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Alas, it was a herculean task and despite my best efforts, I came up short.  In the end, I sampled only 47 of the some 60 varieties of hot chocolate offered for this year’s Hot Chocolate Festival.  Still, 47 hot chocolates in 24 days aint bad, especially considering I took those four days off to visit mom in Montreal.  This year, I doubled last year’s score.  And, next year, I vow to do even better!

So, what were the standouts?  Well, what follows is my list of the Top 5 Hot Chocolates of this year’s Hot Chocolate Festival!

When all was said and done, six hot chocolates actually made by top 5 list.  After much consideration, I decided to offer a Top 5 +1 for good luck!

Honorable mention goes to…

1

A Snowball’s Chance in Hell: Single origin Mexican chocolate with Mexican chili poured over house made chocolate ice cream. Accompanied by a flourless chocolate cookie.

Available at: Chocolate Arts 1620 West 3rd Ave., Vancouver (Kitsilano).

http://www.chocolatearts.com/

#5…

1

Phaun’s Fancy: Made from 64% dark chocolate with parmesan and fresh nutmeg.  Served with a side of Umami No. 5 fudge

Available: At Cocoa Nymph 3739 W. 10th Ave (at Alma), Vancouver

www.cocoanymph.com

#4..

1

Banana Split: Made from 36% Valrhona Caramelia chocolate and topped with walnut marshmallows.  Served with banana pound cake.

Available at: Bel Cafe, 801 West Georgia Street @ Howe (at the Rosewood Hotel Georgia)

http://www.belcafe.com/

#3…

1

Trio of Chocolate: The base of this hot chocolate is 66% Mokaya chocolate by Michel Cluizel. Served with a disk of 45% Kayambe milk chocolate and white chocolate ice cream.

Available at: Thierry Chocolaterie Patisserie Cafe 1059 Alberni Street

http://www.thierrychocolates.com/

#2…

1

Hera’s Habit: Made from 50% deep milk chocolate with malted milk balls.  Served with vanilla bean cinnamon shortbread.

Available: At Cocoa Nymph 3739 W. 10th Ave (at Alma), Vancouver

www.cocoanymph.co

#1…

1

Paula Dean White Trash Trainwreck: A 70% dark chocolate ganache with condensed milk, salted kettle chips, and vanilla whipped cream.  Served with a 72% dark chocolate wafer.

Available at: Mink Chocolates, 863 West Hastings St., Vancouver. On the park (cross street, Hornby.)

mink.chocolates

Congratulations to all the winners.  I’m hoping I’ll get to see you again soon.  REAL soon.

Continuing Stargate: Atlantis rewatch with…The Eye!

1Ah, now this is more like it!  Akemi was on the edge of her seat (or, actually, her side of the bed) throughout this episode.  She loved it.  Action!  Suspense!  Humor! And, best of all, those dazzling visual effects!  She was blown away by the the sequence of Atlantis shielding itself within seconds of the giant wave crashing down on the city (“Always very last minute your show!”) and also had high praise for the Teyla-Sora showdown (compliments of our former SGA stunt coordinator James Bam Bam Bamford).  She continues to enjoy McKay, greatly appreciated seeing her favorite Dr. Beckett, and is even warming up to Sheppard.  She had one big bump = McKay dressing his arm wound OVER his sleeve.

Overall: “I liked it a lot.  I’m getting used to this city.  At first I thought not as good as SGU’s ship but now pretty cool.”  And then: “I’m beginning to like SGA too!”

A couple of years ago, I offered some thoughts on this episode (and the next one) in one of my Trip Down Memory Lane entries:

June 13, 2012: Dark Matter at Comic Con! Save Lennox the dog! Days of Stargate Past, Atlantis! The Eye and The Defiant One! Vote on our favorite Stargate mid-season two-parter for a chance to win!

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We’re in the stretch run of our Hot Chocolate marathon!

Round #16…

1

High Society:  Earl Grey drinking chocolate.  Served with East Van Roasters’ signature gluten-free brownie and candied orange.

Available at: East Van Roasters, 319 Carrall St, Vancouver, B.C.

East Van Roasters

A great cup of hot chocolate with a  pronounced Earl Grey flavor,  served with an equally great brownie.   One of Akemi’s favorites.

