HoCho Fest 2016: 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23

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Each year, the Vancouver Hot Chocolate Festival brings together cafes, confectionaries, and restaurants to create specialty hot chocolate beverages to fundraise for a great cause. This year, proceeds of the festival will be going towards supporting the Downtown Eastside Women’s Job Training Program of the PHS Community Services Society and East Van Roasters. Each year, I join this win-win-win situation by dropping in to every possible location, tasting delicious drinks and snacks, reviewing my stops, and supporting this superb cause.

This post features: French Made Baking, Butter Baked Goods, Chocolate Arts, Diva at the Met, and Bella Gelatería.


HoCho 17: Magic Beans, French Made Baking

On a grey Saturday afternoon – which also happened to fall on National Croissant Day! – we made our way to French Made Baking for a cocoa! FMB changes their flavour every day, cycling through 4 for this year’s festival, and Sunday’s flavour was “Magic Beans”, a white hot chocolate with tonka and vanilla-bean flavours accompanied by a rosemary and sea salt puff pastry twist.
I ordered mine with almond milk, and was kindly given two twists to enjoy with my chocolate comrade for the day. The store’s sitting space has been expanded since I was last inside, and has a front area with their standard artistic tables and cloudy-blue-sky painted ceilings, with another back-end room that has a distinctly darker red – but very deliciously close to the kitchen – ambiance.

The flavours in this drink were pleasant but very simple – the almond milk, usually so light in its weight that flavours are more distinguishable, did not bring forth the vanilla too much. It was, however, not overly sweet as I had anticipated a white chocolate being. While simple, it was enjoyable!
Alongside the drink were the puff pastries, which were not quite as flaky as I had expected, but were certainly puffy! I could not detect the salt and the rosemary was mild, but a pleasant enough treat (salt would have made them pop a bit more, I think!).

HoCho 18: The Fluffernutter, Butter Baked Goods

Holy butterscotch.
Butter Baked Goods was a magical experience last year with their “You Know What” Oreo-esque hot chocolate with crumbled homemade cookie in the mix. We enjoyed one of those cookies on the side of this year’s “Fluffernutter” festival drink.
The drink’s snack was a peanut butter marshmallow slice, and I believe this is something you can order separately from the drink, usually; but this year it was kebab’d along with another marshmallow atop the cocoa! I ordered mine with soy milk and was blown away by the strong butterscotch and peanut butter flavours so evidently infused into the white hot chocolate. While very sweet for a Sunday morning, this was definitely a delicious drink. I couldn’t really expect anything less from a place that unabashedly makes butter part of its name – the items are going to be rich and they are going to be delicious. 

HoChos 19, 20: Caramel3 and The Creamsicle, Chocolate Arts

Shameless self-promotion and chocolate/worthy cause devotion: 
This photograph has been featured by City Food Magazine in their Hot Chocolate Festival photo contest! If you “like” this Facebook post and/or this Instagram post, you can support my future hot chocolate adventures and reviews! The person with the most “likes” across the two platforms will win a free pass to all of next year’s festival flavours.

Moving on…

With two amigos in tow, I made a speedy trip before closing time to Chocolate Arts to try a couple of flavours I had had my eyes on for quite some time: “Caramel3 (cubed)” and “The Creamsicle”.
Unfortunately, I could not order the caramel-done-three-ways hot chocolate with non-dairy milk, so my dairy-loving friend took over once I collected my sample. I did not find the creativity of the drink itself to be outstanding, but the flavours were delicious! Caramel is usually a winner, and the caramel chocolate and the caramel drizzle were a good time. Where is the third caramel element? In the absolutely-amazing-delicious sea-salt-chocolate-covered caramel toffee on the side. I am hugely vulnerable to this particular type of confection, and the case was no different with this one, other than it perhaps being one of the most delicious I have ever tried.
Luckily, the Creamsicle could be made with non-dairy (almond) milk, so that is what we did! It is a white hot chocolate accompanied by a glorious bitter orange (and chocolate?) macaron and a scoop of blood-orange sorbet, which is to be stirred into the drink to make it a drinkable creamsicle.
I was a huge fan of this flavour combination – as someone who eagerly consumed Creamsicles in my childhood, this flavour took me to a good place. The bitter blood orange undertone was just detectable at first, but became more prominent as the drink was consumed further. Some vanilla bean traces were spotted at the bottom of the drink, which must have been what made it a more true Creamsicle flavour experience. The macaron was a delicious treat on the side and captured this drink and the festival quite effectively.
Between drinks, I had my graduation photos taken! For a prop, I brought my own camera and a mug, and captured this “behind-the-scenes” shot of a pretend hot chocolate. I may post the photographer’s photos later on.

