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The Vancouver Hot Chocolate Festival is in full swing and Akemi and I have been trying our darndest to sample as many of the 60-some flavors available at the various shops and cafes around town.  So far, we’ve managed to try about a dozen decadent offerings.  Looks like we’re really going to need to pick up the pace with roughly two weeks to go.

Here’s a rundown of our tasty accomplishments to date.  Please note that some of the flavors have been discontinued – but been replaced with other (no doubt) sublime selections:

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Italian Honey Moon: Honey nougat and hazelnut made with Avalon Organic milk and Michel Cluizel chocolate served with Erin Ireland’s “To Die For” Banana Bread.

Available: Every day of the festival at Bella Gelateria 1001 West Cordova Street.

www.bellagelateria.com

I was leery at first.  Hot chocolate topped with shards of honey nougat? I love particulates (that’s what they call ’em) in my ice cream, but in my drinking chocolate?  Well, they turned out to be a wonderful little textural addition to the drink.  I am now a hot chocolate particulate convert!

1Monkey’s Choice: Caramelized Banana & Honey served with Erin Ireland’s  “To Die For” Banana Bread.

Available: Every day of the festival at Bella Gelateria 1001 West Cordova Street.

www.bellagelateria.com

Very good although I was on the fence about the banana bits.  The banana bread was the perfect dipping accompaniment.

1Ohhh CANADA: Canadian maple syrup + pecan hot chocolate served with a sable.

Available: January 19 – 29 at Thierry Chocolaterie Patisserie Cafe 1059 Alberni Street

http://www.thierrychocolates.com/

A tasty tribute to The Great White North.  And those candied pecans were a lovely touch.

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Malteaser: Barley malt-infused hot chocolate served with salt caramel malt truffles.

Available: Every day of the festival at Thomas Haas 2539 West Broadway, Vancouver.

http://www.thomashaas.com/

Terrific!  I could have had two but I’m sure the sugar rush would’ve killed me.

1The Sweet of Bitter Dark: Bitter dark drinking chocolate.

Available: January 19 – February 14 at Beaucoup Bakery  2150 Fir Street (in Kitsilano)

www.beaucoupbakery.com/

With seating at a premium, we elected to go take-out.  The serving sizes are notably smaller than the other offerings sampled so far on this Hot Chocolate tour (which sat perfectly fine with Akemi who thought it ideal given its punchiness).  Also, there were some temperature issues as the drink was served at just a touch above room temperature – more of a Warm Chocolate.  In the end, probably my least favorite as the sour notes of this particular Valrhona dark proved just too much for me.

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Petal of a Rose: Vanilla bean white hot chocolate with rose.

Available: January 26 – February 1 at Beaucoup Bakery  2150 Fir Street (in Kitsilano)

www.beaucoupbakery.com/

This one was a few degrees cooler than the Bitter Dark and, while Akemi found it too sweet, I enjoyed the flavor combination.  The hint of rose was perfect and didn’t overwhelm the vanilla.

1The drink was accompanied by a blondie (the brownie’s angelic sister?) that, again, Akemi found too sweet but, yes, again, I enjoyed for its delightful salted caramel combination.

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A Snowball’s Chance in Tokyo: White chocolate matcha hot chocolate topped with yuzu marshmallow.

Available: January 19-25 at Beta 5 

(http://shop.beta5chocolates.com/and The Juice Truck (usually found on the corner of Abbott and Water in Gastown).

Being a HUGE fan of the gang at Beta 5 Chocolate, I was really looking forward to this one – but came away disappointed when I got it off the The Juice Truck during last week’s food truck event.  It was weak, very watery, and devoid of any trace of yuzu flavor (I assume the marshmallow had dissipated in the heat of it all).  Undeterred, I stopped by Beta 5 and picked up the hot chocolate stick mix, then made it myself at home.  The results?  MUCH better – although I still missed the yuzu marshmallow.

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When Pigs Fly: Cocoa Barry “Alto El Sol”, a single plantation chocolate, topped with maple and bacon marshmallow, served with a peanut butter cookie.

Available: Every day of the chocolate festival at Chocolate Arts 1620 West 3rd Ave., Vancouver (Kitsilano).

http://www.chocolatearts.com/

A nice cup of chocolate although I didn’t find the marshmallows particularly “bacony” and thought the accompanying peanut butter cookie just so-so.

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Armoury Amour: Cocoa Barry  “Madirofolo”– a single plantation chocolate, kissed with raspberry and served with a mini lemon and basil ice cream sandwich.

