Step into Erico and a wave of chocolate envelops you, like hot fudge draping a scoop of ice cream, swaddling you in a cocoa cocoon. You know the feeling you get when you walk into a barbecue joint and become suffused with smokiness? This is like that, only chocolate.
Now, as deep fall’s chill drags Quebec toward winter, there’s nothing more comforting than being permeated by chocolate as you indulge in a cup of rich hot cocoa.
In a city that loves chocolate and chocolatiers, Erico, located just a few blocks west of the old city walls, is the perfect chocolate lover’s first stop, not just because of its amazing hot chocolate, chocolate ice cream and chocolate candy but because it houses a chocolate museum that will fulfill even the most ardent chocoholic’s hunger for choco-knowledge.
Who first had the idea for eating chocolate? According to the museum: “Legend has it that one day a man saw a monkey sucking on the pulpy fruit of the cacao tree. He tried it himself and found it tasty. Another man dried the beans, roasted them over a fire and crushed them to make a drink. And that, they say, is how it all began.” Clever guy, that second man.
A timeline carries you from about the year 400, when Mayans are believed to have consumed chocolate, to Christopher Columbus receiving a gift of cocoa beans in 1502 to Hernan Cortez quaffing chocolate in 1519 to the inevitable religious question of whether chocolate was a corrupting influence (1569).
On we go as the love of chocolate spreads through Europe in the 1600s and was eventually taxed to raise money for war. The first ad for chocolate, says the museum, appeared in 1776. Eventually, the timeline makes its way to the opening of Erico in 1987. It’s moved a number of times over the years.
In the museum, you’ll learn how to say “chocolate” in 20 different languages, find out how chocolate is good “for the body, the spirit and the teeth” (because dark chocolate contains phosphates and polyhydroxyphenol, which, the museum says, protect teeth from cavities) and see a dress made of chocolate.
Then, at the back wall of the museum, look through a window into the beating heart of Erico — the kitchen, where you can watch chocolate being created and molded.
There are other chocolatiers in Quebec, of course. If you find yourself in Quebec’s old Lower City instead of downtown, stop by La Fudgerie. It no longer serves hot chocolate, but it does offer fudge samples, and you can buy a chocolate sausage to take home. What’s a chocolate sausage? It’s a sausage. Made of chocolate. It’s a gift any friend will love you for.
After one of the city’s magnificent, French-influenced dinners, you must indulge in a chocolate dessert: the chocolate soup at Le Lapin Saute. It’s a bowl of insanely rich chocolate with blueberries embedded in it, topped with little marshmallows a la hot chocolate. After this caffeine injection, you’ll have trouble getting to sleep. But when you do, your dreams will be sweet, indeed.