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s'mores and more

Whether floating in mugs of hot chocolate or browning nicely over an open fire, marshmallows have long been an easy treat.

But of late, the simple treat has turned sophisticate.

Across Canada, upscale bakeries and gourmet chocolate shops are doing sticky, sweet business in handmade "haute" versions - artisanal, vegan, whimsically flavoured - of the humble snack.

What began as part of the comfort-food comeback has turned into a bona fide trend of its own, with s'mores and dinner-party-worthy confections for adult palates - that belong to those who are still kids at heart.

Canadian nostalgia

Butter Baked Goods A retro-inspired bakery on Dunbar Street in Vancouver, run by Rosie Daykin and her mother, Pixie Porcellato, make homemade marshmallows (oversize and regular) in flavours such as pumpkin, mint, coffee and toasted coconut, (which is their best seller). They also make homemade s'mores in mint and original flavours. "They're recipes your Grandma or your Mom might have made. No chemicals - only sugar, corn syrup, water and gelatin. People like to get the coffee marshmallow and dip it in hot chocolate - it creates the mouth feel of a café mocha - but without the fat, calories or guilt!" says Ms. Porcellato. Taste-test review: Toasted coconut flavour tastes like an old-fashioned candy you might have bought at the corner store as a kid. 4321 Dunbar St., Vancouver. (604) 221-4333. $1.75/large and $6 by the bag. S'mores - $4.25 each.

Oh so chic

Nadège A new addition to the West Queen West neighbourhood in Toronto, this elegant, all-white patisserie offers marshmallows in exotic flavours including: violet, gin and tonic, poppy, coffee and banana. The light-as-air, brightly coloured confections have a subtle flavour and a "melt in your mouth" texture. "Marshmallows have gained popularity in Europe in the past while, and we wanted to introduce the idea of a high-quality marshmallow to the Toronto market," says owner and pastry chef, Nadège Nourian. "People say the marshmallows are not overly sweet, and that is the idea, just a hint of flavour." Taste-test review: Soft, almost foamy texture - tastes like a solid mousse dessert. 780 Queen St. W. - (416) 368-2009. $5 per tub.

Vegan magic

Panacea At Toronto's first all-vegan store - opened in November by Ken Bontius, a former senior engineer - marshmallows are gelatin-free. "It's a treat that vegans don't have to skip any more," says Mr. Bontius. "I get about five calls a day asking if I have them in stock." The store offers vegan marshmallows by Sweet & Sara in pecan cinnamon (made with organic cinnamon), strawberry, vanilla (made with Madagascar vanilla) and toasted coconut, as well as s'mores in peanut butter and original. Taste-test review: Creamy texture, like a soft taffy. Pecan cinnamon flavour tastes like a homemade cinnamon bun. $8.49 per box. S'mores - $5.49. 588 Bloor St. W. (647) 350-3269.

Sweetness on a stick

Suite 88 Chocolatier A chocolate lounge and boutique located on rue Saint-Denis in Montreal, Suite 88 brings nostalgia to their customers in the form of a marshmallow on a stick, dipped in milk or dark chocolate and crushed graham crackers. "Customers often say, 'These bring me back to childhood memories, it makes me feel like a kid again,' especially with the graham-cracker dip - it's reminiscent of s'mores," says Isabel Baller. Taste-test review: More conventional marshmallow texture and flavour. Like something you might have at a country fair, except covered in gourmet chocolate. 3957 rue Saint-Denis, Montreal (514) 844-3488. $3.39 per stick.

Please Sir - give me some s'mores

Choklat Owner Brad Churchill's chocolate haven in Cowtown offers "Choklat Snobbery" workshops featuring the pairing of chocolate with wine. Mr. Churchill has made-from-scratch s'mores on tap held together with home-baked graham wafers. "Basically, the feedback we've received ranges from 'Oh-my-God' to 'Don't talk to me'," he says. Taste-test review: Taste-test review: An upscale version of the chocolaty, salty-sweet taste you might remember from childhood campfires. Handmade s'mores - $4.25 each. 1327A 9th Ave. S.E., Calgary (403) 457-1419.

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