You know how somewhere along the way there became a day or a week or a month for celebrating pretty much anything? National Bobblehead Day, National Play Catch Week, there’s even a National Accordion Awareness Month. I’m not exactly sure what we’re, as a society, expected to do during it, but I guess we’ll see this June.
With February wrapping up, it feels like as good a time as any to let you know that it is National Chocolate Lover’s Month! And I could think of no better way to commemorate the occasion than using it as an excuse to spend a whole lot of time at The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen in Universal Orlando’s CityWalk. All in the name of research, I’ve met with the restaurant chef, Jonathan Abrevaya, and the General Manager, Rajiv Patel; I’ve convinced several loved ones to join me there for dinner, drinks, and (obviously) dessert; and I’ve even had the opportunity to interview the woman who made all the chocolatey goodness happen — Professor Doctor Penelope Tibeaux-Tinker Toothsome (and her robot companion, Jacques)!
Now here I am to make a strong case for you to pull up a chair the next chance you get and explore the many delicious chocolate offerings found at Toothsome!
But First, What Even Is Toothsome?!
It’s hard to miss the two towering smokestacks of Toothsome when you walk into CityWalk. The venue is an enchanting 19th-century themed, Steampunk-inspired dining establishment serving brunch(!!!), lunch, dinner, and so. many. desserts! The two-story restaurant — which includes two kitchens, a bar, a foundry, a dessert room, and a merchandise spot — is visible across the lake when entering CityWalk and conveniently located between Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure.
“The location is ideal,” Chef Jonathan says. “It’s the first thing you see when you walk into CityWalk, and our creative department did an amazing job with all the details. It’s like you’re in a different world when you walk through those rotating doors.”
Now Onto the Best Part – CHOCOLATE!
Let’s start where my mother never let me — dessert. Toothsome has an extensive array of dessert options and they all are as delicious as they are extravagant. Each milkshake is more of a two-for-one dessert choice, as some even come topped with a cupcake, a brownie, or a cookie.
“There really is a woah factor with the shakes,” General Manager Rajiv says. “And since guests can take the mason jar with them, they’ll walk out with their shake and someone will see it and be like, ‘where’d you get that?’ And it’s, ‘that big building with the steam coming out of it!’ It’s a very unique, eye-catching venue and product that we’re delivering.”
“And we can do so much with chocolate here, it’s amazing,” Chef Jonathan adds.
They really can. The team at Toothsome has totally transformed the way I think of my old keep-your-sweet-away-from-my-savory lifestyle. The non-dessert chocolate options at Toothsome are extensive and each one I’ve tried has been great. And I’ve tried a lot of them!
FAVORITE: Warm chocolate almond bread with salted caramel butter
HONORABLE MENTION: Pork Belly sliders with caramelized onions, mustard aioli, arugula, chocolate dipped bacon, served on a pretzel bun
And for those of you looking for it, a…
NON-CHOCOLATE OPTION: Roasted Brussels Sprouts, served with jalapeno mayo, cotija cheese, and ancho chili powder
FAVORITE: Gnocchi, served with grilled chicken, sweet peppers, rapini, and with a mole cream sauce with the subtlest hint of chocolate
HONORABLE MENTION: Cocoa-gremolata-topped aged short-rib served with cheddar grits and roasted carrots
And for those of you looking for it, a…
NON-CHOCOLATE OPTION: Brisket and Wild Mushroom Meatloaf, with roasted corn, crispy fried onions, Yukon Gold mashed potatoes, and bordelaise sauce
FAVORITE: The Mocha Old Fashioned, which is cocoa infused dark rum, sugar, and chocolate bitters, topped with shaved white chocolate
HONORABLE MENTION: The Too Chocolate Stout, a dark ebony with a rich chocolate finish (This beer was created exclusively for Toothsome!)
And for those of you looking for it, a…
NON-CHOCOLATE OPTION: Violette’s Dream, Big Gin, creme de violette, lemon and grapefruit juice
I asked the experts, too, for their favorite dishes. Rajiv prefers the crab mac n’cheese and Chef Jonathan is a big fan of the chicken and mushroom rissotto. Both Chef Jonathan and Rajiv also spoke to the sheer volume at Toothsome, both in number of guests and types of chocolate.
“There are just so many different varieties of chocolate that you can get here,” Rajiv explains. “Every day we have 37 different types of truffles. There’s 25 different types of chocolate macaroons. We have all types of shakes and sundaes. There are so many different avenues that guests can go to for chocolate and we’ve always got Penelope on hand who can talk chocolate all day.”
That was all the convincing I needed to ask if I could interview Penelope herself! Story has it that Penelope opened Toothsome to share her love of chocolate with the world, and I had met both Penelope and Jacques before, but every time we talked she was mostly trying to convince me to try the Triple Chocolate Bread Pudding (which, side-note, I’ve now tried and am currently craving just thinking about it). I was excited to learn more about her and the story of Toothsome!
Meet the Chocolate Proprietor and Her Trusty Robot Friend
KATIE: Penelope and Jacques, it’s nice to see you both! Do you remember me?
JACQUES: I’m a literal robot, I remember everything.
KATIE: Well I wanted to meet with you both because I’m writing a story on this place.
PENELOPE: [Shouting out over balcony] Did you hear that Emporium?? She’s writing a story about you!
KATIE: Can you tell me the story of the Emporium?
JACQUES: Well, we’re time-travelers, you see. We were separated from mother and father and we thought what better way to find them than to build this monument, this castle to chocolate.
PENELOPE: Yes, when I was younger, 18 to be specific, I did leave to discover everything I possibly could about chocolate. And when I returned my parents had actually left at that exact same time to join me in my travels. But they did leave a note saying that they would look wherever chocolate was to be found. We thought what better place to look than the world’s best chocolate emporium and we were puzzling over where we were going to build it…
JACQUES: And you see the climate in Central Florida is quite conducive to the growing of cocoa beans.
PENELOPE: And Orlando is a cultural hub and so many —
JACQUES: There are so many people here!
PENELOPE: Yes! What we do hope is that when our guests come to visit and go back to wherever their families are, that they spread word about the Emporium. Strictly speaking there are only so many people in the world so someone is going to run into our parents out there and tell them we’re here and they’ll know where to go.
JACQUES: And when to go!
PENELOPE: Yes, you see we’re staying in the linear timeline.
KATIE: Got it. And what year are you actually from?
PENELOPE: I believe you’d call it the Victorian era, but we don’t want to give away too much on a lady’s age.
KATIE: Of course. What is your favorite dish served here in the Emporium?
PENELOPE: My goodness, why would you ask me THAT? I rotate them every single day so they do not get jealous, however, if we’re talking about the dessert, I would have to give it to the chocolate brownie bark. My apologies, actually, I do need to go and take the brownies out of the oven.
KATIE: Before you go, why do you love chocolate so much?
PENELOPE: It’s one of the most delicious things ever created. In truth, I do think my love is because of the positive memory attached to it. I remember my mother first introduced me to chocolate. It was in our lovely kitchen and she was stirring it in a large silver bowl. She pulled out the spoon and said, ‘will you try it?’ It was just the most amazing thing I’ve ever tasted in my entire life. And honestly, how can it not be the most amazing thing? It goes with everything!
Must be 21 years and older with valid identification to purchase or drink alcoholic beverages.