2012 vancity food chocolate

Hot Chocolate Festival: Chocolaterie de la Nouvelle France

3 days left, 3 locations to go. After Sunday brunching with a friend at the Whip, we headed up the street to La Chocolaterie de la Nouvelle France to sample their entry into City Food Magazine's Hot Chocolate Festival. The tiny store was already packed with other festival followers, which is great - in the first few weeks of the festival it seemed like me and my companions were the only ones participating!

As we stood in line to order I snapped a photo of a glass jar containing truffles on my iPhone. A staff member looked at me angrily and said "Non!"

"Oh, you're not in the picture," I explained, thinking she objected to me taking her photo without permission. "I wouldn't take your picture without asking. It's a picture of the store. I'm blogging the Hot Chocolate festival, I'm taking a picture to blog about the store."

"Non," she said again, and pointed to a small sign on a nearby display shelf that had a picture of a camera with a line through it. I was a little dismayed. A man in front of us in line (with a much more professional camera than my little iPhone) turned to me with a rueful smile and said he was also there to blog and had also been similarly shut down. The reason we were not allowed to take photos was not explained to us. Nor were we offered store-approved photos to use on the blog (which I'm always happy to do if a location prefers).

After a long wait, we finally received our hot chocolates, which we had opted to take "to-go" after the frosty reception from the woman at the counter. To be fair, another woman who was very friendly approached us while we were waiting in line and offered us samples of the dark chocolate lavender bar, which was absolutely to die for. This same woman also served our prepared hot chocolates to us with a smile, so we didn't leave feeling totally unwelcome.

We ordered the Hot Chocolate Festival entry of the day, which was Jasmine, and a regular menu offering, the Rose Petal Hot Chocolate. The people in line ahead of us had been informed that they were out of vegan options so I had to go full dairy. Ugh. Both hot chocolates were served with mini chocolate tarts (one with orange blossom was a particular favourite) which were sinfully rich and delicious - you really only needed a mini-size to feel decadent. I'd show you a picture of these delightful little treats, but, well, I'm not allowed.

As we drove home, the car began to smell positively floral - the jasmine scent was almost overpowering. At home we divided the hot chocolate up and we each tried some of the rose and the jasmine. We should have perhaps tried a floral flavour and then something completely different, such a the anise hot chocolate - the rose and the jasmine were very similar in taste, although the rose was more subtle. I had been afraid, given how strongly the jasmine smelled, that it would be too strong a flavour, but it was delicious.

The hot chocolates were good, but not our favourites of the festival so far. I was still a little too perplexed by the "don't take pictures" policy to really concentrate on the hot chocolate. I can understand wanting picture approval, or permission, or a link to the store included in the photo - hell, I'm an intellectual property lawyer, I of all people understand those requests - but I'm also a blogger who has been met by nothing but enthusiastic responses from those businesses I've supported through this blog, Facebook, or Twitter. I'm at a loss to understand how some sort of infringement might happen through a photo posted on a blog, where the origin of the photo is credited and includes a link to the shop - especially when they've agreed to participate in a festival that is being fuelled by social media, a festival that encourages participants to tweet and post photos of their selections to win prizes. I've mulled it over and I've been hard pressed to find a reason why this otherwise charming little shop would make photos of their exquisite products interdit. Perhaps my blog isn't exclusive enough? Oh well, c'est la vie.

Hot Chocolate Festival: Leonidas


recently opened in a great location, on the Waterfront underneath the new Vancouver Convention Centre. After a two week long illness hiatus, I'm back frantically blogging the last few locations on my list of participants for

City Food Magazine

's Hot Chocolate Festival, proceeds of which are supporting the Downtown East Side Women's Centre.

Leonidas was very busy managing both Hot Chocolate Festival foodies like myself, and Groupon holders, but the shopkeepers (this is a family-run business, by the looks of things) kept their cool and enthusiastically described their menu of hot chocolate flavours to every customer who walked in the door. After much hemming and hawing, I chose their dark chocolate raspberry hot chocolate, which was served with a belgian waffle.

This is my favourite hot chocolate of the festival so far. Creamy, flavourful, not too rich, and with just the right amount of raspberry to make it tart and fresh. I sincerely hope Leonidas keep this one on the menu long after the Hot Chocolate Festival is over. Amazing!

Hot Chocolate Festival: Why I'm Blogging It

"Of course you're blogging it Dani," some of you may be saying. "It's about chocolate."

Well, yes. I do like chocolate, it's true. But the real reason I'm blogging and Tweeting City Food Magazine's Hot Chocolate Festival to death is because funds raised by the festival are being donated to the Downtown Eastside Women's Centre. I live in the Downtown Eastside - these women are my neighbours. The DWEC is a drop-in centre, an emergency shelter, and a place where women can go to receive a number of life-saving benefits, such as victims' services, housing outreach, and training, education and skills development. The DWEC is creating positive change for women and needs all the help it can get. So - go drink a hot chocolate somewhere, wilya, and know that you are helping to make my neighbourhood a safer place, and my neighbours happier, more productive people. Even better, you can donate directly to DWEC online here.

