Chocolatier whips up decadence for annual gourmet food festival

NANAIMO - Chocolatier Veronika Mckerrell hand makes chocolate and is showcasing her creations during Bite of Nanaimo.

Veronika McKerrell

Veronika McKerrell

The chocolate tasting experience starts with sight.

The glistening sea salt teasing the top of a square morsel or a sprinkle of chili popping its orange, red dust across the surface of a rounded delight. Smell the richness, the earthiness or fruity decadence of the creation. Hear the snap of a solid chocolate block.

Once the sweet dark chocolate hits the heat of your mouth and dissolves, the experience reaches a new level. It saturates the tongue, lingering on the roof of your mouth. The flavour lasts. One minute later and the taster can still savour the remnants of the chocolate.

That’s the sign of good-quality chocolate, said Nanaimo chocolatier Veronika McKerrell, owner of Cherub Chocolate.

McKerrell loves making chocolate at her small shop located at 165 Commercial St., because of customer’s responses.

“It always brings some excitement and a little light to people’s lives,” she said.

Chocolate requires tempering. It’s one of the most important steps, said McKerrell. If it isn’t done properly the chocolate could be crumbly or lack the smoothness of a quality product.

The process of creating the best quality is only a difference of one or two degrees.

“You cannot just fix it. You have to start from the beginning,” said McKerrell.

After tempering, the chocolate is placed on a surface to cool. When she wants to work with the chocolate it is brought up to a warming temperature and the artisan only has one minute to create the product or it solidifies.

If customers walk into McKerrell’s store when she is in the middle of making a batch she can’t just drop what she is doing or she’ll have to start from scratch.

Cherub Chocolate is one of the participants in this year’s Bite of Nanaimo gourmet food festival. McKerrell is bringing about six different creations for people to enjoy at Bite of Nanaimo. A recent trip to Scotland ignited an idea to take millionaire’s shortbread and create a chocolate treat based on it. It has a shortbread crust, a layer of caramel covered in chocolate. Another is chocolate almond with salted caramel, similar to a chocolate almond tart.

“It’s our tribute to fashion; anything with chocolate and sea salt is extremely popular now,” she said.

Bite of Nanaimo is TheatreOne’s largest fundraiser and helps support the organization’s Just Kidding for Kids series, Emerging Voices original plays and live theatre.

“It’s crucial for us,” said Nadine Wiepning, TheatreOne’s manager of marketing and publicity. “We are so grateful to all the restaurants, they are basically volunteering for us.”

The event attracts about 1,000 guests annually. Bite taste tickets to sample the dishes, range from $1-4. Bite of Nanaimo is Friday (Oct. 16) 4-9 p.m. at the Beban Park social centre. Entry tickets are $15 in advance and are available by calling 250-754-7587 or online at www.theatreone.org.