Available: Every day of the chocolate festival at Chocolate Arts 1620 West 3rd Ave., Vancouver (Kitsilano).

http://www.chocolatearts.com/

Well, damn, this was a surprise!  I’m not a fan of the fruit-chocolate combo and find raspberry a particularly reprehensible partner but this heavenly creation sang.  Akemi’s overall favorite so far and a definite Top 3 finisher for yours truly.  Loved the raspberry sugar rim.

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Orange Blossom Flower: 64% dark chocolate – origin: Ecuador. Infused with orange blossom flowers and served with choice of chocolate square.

Available: Every day of the chocolate festival at Chocolaterie de la Nouvelle France 198 East 21st Ave., Vancouver, B.C.

www.chocolaterienouvellefrance.ca

Beautifully presented and loved the froth but the orange blossom overwhelmed.

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Jasmine: 64% dark chocolate – origin: Ecuador. Infused with jasmine and served with choice of chocolate square.

Available: Every day of the chocolate festival at Chocolaterie de la Nouvelle France 198 East 21st Ave., Vancouver, B.C.

www.chocolaterienouvellefrance.ca

Surprisingly spectacular.  Just the right chocolate married with the perfect balance of jasmine yields the most exquisite hot chocolate of the festival so far.

1Currant Direction: The sophisticated Euro accent of blackcurrant.  Served with a thyme sable.

Available: January 28 – 30, February 9 – 1 at Soirette Macarons & Tea 1433 West Pender Street, Vancouver. (Coal Harbour)

www.soirette.com

Our first attempt to sample Soirette’s hot chocolate offerings was unsuccessful.  We walked in at 6:30 p.m., a half an hour before closing, only to have the girl behind the counter look at us as though we were homeless people seeking for spare change.  We inquired about the hot chocolate and were informed, alas, the kitchen was closed.  Closed? Damn, I thought, that must be a mighty involved hot chocolate-making process!

We returned a few days later for an afternoon visit.  A different girl was at the counter and she was sweet as can be.  The owner, came out from the back to chat macarons and hot chocolate with us – and present us with the thyme sable that accompanied our order.

I’m not a big fan of mixing fruit and chocolate so the cocoa-currant combo didn’t really sing for me.  Akemi, on the other hand, was quite charmed by the creation – although she felt the addition of lavender petals was a bit much.  That thyme sable however…Holy Smokes! Closer to cake than sable, sweet and salty with a savory thyme undertone, it was the best thing I’ve eaten this year!  Unbelievably good but, sadly, not on the regular menu.

P.S. It only took all of 45 seconds to actually prepare the hot chocolate.

1The Ayala: Jasmine drinking chocolate, topped with housemade juniper marshmallows.

Available: January 19 – February 14 at Cocoa Nymph 3739 W. 10th Ave (at Alma), Vancouver, B.C. 604-222-4477
www.cocoanymph.co

A subtle blend of jasmine and dark chocolate.  The homemade juniper marshmallows were a nice little addition.

1The Noah: Balsamic drinking chocolate, topped with housemade cherry marshmallow.

Available: January 26 – February 14 at Cocoa Nymph 3739 W. 10th Ave (at Alma), Vancouver, B.C. 604-222-4477
www.cocoanymph.co

Thicker, silkier than The Ayala but, ultimately, possessed of just a tad too much of a vinegar kick.  Sipped on its own, it didn’t quite do it for me although the cherry marshmallows offered a nice counterpoint.

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34 thoughts on “January 31, 2013: The Hot Chocolate Festival!

  1. I am sooooooooo jealous!!!

    Sometimes, Joe, you are an evil, EVIL man…torturing us so with all these pictures and descriptions of delectable delights we can only look at and dream about, but never touch.

    Sorta like every time you post a picture of Wraith. 😛

    das

  2. @MAMASUE9 Hey!! ME too!! 😀 And I was just gonna say, the last time I was in Vancouver for my birthday, there wasn’t any CHOCOLATE stuff going ON!! …hmm.. NEXT Year, I’m going to HAVE to pay my BFF a “VISIT”!!

    Anyway, have a GREAT DAY!! **HUGS**!!

  3. G’day

    Yummy. Although I do not think I could handle that much hot chocolate. I can take the sugar but some are just to rich for me.

    Happy Birthday Sue.

