It’s that time of year again!  Time for Vancouver annual Hot Chocolate Festival! From January 18th to February 14th, 24 local participants will be offering over 60 flavors.  At roughly two hot chocolates a day, I think that’s eminently doable.  Last year, Akemi and I managed to sample about half the hot chocolates being offered and, this year, we plant to do even better.  Yes, we’ll be like athletes, pacing ourselves, giving a 110% in the face of adversity except that, instead of running a marathon, we’ll be downing liquid chocolate.

There were some great offerings last year:

1Last years winner in my mind (and mouth and stomach): The Jasmine dark chocolate at Chocolaterie de la Nouvelle France.

February 17, 2013: The Hot Chocolate Festival Wrap-up! And the Winners are…!

And I’m eager to get started.  I’ve started my training by consuming a quarter bar of dark chocolate every day leading up to kick-off.  Wish me luck!

Perfect timing too as, today, I received a clean bill of health from my doctor.  Well, more or less.  Essentially, he didn’t find anything wrong with me and that’s good enough for me.


A couple of days ago, my sister sent me the following link:

The 10 Most Expensive Pints of Ice Cream

Yep, mighty expensive.  And, in some cases, kind of intriguing as well.  Double vanilla with cashew brittle?  Whiskey eggnog?  Sea salt caramel?  Hmmm.

You folks strike me as worldly in the ways of ice cream.  Ever sampled any of the mentioned brands?  Are they worth their premium price tag?  Or are we sticking with Breyers?

Did you cast your vote for our upcoming Book of the Month Club?  What do you mean you don’t have time to read?  Make the time!  I certainly will.  In fact, I’m going to read all seven contenders in the running for our next BOTMC.  They are…

P.S. FINALLY started reading Joe Abercrombie’s Red Country yesterday.  Fabulous! A wicked mix of action, adventure, dark humor, and unforgettable characters.  A very hard book to put down.

45 thoughts on “January 9, 2014: Hot chocolate! Ice cream! And books!

  1. Don’t forget Dine Out Vancouver starts the 17th, Joe! I’m having a hard time deciding which restaurant I wanna go to for my birthday dinner. Any suggestions?

    1. The Campagnolos (the original and Roma) are consistently great. Fable is an Akemi favorite.

  2. No training for hot chocolate sipping needed by me. Too bad I’m not on your team. We’d win easily. I expect to be tortured by lots of pictures of beautiful cups of hot chocolate from you Joe. Hope I don’t dehydrate from all the drooling I’ll be doing. 😉

  3. Great, looks like I’m going to miss another hot chocolate festival in Vancouver. I may have to just console myself by ordering a few of those hot chocolate sticks from Beta5. And maybe a box of chocolates.

    Also, I really *don’t* have a lot of time to read lately, I’m game for whatever book gets picked for the BotM club. I’d really like to get into reading more fiction. Have you read the “Wayward Pines” books by Blake Crouch? They come highly recommended by a friend at work. Those, along with the multitude of other non-fiction that I have in the queue should add up to about a year and a half of reading.

  4. Happy to hear all went well at the doctor’s!

    I’ve had quite a few flavors of the Talenti, and it’s delicious. The Caribbean Coconut (with a bit of the mango mixed in) is to die for. I think I’ve had about 10 of their flavors and loved them all except for the Salted Caramel (although everyone else here loved it); I found it a bit too rich. Now I’m going to be wanting it and there’s none in the freezer. Oy.

  5. I have never tried any of those ice creams, but there is a place called Oinks in New Buffalo Michigan that has amazing ice cream! Their coconut almond fudge ripple is to die for.

    I see that the #1 rated place in that article is in Mount Prospect, IL, which is not terribly far from me. Or JeffW. Or sylvia! Hey, guys! I think I found our next foodie outing! Who is up for a run to Cappanari‘s?

  6. If you’re itching to spend $10 a pint, Graeter’s has a salted caramel flavor. I think it’s been around since before sea salt was the big thing. I’d go with experience and try Graeter’s. Just look at their description of making it. :drool


    The site says they deliver to the U.S., but it would be worth a try to call. My fellow Ohioans are good on the phone.