1The Black Widow: Uva’s HC-inspired cocktail: reposado tequila influenced with cacao beans and coffee, Cherry Heering liquer, Amaro averna, Bittered Sling plum and rootbeer bitters.

Available at: UVA Wine Bar (and Bittered Sling)

UVA WINE BAR

Wow.  A nice depth of flavors but this one was so strong I only managed a few sips.

Verdict: Both respectful entries, but – DAMN – that was strong.

Winner: High Society (East Van Roasters)

Round #17…

1

Chartreuse Milkshake: Uva’s HC-inspired cocktail: Citadelle gin, green Chartreuse, cacao beans, lime and orange juice, Bittered Sling Malagasy chocolate bitters, egg white.

Available at: UVA Wine Bar (and Bittered Sling)

UVA WINE BAR

Another drink that packed an alcoholic punch.  The Chartreuse was front and center.  The cacao beans less so.

1

Black Magic: gBAR flavoured with black sesame and matcha tea.   Served with Erin Ireland’s “To Die For” Banana Bread.

Available at: Bella Gelateria, 1001 West Cordova Street.

www.bellagelateria.com

I’ve found that, in my past visits, the flavors of the gelato bars got lost in the hot chocolate so I requested a cup with half the milk.  The result was a cup with a more concentrated hot chocolate that actually did a better job of showcasing the individual gelato flavors – in this case, black sesame and matcha.

Verdict: I’m a traditionalist, preferring my hot chocolates hot and chocolatey.

Winner: Black Magic (Bella Gelateria)

Round #18…

1

Red Hot Chili Pepper: gBAR flavoured with chocolate, cinnamon and cayenne.   Served with Erin Ireland’s “To Die For” Banana Bread.

Available at: Bella Gelateria, 1001 West Cordova Street.

www.bellagelateria.com

Again, I had it with half the milk.  Pleasantly spicy.

1

Chocofraiche: A hot drink composed of slow-melted dark chocolate and heavy cream, infused with chili, vanilla bean and cinnamon with a dollop of creme fraiche.  Served with zeppoli (Italian doughnuts!)

Available at: UVA Wine Bar (and Bittered Sling)

UVA WINE BAR

A very nice sipping chocolate.  This one actually had more punch and a longer linger.  The accompanying zeppoli were a letdown – undercooked and doughy.

Verdict: I like my spicy chocolate.

Winner: Chocofraiche (UVA Wine Bar)

Round #19…

1

Sour Cherry Tisane: Cold mocha rooibos tea, sour cherry and Pedro Ximénez cordial, Bittered Sling orange and juniper bitters.  Served with zeppoli (Italian doughnuts!)

Available at: UVA Wine Bar (and Bittered Sling)

UVA WINE BAR

Pleasantly refreshing.  A wonderful flavor combo highlighted by the rooibos.  One damn fine iced tea.

1

9 O Clock Gun:  An aromatic cedar hot chocolate – perfect for a stroll around Stanley Park.  Served with an Elderberry Caramel Bar.

Available at: Soirette Macarons & Tea 1433 West Pender Street, Vancouver. (Coal Harbour)

www.soirette.com

Strange, but not for the reasons advertised.  Instead of the expected subtle cedar, I (and my friend Kathy) picked up notes of cheese – blue or roquefort.  I inquired and cheese was not one of the ingredients.  Hmmmm.

Verdict: I do prefer my hot chocolates hot and chocolatey – but not surprisingly cheesy.

Winner: Sour Cherry Tisane (UVA Wine Bar)

1

Hera’s Habit: Made from 50% deep milk chocolate with malted milk balls.  Served with vanilla bean cinnamon shortbread.

Available: At Cocoa Nymph 3739 W. 10th Ave (at Alma), Vancouver

www.cocoanymph.co

Oh my!  You’ll be hard-pressed to find a thicker, richer cup of hot chocolate in this festival.  And the slow-melting malt ball at the heart of the cup was a delightful bonus.

1

Hungers Satisfied: Dark Chocolate with black pepper.  Served with a vanilla/maldon salt cookie.

Available at: Beaucoup Bakery  2150 Fir Street (in Kitsilano)

www.beaucoupbakery.com/

Subtle hints of black pepper in a fairly restrained cup.  Akemi felt it tasted more like a latte than an actual hot chocolate.

Verdict: Did I mentioned that slow-melting malt ball?

Winner: Hera’s Habit (Cocoa Nymph)

Our Stargate: Atlantis rewatch continues with…Home!