  4. Holy crap! Why didn’t anyone tell me you can get hot chocolate with other flavours in it?

    As a coffee hater and non-tea drinker hot chocolate is the only hot drink I consume. I’ve sampled quite a few in my time and I’d have to say 99% of them disappoint. Too watery, too milky, too much foam, not enough chocolate. When I open my dessert only restaurant, Just Desserts, I will have a hot chocolate menu to rival any wine menu!

    One of the best hot chocolates I’ve ever had was labelled “Italian Hot Chocolate” served at a gelato place that a friend took me to when I was visiting him in Sydney. The thing was so thick my spoon almost stood up in it yet when I took a mouthful it seemed to melt over my tongue and glide down my throat. Amazing!

  5. Well who knew that so many versions of hot chocolate existed… I don’t know how you and Akemi do it without getting/feeling ill. That said, I wouldn’t mind tasting a few small samples with Splenda :>

  6. Happy Birthday, mamasue9!! You share a birthday with my father, who is gone now, but lovingly remembered.

  7. I like how the “A Snowball’s Chance in Tokyo’s” cup looks like a cats face or head. Is that intentional or just me? It has two triangles designed on the inside of the cup and looks like Cat ears. .eh..if it’s just me? nevermind. I’ve never thought of banana with Hot Chocalate. Wow! Thats a great idea. It’s good within a hot fudge sundae, so why wouldn’t it be good right? It’s snowing like crazy here in Virginia and everyone of those looks very good. Almost good enough for me to feel the warmth through my computer screen. I’d love if they done something like that here. The only thing, i live outside a very small town and the gas stations would be the only place that would have such things andddd i don’t think that would be good. Atleast I can live through your adventures at Chateau Cocoa. lol

  8. Please forgive me for my writing and spelling. I’d lived here for so long, I’ve caught “The Hillbilly Bug”. I’m on my way back to proper English and spelling. lol
    I’ve went with the flow for so long that i didn’t even notice how bad i’ve gotten. hehe
    It’s something I must remedy. After so many years here, around so many who speak and spell differently. (with the hillbilly twang) I haven’t noticed how bad i’ve gotten till recently when i’ve started writing again.Which this means nothing to any of you, i know, i know. I still had to lay light to any comment i write that doesn’t seem anything close to english. I guess i’m saying all this because your page has made me realize my mistakes and I’m striveing to remedy my habits of bad english. lol You’ve helped me once again sir. Thats what i meant.

  9. wow. beautiful presentations. I can imagine the taste of some of the offerings, based on description and picture. others defy my limited imagination. But thank you for sharing. 4 dozen more places to try in 2 weeks seems realistic, though I have no idea of how far and wide everything is spread. Sounds like a little campaign planning to achieve the goal. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Yum, yum, YUM! Monkey’s Choice: Caramelized Banana & Honey served with Erin Ireland’s “To Die For” Banana Bread What makes that banana bread so good? Does it have chocolate chips? I’m not sure if I would like banana with hot cocoa but caramelized banana is very good. It IS odd thinking of bits floating around in the cocoa.

    Did you get any mixes or recipes? So the jasmine was your favorite? I’d like to try all of them but I like mint or fruit in hot cocoa the best.

    gforce: Fingers crossed for your step mom.

    mamasue9: Happy Birthday!

  11. Okay…today has started off with a surprise blizzard (a ‘dusting’ has turned into 4″ so far), and there’s no heat in the office. Arrrgggh!!

    @ Ponytail – The Wraith tattoos. Fans have speculated in great detail over this one. Some feel they’re a sign of rank, or achievement, or right of passage, but I would like to think they’re strictly for personal adornment, perhaps an attempt to be distiguished as an individual in an otherwise uniform hive.

    das

  12. HI JOE:

    I HAVE BEEN READING YOUR POSTS SINCE YOU STARTED BLOGGING AND WANT TO SAY ‘THANK YOU’ FOR ALL THE HARD WORK THAT YOU PUT INTO IT FOR YOUR FANS.

    ON A DIFFERENT NOTE, I WAS WONDERING WHY YOU HAVEN’T WRITTEN A COOKBOOK YET?

    BE WELL AND HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU & AKEMI

    BILLIE

  13. I don’t like raspberry with chocolate (but lemon and chocolate is to die for), but the Armoury Armor does look good. The Italian Honeymoon looks amazing. You’ve inspired me to have Mariebelle Aztec hot chocolate and churros tonight, Joe!

