Sunday, January 25, 2015

hot chocolate festival: week one (2015)

It's that wonderful time of year again- the hot chocolate festival presented by CityFood Magazine! If you've read my blog before, you'll know my favourite drink is hot chocolate, and I took advantage of the festival last year. This year, I'm definitely just as excited as ever...

Unlike last year, I've decided to do a weekly round-up on here so that you have a better chance of trying any hot chocolates that you're interested in (unless their availability dates have passed, of course.) You can find the complete list of offerings here.

First up on the list! I headed to Thierry, and as expected, it was completely packed. In fact, I couldn't even get a seat- I ended up standing in a corner trying not to get in the way of the employees, haha. Their first hot chocolate is the 'Madagascar', and it's being offered until the 28th of January. Unfortunately.....I personally didn't enjoy it too much. What isn't really made apparent in the description is how closely the drink resembles drinking chocolate, which, if you've read my round-up from last year, I'm not particularly fond of. It wasn't quite as thick as others I've had, but it was still a bit too heavy and sweet for my taste, and I really wasn't keen on finishing it all, had I not paid $10.25 for it. I did love the chocolate caramel that was included though- reminded me of See's chocolate caramel pops. I'll be returning for their second option next month, so hopefully I'll like that one much better!

The next day, I headed to a personal fave- French Made Baking. As I mentioned last year, their hot chocolates have consistently been one of the best in my opinion. Don't be fooled by their unassuming appearance- they are creamy and sweet (though not overly so), and I'm just so obsessed. This year was no different. I tried their 'Chauds Les Marrons', which was yet another Dulcey Valrhona caramelized white chocolate, but this time, with the addition of chestnut. Honestly, that one cup really wasn't enough- even thinking about it now, I'm drooling! It was genuinely so delectable, and I URGE you to go give it a try. The hot chocolate itself is only $4.25, but if you add a small slice of dark chocolate cake, your total will be $6. I wasn't crazy about the cake (which was a bit like a cookie/cake combo) as it was a bit dry, but if you dip it into your hot choc...problem solved!

Day 3 led to a visit to Gem Chocolates after school. Despite having worked in Kerrisdale for three years, I somehow had never stopped in at Gem before. Well, that needed to change, no? I ordered the 'Cocoa Lily' which is a hot white chocolate with black sesame. I liked it! With white chocolate, it's so easy for drinks to be too sweet, but this was definitely not the case, and I think the aromatic black sesame helped tone that down. As a child, I grew up consuming black sesame desserts- pretty common in Asian households, I think. Mom always went on about how it's supposedly good for keeping our hair black, so I always went along with it, haha. The floating chocolate flower was both adorable and delicious, and I enjoyed the black sesame praline, though it was quite sticky! My one issue with this was the remnants of ground up black sesame pulp that were left at the bottom of my cup as I was finishing up my drink. This drink is no longer available, but their three other offerings also sound quite intriguing, and I for sure will be returning! My total was $6.50.

The next day called for yet another after school trip to Butter Baked Goods, which is surely one of my "happy places" in this city. Everything about entering this cozy and adorable bakery makes me feel as if a bit of weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I hadn't stopped by in a while, but it was just as lovely as I remembered it! Of course, I had to order their 'Homemade Oreo Hot Chocolate', and was SHOCKED to find out that it was only $5! That's insane!!!! For that reason alone, you should definitely stop what you're doing and go get one now! (I'm currently writing this post at 3 in the morning, so it feels slightly ridiculous to be saying that, but I hope you can feel how strongly I feel about this :P) But really, this was an excellent hot chocolate. From the delicious vanilla bean whipped cream to the use of a dark chocolate to ensure that it wouldn't be overly sweet- I just loved every single bit of it. The homemade Oreo cookie is a miniature version of their famous cookie sandwiches. I love those, but you will definitely feel ill if you consume the entire thing in one go- no problem with this mini one though! 

