It’s difficult not to be captivated by the colours, sounds and scents of Kensington Market, and the window display at CXBO Chocolates is no exception. Take a peak inside and you’ll be whisked away on an artistic paradise of colour and flavour combinations. Owners Brandon Olsen and Sarah Keenlyside have brought together their unique talents to create a chocolaterie unlike anything we’ve seen (or tasted) before. We had the opportunity to speak to Sarah about what inspired them to create such an original, enticing chocolate brand, and we loved her philosophy that “some of the best things in life materialize in unexpected ways — it’s just about following your nose and following opportunities.”
We certainly had no trouble following our noses right on in to their shop at 193 Baldwin Street in the heart of Kensington Market in Toronto. After opening in a small 400 sq. ft. space on College St in 2015, CXBO Chocolates quickly grew and transplanted over to their current location in 2017. For Sarah, being in Kensington Market has been a joy:
I live here and it’s really important to me that we are part of this community. Businesses come and go, and although we’re a new business in Kensington we’re a business that’s all about locally-based products. You know, we are local makers and we’re fiercely, fiercely proud of our community. We like to think that we’re contributing positively to the landscape, and carrying on a tradition with our neighbours. We like to think that we’re maintaining a market and I think that’s really special.
One of the first things that catches your eye upon entering the shop is their now infamous Ziggy Stardust Disco Egg. As a decadent dessert item on the menu at Restaurant La Banane (also owned by Sarah & Brandon), this beautiful and delicious creation has become a hallmark of their brand. Originally created by Brandon for their first Easter season, the original reaction of Sarah and others on the team to the idea of smashing something so beautiful was that the whole idea “was kind of crazy… but he really proved us wrong because it’s kind of a phenomenon.”
Alas, the aesthetic beauty of the shell and the mouth-watering truffles inside could not be kept locked to one season only. It remains ever-popular at La Banane: “I think people love to ruin something beautiful, to have that permission. And there’s substance to it — it’s not just a pretty thing, it tastes good too.” You can also buy your own one-of-a-kind Ziggy egg at their storefront, filled instead with delicious nuggets of chocolate as a less perishable treat — and a jaw-dropping gift idea.
One of our primary passion at Eating Through TO is finding new and unique flavour or texture combinations, and CXBO does not disappoint. We asked Sarah what she would choose as her most surprisingly sumptuous flavour pairing, and she had a hard time narrowing it down. “One of the things that really surprised me would be Bergamot and chocolate. We do Bergamot and a fine candied orange from France with pistachios, and that chocolate bar is just pure heaven.” But we can’t exclude their award-winning Raspberry, Rose, Fennel bar from the list because, as per Sarah, “Rose is one of those flavours you have to be really careful with because it can taste like face cream if you’re not. So when you pair rose with certain things it can just be absolutely phenomenal.”
We can safely say that this is only the beginning of the adventure for Sarah, Brandon and their steadily growing family of local businesses. With a new CXBO kiosk to open soon in Pusateri’s (under Sak’s Fifth Avenue) and plans for a fondue restaurant in the works, Sarah and the team have been going full steam. When we spoke, she was about to embark on a much needed vacation in order to recharge before the summer turns to fall. Fortunately it sounds like they have put together an incredible team, lead by head chocolatier Dawn Nita, “I think that we work with some of the best chocolatiers in the world. We’re not sculptors per se as we don’t make difficult things in terms of construction, but they’re incredibly talented painters and so talented in terms of flavour and texture. I very seldom have chocolate as good as ours anywhere in the world, and I think that really is a testament to how our staff are masters at what they do.”
We couldn’t agree more.
P.S. Did someone say fondue?
CXBO Chocolates is located at 193 Baldwin St in Kensington Market, Toronto. You can also find CXBO Chocolates at The Drake General Store, McEwan stores, Saks Food Hall by Pusateri’s (Queen), Death in Venice and The Tempered Room.
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