  14. See what you’ve done. Here I am on a restricted (self inflicted) diet. (First time ever) and now I have to go and make hot chocolate……it’s all your fault. I hope your pleased with yourself. That being said, I am a traditionalist. Give me plain hot coco with no Jasmine, no banana leaves. Just marshmallows and plain mini one’s at that….Still, I think your having way too much fun.

  15. *is drooling* Oooooooh……CHOCOLATE!! 😀

    Happy Birthday MamaSue!! 😀 This SUE’s bday is Feb. 8th. 😉 (hint hint) So…Joe…just to let you know….I am a dark chocoholic! 😉

  16. Petal of a Rose: Vanilla bean white hot chocolate with rose.

    Ohhhh…that one sounds good. And I could actually drink it (the rest of the real chocolate based ones would’ve set off my chocolate allergy).

    @Das and Tam Dixon:

    Honda update:

    We buttoned it all up last night, put the key in the ignition, turned the starter and…

    .
    .
    .

    It refused to start. Hooking up the OBD scanner brought up an intermittent crankshaft sensor error. I checked the wiring out (all good), so it looks like the crankshaft sensor is bad. I’m taking tonight off (and enjoying some R&R) and then I’ll be back at it tomorrow morning.

    Thanks for the good luck wishes…I’m hoping the Honda saga ends soon.

  17. @MrMallozzi: I’m choosing not to read this entry because I love all varieties of hot chocolate so much, I’m afraid I’d be overcome with my desire to make more than a few of them and gorge myself on hot chocolate instead of dinner…..and breakfast…….and lunch.

    @dasndanger, @gforce: I’m so glad you guys see it the way I do with respect to the “smoooooth sailing” thing. Maybe it’s a double jinx so as to NOT jinx it? I’ve done that a few times with different things. I played baseball for 12 years. We tend to be a very superstitious bunch.

    -Mike A.

  18. @ Mike A. – Any day now I’m expecting JeffW to say, “It’ll all be smoooooooooooth sailing after this!” 😉

    das

  19. @Das:

    Nope…I’m not going to say the S… S… phrase. Too much bad karma associated with that! :-D.

  20. I love hot chocolate! All those above may not taste the greatest (to you but I’m sure I would love them and they sure do look beautiful!

    In addition to BillieO suggesting you write a cookbook, I’d like to remind you I’m waiting for a travel book written by you too. Or a book written from the viewpoint of a dog.

    @ Das – You know the most about the Wraith, so I think you are right. I wonder when they get them. As a daring youngster or as they age? Is it a demand for respect of a look of toughness? Why didn’t Joe and gang ever explain this? Maybe it is military? Do they do it themselves or is there a Wraith tatooer. I wonder what he is like?

  21. Happy Birthday mamasue9, technically it’s still Feb 1 in Hawaii so I’m right on time! This was a day for cocoa, the wind chill was beyond artic, but I sailored on to the store to get life saving dark chocolate. Some great cocoa ideas, why can’t all towns be as cool as Vancouver?

  22. shinyhula
    Some great cocoa ideas, why can’t all towns be as cool as Vancouver?

    But, but, Shinyhula! You’re in Hawaii! The place of spectacular sunrises, sunsets, volcanoes, pineapples, beaches, waves, beautiful traditions, Hawaii 5-0!!! I’ve always wanted to go to Hawaii but really enjoy it when I see a show filmed there on TV. Hot chocolate goes down really well especially during our Arctic freeze. I don’t think you’d like the weather here.

  23. Did I not tell you raspberry hot chocolate was HEAVENLY? I would love to try all of the above, EXCEPT anything maple in it. Just hearing the word maple makes me want to puke. Hey, that could be my new diet incentive. Put the word “Maple” all over my kitchen and I won’t even go in there.

    The orange blossom one sounds interesting. But not so sure I’d like rose anything. Roses I associate with caskets. Lavender I associate with my bathtub and my pillows. I have a large repetoire of smell-memory. I also have never tasted anything chocolate combined with bacon that I’ve liked.

    Belated happy birthday mamasue9 and Ganymede.

  24. Joe, now I want to visit your wonderful city more than ever! A hot chocolate festival?!?!

    I am in Manhattan and I have never come close to a decent mug of hot chocolate here. Although, the absolute best hot chocolate I have EVER had was in Italy- Chocolate Denso. It’s like drinking semi-dark hot chocolate pudding. The most incredible hot drink I have EVER had.

    Best,

    Alfred

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