1

As soon as my name came up on screen alongside the written by credit, Akemi was instantly on guard: “I’m very nervous about your episodes because you’re twisted.”

True.  And, as expected, she was plenty confused by the episode.  But that was the point!  The audience is supposed to be confused – until the big reveal at episode’s end.  Unfortunately, said big reveal only succeeded in confusing her even more: “Very confusing.  Very complicated.  Don’t you think so?  Were you okay when you wrote the episode?  Like person who did marijuana.”

But after I took the time to break it down for her, explaining the mist was sentient and responsible for their hallucinations: “Ah, interesting. Now makes sense!  Takes so long.  So fog was smart!”  Indeed.

Some other insights she offered while watching…

On Weir motoring around in her vintage car: “She is piece of Mrs. Old Fashioned.”

On Sheppard: “He seems to like girls.”

On McKay: “I like his t-shirt, I’m with Genius.” Thank you.  “I like the fact no one left message and he’s eating old chips.”

On the necklace Simon gifts Weir: “She seems to make a lot of money.  And he seems to make a lot of money, right?  Nice brand necklace is better.  Very cheap.”

Overall – in retrospect, she liked it.  Interestingly: “I feel like I’m watching SGU this episode.  Technical terms a lot.”

My thoughts on this episode in a previous blog entry: June 12, 2012: Pirates! Days of Stargate Past – Atlantis! Home and The Storm! Pick your favorite Stargate mid-season two-parter and WIN!

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Never let it be said I don’t make sacrifices for you blog readers.  For the past several weeks, I’ve made the ultimate sacrifice – sampling and reporting on the various (60+) flavors being offered as part of this year’s Vancouver Hot Chocolate festival…so that you can sip and experience vicariously through me.  You’re welcome!  Today, it’s a David and Goliath battle pitting two new flavors from two previously visited location: Thierry, which served up one of my early festival favorites (The Chocolate Trio), and Bel Cafe that definitely did not (Peppermint Patty).  So, how did the two new offerings fair in our head to head taste-off?

1

The Ampamakia: The base of this hot chocolate is Ampamakia 68% chocolate – a premium chocolate from a special plantation of Valrhona and only available at Thierry.  Served with a marshmallow dipped in 80% chocolate.

Available at: Thierry Chocolaterie Patisserie Cafe, 1059 Alberni Street

http://www.thierrychocolates.com/

I have marshmallow-averse (Also allergic to feathers apparently) so the chocolate-covered sweet sponges didn’t sway me – although Akemi is a fan and loved them.  It was all about the hot chocolate and, once again, Thierry delivers a wonderful cup. Very good – but not as good as their Trio of Chocolate.

1

Banana Split: Made from 36% Valrhona Caramelia chocolate and topped with walnut marshmallows.  Served with banana pound cake.

Available at: Bel Cafe, 801 West Georgia Street @ Howe (at the Rosewood Hotel Georgia)

http://www.belcafe.com/

I loved the Banana Split as passionately as I disliked the Peppermint Patty.  The banana bread was good (although I prefer the Bella Gelateria/Erin Ireland version) and the marshmallow was as fine as a marshmallow could be, but the hot chocolate itself was spectacular.  Sweet, silky, and substantial.

Verdict: Close, but the underdog pulls the upset here.

Winner: Banana Split (Bel Cafe).

Continuing our Stargate: Atlantis rewatch with…Suspicion!

suspicionAlmost every series starts off a little rough before, eventually (hopefully), finding its way.  Sure, there are strong elements in those first few episodes, moments that keep you coming back with the promise of bigger and better, but it’s usually further down the broadcast line when THE episode airs, the REALLY GOOD ONE if not the GREAT ONE, the one that makes you shout “I love this show!” and start recommending it to friends.  And episode #4, Suspicion…

It aint it.  But like the preceding episodes, it has its moments.  And Akemi liked it well enough, again because of the humor (McKay rubbing his numb foot received special praise) and those establishing shots of Atlantis on the water.  In fact, if we followed this episode up with an episode entirely made up of lingering establishers, I suspect it would prove her reigning favorite.

So, what else did our Japanese Stargate newbie think of Suspicion?  Well…

On Bates’ attitude throughout the episode but during the Teyla interview in particular: “Why he so rude?  So unprofessional!”