    If you get it, get plenty of the black raspberry chocolate chip, too. These aren’t grocery store chocolate chips. They are soft chunks of chocolate, the perfect texture to bite into even though the ice cream is cold. It seems more chocolaty to me than the double chocolate chip.

    I didn’t think Buckeye Blitz was all that. I got glutened by it because I wasn’t expecting cookie dough in it. That flavor doesn’t substitute for actually trying buckeyes.

  7. Congrats on the clean bill of health. 🙂 Never tried any of the ice creams, but that Cinderella pumpkin looked pretty interesting.

  8. Breyers my foot. Blue Bell, “the best ice cream in the country”! Google it.

    My local grocery store carries Breyers, but not the cherry vanilla flavor. *sniffle*

  9. @Sparrow_hawk:

    Barb and I are game; but I noticed that the Cappanari store front is closed until sometime in March, so we would have to wait until then to show up.

    Are you all open to anything in January or February? I’m still interested in finding a good Napoli style pizza place…if you all are game. If so, I found one in Mount Prospect that would could try:


    The Quattro Formaggi looks interesting.

    This could also double as a Cappanari scouting run 🙂

  10. @Joe:

    Believe it or not, I still haven`t been to Fable yet. Maybe I’ll get to try it on my next trip, which at the moment, is looking like it will be near the end of February. Barb is getting her passport renewed so that she won’t miss out.

  11. I second DP with regards to Graeters. I’m somewhat lactose intolerant, but I’ll risk it for a scoop of Mocha Chip or Black Cherry Chip in a waffle cone.

    As for Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream…well, we have to pass right by it to get to Graeters in my town. At first I scoffed…I mean, come one…lavender ice cream? But now it’s my go-to place for when I want just a little something unusual…and not too much of it. It’s also where we take out-of-towners. Their off-beat flavors always impress. My favorites have been frankincense, and a peach/whiskey one they had a couple of summers ago, but I will default to the Askinosie Dark Milk Chocolate when nothing else seems to appeal. Worth $12/pint? For a splurge, sure. Why not. But it’s better to visit it in person and get a couple of different half-scoops to taste test. Anytime you’re in Ohio, Joe (although why, on God’s green earth, you’d EVER want to be in Ohio…), I’ll take you there for a visit. My treat!


  12. Hot chocolate and ice cream. nice contrasts. Haven’t seen any of those brands available locally, though I may make search at some of the few up-scale stores likely to carry them. And I expect at least an 85% achievement rate on the chocolate festival. With your clean bill of health, it shouldn’t be too much of a problem….

  13. Looks like a new Sailor Moon series is airing in July Joe, its part of a 20th anniversary project thing going on. I think this is probably one of the most well known and followed shows ever made.

  14. @JeffW: Drat. Looks like the ice cream at Capannari’s will have to wait. Probably just as well since I overdid things a bit over the holidays.. But Canta Napoli looks pretty good. They even have potato croquettes like my aunt used to make!

  15. @Sparrow_hawk and JeffW – sounds like a plan.
    Many tempting selections on the menus…drool.

  16. I’ve eaten the Talenti and it’s so very good IMO. That said, I buy it at Wal-Mart for just under $4-5 so they need to learn not to buy fancy ice cream at expensive grocery stores. 😛

  17. @Sparrow_hawk:

    I’ll start a thread on the foodie group tomorrow and we can work out a date and time. Hopefully we can do it in January or early February. I’m looking forward to trying their pizza and maybe a calzone.

  18. I prefer CHAPMAN’s [chocolate-fudge with chunks of brownies…] just over BREYER – better containers…

  19. I’m glad you’re talking about icecream. It makes me feel a little cooler. It’s so hot today… but at least summer is finally taking itself seriously. Having winter during summer is just too strange.

  20. Really glad your doc says you are okay. LOL maybe Akemi is right.

    For ice cream, they do look interesting. I have not had those but really for a once in a while treat, I’d try them! Sadly have never seen them around but I’ll check out Harry’s Market next time and see.

  21. If I have to eat store-bought ice cream then I usually choose Marshfield Farm Ice Cream which is made on a farm not far from where I live. I still find it overly whipped with too much air, though.