HoChos 21, 22: Citrus Zensation and Licorice Bomb 21, Diva at the Met

My family joined me for a hot chocolate and dinner outing to Diva at the Metropolitan Hotel last week after my graduation photos were taken. We all decided to be bold and ordered two of each festival flavours: The “Citrus Zensation” and “Licorice Bomb 21”. Both of these drinks, like last year at this location, were pre-made with dairy milk, so unfortunately they were not consumed in their entireties!
The Citrus Zensation was a really interesting recipe of orange juice and dark tangy hot chocolate (the same syrup used on top of Soirette’s “Sourpuss”). The OJ made it much lighter in weight than it probably would have been if only made with milk, but I think what brought it back to a creamier mouthful was the disc of white chocolate on top of it that melted into the drink via hot steam! 

It resembled last year’s cocoa style, but was looking a bit fancier this time around. Inside the globe was raspberry puree, which added an extra berry dimension to the drink. My sister described it as “more like OJ with chocolate than chocolate with OJ”, but was still pleased with her drink. It was accompanied by a small pistachio-orange financier, which looked delightful.
I ordered the Licorice Bomb 21: Same set-up as the Zensation, but instead of an OJ-chocolate, it was an extra-bitter Valrhona cocoa and had a Pernod Anise-cranberry juice combo inside the magical globe on the top. Like the first drink, the steam from the hot chocolate melted the disc and it sank into the mixture, adding flavour (and some alcohol) to the dark chocolate!
This was paired with a mini cranberry-coffee pound cake – both flavours were very evident, and went together in a way that I didn’t expect to be so good! I may just have to try baking my own version one day.

HoCho 23: The Bounty, Bella Gelatería (Yaletown)

Finally, we reach the next weekend: A Saturday trip to Bella Gelatería’s Yaletown location that I had not been to before.
Upon entering (very hungrily) with AE, the differences between this and the Coal Harbour location were immediately evident: This was restaurant-style! I saw many more desserts than the gelato and sorbettos offered in Coal Harbour, and I saw a grilled cheese and pizza pass me by! Looks like there are some more substantial nourishment opportunities in Yaletown if you are looking for both sides of the snack coin (i.e., sugar and macro nutrients).
We were seated at a table and didn’t see anyone coming over, so we went up to the counter to order our drinks. I ordered “The Bounty”, a coconut-milk hot chocolate infused with Thai lemongrass, and A ordered “The Drunken Monkey”, which, as you may have guessed, is full of banana flavouring (in addition to Grand Marnier). I tried a sip of his, and it was incredibly sweet, but very good. I don’t know that I would order a 12oz one, but an 8oz one would be a good sweet treat (plus that To Die For Banana Bread by Erin Ireland!).
Apparently, if you order at the counter, you are automatically presumed to be ordering to-go items, so our treats were served in portable containers – so much for a glorious photo opportunity!
I was a bit disappointed by my drink – I do not think this is the fault of the store, but rather the fault of my own tastebuds for not enjoying the flavour combination. The coconut milk and lemongrass, while combined expertly in-store based on their descriptions online, were not appealing, perhaps because of the darkness of the chocolate. The (vegan) macaroon on the side, however, was superb. Especially with a hungry stomach, I was primed and ready to enjoy the hearty and chewy texture of a coconut macaroon dipped in dark chocolate.

Until next time…

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