Every year Vancouver has a hot chocolate festival where many restaurants showcase their own take on the delicious chocolatey drink. This year I decided I wanted to check out some of these places to get some ideas on my own hot chocolate creation.
My first stop was Bella Gelateria (Coal Harbour). This place won a gelato contest in Italy (and the gelato is pretty darn amazing)!! Bella Gelateria always has a couple of different choices on the menu. I was with a couple of friends so I got to taste two different flavours.
When we first got to Bella Gelateria, it was extremely busy. This was the first day of the hot chocolate festival and there was already tons of visitors. The servers behind the counter looked a bit weary and frantic as the line up was relentless. As we got to the counter, we decided to order two types of hot chocolates.
I wanted to try a dairy-free version of the “Before 9” with almond milk. This was a peppermint hot chocolate served with a rice crispy square. I really hoped the hot chocolate was creamy and rich but to my disappointment it wasn’t. To be fair, almond milk does not do justice as it does not have the high fat content as milk does. I was not extremely thrilled with my drink as it was an ordinary hot chocolate with a rice crispy square.
My sister got the “Black Magic” which was a black sesame hot chocolate with matcha whipped cream. It was served with a black sesame biscotti. The hot chocolate was a lot creamier than mine and was thick with a hint of black sesame. The matcha whipped cream was lost with the hot chocolate and we didn’t quite get the taste. The biscotti was nice and had a black sesame taste. It was a good pairing with the hot chocolate.
The next stop was Gem Chocolates. They had 4 different flavours. Each flavour was featured for one week of the Hot Chocolate Festival. This week’s flavour was called “Give Yourself to the Dark Side”. An appropriately named hot chocolate since it was an extra dark hot chocolate served with a dark chocolate Darth Vader mask or white chocolate Storm Trooper mask. The hot chocolate was warm not hot when we got it. It was a decent hot chocolate but I was expecting something a lot creamier and rich. The only perk was the Darth Vader mask and the Storm Trooper mask. Who would not like these! Looking at the cases of chocolates, I would come back to try the chocolates another time.
Up next was “The Buzzzzzz” from East Van Roasters. The neat thing about this hot chocolate was that the honey was from a local not-for-profit organization called Hives for Humanity. The hot chocolate was a Madagascar drinking chocolate with bee pollen and served with a honey financier. It was delightful. Not too sweet and was full of wonderful honey aromas. The honey financier was also very delicious! I would definitely come back to this place to try out their other drinks and snacks.
Thierry was also on the list of places serving hot chocolate. They served a hot chocolate called “Milk & Coffee”. This was a milk chocolate hot chocolate with coffee whip cream served with a Peruvian dark chocolate semifredo. The hot chocolate was rich and dark. Not over powering but had a nice strong chocolate taste. The semifreddo (a semi-frozen dessert) was a nice addition and brought another dimension to the combo. This is definitely on my list to come again because there was so many different desserts. Unfortunately, it is very crowded so I recommend being patient.
Earnest Ice Cream was also on the Hot Chocolate Festival list. They served one of my favourite hot chocolates. It was a spicy dark drinking chocolate served over Tahitian vanilla ice cream. It was served with a salted chocolate rye cookie. It was by far the best combination. It reminded me of a Mexican hot chocolate with a spicy cayenne kick. As the vanilla ice cream melted it helped counteract the spicy chocolate. The cookie was a nice chewy chocolate cookie with a hint of salt. It gave another depth to the spicy hot chocolate. I would definitely come back for this hot chocolate and their ice cream!
I couldn’t stop thinking about Thierry and their hot chocolate so I decided to go again. This time they changed their hot chocolate. Instead it was called “Dark & Saffron”. This was a dark hot chocolate with a saffron whip cream. It was served with a chocolate coated ice cream bar. The hot chocolate was to die for and the saffron whip cream left a delicious aroma at the back of your tongue. It was delicious on a cold day and a perfect way to end the evening.
Unfortunately because there were so many different hot chocolates and locations I was not able to go and try them all. The Hot Chocolate Festival is something I would recommend if you have a chance. It is a great way to discover new places and new takes on hot chocolate. It also got me thinking about what type of hot chocolate I want to make in the future.
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