On Weir’s civilian outfit during said interview: “Why she not wearing uniform? Casual Friday?”

On angry Halling: “Jinto is crazy because his father is crazy.”

And when the Athosians decide to leave the city: “Hurray!”  Evidently, not a fan.

On the black-clad wraith’s first appearance: “Beautiful hair!”

All in all, not a bad episode in her eyes.  In her estimation, better than 38 Minutes but not as good as Hide and Seek.  Still, after SGU, she’s having a difficult time adjusting to the shift in tone: “Maybe because of old and dynamic of the shooting scenes but feels like watching a kid’s show.  Chotto sad.  Anyway, good!”

My past write-up on the episode here offers  a little insight into the episode, my writing partner’s failed attempt to come up with lyrics for the theme song, and a rare recorded duet of the SG-1 theme song with lyrics: June 9, 2012: Dark Matter! Comic Con! Days of Stargate Past – Stargate: Atlantis! Suspicion and Childhood’s End!

[Kathode informs me that link to us singing the theme to Stargate: SG-1 no longer works.  Try this one instead: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=owgOxV1V6Cc]

Mailbag:

Jenny Horn writes: “Jinto should have been about 8 years old. It would have made his antics more believable, and it would made one line from his father far less creepy. It’s the line about nothing being as big as my love for you. Cute when said to an 8 year old. Kinda creepy when said to a kid who looks about 12. My Nephew is 12, so….yeah….”

Answer: YES!  When we watched the episode the other night, I remember thinking: “AWKWARD!”.

Majorsal writes: “joe/Answer: As I said, if I sat her down to watch SG-1′s first season, she’d probably excuse herself and then secretly hop on the first plane back to Japan. That was a rocky first season with some very rough visual effects.

what about just showing her a few episodes from each season?”

Answer: No.  Again, it has everything to do with the look of the show – and, the visual effects in particular.  I think I need to slowly acclimatize her, like a lobster in a  pot.  I started with SGU and follow with SGA, then SG-1 seasons 9 and 10 and the movies, then SG-1 season 4-8, and finally SG-1 seasons 1-3.

Deborah Rose writes: “Good scripting. But things like the McKay/Sheppard horse playing and many of the other points could have easily crashed, had the actors not pulled it off.”

Answer: Ah, true enough, but the writer scripts the moment imagining the best-case version of what he has written, having full confidence in the actor’s ability to pull it off.  And, in this case, it was confidence well placed.

gforce writes: “Update – Brio (the budgie) seems to be doing much better today. I guess he just didn’t want to eat while I was away?”

Answer: Well, great to hear.  Separation anxiety maybe?

DP writes: “http://www.deadline.com/2014/02/fremantlemedia-to-adapt-fantasy-novel-american-gods-as-drama-series/  Ha! I’d heard Gaiman was working on a script for this. Just because he’s never written a pilot script only makes it MORE likely he’d do it.”

Answer: Don’t know if he’s ever written a pilot script, but Gaiman certainly has scriptwriting experience.  In addition to episodes of Dr. Who, his screenwriting credits include Stardust, Beowulf, and Neverwhere.

arctic goddess writes: “As a Stargate writer/producer, were you ever surprised at how popular it was with female viewers?”

Answer: When I first joined the production at the start of SG-1’s fourth season, I was surprised.  After all, SF is traditionally seen as a young man’s preferred genre.  But it quickly became apparent to me that viewers may initially tune in for the bells and whistles – the action, adventure, dazzling visual effects, the star – but they’ll only come back for one thing: the characters.  And, at the end of the day, the show’s characters and relationships seemed to resonate more with female viewers…which is not all that surprising.

skua writes: “Have you seen? Shingeki no Kyojin: Ilse no Techou; Attack on Titan: Ilse’s Journal. OVA”

Answer: Not yet.  Is it available on Crunchyroll?

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“You must be so sick of hot chocolate by now,”said my buddy Ivon.  Sick of hot chocolate?!  I can’t afford to be sick!  I’ve only reached the halfway mark of my hot chocolate marathon, my bid to sample all 62-ish flavors being offered as part of this year’s Hot Chocolate Festival.

Round #12…

1Twisted Romance: You’ll go gaga over hot chocolate made with Aussie natural black licorice.  Served with chocolate-dipped natural black licorice.