Day 5! I headed to 49th Parallel Café & Lucky's Doughnuts with Erica (yet another place I'd never been to before!) I went for 'The Nanaimo Bar' and she ordered 'The Lumberjack'. The doughnut-shaped financier was good, but nothing to really write home about...which is a feeling that carried over to my hot chocolate. It wasn't too sweet, and it was nice and foamy, but I wasn't particularly wowed by it. The coconut whipped cream certainly added a touch of excitement, though at first I found it to be a bit....gelatinous? All was fine after a few stirs though. I'm not sure how Erica felt about her hot chocolate, but I do know she had trouble melting her marshmallows in it, and she found the chocolate covered wafer log to be too sweet. This was $6!

As is becoming tradition, I decided to rest on the seventh day, so I wanted to do something special for Day 6. I ventured out to Kits after class, and stopped by Koko Monk Chocolates. I hadn't originally planned on adding it to my list, but they were kind enough to comment one of my Instagram posts, so I figured why not? (And gee, I''m glad I did.) Upon finding out it was my first time there, I was offered two samples and a bit of a taste test to see if I could discern the flavours in the chocolate. I certainly had a hard time with it, but the chocolates were so smooth & unbelievably amazing, and I was blown away as to the many taste levels that developed within my mouth. I'll definitely return to try some more out when I have time. Now, on to the hot chocolate itself. I ordered the 'Lyric & Dagger', which was yet another white chocolate with black sesame mix. Here's a quaint verse that they've provided:

The story of this hot-chocolate takes place in a golden dessert of old, old days. Please be ready, black sesame in this velvety concoction will be mounting on your most virgin taste buds like an albino sun. And you will feel that the flavor is opening like a forgotten door with a sandy cry in the dark cave of your mouth. Then the dance of the lemon and lime caramel with silent sesame will start. You will not be the first one who hears the whisper of Morgiana telling the story of Ali Baba and Forty Thieves but you will be absolutely the first one who experienced the taste of the very same secret words "Open sesame, open" in your mouth.

To be honest, when I first went through these descriptions, I found it to be a bit gimmicky & exaggerated, but thinking back on the drink, I can see how apt this really is. The sesame really isn't a strong taste, but there's always a hint of it in every sip. While the hot chocolate itself tasted fairly similar to Gem's, I must say that I feel as if theirs is a more refined/elevated concoction in comparison, and it's mainly due to some small details, like the lack of black sesame pulp at the bottom of my cup, and also the added lemon & lime caramel which added a bit of extra...oomph to the drink, if you will. As for the cookie, I went for the chocolava, which is more on the chewier side- just the way I like 'em. I paid $7.85 in total. This is yet another drink that is no longer being offered, but Koko Monk has three other options that sound equally as intriguing!

Check back next Sunday for my week 2 round-up! :)

IN SUMMARY aka tl;dr


  • french made baking: $4.25/$6
  • butter baked goods: $5
  • koko monk: $7.85
EHH.........IT'LL DO
  • gem chocolates: $6.50
  • 49th parallel & lucky's doughnuts: $6
  • thierry: $10.25

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

hot chocolate festival pt. 2 (2014)

Apologies for yet another long-delayed post! Here is the second part to my Hot Chocolate Festival adventures. You can find part one here if you haven't read it yet :) Must post these all now as the 2015 Hot Choc Festival starts this Saturday!

I was certainly feeling more pressed for time as January ended- many of the hot chocolates in February were limited to one week only and I had to rush to try as many as possible. I returned to Bel Café to try their Banana Split hot chocolate. As I arrived 10 minutes before they were closing, I had to settle for a paper cup to go.

As you can see, it also comes with a walnut marshmallow and a loaf of banana bread. While not quite as scrumptious as the one I had at Bella Gelateria, the banana bread was still quite moist and delicious. (I purchased the cookies & cream macaron on the side, as I haven't had one from Bel Café in ages and was needing a little macaron fix!) The hot chocolate itself was pretty standard, quite mild and well matched with a slight nuttiness- the marshmallow was a bit too sweet for my taste, but once melted, added a nice foaminess to the hot chocolate. Just like my first visit to Bel Café, this was also $7.10. 

