Normally when you think of aprés, visions of slope-side patios, Caesars, poutine and table dancing at the GLC (for some), come to mind. However, the Fairmont Chateau Whistler's Mallard Lounge has raised the après bar to delicious new heights.
Just over a month ago the Mallard Lounge introduced the Chocolate Bar. Not to be confused with a bar that is unwrapped, this bar is located next to the booze and is chalk-full of gourmet mounds of chocolate sourced from cocoa beans flown in from around the world.
“The concept came from the Fairmont Chicago. They do it a little differently to us, but they offer truffles and actual chocolate bars,” said Fraser Carey, Mallard Lounge manager. “We wanted to borrow that idea, but also pay homage to the mountains that we live in. So instead we are offering taste tests of different chocolate infused with unique flavours and chiseled out of large slaps of chocolate that look like mountains.”
Each chocolate has three recommended alcoholic pairings that include a wine or port, a whisky pairing, or a digestif like cognac.
Carey spent over two weeks meticulously tasting the chocolates, gathering tasting notes on the alcohols and testing the pairings. He has a tough job.
In total, there are six different flavours of chocolate to choose from and each is imported from plantations from around the world such as Venezuela, Saint Dominique, Ghana, and others. The first bite into the 64 per cent curry dark chocolate is at first bitter but is followed by hints of curry and sweet liquorice. When taste testing each flavour, it's hard not to play connoisseur of fine chocolate.
Similar to wine, coffee or olive oil, knowing where chocolate comes from is starting to become fashionable. Staunch coffee drinkers deep-rooted preferences when it comes to bean origin and even the most casual wine drinker can list a favourite grape variety.
The Fairmont has recognized this trend and has partnered with a supplier that only sells single plantation chocolates. Single origin means that all the cocoa made for one type of chocolate comes from one individual plantation and isn't mixed with cocoa from others.
Aside from where the cocoa bean is grown, there are a variety of other factors that have potential to affect the taste of chocolate. Chocolatiers can bring out flavour during the fermentation and roasting processes and further taste can depend on how much cocoa butter is mixed into the crushed beans before they are rolled and cut into small nibs of chocolate.
The Fairmont Chateau Whistler's chocolatier and pastry chef, Laurent Bernard, is the man responsible for conching and tempering the nibs, also known as heating and cooling. It's during this phase that he infuses the chocolate with additional flavours like mint, chili, orange, vanilla or curry.
In an effort to move towards a more sustainable product, the Fairmont is considering refining their cocoa supplier and looking for someone closer to home.
“We are looking at a more value, higher-end product that is closer to us, perhaps looking at Vancouver as a supplier. I've just started to research new suppliers to see what else is out there,” said Carey.
To experience the Chocolate Bar at the Mallard Lounge, guests can buy individual chocolate flavours by the 100 gram, taste test a flight of three or splurge with a flight of six flavours. Alcohol pairings are extra, but certainly cap off the indulging experience and a long day on the slopes.