A Night At Raca Cafe with Cacao Barry

Recently, I had the honour of spending the evening with Chef Ivana Raca at Raca Cafe and Bar featuring a glorious menu that ingeniously incorporated Cacao Barry chocolate.

But, before we get to the drool-worthy menu, let me take you through the history of this incredible company.

In 1842, the Barry family, who were coffee and tea merchants, set out to Africa to find and harvest the best cocoa beans possible and create world re-known chocolates and chocolate products.  In 2015, they created Cacao Collective, a platform that entices chefs and other professionals to creatively use their product and give them a place to go where they can be inspired to elevate their own creations.  Read all about their mission here and watch this clip about their recent award!

Chocolate Academy dessert

Picture courtesy of Cacao Barry


It was a wonderful night where Chef Ivana started us off with some lovely appetizers – ceviche served in Chinese soup spoons and whipped feta, dill, mint and grilled radicchio crostini – to whet our palates and get us ready for the chocolate infused menu she had designed and would be serving later.

The open kitchen concept at Raca allows patrons to watch as the talented chefs prepare each dish.

Chefs in action!!

It was a tad chilly, but the patio offered a place to gather before our meal was served…

…and it was the best place to display Cacao Barry’s chocolate for all of us to see (what a great product!!)

Back inside, Chef Raca took care and pride in explaining the dishes she so lovingly created for us using Cacao Barry’s product.

Chef Ivana incorporated the chocolate brilliantly into each dish…so brilliantly that you could taste the smoothness of the chocolate but not really the chocolate – if that makes sense!! She was also challenged to incorporate one unique spice into all the dishes, tying them together not only with chocolate but also with a unique flavour agent (she chose caraway).

A perfect example was the first dish she served which was a wild mushroom tartlet with asparagus Zephyr white chocolate (this was paired with a Pinot Gris, Beamsville Bench VQA, Malivoire 2015).

Chef Ivana explained that the white chocolate was infused into the savoury crema that filled the tart…the mildness of the chocolate rounding out the full flavour of all the taste combinations here.  There was also the most mild hint of the caraway, which she added to the crust! Magnificent!!

Now onto the next course…

This next dish, oddly made me sad…sad that it isn’t a permanent dish on Chef Ivana’s menu (maybe I can convince her!!).  It was an extraordinary dish using my favourite game…venison!

Working hard to plate her incredible creation: Spiced caraway rubbed venison loin, Tanzanie Origin chocolate jus, sour cherry croquette, carrot puree and Saint Dominque Origin chocolate.

This dish was seriously like a party in my mouth.  The flavour combinations, including the depth added with the addition of different chocolate, was superb.  It was paired brilliantly with a Ripasso, Valpolicella, Villa Annaberta 2014

And, finally, dessert…my favourite dinner course!!

This seasonal dish, incorporating a beautiful Ontario rhubarb coulis, was a Ocoa and Inaya Chocolate hazelnut and caraway tart.

Paired with a fresh JW local craft cider, it was a perfect ending to a perfect evening!

When I asked Chef Ivan what her favourite dish was, she said “the venison, of course!”.

I agree Chef…I agree!!


Disclosure: This is a sponsored post but the sentiments in this post are all my own.  All pictures (other than the one from Cacao Barry post and noted above) are courtesy of Jeffrey Chan

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