I hadn't planned on returning to Thierry for "The Ampamakia", but my plans to visit Chocolaterie de Nouvelle France on Main St. fell through, and Thierry is open quite late, unlike most other cafés. This was also the same price as the "Trio of Chocolate" that I had last time, but I feel as if that was much more price-worthy. The Ampamakia has a very distinct taste- quite a unique chocolate, but I'm not quite sure how to describe it. It comes with two chocolate dipped marshmallows, which I weren't crazy about as they were dark chocolate based, but I did like the creaminess it added once I popped them into the hot chocolate. 

Of course, I had to hit up yet another dessert place that I frequent- Soirette. I'd only ever had their macarons before and not any drinks, but I was excited to try the 'Hot Toddy Float'. Oooooh, this one was absolutely perfect on a cold evening. The delicious buttered rum was rich and gave a bit of 'oomph' to the drink- it certainly warmed up my insides quickly! With the addition of their wild mountain honey ice cream, it made it an excellently foamy & buttery hot drink. The Grouse Grind reward cluster that was included reminded me of an Oh Henry! bar except with almonds and hazelnuts instead of peanuts. This cost $6.25!

Of course, there were also locations that I'd never been to before, like Cocoa Nymph. Their drinks were inspired by Greek mythology, so it instantly piqued my interest. My friend Christina and I both ordered 'Hera's Habit', which was a deep milk chocolate with malted milk balls. Like Mink, this was also a drinking chocolate, but I found it to be much more manageable- not quite as thick to drink. There's a huge malt ball on a spoon that's placed in your drink, and it's very delicious once mixed in, with the consistency of peanut butter. Also included was a vanilla cinnamon shortbread cookie. The total was $6.56.

Last but not least was yet another first for me- Thomas Haas! So well-known, and yet I'd never been able to stop by, goodness knows why. I waited till the end of the festival to head here, so when I arrived, the whole store was completely packed with people trying to get in their last minute Valentine's Day orders. I had 'The Campfire'- a classic hot chocolate with smoky caramel and Hawaiian sea salt. I liked it, but...I do think it was a bit sweet- I remember trying to look around to see if they had any water available. (In all honesty, I didn't really take notes this time and I can't quite remember much of the details like the price, sad to say.)

Monday, January 12, 2015

the start of 2015

Hope everyone's new year has started off well- and that resolutions haven't been broken already ;)
2015 has been pretty good to me so far- I won tickets to see Paddington thanks to Stephanie at How to Survive Life in the Suburbs! (I have the most horrid luck when it comes to contests, so this was such a wonderful surprise.) This little Paddington stuffie was part of the prize, and I've been bringing him along everywhere I go :)

The movie truly was adorable- although I'm apparently still at an age where children's movies can make me cry several times, oh dear. Afterward, Cybil & I headed to Beaucoup Bakery where we enjoyed some hot drinks & pastries- and the company of a little bird!

Salted Rosemary Chocolate Cookie. Such a great balance of savoury + sweet. 

I also happened to bump into Colin O'Donoghue while on a little walk along Main St. with Cybil- I was terribly shy as always and she had to step in and ask him for a picture on my behalf. He was with his family, so I hadn't wanted to impose, but he was so friendly & gracious, as was his wife! Somehow I managed to not go all ~fangirly~ on him (luckily, haha.)

Unfortunately, January also means the start of school, so I'm back to having limited time for adventures and blogging. Luckily, I do have a few days off, so I'm taking advantage of them to relax before papers & exams start and life gets way too hectic again. Here's to sleeping in & having lunch in bed ;)

It's moments like these that really makes me thankful for all that Vancouver has to offer, be it small cafés or peaceful areas that truly allow you to appreciate nature. I've been soaking it all in! Even the weather hasn't been too ghastly- some drizzling here and there, but I've been enjoying the fog ever so much.

all these pictures are from my instagram, btw. feel free to follow me @rawrzuhlind :)