I’ve always thought the best way to get to know a city is to linger in its shops and cafés. The Stratford Chocolate Trail allows you to do just that, whether you’re visiting from afar or live in the area. The Trail includes an eclectic mix of twenty Stratford businesses, all with a chocolate offering for those who redeem their ticket. For $25 plus HST, you can choose six locations (from a list of 20) to get your chocolate fix.It was a brisk winter day when I began exploring, so I headed to Foster’s Inn to warm up with a chocolate martini. It was a wise choice. The inn is a friendly spot with plenty of regulars. The owner, Craig Foster, chatted about the appeal of being offered a hot beverage to warm you up in both temperature and spirit, and his plans to change his chocolate item through the winter months.Walking on to Rheo Thompson Candies was a no-brainer: their mint smoothies are world famous. Personally I don’t care for mint with my chocolate (crazy, I know) and so chose four handmade cream and caramel centres, including my favourite, chocolate caramel.By now the martini was wearing off. I beelined to Bradshaws Kitchen Detail, the place to find kitchen essentials with an appealing aesthetic. Owners Jeremy and Carrie Wreford were clever and paired with a downtown restaurant for complimentary items. I picked up a Godiva tumbler and Brix chocolate, created specifically for pairing with different grape varietals. Wine and chocolate? What could be better! I crossed the street with said chocolates to complete the pairing at Mercer Hall. The 2010 Chateau des Charmes Cabernet paired wonderfully with both the medium and extra dark chocolate. Manager Jessie Larsen said the Chocolate Trail serves as an opportunity for consumers to become engaged with the businesses, which is always welcome.
Including Revel Caffe in my Chocolate Trail experience was a must — it’s my go-to place for a coffee. On this occasion I was served the Revel mocha, their signature coffee made with fair trade cocoa and steamed milk. It’s a subtle but rich combination that I plan on having again soon.
My final destination was a place you might not expect to find chocolate. Olive Your Favourites is Stratford’s first extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar tasting bar. The store has a really wide selection, one you could easily spend hours tasting your way through. For the Trail I tried their chocolate balsamic which was definitely full flavoured. Owner Michelle Hern recommends pairing it with fresh berries or ice cream and I’d like to try using it to compliment a bold salad, perhaps garnished with pecans.
Stratford has a strong reputation for its theatrical offerings, restaurants, shopping, and general charm. The Chocolate Trail provides a flavourful way to spend some time wandering the streets, chatting with Stratford’s unique proprietors while satisfying your sweet tooth.
Having just returned from Europe EMILY CHANDLER has a full case of the travel bug but happily resides in Stratford.