CHOCOLATE & SEX PT 2
Now that we have the sex out of the way....it’s time for the chocolate. The third annual hot chocolate festival running this year between January 19 – February 14th. Over 23 “chocstars” making innovative hot chocolate and competing against each other for who has the best hot chocolate. Even though a lot of the recipes can be replicated by yours truly, it’s all about the excuse to get out and see the chocolate stores around Vancouver. These stores have been on my radar, however, I just needed a little push. I did do some extensive research on these on Yelp as I knew that it would be impossible on the wallet, time and waist to hit up all 23 vendors.
Bel Cafe @ 801 W. Georgia Street = I’ve been here before during my macarons hoping last year and I was very unimpressed with the macarons as they didn’t taste fresh. What brought me back this time around for the hot chocolate festival is that some of my Yelp peeps were raving about this white chocolate decadence. The hot chocolate was white chocolate with rose and raspberry served with a vanilla bean shortbread. I love rose and all other flowery tastes like lavender, however, my partner in crime for the day isn’t so much into the floral for flavors trend. I am used to using rose water in a lot of my desserts and is one of the main ingredients for flavoring in a lot of East Indian desserts. I felt that the rose was overpowering and washed out the white chocolate. It was just the right amount of sweetness, texture and whip. They could’ve used more freeze dried raspberries. This was so far the most expensive cup on the competition plate at $7.10.
Soirette @ 1433 West Pender = I was supposed to try the peanut butter hot chocolate, however, my partner in crime can’t have PB, therefore, I just had regular hot chocolate that had nothing to do with the hot chocolate festival but deserved a rating none the less. The hot chocolate was smooth and sweet, however, nothing that immediately popped out. The decor is nice and clean, crisp with whites, clear furniture and white faux marble table tops. The macarons on display, all neatly arranged and colorful...popped out at me against the general color scheme of the establishment. Flavor combinations that I’ve never heard of made me intrigued. Sadly I wasn’t in the macaron mood (weird for me to say), therefore, I have to go back this week. I was emotionally not in a good place and when I am upset I can’t taste the awesomeness of the macaron. I love my macarons. Even though I wanted to burst into tears at til the ladywas really sweet and nice. Very awesome customer service. The cost for the basic hot chocolate was very reasonable at $4. The macarons were also fair market price as well. Look for an update on this one when I get to try the macarons. Based on other reviews I know that I will not be disappointed.
Bella Gelateria @ 1001 W Cordova = Thankfully this was one of the few places on the hot chocolate festival list that was open late for the common working folks like myself. The advantage of winter is that no one is lining up half a block down for gelato, therefore, it was an easy in and out operation.The establishment is clean yet has a busy decor feel. The lady at the til was super friendly, sweet and had a genuine smile on her face. I had the Salted Pecan & Maple Syrup (the gold medal winner from the 2012 Gelato Competition in Italy) served with Erin Ireland's "To Die For" Banana Bread.Holy shit I was in heaven at first bite (or rather sip). I’m immediately hit with the salty taste with a sweet aftertaste. It was an awesome sweet/savory oral sensation in my mouth. It was the most addicting hot chocolate to drink in one go. It was nice to taste a smooth hot chocolate that didn't try to compete for dominance in terms of flavor notes.It's best to get this without whip cream so that you can taste the true art of the drink as intended. The banana bread was extremely greasy. My fingers shouldn't be glistening like a male Vegas stripper after eating a pastry.
French Made Baking @ 81 Kingsway = Having been emotionally robbed from the other planned third destination for hot chocolate-ness for the weekend I decided to take my chances on heading down to French Made Baking (my favorite macaron place in the city and the best). Thankfully they were open. I was supposed to go to the record store, however, my bus weirdly arrived 10 minutes earlier than advertised. Luck was on my side and it was culinary karma. The universe didn’t find it fair that I was emotionally robbed of the one thing that I had been looking forward to in weeks. French Made Baking has hot chocolates going on all week of different flavors, therefore, this will be one of the “must do” places each time. The repeat visits are a good excuse to have macarons. "IT'S ALWAYS 5 O'CLOCK SOMEWHERE" is Dark chocolate (64%) with rum, orange peel and spices. I will be honest that I was a little skeptical about the rum and orange combination as I was worried that one flavor note would wash out the other. The balanced combination of both flavors put this in second place so far. I could taste the quality chocolate used. It wasn’t too sweet and it went down really smooth. I saved ½ for my best friend which was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do that week (saving anything chocolate with him around is tough). It came with a macaron totaling $5.50.
Leonidas @ 1055 Canada Place = Out of all the hot chocolate competition entries I was really looking forward to this one. I specifically planned it on a day that would allow me calorie wise to consume with a decent post cardio work out, however, was disappointed. I had the "RASPBERRY CHEESECAKE": White chocolate with raspberry cheesecake ripple. The reason why this was a disappointment was ‘cause it was way too sweet. For someone like myself whom has a sweet tooth to make this statement means that this was a cavity assault in my books. In all fairness white chocolate is naturally over sweet, however, being experts in chocolate you would think that they would down play the over sweetness with milk or cream. They used real raspberry syrup which is a plus, however, the over sweet white chocolate washed a lot of the enjoyment and intention of this drink. It was so sweet that I actually had a stomach ache going home. I consume sugar like cocaine and this was way too much of an 80’s party than I could ever handle. It’s extremely rich and calorie heavy. It was served with a metal straw which uncomfortably conducted the heat thus burning my tongue. I saved half the following day and had to dilute it with 1 C regular milk and it was still overly sweet. Cost was $9.10
CocoNymph @ 4 W.7th = "THE AYALA"Jasmine drinking chocolate, topped with home made juniper marshmallows.This hot chocolate entry was less about the flavor combination and more about the quality of the chocolate used. I can easily decipher the quality between drinking chocolates. This was truly a drinking chocolate compared to a regular hot chocolate combination drink. In fact the store has drinking chocolates year round for purchases. There is a hint of juniper in the aftertaste, however, nothing over powering and obvious which makes this palatable to everyone regardless of how much you know (or don’t) about your fine chocolates.To be honest I was in it for the marshmallows. Home made marshmallows melt and taste differently than the commercial brand factory made marshmallows. The way the marshmallows sat and melted was like heavenly sweet foam. It melted like butter in my mouth. The flavor of the marshmallow against the hot chocolate amplified the flavor notes. The may have not been in my top 2 ranking for flavor combination, however, they’re in the top 2 for quality ingredients used. I saved ½ C the following day and the hot chocolate turned to ganache which is a clear indication that this is real properly tempered authentic hot chocolate made my a different method of chocolate tempering. Cost $5.04