Available at: Gem Chocolates 2029 West 41st Avenue, Vancouver.

www.gemchocolates.ca

The chocolate-dipped natural black liquorice that accompanied this drink was VERY strong.  I couldn’t finish it.  The hot chocolate, in contrast, was actually quite subtle. Chocolate was the predominant flavor with a hint of the black licorice.  Unless, of course, you actually ate the licorice bits that studded the whipped cream topping.

1

Beyond the Milky Way: Valrhona Araguani dark chocolate (72%), pear and almond milk (dairy free).  Served with “Marocaine” (almond flour ball flavoured with orange blossom water (dairy free).

Available: French Made Baking 81 Kingsway, Vancouver

http://frenchmadebaking.com

Another surprisingly subtle entry.  Neither the pear nor the dark chocolate was particularly pronounced, but the flavor of almond milk was unmistakable.  The drink was possessed of a delightfully mellow, smooth and creamy texture.  Akemi quite enjoyed the Marocaine that accompanied our hot chocolate.  I’m not sure why we were served it in a take-out cup since we’d ordered it “for here”.

Verdict: This one was tough.  Both were fine.  By the slimmest of margins…

Winner: Beyond the Milky Way (French Made Baking)

Round #13…

1

Winter Citrus: Take a trip to Seville with this hot chocolate flavoured with orange blossom. Served with a citrus marshmallow.

Available at: Last Crumb Cafe, 3080 Main Street (Main and East 15th), Vancouver.

thelastcrumb

I liked the lingering aftertaste of the slightly bitter orange essence, but Akemi found it almost medicinal and reminiscent of the orange-flavored medicine she used to take as a child.  The hot chocolate was very sweet and didn’t really offer a counterpoint to the equally sweet marshmallow.

1

Chocolat Glacé a la Cardamome:  Cardamom flavoured iced drinking chocolate. Served with a Gaufre de Liège waffle, along with a side of fleur de sel caramel or chocolate hazelnut spread.

Available at: Chocolaterie de la Nouvelle France, 198 East 21st Ave., Vancouver, B.C.

www.chocolaterienouvellefrance.ca

Something a little different – a chilled chocolate drink with a hint of cardamom. Although I preferred the coconut version I had last week, I thought this drinking chocolate was very good.  And the accompanying waffle, with a side of fleur de del caramel, terrific.

Verdict: Even setting aside the waffle, I have to go with…

Winner: Chocolat Glacé a la Cardamome (Chocolaterie de la Nouvelle France)

Alright.  Last night marked the start of our Stargate: Atlantis rematch – and Akemi’s first time watch of the classic SF series.  So, what did she think?

ArrivalWithin the first five minutes (Ancients, Atlantis leaves Earth, the present-day scientists are working at the newly discovered base, talk of the Ancient gene): “I’m confused.”

I gave her a brief primer which she seemed to understand – or, at the very least, pretended to understand because she grew tired listening to the explanation.

She found the visual effects good at parts, okay in others, and was impressed with the size of some of the sets: “I find the place humongous!”

Alas, she didn’t instantly warm to our heroes.  With the exception of Dr. Carson Beckett who she loved from the get-go.  She found him as charming as his accent – which, I informed her was Scottish, much to her surprise: “Oh.  I thought he was Italian!”.

A somewhat reserved response to our hero, John Sheppard, who she didn’t find as dashing as either Daniel Jackson or General O’Neill (or the greatly missed Eli Wallace) and who – I had to break the bad news to her – would not be heading off on the expedition.  And later, when John meets Teyla for the first time: “He is playboy.” And she didn’t seem to mean it in a good way.

As the expedition prepared to head off to parts unknown, I asked her if she would join them if presented with the opportunity.  “Depend on who with,”she answered. When I told her that, quite obviously, she’d be traveling with the expedition members we’d been introduced to, her answer was a definite: “No.”

Later in the episode, when Colonel Sumner’s team encounters off-world humans – who speak perfect English no less: “They speak English?!:  Then: “Perfect English.” And: “Better than me!”

After the episode ended, it was clear she wasn’t as enthusiastic as she’d been after the conclusion of Air I, but she was keeping an open mind: “Need time to get to like characters.”  And some time to get used to the new series: “Different concept.   Visiting planets and visitors.”

Overall: “It’s a bit old compared to SGU.  Not just because of computer graphic but fashion, hair style.”

