for the holidays, essentially a cake of chocolate on a stick that you melt in heated milk for a rich, spicy drink. You can find Hummingbird products at a restaurants and food stores across Ottawa. (For more information about Hummingbird Chocolate, read my February 2013 post

Chocolate truffles from koko chocolates

koko makes gourmet chocolate truffles by hand, using premium Belgian chocolate, and all-natural, gluten-free ingredients. Choose from traditional truffle flavours or more adventurous ones like margarita and spicy Thai chili.

Fairly traded coffee from The Barking Barista

These fairly traded, Brazilian, Indonesian, Ethiopian and Colombian coffee beans are craft-roasted by an Ottawa husband and wife team. For every pound of coffee you buy, $1 goes to help dogs in need. The owners are available at or in person at the Ottawa Canine School, and will ship to you for an added cost.

Gourmet jams from Michaelsdolce

Confectioner Michael Sunderland makes all-natural gourmet jams, using local produce when and where possible. Michaelsdolce jams include: Blueberry & Lavender, Ginger Citrus marmalade; Fig Blood Orange, Papaya & Pink Grapefruit, Plum & Star Anise, and many others. Find them at Isobel’s Cupcakes and Cookies or contact for more info.

Oil and balsamic vinegar from The Unrefined Olive

The Unrefined Olive is Ottawa’s only oil and balsamic vinegar tasting bar. It sells 50 fresh premium olive oils from around the world as well as balsamic vinegars and flavour-infused oils.  All balsamic vinegars come from Modena Italy, are aged for a minimum of 12 years, and are available in flavours such as fig, cranberry pear, pomegranate and dark chocolate. Flavour-fused olive oils include mushroom sage, Tuscan herb, basil, garlic, and hot chili. Drop by the tasting bar at 151 A Second Avenue in the Glebe or call 613-231-3133.

Elizabeth Kilvert, owner, The Unrefined Olive
(Photo: V. Ward)

Preserves from Top Shelf Preserves

Chef Sara Pishva makes her small batch pickles and preserves from locally sourced produce. Top Shelf wares include: spicy pickled garlic scapes, pickled turnips, red pepper jelly, molasses baked beans, brandied plums, spiced pears in syrup, pickled jalapenos, dill pickles, pickled beets, and more.

Smoked seasonings from The Salty Don

The Salty Don makes its own line of natural smoked salts, as well as pepper blends, unique items such as smoked quinoa and smoked risotto, and spa products. Salt and pepper flavours include Bison Smoked, Canadian Curry, Garlic Smoked, Peppered Provence, Lemon Pepper, and Saffron Pepper Rub, to name a few. You’ll find Salty Don products at Grace in the Kitchen and other locations.

Specialty tea from Kimicha

Kimicha owner and tea sommelier Kimiko Uriu sources the best-tasting black, white, green, herbal and fruit teas from Southeast Asia; two varieties she’s chosen have won awards at the North American Tea Championships.  In addition to packages of loose tea, Kimicha sells sampler sets and tea accessories. Order online or call 613-612-5464.

Sweet treats from Pascale’s Ice Cream

Pascale’s seasonal, all-natural ice creams are renowned in Ottawa.  For the holiday season, she’s also offering less perishable treats: try her salted caramel or sour cherries in balsamic caramel, but order soon because they go fast. Get in touch at or call 613-322-4256.

What’s the best food gift you’ve received?


Celebrate Valentine’s with local bean-to-bar chocolate

Saturday, February 9th, 2013

If you’re buying chocolate for Valentine’s, why not try some small-batch artisanal chocolate made here in Ottawa?  Hummingbird Chocolate Maker handcrafts its dark, organic chocolate bars from single-origin Latin American and Caribbean cocoa beans and uses 19th century methods to bring out their unique flavours.

Hummingbird is a labour of love for owners Erica and Drew Gilmour. It fuses their passion for chocolate with a commitment to social justice that’s rooted in years of aid work with farmers in developing countries. Not only does the couple strive to produce exceptional chocolate, they insist on buying cocoa beans that have been sourced ethically to ensure that the farmers who grow them receive a fair price.

Hummingbird chocolate has become a hit since its launch in June 2012. In fact, the Gilmours have had to buy more equipment to keep up with demand, and have moved the chocolate workshop out of their Stittsville home and into commercial space at Alice’s Village Cafe in Carp. “With our old equipment, we could only make 50 bars at a time,” Erica says. “Now we have two larger machines that can each produce 200 bars at a time.”

How does the chocolate taste?

Wonderful.  Depending on the origin of the cocoa, you can detect flavour notes of fruit, honey, toffee and whisky to name just a few. I sampled several bars at Hummingbird earlier this week, including their delicious Bolivia and Cumboto lines.  My very favourite was the deliciously spiced Patanemo bar, made from Venezuelan cocoa beans.

How is it made?

Making the chocolate is a 10-step process that takes about a month from start to finish. When the Gilmours receive the dried, fermented beans from the wholesaler, they: 

  1. sort the beans to remove twigs and debris
  2. slow-roast them
  3. crack them into bits called nibs
  4. sort the nibs by size
  5. winnow the nibs to remove the shells
  6. grind the beans into a moist paste called liqueur
  7. conche the beans. This is done by running the liqueur for 3 days, non-stop, through a machine that rotates grinding stones to develop taste. Organic sugar is added (the only other ingredient in Hummingbird chocolate) at this stage.
  8. let the mixture rest for 3 weeks to 30 days so the flavours can settle
  9. temper the chocolate in a special machine that adds sheen and rounds out flavours. Then the chocolate is poured into decorative molds.
  10. wrap the finished bars

How does the long process improve the flavour?

Like wine, coffee and tea, the taste of chocolate is a matter of terroir – the interaction between a given plant (the cacao tree, in this case) and the geography, climate and harvesting methods of the place where it’s grown. With chocolate, the longer production time expresses the unique flavours of the cocoa origin, offering more complex, layered tastes. It also gets rid of off-flavours, such as acidity. By comparison, mass-produced chocolate tends to have a uniform taste with more sweetness than character.  Acidity doesn’t burn off naturally, but is masked by adding other ingredients such as vanilla extract.

How much do the bars cost?

They retail at $6.50 each. The higher price reflects the higher quality cocoa beans, the labour-intensive production and the deeper flavours.

Who’s buying Hummingbird bars?

The bars appeal to different people for different reasons. Besides enjoying the taste, there are customers who may appreciate that Hummingbird is a local business, or that the chocolate is small-batch, or that it’s ethically traded. Others are drawn to the health benefits of cocoa. In addition to its following in the Ottawa area, the chocolate is sparking interest elsewhere in North America and in Europe, Erica Gilmour says.

Will the business stick with chocolate bars or branch out with other products?

The plans are to try darker and lighter chocolate and to sell cocoa nibs, Erica says. “The nibs are crunchy pieces of pure cocoa that taste very good sprinkled on oatmeal, for example.” In the long term, she’d also like to do some hot chocolate.

Where can I find Hummingbird chocolate?

It’s available at the Ottawa Farmers Market, Thyme & Again Catering and Food Shop, Coco Jojo, Gaia Java, Alice’s Village Café and Pêches & Poivres. You can also order it online from Foodie Pages.

What’s your favourite chocolate and where do you buy it?