    The reality is that if I want decent ice cream I make it myself. That way I have control over what goes into it and it still ends up cheaper than buying it from a store. I’m not a fan of particulates in my ice cream, though.

    As for hot chocolate . . . I’m a HC snob and rarely find decent examples of the craft. I eagerly await your reports.

  22. I gave my mother-in law a bottle of peppermint schnapps for her chocolate. Not much of a hot chocolate person myself, unless paired with a ham sandwich (with brown mustard, of course)

  23. 1.

    this year, we plant to do even better.

    Hm. I thought you weren’t into gardening. 😉

    2. Expensive ice cream is…EXPENSIVE! Not sure it’s worth for something that’s just gonna be poop the next day.

    3. Yes…I am crude. It’s a very bad habit, but one I find hard to break. 😉 Hey, I come from New Jersey, so what do you expect? Keep in mind I come from the southern farming and fishing region of Jersey, so my humor will usually revolves around digestive functions and dead fish instead of traffic, the mob, big hair, and pollution. Ah, yes…I find poop funny. I suppose it comes from spending my youth throwing horse turds (barehanded!) at the annoying summer neighbor boys who lived down the street. If ya fling ’em just right you can bean a fleeing ginger boy at 20 yards! 😀


  24. The commissary on base carries a couple flavors of Talenti. I haven’t tried it as I’ve been eating less and less dairy. Figured out the calcium bothers my arthritis a great deal, so all things in moderation.
    We have Farr’s ice cream here in town, in the original funky little shop. Original little old ladies serving ice cream at a slooow pace too, but hey, that’s traditional. Larry and I did stop at Ben and Jerry’s in Vermont, oh my, the flavors at the factory are not what you get in the store.

    Breyer’s isn’t always ice cream… frozen dairy dessert product. Yum.

  25. I’ve started my training by consuming a quarter bar of dark chocolate every day leading up to kick-off. Wish me luck! I do wish you luck! I’m a little jealous too….

    Yay on the good health report!

    The Sea Salt Carmel sounds delicious! Usually, the higher the price the more fat content there is. We will splurge on expensive ice cream when we are on vacation. It’s usually worth it.

    Is little Jelly better today?

  26. RE: Hot chocolate.

    I’ve been making a lot of hot chocolate this year. I gave up drinking the stuff years ago because it always gave me an upset tummy. Come to discover the reason was probably because I only drank Ovaltine classic malt or chocolate malt flavors, and it was most likely the gluten content that was causing the problem. So this year I’ve been enjoying the yummy beverage once again, this time using unsweetened cocoa, and making it from scratch. I usually add a sprinkle of spice to it (cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice) to give it a little something extra. I’ve also been using Dagoba’s hot chocolate mixes, specifically the chai and the xocolatl (spicy!) blends. I’m still trying to find one that gives me the exact chocolatey punch I’m looking for, but so far I’m enjoying the tasty search. 🙂


  27. If I could live on ice cream alone I would. I love the stuff a little too much. I’ll have to check one of my local organic markets as they will most likely have the Three Twins brand. if they do I’ll grab a pint and let you know the verdict.

  28. Hmm… I’ve tried most of those brands and I have to say… the prices listed on the website are quite wrong. Talenti is now sold in Target department stores for $3.99 a pint.

    I am not fond of Talenti, I find it a bit grainy and the flavors are unevenly mixed.

    The Three Twins stuff runs between $3.99- $5 a pint… it’s quite delicious. They have a cardamon flavor that is just awesome.

    I just bought some Steve’s from Whole Foods for $5, (Blackberry Honey) as my end of the work week treat–

    So good; so gone.

    Jeni’s is usually $9.99 a pint, not $12… If it were over $10 I wouldn’t ever try it!!!!

    The best flavor is Goat Cheese Cherry or something. It’s divine. Last summer I blew my food budget on that stuff. Yeah, I said that.

    Hmm. I might have a problem. I think… hm… I haven’t commented on your blog since Dr. Beckett was resurrected on SGA. LOL!!!!

  29. Das said: ” I suppose it comes from spending my youth throwing horse turds (barehanded!) at the annoying summer neighbor boys who lived down the street. If ya fling ‘em just right you can bean a fleeing ginger boy at 20 yards!”

