Posts Tagged ‘The Mercantile’

Nothing Compares To You


It’s been a little less than 2 years since I first became enthralled with the absolutely delectable chocolate from Chicago’s Vosges Haut Chocolat.

During that time I’ve come to love many of their varieties, but none more than the Barcelona, Goji and Mo’s Bacon bars.  Suffering from withdrawal last year, I even managed to find a Toronto source for Vosges that would order in the ones I liked after my mini library stash ran out.  But even the benefit of having a local vendor like The Mercantile to get my fix doesn’t come without its costs.  Firstly, the bars are quite pricy at $10 per, which is pretty much on par with what they sell for in the states.  Combine that with the current state of construction and disrepair on Roncesvalles (where The Mercantile resides) and you’ll understand why I stock up every time I go.  But, even though I savour the bars slowly, only allowing 1 or 2 squares (from a 9 square bar) at a time, there’s still something a little obscene about walking out of a store with $100 worth of chocolate.

So, over the last little while I’ve been contemplating potential alternatives to Vosges, focusing on the characteristics that I enjoy so much in them.  The one common denominator I’ve noticed between my 3 favourite bars is the fact that they all contain a savoury element.  The Barelona and Goji bars both contain salt (grey sea and pink Himalayan, respectively) blended with Vosges signature (but oxymoron-ish) dark milk chocolate, while the Mo’s bar combines it with Alderwood smoked salt and (also salty) bacon.  That being said, sea salt chocolate bars sounded like as good a place as any to start, so I started asking around for options.

First was Lindt Excellence’s A Touch Of Sea Salt bar ($3.99), one that I’d previously heard about but never seen at a retailer before.  It was sheer coincidence when I happened upon it during a pre-movie candy run to Shoppers, so I couldn’t help but buy one.  Snapping off a piece in the dark theatre, I found myself supremely disappointed.  For mass market chocolate, Lindt is usually decent, but A Touch Of Sea Salt was anything but.  The chocolate had a waxy quality that I didn’t enjoy as I scraped it against my teeth, and combined with the chemical-like bouquet of the “sea salt”, it made for an exceptionally unpleasant bite.  I spent the rest of the movie with nothing to nibble on, which made the whole experience that much more annoying, and at the end I went home with a full bar left over.

A few weeks later, while I was shopping at The Healthy Butcher, I noticed their display of artisanal chocolate next to the cash register included a sea salt bar ($4.99) by Montreal’s Gallerie Au Chocolat.  Clearly I’m not immune to the crafty wiles of impulse purchasing, because a bar of it came home with me, too.  After cracking open its rustic cardboard box, I was met with the lovely aroma of finely tempered dark chocolate and a bar that had a surprising amount of heft to it.  Breaking off a small chunk, I placed it on my tongue and waited.  Though the chocolate was rich, creamy and smooth, the salt was much too overpowering, situating the bar firmly in unpalatable territory.  After a few days I began to wonder if it might be a bar to chop into my next batch of chocolate brulee or chocolate chip cookies, allowing the extra salinity to be camouflaged by all of the other ingredients, but I have yet to test out this theory.  At any rate, unlike the Lindt, I have not yet completely written this one off.


Love (And Gluttony) Can Make You Do Crazy Things

Like Manna From Shannon

Yesterday afternoon the Everyman was assisting me in my ongoing saga of learning how to drive.  Sometimes I think he must have the patience of Job in order to do this without breaking up with me.  I can fully admit I am not the easiest person to work with by any stretch.

Once all the knuckle-biting was over, I harangued him into stopping at The Mercantile on our way home.  Shannon had emailed me several times during the last ten days to advise that various things I’d ordered had arrived.  It’d been a busy week, and was shaping up to be a hectic weekend, so Friday afternoon seemed like the only opportunity.  Plus, they just so happen to be the closest place to get his favourite boutique potato chips…

As my go-to supplier for all things Vosges, I’d implored Shannon the last time I was there to order the one bar that was my most favorite (which seemed to be the only one she didn’t have).  This would be the Barcelona bar, which is a sumptuous combination of milk chocolate (which I normally hate), hickory smoked almonds and grey sea salt.  She was also completely out of the Everyman’s favourite, the Mo’s Bacon, which is exactly what it sounds like; an applewood bacon studded chocolate bar with alderwood smoked sea salt.  It’s a close second for me too, though I find the non-bacon Barcelona has many of the same smoky-sweet nuances of the Mo’s, so maybe that’s why I like them both.  Shannon had assured me she’d contact her supplier, who though notoriously difficult when asked for small orders, would nonetheless eventually come through.  In the interim I also happened to grow to love the Goji bar, and when I walked in last night I was a little disappointed that they had none of those left, either.

