It’s FEATURE FRIDAY!
We are going to be featuring each of our amazing Chocolate Affair Gala vendors who have so graciously agreed to participate in our event this year!
Written by: Leslie Scott, Community Relations Coordinator
First on FEATURE FRIDAY is Bisou Dates & Chocolates!
I’d like to introduce you to the wonderful couple behind these very unique treats, Maha & Paul!
I first caught glimpse of these chocolate covered dates at the Ottawa Farmer’s Market at Lansdowne, and I just had to reach out to meet with Maha & Paul to talk about the Chocolate Affair Gala, and I’m so happy I did!
We wanted to ask them a few questions so that you all could get to know Bisou Dates & Chocolates a little better.
How did Bisou Dates & Chocolates come to be?
Bisou Dates and Chocolates started over a morning conversation while my business partner Paul and I were enjoying Medjool dates with our coffee - a daily ritual. We appreciated how dates are both versatile and nutritious. With a Middle Eastern background, I reminisced about the fabulous dates I had tasted in Jordan, Egypt, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq and how dates were one of nature’s most wholesome foods, a natural dessert. Paul spoke of his first experience with dates in Syria and how they were served with sweet dark tea.
We chatted about the many possibilities of Medjool dates - a powerhouse of energy and minerals. Within hours, this conversation turned into a business idea that literally had us brainstorming for six hours straight. This started our incredible journey.
As the months rolled by, we began to create the different combinations of Medjool dates filled with nuts, liquorice, cranberry - maple -chia, strawberry - maple - chia, marzipan, almond butter etc. and experiment with different toppings. We learnt to temper chocolate! There is no doubt that chocolate is a real temperamental DIVA. It is good to know that even the best chocolatiers have their days with this DIVA.
It has been just over a year now and we have had an amazing experience creating new ideas for Medjool date fillings and toppings as well as creating six date butters and bars. Paul and I are overwhelmed with the response and feedback we received from clients. We tremendously enjoy delivering orders in Ottawa and Gatineau and meeting the customers face to face. Beyond online sales, and farmers markets where we meet a majority of our customers, we are now located at several retail stores in Ottawa.
We have made a commitment to use the best possible ingredients and deliver high quality, wholesome products to our clients. This includes the quality of the chocolate, nuts, and fillings. When possible, we purchase local fruits, maple syrup, honey and other ingredients for our fillings.
Bisou Dates and Chocolates has been created with the hope that every date you experience will be ‘A Date with Decadence’.
We absolutely love dates, especially Medjool dates for their softness and carmel like texture. Medjool dates are known as the king of dates.
When did you realize that “hey, this is actually working!” and was going to take off for you?
The first event and really the first opportunity for sales was during the dessert festival in Ottawa (July 2017). We were overwhelmed with the response and sales over the three days. We realized then that we had proof of concept and were so excited to continue our venture.
What do you love most about working with chocolate?
The creativity, the learning process, and the happiness it brings to our customers. Tempering chocolate is not easy and yet when we succeed with a good batch we celebrate that success.
What surprises your consumers the most about your business?
That no one else has thought to do this, that it is such a wholesome decadent product and that we have been quite creative with our fillings and toppings. Everyone loves dates and to use dark chocolate and healthy fillings and toppings, creates such amazing combinations.
Aside from your filled dates enrobed with chocolate, what other products do you feature?
We have a very successful line of Date Butters in five flavours; Pineapple Date Butter, Chocolate Date Butter, Orange Blossom Date Butter, Lemon Zest Date Butter and Date Butter Classic. You can use them on scones, pancakes, in yoghurt, on ice cream, with a wine and cheese platter or in a sauce for meat or vegetarian dishes. We have also created truffles and bars but have not had them at the markets and stores as yet.
Where does the name Bisou come from?
We were brainstorming different names and Bisou seemed to win us over. We ran the name by friends and family and they all like it so we played on dates and bisou (kiss) by adding a date with decadence.
If there was one thing you wanted to say to someone who hasn’t had the chance to try your chocolate covered dates yet, what would that be?
It is such a unique and decadent dessert when you bite into the dark chocolate with different toppings, then taste the succulent softness of the date and into the filling which could be Persian pistachios, almond butter, salted almonds and caramel or any other filling. The combination is so delicious and decadent it becomes a go to item for a healthy treat. Once you taste it, you will be hooked!
What interested you in the Distress Centre’s Chocolate Affair Gala?
We have two friends who volunteered with the Distress Centre and had always heard about the incredible support provided to those who call in. When the opportunity arose, we knew this was a very worthwhile cause that has helped so many people and is so very important to the wellbeing of those in need, in Ottawa. We are so happy to be a part of this important fundraiser.
Where do you see Bisou Dates & Chocolates heading?
We would like to have Bisou Dates' product line in high end stores in Ottawa and Gatineau, followed by locations in Toronto such as Pusateri's and then Montreal. Beyond that across Canada and into the USA. We will also cater to events and weddings. At this time we are located at Jacobsons Gourmet Concepts, Thyme & Again, Givopoly and La Maison Du Keogn Amann. Customers can also go to our website and receive free delivery in Ottawa and Gatineau. We would also like our products in stores that carry vegan products as we have started a vegan line as well.
If you had to choose one of your favourite items that you create, which would that be?
There is no doubt that we love each variety we create. I would have to say that Paul's favourite is Seabreeze - A Medjool date filled with salted almonds and caramel, dipped in dark chocolate and topped with sea salt. My favourite is Sim Sim - A Medjool date filled with Tahini, dipped in dark chocolate and topped with toasted sesame.
Then came the very best part…the taste testing!
The staff here at the Distress Centre have been very eager to try some samples, just like you will be if you are at our Chocolate Affair Gala on May 5th. I did some videos to showcase the packaging, what they look like and how they taste!
Staff here have said:
“It feels like I’m on an episode of Master Chef with being able to taste test these treats! This was my first time trying a chocolate covered, nut filled date and it exceeded my expectations! It’s the right amount of salty mixed with sweet, and the almonds gave it a nice crunch.” Vanessa, enjoying Seabreeze.
“The Prince of Persia was a great combination of smooth dates, dark dense chocolate and a crunch of pistachios. Enough to satisfy but not so much that I wouldn’t say yes to a second!” Brigitte, tasting Prince of Persia (I also tasted this one...it's tough job having to taste test so many delicious treats, but someone as to do it!)
Volunteer Julia enjoyed the California Dreaming option and loved the almond butter that was in the middle! She said it was great with the salty and sweet mixed together.
I had the opportunity to taste the Citrus Sunrise with Italian Orange in the middle and it was surprisingly refreshing with that citrus in the middle!
All of this being said, we are very excited and elated to have Bisou Dates & Chocolates at our 11th annual Chocolate Affair Gala!
The saddest part was the empty box I came into this morning...I secretly had hoped that there would be at least one left!
If you simply cannot wait to try them at the Gala, feel free to swing by Jacobsons, La Maison Du Kouign Amann, Lansdowne Farmer’s Market and Thyme & Again to purchase some for yourself or a friend! You can also purchase them directly online at www.bisoudates.com
Thank you to Maha & Paul for coming on board for this year's Chocolate Affair Gala!
We have a handful of tickets left for this year's Gala! Get yours now!