    Strangely, why does this not surprise me? 😉

    My mom used to make hot chocolate from scratch with cocoa, sugar, milk and love and I’ve never had anything like it since. 🙁

  30. I suspect these may be California prices? I’ve tried Talenti before when it was on sale (about $5, which is frankly, about what Ben and Jerry’s is these days); it’s regularly about 6.50 here. And yes, it is really good. Worth the $6.50.

    As for the others, never tried them (again with the giant metropolis’ only), but they look delish. I am very unsure of any ice cream being worth $31 a pint, though. I mean, it’s eggs and dairy. They don’t cost that much. 😛

  31. Hot chocolate — YUM.

    Ice cream: I’ve tried the Talenti gelato and was not impressed. I think I tried the Three Twins ice cream once on the chance visit to Whole Foods (not close to me) but I don’t remember being blown away by it. Oddly, I’ll have to say that for the price, Blue Bell Ice Cream here in Texas is still a full half-gallon and I love many of their flavor combos. But I have to say that Natural Vanilla Bean is my favorite from them. But, when it comes to a splurge, Amaretto Ice Cream with Oreo cookie mix-in from Marble Slab Creamery is like eating a piece of heaven.

  32. So on your recommendation I got a copy of Red Country on Kindle. I’m adding it to my books I’ve downloaded but not yet read. It’s even easier to collect too many books when you’ve got a kindle. I’ve found I enjoy listening to the Kindle, it’s a bit strange at first, but doesn’t take long to get used to.

    I just watched the pilot Helix starring Kyra Zagorsky from Stargate Atlantis and Stargate Universe, and Billy Campbell from The Killing. It was suitably creepy. Like so many movies of the type you can see them screwing up, making mistakes. You know it’s all going to go to pot. It’s bloody annoying at times because you want to shout at the fool on TV to get a weapon! Crawl into your room, block the door and stay there. But no, they always have to go down that badly lit corridor. You always know it’s not going to go well when monkeys are involved. Or rats.

    I won’t mention specifics in case others want to watch it. I think it’s worth watching.

  33. I’ve never tried those ice creams but if you’re ever on Commercial Drive in Vancouver I can highly recommend the ice cream at Caffe Calabria. So much awesome, lovely guys too..they picked the flavours for me – perfect

    Cheers, Chev

  34. I was able to pick up two pints of Three Twins, Chocolate peanut butter cup and Mint Confetti and the same types for Talenti.

    On the Three Twins:
    1. Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup – The ice cream was smooth and creamy but the flavor was a little off for me. Couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was, but the taste was just ok. The Peanut Butter Cups were very good and bite size. Overall it was ok but nothing to write home about. I prefer Haagen-Dazs Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream. Perfect blend of creamy chocolate ice cream and peanut butter swirl
    2. Mint Confetti – Again the ice cream itself was rich and creamy. The mint flavor was subtle and the chocolate was so finely sliced it melted in your mouth. I really enjoyed the Mint Confetti. I believe it would make a fantastic shake. It sold me on trying some of the other flavors.

    On Talenti:
    1. Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup – The gelato was very thick and creamy. However the flavor was just ok. The peanut butter cups were just alright as well.
    2. Mediterranean Mint – Again the gelato was good. The mint flavor was a bit overwhelming for me on this one. However I was surprised how much it actually tasted like I was actually eating mint. Not sure how else to describe that. It had a very natural mint flavor.

    I agree with others reviews of Talenti, the ice cream is just ok and after sampling two of their creation I am not apt to try another. It was only abt $4.00 a pint at my local Whole Foods, definitely not worth $10.00.

    On the Three Twins, while the Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup under whelmed, the Mint Confetti so impressed me I’d like to try a few others. Also only abt $5.00 at the Whole Foods Market, and while good not quite sure I’d be willing to pay $10.00 for it.

    Thanks for the link Mr. Mallozzi. It’s always nice to find something new and flavorful.

  35. I have very quickly become addicted to the Talenti sea salt caramel! It is INCREDIBLY good! Also, it is not very expensive. I regularly catch it on sale for about $3-4 a container.

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