But then I saw the wall.  There were cases of bars as far as the eye could see.  Vosges is expensive, especially when it’s being imported from the states into Montreal and then taking a second trip to Toronto, so it wasn’t long before I was clutching $100 worth of chocolate bars in my sweaty, shaking hands.  In case you’re wondering what $100 worth of fancy chocolate looks like, that’s pretty much it.  If I had to guess I’d say that stash will probably last me 2-3 months, as long as I forget about it.  If I remember it’s there, I’d be surprised if it lasts me 2 weeks.  No doubt it’s an expensive habit, but I don’t have many (no $500 shoes in this girl’s closet), so it sort of balances itself out.  I know it’s still ridiculous though, but I just can’t help myself.

Such is the life of a career chocoholic.


So What Are The Other 92, Then?

100 Mysteries

I stopped in to The Mercantile again this week to visit proprietress Shannon and procure a tin of (gasp) 100 Mysteries tea.  She’s all out of ‘Mo Bacon, but assured me there’ll be more by the time I visit next, and there may even be (fingers crossed) Barcelona bars!!!

I first encountered this glorious blend of tea about a year ago while having dinner at Cowbell.  Only, at the time, I didn’t realize it was tea.  It had been the flavoring agent for a creme anglaise accompanying strawberry shortcake, but because of the name I’d somewhat narrow-mindedly assumed it was some sort of artisanal liqueur.  I enjoyed the flavor profile, and filed it away in the delicious-things-to-revisit-later section of my brain, but then promptly forgot about it.

Until our last few visits to Cowbell that is, when I decided to finish the evening off with tea and recognized the name as it was being recited.  One small whiff of that heady aroma while the blend steeped reminded me how much I loved it and needed to find a source for home consumption.  It turns out that the company that supplies them is called Tea In The Sahara, and they sell it (and many other blends) at a bunch of fine food stores across the province.

The first time I ordered it at Cowbell, the Everyman decided to have a pot of it too, and after hearing our server rattle off the laundry list of ingredients, he wondered aloud to me, well yes, but what are the other 92 ingredients?  It turns out that the 100 mysteries is not a reference to the number of ingredients it contains, but something to do with Ayurvedic principles (I read it somewhere and now cannot locate the source).  It’s a very delicious blend, comprised of rooiboos, cardamom, coconut, almond, apple, cinnamon, ginger and pepper and a few other things, I’m sure.  It’s creamy, dreamy, and an all round fantastic drink for lounging around on a rainy afternoon and curling up with a good book.

I’ve been thinking it’ll be amazing for infusing into panna cotta, ice cream base, shortbread or even some chocolate brownies.  Updates to follow as I test those theories out.



Some days I think Toronto Life is the greatest publication in the world.

Today is one of those days.

You see, I was reading their weekly foodie newsletter early this morning and there was an article about Toronto’s current obsession with sweets combined with bacon.  The bacon cupcake is nothing new, and neither is the piggy chocolate bar.  As previously mentioned here I’ve toyed with making pork jam in the past, but haven’t quite gotten the right consistency yet, plus I’ve also made porcine vodka.  What really got me excited was the fact that the article cites the Vosges Mo’ Bacon bar, and the note that a store called The Mercantile (which I loved when it was on College) carries them.

A quick email to the owner confirmed that not only do they carry Vosges, but they also have the majority of the bars I’ve been after.  I forced the Everyman to make a stop at the store after work, and not only did I manage to get myself a king sized Mo’ Bacon, but also the Goji Exotic, Black Pearl and Calindia.  Happy sigh! It really is the little things in life that are important.  And what’s even better is that the Everyman liked the Mo’ Bacon too, so whenever I want more, I’m sure he’ll take me back there.  As the Everyman succinctly put it; when you first think about the combination, it really doesn’t sound appetizing, but then, once you bite into it, all of a sudden it’s like, You Idiot!!! Of course it works!!! Shannon (the owner) also told me that the next time she places an order with her supplier, she’ll order some of my absolute favorite, the Barcelona bar, just for me.  Now that’s what I call great customer service.

Just wanted to share my good news with any other Vosges fans out there.

Until next time…