On the look of the Destiny vs. Atlantis: “SGU seems more alienish.  This one looks more like Tokyo Disneyland attraction.”

And finally, almost apologetically: “I don’t know.  Maybe I don’t love it.”  Well, let’s give it some time.  I’m sure it’ll grow on her.

As for me, it was great rewatching the pilot although, coming back at it fresh, I can see exactly what would have appealed to long-time Stargate fans – and, on the other hand, turned off potential new viewers.  In brief: “Ancients, Ancient gene, English-speaking human aliens”.  I did a brief walk-down-memory-lane write-up on the opening two-parter a couple of years ago:

June 7, 2012: Day of Stargate Past – Atlantis, Rising I and II

 – highlighted by memories of the “new and improved” gate, theories regarding O’Neill’s reluctance to allow Daniel to join the expedition, and the ridiculous hat worn by one actor during an audition.

Rewatching the episode also brought back memories of one of the biggest bones of contention early in the show’s run.  No, not a creative issue.  A hair issue. Specifically, Teyla’s hair which engendered some ferocious criticism from the get-go. The debatee was heated – and didn’t get resolved until episodes later.  Really.

So, what did you all think?

Tomorrow, we move on to Rising II.  I’ll be posting Akemi’s review of the episode -

As well as my Superbowl prediction!

Today’s entry is dedicated to blog regulars – and birthday celebrants – Ganymede and Mamasue9!

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Catching up on our tour of the ongoing Vancouver Hot Chocolate Festival.  Today, a couple of three-way throwdowns and a few surprises.

Round #10…

1

The Proposition: Eggnog and Rum Hot Chocolate with Cinnamon.  Served with your choice of cookie.

Available at: Koko Monk,  1849 West 1st Avenue, Vancouver

LevniKokoMonk

Ah, one sip and I was instantly transported.  It was Christmas all over again.  Alas, we didn’t receive the promised cookie, but we were so full after a big dinner, we hardly missed it.

1

Phaun’s Fancy: Made from 64% dark chocolate with parmesan and fresh nutmeg.  Served with a side of Umami No. 5 fudge

Available: At Cocoa Nymph 3739 W. 10th Ave (at Alma), Vancouver

www.cocoanymph.co

My first response to reading the description was: “Chocolate and parmesan?  No.” But after tasting it: “Yes!”.  It was the exact same reaction I had to one of Cocoa Nymph’s 2013 Hot Chocolate Festival entries that combined dark chocolate with basil and balsamic to create what turned out to be one of my Top 5 Fest Favorites. In this case, the scent of the parmesan wafts up off the cup but, when you sip it, it’s all chocolate up front with just a wisp of lingering sharpness at the back.  It was reminiscent of the sweet and savory marriage of bacon and caramel.  At first blush, you don’t think it will work but it does.  And it’s delicious.  Really!  Special mention should be made of the Umami No. 5 fudge that accompanied the hot chocolate.  If it was on the regular shop menu, I’d buy it by the box.

1

Passionista: Fresh passion fruit-infused hot chocolate with Grand Marnier chantilly. Served with passion fruit pate de fruit.

Available at: Thomas Haas, 2539 West Broadway, Vancouver.

http://www.thomashaas.com/

This one was Akemi’s favorite of the six we sampled over this three-day span.   It packs a passionfruit punch without overwhelming the chocolate.  A lovely balance. And that Grand Marnier chantilly?  Killer!

Verdict: On paper, it would have been a toss-up between the two runners-up.  But in the all important taste-off, I have to go with a most unlikely winner…

Winner: Phaun’s Fancy (Cocoa Nymph)

1

The Brunette Bangle: Hot Chocolate with the exotic hint of curry.  Served with your choice of cookie.

Available at: Koko Monk,  1849 West 1st Avenue, Vancouver

LevniKokoMonk

A very nice sipping chocolate with a hint of lingering spice.  Another unique yet surprisingly good entry.

1

The Intimate Act: Milk Chocolate with passionfruit.  Served with a hazelnut cookie.

Available at: Beaucoup Bakery  2150 Fir Street (in Kitsilano)

www.beaucoupbakery.com/

A subtle drink with an excellent passionfruit flavor that shines although the chocolate is strangely muted here.

1

The Campfire: A classic hot chocolate, only with smoky caramel, smoked Hawaiian sea salt.  Served with vanilla marshmallows.

