If we had to idealize our idea of heaven, the first impression after entering the Cocoa Cabaretbhv chocolate ball would be a pretty close description. And really, would you expect anything less from the event that consists of nothing but the celebration of chocolate in all of its fantastic forms?
As part of this year's Chocolate Festival, the Ball did not disappoint. Offering both classic chocolate desserts as well as inspired savory creations, it had something for every palette and preference. Hosted at Roy Thompson Hall in the heart of downtown Toronto, the ball was not only a sugar-lover's paradise but also a suave event that paid homage to chocolate with a luscious cabaret theme that was both comfortable and chic.
Upon entering the reception area, numerous tables clad with heaps of chocolate were the first greeting that instantly started the evening off in the most delicious manner. In large glass bowls and containers was an array of different salty and savory samples, all coated or containing chocolate of course. With napkins laid out and tongs to help yourself, it took all of our will not to indulge at the table the entire evening. And that was only steps after walking through the main door!
Beyond was table after table of chocolate stations offering the best selections from master chocolatiers. Among the most memorable were a pumpkin chai chocolate that literally melted in your mouth, candy cane white chocolate bark that made us start anticipating Christmas, and an organic milk hot chocolate that was blended before our eyes. Once again, it was a challenge to move on and refrain from doing another round at the tempting chocolate stations.
The central ballroom welcomed us with the smooth sounds jazz, dancers performing a cabaret routine and, most notably, the aroma of savory food sizzling from every side. After sampling outstanding tastes that ranged from chocolate and halibut sfoja lorda pasta to hazelnut chocolate soup with goat cheese and orange oil, we found one of the two winners of the evening.
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First was a white chocolate and avocado cheese cake that rested atop roasted tomato, cilantro and lump crab salad. The unexpected combinations of these opposing ingredients seemed to cause a blissful reaction by everyone who took their first bite, and was the definite cause for us going back for one (okay, two) more. Created by chef Scott Savoie of the Culinary Adventure Company, the dish was apparently inspired by the desire to combine the harmonious ingredients of sweet and savory in a delicate balance that is very difficult to achieve. The risk paid off!
The combination of two of our greatest loves -- Mexican style chili and rich dark chocolate -- was the food star of the night. The spicy beef chili was combined with cocoa and spices and served on tortilla chips. A dollop of sour cream on top cumulated in the greatest taste sensation that proved the genius of chef Jesse Chingcuangco of Sazerac Gastro Lounge.
The last dish we tried was the infamous chocolate infused chicken wings, which we were both looking forward to with excitement and a little fear. Our apprehension was unwarranted after the first succulent bite, where the rich dark chocolate and salty meat came together in a symbiotic way. An obvious question, but when asked chef Jason Landry's preference for chocolate, he answered that it would be anything dark. However, we have a strong suspicion that his only true love is, and always will be, wings.
What could possibly finalize the delectable nature of our night further? The dessert stations! Despite the slightly glutinous guilt that comes with so much overindulging, we tried an assortment of cakes, cupcakes and tarts that ended the evening on a purely sweet and comforting note. You only live once, right? Nibbling on a turtle mousse cake and sipping a glass of shiraz, the night concluded in the happiest of all foodie ways.