I used to think that mousse was an animal, rocky road was just a rough place to ride. Black forest was very far away, and chip was a good friend of mine. Now I've developed quite a craving, and you'll always hear me raving, about a certain food that's high in calories. Don't even try to guess, because it's time that I confess, something's really got a hold on me. Chocolate, give me chocolate, I don't think I can live without it. In a sauce or in a shake, or a German chocolate cake, it's chocolate, chocolate, chocolate!
I learned this song when I was in elementary school while living in rural Nova Scotia. I memorized the lines and still know them many years later. I have no idea what the name of the song is but it obviously left an impression on me and I have been searching for delicious chocolate treats ever since.
When I stepped into Chocolatier Constance Popp's store on Portage Avenue in Winnipeg I was impressed. I didn't expect anything less as I had heard rumours she had made chocolates for The Queen, The Golden Globes, and The Olympics, and I knew her products were very well regarded. What I wasn't expecting was the warm, down to earth personality of Constance. I introduced myself and struck up a conversation about her chocolates and instantly her passion for her craft shined through as she described the manner in which she made them. It was evident she was involved and committed to every intricate step of the process and loved her job. This made me want to try her chocolates even more.
Constance showed me around her shop, pointing out her favourites and offering me some samples. Every bite was delicious and I began to debate which ones I should purchase. It was difficult to decide as there were so many interesting and diverse options. Manitoba beer chocolates, chai tea chocolates, bacon chocolates, marshmallow chocolates, maple chocolates, spicy chocolates, red beet chocolates, the options just went on and on. I was overwhelmed with the unique and diverse choices, many of which were Manitoba themed and used locally sourced products. I asked Constance how she became a chocolatier. She seemed pleased and excited to discuss it, offering bits and pieces of her history, her previous geography background and her original idea to simply take some interesting food courses which eventually started her on the path to chocolate making. When I mentioned all her chocolate accomplishments she blushed slightly and pointed out that it was not all easy, that there had been set backs and mistakes along the way, and she was always trying to improve and find new exciting ideas. I found her humility comforting and it was a real treat to have a great conversation with someone who has been in the media so often in the last few years. It was evident she was proud of her accomplishments but certainly remembered and acknowledged all the hard work and setbacks it took to reach her goals. I found her inspirational.
Constance was an absolute delight to talk to, it didn't seem to matter to her that I was just a regular Joe Blow off the street. You could tell she wanted to talk to everyone in her store, and made lots of time for her customers. In a world filled with poor customer service and mediocre product she blew away any competition, offering not only a high quality, delicious product, but also top notch service with a warm, welcoming, down to earth personality. I knew I had made the right decision by placing a visit to Chocolatier Constance Popp on my Manitoba Bucket List. It did not disappoint. It well surpassed my expectations.
I left her store with an assortment of chocolates to taste. The Chai Tea Sitting Buddha was a fantastic, creamy, interesting chocolate, and very cute with the gold shimmer on his belly. The Mexican Chocolate enrobed in dark Belgium chocolate was a beautiful bright red colour filled with such a wonderful creamy and spicy centre, a real treat for anyone that loves spice. The fresh Manitoba Beer Series Truffles were very interesting, combining classic local Manitoba beers with chocolate, peanuts, bacon and pretzels. I would choose these beer chocolates over a beer any day! My favourite chocolate was the Manitoba Baby Beets finished with sea salt and caraway seed enrobed in Belgium chocolate. It was such an interesting combination. The sweetness of the beets mixed with the dark chocolate and coarse sea salt and interesting flavour and texture of the caraway seeds was a really surprising combination. As soon as I finished the last bite I regretted only buying one.
I wish I had phoned Constance in advance to ensure her Manitobar and her Manitoba Birch Bark chocolate would be available as they were the two I was most looking forward to sampling. Unfortunately for me they had sold out over the Father's Day weekend and I arrived at the shop before new ones could be made. I would have to return on a different day, but I didn't mind. I already knew Chocolatier Constance Popp's shop was going to become a regular stop for me when I am in Winnipeg. There will be many more opportunities in the future for me to try her other chocolates.
Meeting Constance and visiting her store and sampling her chocolates was a lot of fun. Her personality and enthusiasm to create delicious, original, perfect, and high quality chocolates will certainly result in a long career and a celebrated Manitoba food product for many years to come.
For more information on Chocolatier Constance Popp visit her shop at 1853 Portage Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Telephone Number 204-897-0689, www.ArtisanChocolates.ca.