Available at: Thomas Haas, 2539 West Broadway, Vancouver.

http://www.thomashaas.com/

One of the best combinations of sweet and savory so far.  The vanilla marshmallow, lightly studded with smoked Hawaiian sea salt, was fabulous.

Verdict: Another tough call, but if I had to choose one…

Winner: The Campfire (Thomas Haas)

27 flavors down!  35 to go!

Ready to go?!

Ready to go?!

Everyone prepared to trek off to the Pegasus Galaxy one more time?  Hope so because our Stargate: Atlantis rematch kicks off today with the episode that started it all: Rising I.  Watch it today and come armed with your insights, accolades, critiques, and questions tomorrow!  Also, be prepared for Akemi’s unique take on the show as I relay her thoughts on the episode in tomorrow’s blog entry.  Yes, it’s Rising I: The Japanese Girlfriend Review!

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Our tour of the ongoing Vancouver Hot Chocolate Festival continues with not one, not two, not three, not four, but FIVE new concoctions!

The festivities continue through to February 14th, so plenty of time to check out the delectable offerings: January 04, 2014The Hot Chocolate is Here!

Round #8…

1

Evita: gBAR flavoured with salted caramel – Argentina style.   Served with Erin Ireland’s “To Die For” Banana Bread.

Available at: Bella Gelateria, 1001 West Cordova Street.

www.bellagelateria.com

Hmmm.  I found this one a little confused.  All of the various hot chocolates on the menu use a standard base (your choice of milk, dark, or very dark chocolate) to which is added a flavor accent in the form of a gelato bar.  In the case of the Monkey’s Lunch, it all worked.  The banana gelato married well with the chocolate and the banana bread was the perfect accompaniment.  And, while I love the banana bread, it seemed like an odd accompaniment to this hot chocolate.  Also, unlike the Monkey’s Lunch, the flavor of the salted caramel gelato got lost, presumably because of the heavier hot chocolate to bar ratio.

1

Nut Your Traditional Hot chocolate: Chipmunks will chatter over this hot chocolate flavoured with peanut butter.  Served with a berry marshmallow.

Available at: Last Crumb Cafe, 3080 Main Street (Main and East 15th), Vancouver.

thelastcrumb

I suppose you can eat the marshmallow separately, but I preferred to dunk it in the hot chocolate so that it gradually melted, imparting the drink with a unique berry sweetness to counterbalance the slight saltiness of the peanut butter.  This is about as close as you can get to drinking peanut butter and jelly.  And it’s damn good.

The Verdict: I’m a sucker for peanut butter.  I love salted caramel too but, for some reason, its flavors were strangely muted in the Evita.

Winner: Nut Your Traditional Hot Chocolate (Last Crumb Cafe)

Round #9…

1

Paula Dean White Trash Trainwreck: A 70% dark chocolate ganache with condensed milk, salted kettle chips, and vanilla whipped cream.  Served with a 72% dark chocolate wafer.

Available at: Mink Chocolates, 863 West Hastings St., Vancouver. On the park (cross street, Hornby.)

/mink.chocolates

An assembly of ingredients as inspired as its name, bursts of sweet and salty, silky, whispy, and crispy.  It seems like a bizarre combination but it works.  Really, REALLY well.  The hot chocolate base almost attains a consistency just short of pudding. Shatter the chips, mix in the whipped cream, and you’ve got one of the most fun flavors of the festival so far.  And damn delicious to boot!

1

Hot Toddy Float:  You’d stay warm and cozy even in the peaks of Grouse Mountain with this buttered rum hot chocolate blended with wild mountain honey ice cream.

Available at: Soirette Macarons & Tea 1433 West Pender Street, Vancouver. (Coal Harbour)

www.soirette.com

I might have enjoyed this one a little more in a regular cup instead of a take-away cup, but it was quite good nevertheless.  My only complaint was that, by the time my drink hit the table, the honey ice cream was no longer solid.  In fairness, it may have been intentional – which is too bad since two of my top hot chocolates of the festival so far (Chocolate Arts’ Snowball’s Chance in Hell and Thierry’s Trio of Chocolate) executed the hot/cold contrast to great effect.

1

Peppermint Patty: Made from 70% Valrhona guanaja chocolate infused with organic peppermint and vanilla bean chantilly.  Served with a double fudge cookie.

