Kelly-Anne Maddox relocated to Ottawa from BC in 2010 and is busy being a mom to her one-year old daughter.
I had just limped my way back to Bridgehead to meet up with the rest of the group. It was my first day of half-marathon training and the searing pain in my knee screamed that it was also my last. I hesitated, then timidly made my way towards the others, rosy cheeked athletes, high on endorphins, warming their frozen hands on cups of steaming coffee. I had refrained from indulging in a post-run treat, thinking that surely these uber-runners wouldn’t even consider ingesting white flour and sugar this early in the morning. Or ever, for that matter.
I sat with a group of women I had never met, feeling out of my league and definitively out of place, yet once I started talking to them, I noticed they weren’t discussing training plans, or the new qualifying standards for Boston, but instead were chatting about the best chocolatines in Ottawa. The effort was spearheaded by Louise, who (to my great delight!) had both a chocolatine and a cookie in front of her, as she recounted the quest that she had recently embarked on with two of her coworkers. A couple months later, Louise and I sat down to write her story.
The great chocolatine quest began in January when a firealarm at Louise’s workplace forced everyone outside, onto the blustery sidewalk, frozen in the bone-numbing way that Ottawa is wont to be in the dead of winter. Instead shivering in the cold, and indeed, because of the cold, Louise and two of her coworkers jumped in her car and headed off in search of pastries. They ended up at Fidélice Bakery (262 Saint-Joseph) in Gatineau on a tip that the chocolatines there were worth the drive. After loading up on chocolatines, eclairs, and truffés (chocolate genoise, black ganache, chocolate icing and truffled chocolate), they made it back to the office, delighted in their treats, and, necessity being the mother of invention that it is, decided to find a chocolatine place closer to their work. And so began the search.
They ventured next to Buttercream Bakery (1202 Bank) where the chocolatines, covered with a dusting of icing sugar, were unfortunately disappointing. Although butter is a key ingredient in pastries, these chocolatines left a lingering taste of butter and weren’t light and flaky.
The third stop on their quest was the French Baker (801 Bank) in the Glebe. They had read great reviews about the chocolatines here so had high hopes of finding the perfect pastry. The chocolatines here were slightly on the bready side, appealing to some, but not to others. One of Louise’s coworkers thought they were quite good since they reminded her of the chocolatines that her family made in their very own bakery when she was a child. Louise, however, wasn’t so keen, as she told me: “I think pastry should fall apart in your mouth. It didn’t.”
They moved on to Bread and Sons (195 Bank), the only place they were served a warm chocolatine, flaky with oozing chocolate, “heaven melting in your mouth,” as Louise described. They took some back to the office to eat later, only to discover that they weren’t as yummy cold, and tasted of butter. In the end, they decided that these chocolatines were only good when warm, were better than Buttercream and the French Baker … but not as good as Fedélice, and were a little on the small side.
Their final destination was Art Is In (250 City Centre), where, amidst the bleakness of the industrial park setting, they discovered an oasis of sweet goodness. The group was greeted with chocolatines which looked very similar to the ones at Fidélice, although a bit larger, leading Louise, a confirmed chocoholic, to worry about the chocolate to croissant ratio. Her concerns were soon put to rest as she bit into a delicious and flaky chocolatine, with the chocolate spead out in such proportions as to be just enough but not too much. Indeed, they were delighted to find a chocolatine in Ottawa on par with its Québécois counterpart, and have designated Art Is In and Fidélice as their go-to places for treats.
At the end of their adventures, Louise and her coworkers started thinking about what made for a good chocolatine, and decided on a set of key criteria that, according to their tastes, would incite them to go back for seconds:
- the pastry must be flaky and light;
- it has to be made with a generous amount of real butter, but not enough to taste it;
- they preferred chocolatines nicely browned with just a simple eggwash on top;
- and finally, the amount and position of chocolate should be just right – a minimum of two sticks appropriately placed to provide a bit of chocolate in every bite.
They ranked the bakeries they visited accordingly:
- First place: Fidélice and Art Is In
- Second place: Bread and Sons
- Third place: The French Baker
- Fourth place: Buttercream Bakery
Louise’s story left me interested, curious, and hungry. It has motivated me as well – both to try all of these chocolatines, and also to work harder on my running, the whole point of the latter, after all, being to eat more of the former.
Is it possible that there’s a hunt more delicious than cupcakes?!?! And if you have a chocolatine favourite for Kelly-Anne or Louise to try, leave a suggestion below.