I ate 11 chocolate desserts two weekends ago: Carefor Chocolate Competition

Empire Grill's Chocolate Mocha Hazelnut Crunch Cake Empire Grill's Chocolate Mocha Hazelnut Crunch Cake
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When the foodiePrints team was asked, once again, to be a judge at the Carefor Health Chocolate Brunch and Competition, we were understandable hesistant. Having been judges the two previous years, we knew that we were in for a morning of torture: a full hot buffet brunch, the company of noted Ottawa chefs, a room full of our fellow citizens, great live music, fun items on auction, followed by a dozen or so chocolate desserts from some of Ottawa’s finest restaurants and caterers….

Can you blame us for hesitating?

In all seriousness, it really is an honour to be invited to be a member of the judging panel and Carefor truly is a good cause.

With one of our members allergic to chocolate and the other volunteering to be the photographer, I found myself alone behind my little foodiePrints sign this year. Although judges don’t discuss the desserts as they are tasting them and each evaluation is separate, I have in the past benefited from Don’s presence; having someone to bounce comments off, share impressions with and work towards a common evaluation was nice. But I soldiered bravely on alone this year; I hope I did the desserts justice and my fellow judges proud.

Contenders for Chocolate Supremacy

Contenders for Chocolate Supremacy

The trick, I have learned, is to pace yourself. Even though I only took small bites, 11 chocolate desserts is a lot to get through. The event was MC’d with humour and a light touch by Lois Lee and Derick Fage of Rogers Daytime television and they teased me for looking so serious and being the last to complete my evaluation. What can I say? I take chocolate far more seriously than I do wine.

The desserts were judged on Taste, Originality and Plating with the scores for each category totaled to give an overall score out of 25. A beautifully plated dessert might win top marks in one category but not score highest overall. Similarly, a simple plating might take top marks if the Taste and Originality were there. The desserts truly were assessed on the sum of their parts ensuring, I think, a fair outcome.

With a round-up of the event of Don’s fabulous photos, here are some of the highlights:

Chartwell Retirement Residence's Chocolate Spaghetti and Meatballs

Chartwell Retirement Residence’s Chocolate Spaghetti and Meatballs

[“Delectable chocolate brownie meatball cradled in succulent white chocolate noodles; pierced with a chocolate fork and peppered in chocolate shavings”]

[Photo by Don]

Chocolate spaghetti and meatballs from Chartwell Senior Housing – I found this dessert to be a whimsical and endearing take on comfort food. The “meatball” was a chocolate brownie and the “spaghetti” was made with lightly sweetened cocoa. The dish was topped with a cute chocolate “fork” and a raspberry “meatball”. It made me smile.

Firestone Restaurant Group's Chocolate Treasure Islands

Firestone Restaurant Group’s Chocolate Treasure Islands

[Fleur de Sel Ganache, Chocolate Brownie, Caramel, and White Chocolate Truffle]

[Photo by Don]

Beach theme from The Firestone Group of Restaurants had, in my opinion, such a rich chocolate ganache that I wished I did not have 10 more desserts to get through. Not too sweet, it was the kind of cake of which  you can easily eat too much.

Essence Catering's Chocolate Hazelnut

Essence Catering’s Chocolate Hazelnut

[Flourless chocolate cake, hazelnut ganache, hazelnut tuille, Beyone the Pale Darkness pastry cream, house nutella]

[Photo by Don]

Best use of beer in a dessert has to go to the Judge’s choice, Essence Catering’s hazelnut creation. A flourless hazelnut cake topped with hazelnut ganache and a crunchy hazelnut tuile, it was served with, wait for it, a dark beer pastry cream! Our friend Katy of Sheltered Girl would have loved it!

Tulips and Maple Catering's Textures of Chocolate

Tulips and Maple Catering’s Textures of Chocolate

[textures of chocolate, white, milk, dark with liquorice, noisette, and sea salt]

[Photo by Don]

As for attention to detail, the incredibly complex dish from Tulips and Maple Catering was astonishing. Reading the description of the dish, I was prepared to hate it: whole chocolate licorice cream with black olive nougatine, accompanied by chocolate-water mousse and basil mint caviar? I could not have been more wrong!

Top of the Hill Bakery's Cocoa-Bella

Top of the Hill Bakery’s Cocoa-Bella

[“A plate is my canvas, and chocolate my medium. Experience the beauty as your taste buds are painted with all the flavours and textures chocolate has to offer”]

[Photo by Don]

I must congratulate Chef Jeff Stoveld and his fiancée of Top of the Hill, last year’s double winners of both the Judge’s and People’s Choice Awards, for taking home the People’s Choice again this year with their take on the chocolate bar. Chef Stoveld told me that he will be making the wedding cake for his upcoming nuptials; I wonder if it will be chocolate?

Next year will be Carefor’s 10th Annual Chocolate Brunch and Competition so put the date, March 8, 2014, in your calendar. With any luck, we’ll see you there!

P.S. You know what goes great with chocolate? Wine!

Although trained as a sommelier, I pay my bills working as an IT consultant. I love what I do for a living and keep wine as my hobby. As it looks bad if you only drink, I have occasionally been known to eat as well. Growing up on four different continents, I love to cook and appreciate the cuisines of the world. But wine is my passion. With a well-stocked cellar, I am always on the hunt for new wines and love hearing from people about their latest find or interesting pairing. My approach to wine: Drink what you like. Wine reviews need not be stuffy. Numerical ratings are meaningless. If it tastes good, drink it! If you don’t like it, then it’s not the wine for you.