Available at: Bel Cafe, 801 West Georgia Street @ Howe (at the Rosewood Hotel Georgia)

http://www.belcafe.com/

Yeaaaargh!  The first misfire of the festival!  Lacking any discernible sweetness, this drink was like taking a mint buckshot to the throat.  It was so intense in its mint flavor that I thought it might work better as a topical muscle relaxant instead of a drink.

Verdict: Thick chocolate ganache, kettle chips and whipped cream?  UNREAL!

Winner: Paula Dean White Trash Trainwreck (Mink Chocolates)

Joining us on today’s tour was blog regular Kathode who took time away from her busy schedule to watch me achieve a sugar high unlike any other.

The chocolate line-up at Mink

The chocolate line-up at Mink.  I picked up a few.  For later.  MUCH later.

I snap a pic for my blog of Kathode snapping a pic…for her blog?  How meta.

I snap a pic for my blog of Kathode snapping a pic…for her blog? How meta.

I bet her dog has a matching hat.

Wait!  Are you supposed to drink this or apply it to your feet?

21 flavors down.  We’re one third of the way to the finish line!

Today’s entry is dedicated to blog regular M. Reed.  Condolences on the loss of her beloved dog.  Condolences.

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In addition to scriptwriting (and rewriting), I’ve been very busy running around town testing the various hot chocolates that make up this year’s Vancouver Hot Chocolate Festival!  Today, we reached the 1/4 mark of our epic chocolate journey…

Round #6…

1

Chocolat Glacé:  Iced drinking chocolate.  Served with a Gaufre de Liège waffle, along with a side of fleur de sel caramel or chocolate hazelnut spread..

Available at: Chocolaterie de la Nouvelle France 198 East 21st Ave., Vancouver, B.C.

www.chocolaterienouvellefrance.ca

Surprisingly refreshing.  Not overly sweet, it strikes a nice textural, neither too thick nor too thin.

1

The Hive:  ‘Hives for Humanity’ honey dark drinking chocolate.  Served with a honey nib caramel.

Available at: East Van Roasters, 319 Carrall St, Vancouver, B.C.

East Van Roasters

A gloriously frothy cup of hot chocolate, the sweetness of the honey accented by just a touch of salt.  I liked it, but Akemi isn’t  a believer of the “adding salt to sweet” school of dessert preparation.  The honey nib caramel served with the hot chocolate embodied the same contrasting flavors and I loved it.  A heavenly two bites.

The Verdict: Both great in completely different ways.  But, if I had to choose…

The Winner: The Hive (East Van Roasters).

Round #7:

1

Chocolat Glacé à la Noix de Coco:  Coconut flavoured iced drinking chocolate.  Served with a Gaufre de Liège waffle, along with a side of fleur de sel caramel or chocolate hazelnut spread.

Available at: Chocolaterie de la Nouvelle France 198 East 21st Ave., Vancouver, B.C.

www.chocolaterienouvellefrance.ca

While the regular iced chocolate drink was great, this one, fairly bursting with coconut flavor, was even better.  Initially, I feared the flavor might stray into cloying Pina Colada territory but it turned out to be surprisingly strong in chocolate flavor as well.  The warm local waffle serve with the home made hazelnut spread was to die for.

1

Granville Island Grocery List:  Inspired by the flavours of Granville Island, this is a beet and saffron hot chocolate.  Served with a Gjetost macaron.

Available at: Soirette Macarons & Tea 1433 West Pender Street, Vancouver. (Coal Harbour)

www.soirette.com

Well I have to give Soirette credit for creativity.  Last visit, it was Five Spice Chocolate.  This time, it was beet and saffron and chocolate.  Like the last time, the chocolate base was amazing, but the inspired ingredients maybe a little…to inspired? To be fair, I’m a little biased when it comes to saffron (I think it tastes like public pool water) and, while I enjoy beets, the tiny pieces at the bottom of my cup felt a little out of place.  I was, however, mightily impressed with the macaron, the meringue sandwiching a piece of Gjetost, a slightly sweet cheese so unique I actually referenced it in an episode of Stargate: SG-1 (http://culturecheesemag.com/events/gjetost_gets_shout_out_stargate).

Verdict: Both quality products but there’s only one I’d go back to again.  And again.

Winner: Chocolat Glacé à la Noix de Coco (Chocolaterie de la Nouvelle France).

That’s 16 hot chocolates down, some 46 to go!

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