I had been walking around Toronto for eight hours before I arrived at Nadege. I was so tired and dehydrated by this stage, that everything was a bit of a blur. I remember having to ask the woman behind the counter to describe the hot chocolates they offered three times in a row because I could hardly concentrate and then finally just asked her to give me all of them. Luckily there were two of us and two hot chocolate offerings so in the end I didn’t sound as crazy as I thought I did (hopefully).
Nadege is the creation of Chef Nadege Nourian, a fourth generation pastry chef born in Lyon France. The store is right in the middle of West Queen West, a unique and colourful street lined with interesting small businesses, restaurants and cafes. It is also in the middle of what I started calling Espresso Alley because, apart from Nadege, every shop selling a drink on this street seems to be a coffee shop. Nadege with its clean white front and neon purple sign sticks out and acts like a clear beacon for hot chocolate lovers like me.
Inside the shop is long and narrow. Up front along one wall is a long display case carrying all the delicious items you expect from such a place. At the very back is a glass wall separating us from the kitchen where they prepare all of their delicious cakes. We sat down at a table right next to the window and watched as a handful of pastry chefs prepared their creations. One young man was peeling apples for what seemed like an hour and then proceeded to cut them up into small pieces. He was making us very nervous with the knife he was wielding …he just didn’t seem too confident with it and we worried so much that something might happen that we had to look away. I suspect he feels more at home with a spoon than with a knife. But whatever he was preparing looked pretty good.
The store sells a variety of perfect looking macaroons and other chocolates in boxes featuring the work of Canadian artists. They also have a range of chocolate tablets, each packaged in a different coloured packaging and each featuring a different letter of the alphabet and a different flavor profile.
After a few glasses of water to perk myself back up I was ready for my mysterious hot chocolates. The first was a Gourmet hot chocolate, 72% cacao with milk, sugar and some other good stuff (that was all Rich remembered from the description, I remembered nothing). The other which took a bit longer to prepare was made with Illanka chocolate which we were told is available in Canada only though Nadege. It is from the Piura region of northern Peru and was especially creamy and as it cooled down you really got the fruity notes as well. The hot chocolates were beautiful, brought me back to life and gave me the energy to continue our exploration of West Queen West and all the fantastic and unique things it had to offer.
Verdict: A beacon of goodness in must visit West Queen West. Beautiful hot chocolates and very patient staff! Nadege, 780 Queen St. West, Toronto, Ontario, Canada