How Sweet It Is
Classic truffles and novelty chocolates make an irresistible combo at The Chocolate Shop.
Oreo cookies, according to recent research, may be more addictive than cocaine. The study was carried out by American college students, and it hasn’t been peer reviewed, but the findings may help explain the traffic that streams through the door of The Chocolate Shop on Orangeville’s main street. “One of my most popular items,” store owner Barb Chafey tells me, “is our chocolate-covered Oreos.”
Drenching Oreos in chocolate is the sort of thing the “Chocolate Lady” is known for. It sets her store apart from chocolatiers whose shops can be as intimidating to enter as an haute couture fashion emporium.
Barb says she isn’t a chocoholic, nor is she prone to lapsing into the lingo of the connoisseur. She doesn’t mention the terroir of cacao or dwell upon the merits of the particular percentage of cocoa she uses in her confections. She provides minimal statistics and fails to drone on about the differences between Ethiopian and Kenyan cocoa beans.
Instead, Barb says she loves what she does. “It’s a happy business. People come in and buy gifts or lovely pick-me-ups for themselves.”
As if on cue, a customer who has been poking around the shop asks for chocolate-covered jujubes. I cringe at the thought and say so. I’m assured that if I were to try some, I’d change my mind. But they are sold out, so the customer asks for a substitute. She and her husband have come from Bolton to Orangeville to see a movie, and they want something to nibble on while watching the show.
Barb suggests “bullets,” which are Australian red licorice dipped in chocolate, or her caramel-baked, chocolate-coated pretzels, sprinkled with crushed Smarties or Skor bar. I reel at the thought. Like Barb, I’m not a chocoholic, though I begin to think I might be a bit of a chocolate purist.
But even a purist would heartily approve of Barb’s most popular confections. Set out in a long glass display case are handcrafted truffles made with rich Callebaut Belgian chocolate, cream, butter and an array of fillings limited only by imagination. Of these, the biggest sellers “by far” contain liquor. The favourites are a milk chocolate truffle laced with Mumm’s champagne and a dark chocolate one flavoured with Courvoisier. “This pair of truffles is popular as wedding favours,” says Barb.
Using milk or dark chocolate and sometimes white chocolate, Barb also makes a variety of other truffles, filled with lemon, espresso, Kahlúa, Grand Marnier or other delights. These rich treats cozy up to Australian ginger dipped in milk chocolate (or dark chocolate, my personal favourite), chocolate cups filled with hot pepper jelly, chocolate-coated cherries made by Barb’s mother, hazelnut buds, almond bark and more, including “puddles,” which combine chocolate, homemade caramel and pecans or peanuts.
Clad in a sporty baseball cap, a crisp white chef’s smock, a short jersey skirt, black leggings and sneakers, Barb looks too youthful to have children who are 29 and 26. She bought The Chocolate Shop eight years ago, after she had learned the ropes by working for seven years in the original store, located just along Broadway.
A year after buying the business, Barb moved the shop to its current location, a building with lots of character and plenty of walk-in traffic.
With a staff that consists of friends and family, Barb earns a living by both making and selling her confections. In the back room, she demonstrates how to melt the chocolate and pour it through a funnel into a mould that sits atop a shaker that rids the liquid of bubbles. She then chills the treats so they will pop easily out of the moulds.
“Chocolate is horribly messy, but lots of fun,” she says. It’s creative too. Barb is always looking for new items to make. After spotting the idea on Facebook, for example, her daughter suggested taking chocolate-dipped Oreos several steps further, by sandwiching Barb’s own peanut butter cups between Double Stuf Oreos before dipping the concoction in chocolate and cutting it in half.
Similarly, Barb’s collection of moulds has expanded as a result of customers’ requests. She won’t allow me to print some of the juicier inquiries that have come her way – but there isn’t much she won’t make if someone wants it.
Barb’s array of novelty chocolates changes with the season and special days and holidays. My visit is in October, so she points to a white chocolate Halloween skeleton. The poor guy’s bones are scattered across a platter. “I had to make sure I put the right bones in the proper places when I made this for a chiropractor’s office,” she says.
She also sells chocolate birthday cards and thank-you notes, and is gearing up for this year’s holiday season with a variety of Christmas goodies.
The shop’s offering of classic, high-quality chocolates along with novelty treats that induce smiles makes a winning combination of food art and entertainment. And to be honest, when I tried a caramel-baked, chocolate-dipped pretzel sprinkled with bits of Smarties, I couldn’t resist reaching for a second.
Mike Mullin, an Orangeville real estate agent, sums up the appeal of The Chocolate Shop. He mentions how good the chocolates are, but he saves his highest praise for the Chocolate Lady herself: “She always brightens up the day.”
Great chocolate and friendly service – an irresistible duo for chocoholics and chocolate purists alike.
The Chocolate Shop · Proprietor Barb Chafey · 114 Broadway, Orangeville · Open 7 days a week. · 519-941-8968 · thechocolateshop.ca