Hot Chocolate Festival: Thierry Patisserie

Thierry Chocolaterie Patisserie, on Alberni Street, is a recent arrival to Vancouver. I've visited before and love the European atmosphere - dark wood panelling, delicate french baked goods, and really, really, really good coffee. I was excited to see what Thierry would do for City Food Magazine's Hot Chocolate Festival and made a date with my friend Sarah, who lives just down the street from Thierry, to visit.

It's been interesting to see how much, or how little, effort some of the participating businesses have put into this festival. At places like Bella Gelateria, Juice Truck, Bel Cafe and Schokolade, you feel like it's kind of a big deal, that thought has been put into what to offer, and that you are participating in something special. Other places, not so much. I was disappointed that Thierry fell into that "not so much" category. Exhibit A:

Meh. This looks like your ordinary everyday hot chocolate offering at Thierry. This is the Gianduja Dark Hot Chocolate, as it was served to me. It was rich, it tasted of Gianduja - but that was about it. The staff did not offer any explanation of what Gianduja was - luckily I've spent a fair amount of time in Italy and was familiar with its rich, hazelnut infused flavour - nor was there any special effort made in presenting the hot chocolate. It was a weekday afternoon, and not that busy, but I didn't get the sense that the Hot Chocolate Festival was that big a deal to Thierry. Fair enough - they do well enough on their own without having to do anything special. Still - I was disappointed. Thierry is the master of chocolate - why not go all out and really show it?

Hot Chocolate Festival: Bel Cafe

I hadn't yet had a chance to visit David Hawksworth's Bel Cafe at the recently reno'd Hotel Georgia, so was glad to troop over there this week to meet my friend Karen for lunch and yet another sampling for City Food Magazine's Hot Chocolate Festival.

Bel Cafe is casual and cozy and offers slightly more upscale versions of what you'd find in any coffee shop - soups, sandwiches, salads, baked goods, and delicious coffee. The difference is you are greeted very formally by the cafe's staff and served at your table, as opposed to walking up to the counter and choosing what you want. This seemed slightly incongruous with the decor and the concept but the staff was so attentive and courteous (even when they screwed up our order - twice) that we couldn't really complain.

And now, to the hot chocolate. I informed our server that I would be sampling their Hot Chocolate Festival entry and he was extremely knowledgeable about the product - a 70% valrhona dark hot chocolate with orange oil, green cardamom, and vanilla-infused whipped cream topped with orange zest:

The hot chocolate was served with a dark chocolate cookie which was chewy and moist and the perfect thing to dip in the whipped cream (yum). I'm sad to report that the green cardamom, despite being a luxury, expensive spice, didn't really have a strong flavour - or maybe it was simply overpowered by the orange oil and orange zest, I don't know. The flavour was distinctly citrusy, not spicy. That being said, it was still absolutely decadent and delicious. I think Bel Cafe might deserve a repeat to try one of their other offerings...I've still got two weeks, right?

Hot Chocolate Festival: French Made Baking

French Made Baking, which only opened its storefront this past December 22, is tucked away on Kingsway just steps away from the Mount Pleasant Community Centre. I enlisted my favourite "lapsed Frenchman" Andrew to help me sample FMB's entry into City Food Magazine's Hot Chocolate Festival. Truthfully, I needed an escort to ensure I didn't buy every single macaron (one "o" thank you very much) in the shop. Macarons have become very trendy here of late - I have often quipped that "Macarons are the new cupcake" - and I can't say I've had many macarons as good as French Made Baking's offerings.

On this particular day, FMB's Hot Chocolate fest flavour was a dark chocolate Yuzu drinking chocolate. Incredibly rich, with a lovely hint of that Japanese citrus flavour:

Andrew contemplates. Yes, this will do. Baker David told us he adds coconut milk to give this drinking chocolate an even smoother flavour.

Of course we couldn't not sample the baked goods while we were here. Andrew chose this canelé, a rummy, vanilla-y, caramelized concoction that was met in your mouth good:

I chose a cassis-flavoured macaron at the staff's suggestion, even though I do not often choose fruity pastries. However, I can happily report that it was absolutely delicious, with a delicate flavour and the perfect, meringue-like texture. I will definitely be going back for more macarons, like this Cendrillon (cinderella) macaron, made from pumpkin:

Photo courtesy French Made Baking.

