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
This week on Feature Friday is Alicja Confections!
Let me introduce you to entrepreneur and chocolate queen, Alicja!
I first discovered Alicja Confections through a friend and previous Chocolate Affair Gala vendor, Totally Squared. She insisted I go and check the shop out! It's a good thing she did, because I'm super in love with everything Alicja makes!
You're probably not going to believe me when I say this, but Alicja isn't even a huge fan of chocolate! However, that's what drives her to create chocolates that even she would like, and keeps her creative juices (chocolate?) flowing!
When you walk into Alicja Confections, nestled in the Glebe, steps away from Lansdowne Park, you are immediately welcomed by the smell from Alicja's spinning chocolate wheel that is tempering the chocolate she uses. It's probably what heaven smells like.
You're greeted instantly with a perky hello from Alicja and her staff, and if you're a regular like me, they know your name!
Then if you're also like me, you're instantly drawn to the stunning Bon Bons in the glass display! They're so beautiful, you hesitate for a brief second wondering if you could actually eat them. (The second is very brief haha!)
I asked Alicja, what goes into making these bonbons?
She laughed and said, "It depends on the flavour!" (Side note, she has over 85 flavours that she has created!)
The process begins with that - the flavour. Alicja pulls inspiration from foods that she likes and creates these one-of-a-kind two bite chocolates that make you stop and really think about the flavour you just devoured.
First comes the ganache - or the filling - most of the time it's a soft truffle in the middle, with/or a layer of runny caramel, jelly or jam. That's the real taste of the bonbon!
Alicja also has a secret concoction that allows all of her dark chocolate bonbons to be vegan! This is so great for those who live a dairy free lifestyle, as usually it depends on cream (and no, it's not coconut that she uses! She wouldn't even tell me her secret recipe!).
The design of the bonbon comes after. They are all hand painted with coloured cocoa butter (and all colourants are derived from fruits & vegetables), and the shimmer comes from minerials - not plastic edible glitter that you can find in any bulk store. These are the REAL DEAL.
Alicja has 8 molds, so she makes 200 bonbons at a time. As her chocolate temping wheel gets the chocolate just right, she uses a vibrating table that shakes everything into place, lets that set for a couple of minutes, then pipes in her filling, seals them off, and then they're ready for whatever design she comes up with. Out of her 85 flavours, no bonbons have the same design at all! I feel so inspired listening to her talk about flavours like matcha, terraroot, mango...flavours & spices that you wouldn't never think to combine in chocolate. Alicja assures me with a laugh that there IS logic in everything she does.
What's her most popular bonbon?
Ready for this answer? Curry Miso! I know some of you are going "Whaaaaaat?" but it's true. Alicja combines this miso with her dark chocolate and magically, it all comes together. She has regualars that come in quite often hoping that they are in the glass display...and if they're not, they go home with something different to try, because THEY ARE THAT GOOD.
I asked her "What's the hardest part of working with chocolate?"
Short answer: limiting herself to not making new stuff. She loves being innovative! (We can easily see that!)
What's the biggest surprise when customers come through the door?
That they're surprised on what their tastebuds like that they didn't think was possible. For instance, the Ramen Bowl chocolate bar. Dried ramen noodles in milk chocolate? Yup. It's a popular one! Alicja says being open to trying new things has helped her get to where she is with her brand & now with having a store front. Even if you're not a big chocolate lover (like Alicja) she is confident you'll actually fall in love with one of her products.
Chocolate Postcards? What?
What really drew me into Alicja Confections was her signature Postcard Chocolate Bars. They are exactly what they sound like. Chocolate bars that you can send just like you would a postcard! Each flavour has its own unique look for a box, and the back is blank postcard to fill out & send wherever your little heart desires! Birthdays, anniversaries, thinking of you, congratulations, graduations - you name it, you can send a chocolate postcard for it! I've been sending them for birthday to my mom group friends, and hearing how much it made their day to receive something in the mail that was just for them and not bills or another daycare statement!
With flavours like Lavender Lilac, Lime Zest, Strawberry Blonde Puffed Rice, Wasabi, Espresso, Cereal & Milk...the options are endless! The most popular is the Nicholas bar (named for her fiance) that has potato chips in it! I was let in on a tiny secret that there are new flavours coming at the end of 2018 to join the line up!
From this little idea she had by placing one of her hobby-made chocolate bars on top of an envelope in her former office job, to cutting out templates at home and crafting at her table, the postcards became what they are today. If you'd like to send me one, my address is....ha kidding! Send one to someone in your life who could use a pick me up!
Pro-tip? The chocolate postcards only cost $1.80 to send in Canada!
What's her favourite part of being in the location she's at in the Glebe?
The space! She used to work on a 1 cubic metre counter before, so this has really upped her game. The area is also so supportive, and she has regulars who she sees often! She's been able to employ women & students which she never thought would be possible, but is grateful every day for being able to do this. Another secret, there may or may not be a posting for chocolate work in the next couple of weeks! Wink wink, nudge, nudge.
What's Alicja's favourite product?
The Matcha BonBon and the Strawberry Blonde Chocolate Bar
What would Alicja tell someone who's never been in her store?
Get the Salted Toffee Bar. You will become addicted to it. She has to make 3x as many of these than any other bar!
Finally, we asked the big question. What interested Alicja Confections in becoming a chocolate vendor at our Chocolate Affair Gala?
Alicja comes from an immigrant family, where speaking about your mental health wasn't the easiest thing to do. When we first spoke about the Distress Centre, she said "I wish that there was a resource like that where I grew up, because it would have done world of good, and things could have been less difficult to talk about."
Next, since I'm a nice colleague, I brought back some bonbons samples to try!
Brigitte tried the Cinnamon Caramel - "The cinnamon is right there when you bite into it and you're like "whoa" but then it melts away into the caramel and it all just comes together so nicely"
Vanessa, well she got to test out the fanciest bonbon, the Champagne! "The champagne flavour is bold & compliments the dark chocolate core. Try this if you're craving a midday glass of bubbly!"
I took in the Grapefruit Hibiscous and it was just pure delight! Fresh & light, and I probably could have eaten about 4 more of them. Go big or go home I say!
Other comments were "The prettiest piece of chocolate ever and so must tastier than the lunch I should be eating!" and "The beautiful pink of the bubblegum bonbons caught my eye right away. It was the perfect balance of not too sweet and not too bitter, and the flavouring inside was so unique that I know I haven't tasted anything quite like it!"
What's happening in Alicja's world right now?
She's everywhere! Between OOAK Toronto, the CF Rideau Flower Market pop up, and preparing for our Chocolate Affair Gala, she's a busy woman!
Also since it's almost Easter, the store has been "hopping" with excitment in their Easter Bunny colouring contest! All ages are welcome to enter - pick up a template ASAP (contest ends on Sunday at noon!) design a bunny and the winners will have their design transformed into a chocolate bunny! Speaking of bunnies, Alicja has been working tirelessly to bring the most unique chocolate bunnies to your table this Easter! Since we don't want to take away from her amazing work on these bunnies, go check out her Instagram!