Easier Entertaining is a new GFR series by Kathryn McLean, offering sensible advice on how to buy almost homemade items to harried cooks with guests on the way. – Malcolm Jolley, Ed.

Handmade Chocolates
I’m not up for making my own chocolate truffles. Or nut-filled chocolates. Or even chocolate dipped fruit. I’ve seen the molds and chocolate wafers at the store, but making these treats is not a chore I’ll enjoy. The trouble is, I do want to have a few little luxuries at the table when I entertain.  So I’ve been paying attention to the small, neighbourhood shops across Toronto. I’ve been tasting different chocolates here and there so I can simply buy what I’d like to serve.

There’s nothing wrong with a pretty holiday-themed box of Belgian truffles from Hudson’s Bay, or a selection from the glass case at Godiva. And I usually buy a few boxes of miniatures from Canada’s own Laura Secord throughout the year, though that may just be nostalgia since I grew up with Laura Secord in the house on special occasions.  But there are so many more options in our little neighbourhoods, why not give them a chance?

Last spring when I had family over for lunch there wasn’t enough space at the table for a centerpiece – I had to account for all the platters of food I would be putting out, and there wasn’t room for anything else. Instead of flowers or candles, I placed a few dark chocolate eggs on each guest’s napkin, just at the tips of the silverware. Not fresh spring buds, but delicious bite-sized treats. This holiday season I’ll stack a small pyramid of truffles on a saucer at either end of the table to accompany coffee and dessert. Simple, delicious, quality chocolate.

Take a look around your neighbourhood for small artisanal shops that make chocolates. Be on alert when you pass through other communities if you can’t find what you want at home, or try looking online for a shop in your area. Rather than the standard box of average chocolate, look for a small selection of luxurious specialty ones. There is plenty of chocolate to be had during the holidays; why not support a local store’s handmade version and indulge a little?

Kathryn McLeanKathryn McLean is a freelance food writer & recipe developer in Toronto. Visit her website at allfoodlove.wordpress.com.