Hot Chocolate Festival: Schokolade Cafe

Schokolade Artisan Chocolate & Cafe, in Hastings Sunrise, is a cute little place that I have passed often but never visited. Their entry into the City Food Magazine Hot Chocolate Festival seemed like the perfect opportunity to drop by. Although their entries are some of the priciest to date, at a whopping $9.99 a serving, I was not disappointed with the hot chocolate, the accompanying truffles, or the attentive service of proprietor Jane Suter and chocolatier Edward Suter.

After much deliberation and discussion with Jane (who knows just about all there is to know about the relative merits of white chocolate vs. dark chocolate vs. milk chocolate), I chose to go with the Ginger Milk hot chocolate:

This hot chocolate may be a festival favourite. Expertly prepared by Jane (who was too shy to have her photo taken), this hot chocolate had just the right amount of crystallized ginger (which is prepared in-house by Edward, without sulphides), and sprinkled with marigold flakes, so it had a nice crunch to it (it sounds weird to have a crunchy drink, but it's delightful). Jane told me I'd have to drink the milk chocolate version faster than the dark chocolate, as the milk curdles faster, but I was more than happy to do so.

The hefty price tag made sense when Jane told me that the hot chocolate was accompanied by three handmade truffles. This included two coconut ginger truffles, and a raspberry heart, which I substituted in place of a brandy truffle - one of Schokolade's house specialties, I'm told, but I'm not really into boozy chocolates.

In addition to these truffles, Jane presented me with a Mah Jong piece truffle, as a Chinese New Year blessing:

The chocolates chosen were the perfect accompaniment to the hot chocolate - although I was starting to head into a sugar coma by this point. Hot chocolate and truffles may not be the healthiest Saturday morning breakfast I have ever had.

Chocolatier Edward Suter was kind enough to come out of his workshop to answer some questions for me about his chocolates. Most of his ingredients are sourced locally, he told me - he prefers to go and pick his own berries for some of the ganaches if possible. He sources his chocolate from Switzerland, where he did his apprenticeship.

Chocolatier Edward Suter.

Edward told me that these heart designs are "silkscreened" from plastic onto the wet chocolate using chocolate tinted with colouring...
...while these peppermint truffles are hand-painted.

Despite having filled myself to the brim with sugar, I couldn't resist buying a few more chocolates to take home for later (which I was sternly warned by Jane not to refrigerate - the chocolate gets rubbery). Particular favourites included an earl grey truffle, and a white chocolate jalapeno mango truffle - which I was dubious about, but was actually delighted with.

Schokolade offers a chocolate high tea, and a great selection of chocolates. Their wares may also be found at Urban Fare. I highly recommend a visit to Schokolade's cafe - it's worth the trek.

Hot Chocolate Festival: Terra Breads' Hot Chocolate Chai

OK, this hot chocolate chai from the Terra Breads cafe in the Olympic Village takes the cake (pun intended) so far, in terms of hot chocolate entries in CityFood Magazine's Hot Chocolate Festival. Rich but not too rich, with a fabulous chai spiciness that is absolutely irresistible. And served with a delicious almond spiced cookie that complemented the chai flavour perfectly. Well done, Terra Breads!

Hot Chocolate Festival: Salted Caramel Bonanza

My quest for the most amazing hot chocolate during CityFood Magazine's Hot Chocolate festival continues. It seems that the combination of chocolate, salt and caramel is on everybody's mind at the moment, and the two cafes I visited this week both had very different takes on that flavour profile.

First up is Mink, a lovely lovely chocolate and coffee store on West Cordova. My favourite of their many hand-crafted chocolate bars has always been "Mermaid's Choice" - chocolate with rosemary-infused caramel and fleur de sel. When I heard that they were doing a "Mermaid's Choice" hot chocolate - well, hot diggity.

Here it is:

Mink's Mermaid's Choice Hot Chocolate.

This was served without whip or garnish of any kind. It was VERY salty. And rich. I ordered it with dark chocolate, and found the salt was almost overpowering. It was also difficult to taste the caramel, or the rosemary. Still, I'm not going to complain too, too much about something being too salty - as I've grown older my love of sweet has diminished and been replaced with a wicked craving for all things salty. Still, it took me ages to finish an entire cup given how rich and salty it actually was.

Next up, a few days later, was Bella Gelateria, also on West Cordova. I was *really* excited to try their Macadamia Nut hot chocolate, with Erin Ireland's To Die For Banana Bread - which I've blogged about here before - her bread also features chocolate and macadamia nuts so this sounded like an amazing combo! Sadly, proprietor James (who was dashing off to Italy that morning for the Gelato World Cup) informed me that they were sold out of the macadamia, and suggested I try their salted caramel instead, which is made with their house-made dulce de leche.

Bella Gelateria's Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate with Erin Ireland's To Die For Banana Bread.

This seemed to have just the right balance between the salt and the sweet, and the Michel Cluizel hot chocolate was rich but not too rich - just right for drinking. I enjoyed it very much, but *really* want to try that Macadamia Nut hot chocolate one day soon...