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Akemi and I tried to make the most of the last few days of the Vancouver Hot Chocolate Festival by checking out some of the more intriguing offerings we had yet to sample…

1Canadian Classic: 100% pure hazelnut with 38% milk chocolate served with four pieces of artisan chocolate.

At: Schokolade 2263 East Hastings Street, Vancouver

http://www.schokoladecafe.com/

Sweeter than most of the more bitter dark chocolate varieties we sampled and more straightforward than the sweeter, but layered, white chocolate entries.  Simply a nice, rich roasted favor.

1The Gold Medal: 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.

At: Bella Gelateria 1001 West Cordova Street.

www.bellagelateria.com

An enormous serving of rich, premium dark chocolate served with fantastic banana bread for half the price of some of the festival’s high-end entries.  Bitter, sweet, salty, and incredibly satisfying.

1The Lumberjack: Bourbon barrel-aged maple syrup hot chocolate served with a Douglas fir-infused chantilly, maple & vanilla shortbread. 

At: Thomas Haas 2539 West Broadway, Vancouver.

http://www.thomashaas.com/

I wasn’t sure about the Douglas fir-infused chantilly but, like other delicious instances during this hot chocolate festival, I was pleasantly surprised.  Also something else I discovered over the last few weeks: chocolate + maple syrup = killer combination.

1The King’s Cup – Ode to Elvis: Hot chocolate with peanut butter and banana served with a macaron or cookie.

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

www.soirette.com

Inspired by what was purportedly Elvis’s favorite treat (fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches), this delectable drink combines all three ingredients to tasty effect.  The peanut crumble rim was genius.

1The Scandal of Singapore: Spicy dark chocolate with rice milk.

At: Beta 5 (http://shop.beta5chocolates.com/and The Juice Truck (usually found on the corner of Abbott and Water in Gastown).

I actually had it with almond milk instead and it was quite good, with just enough spice to catch the back of your throat but not linger too long.

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My final tally: 36 out of 60 flavors sampled.  Given that the festival was only 27 days long, I consider that a pretty respectable score.  And, now that it’s finally over, it’s time to pick my Top 5 Vancouver Hot Chocolate Festival 2013 Favorites.  Drum roll, please…

Coming in at #5:

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Malteaser: Barley malt-infused hot chocolate served with salt caramel malt truffles.

Available: At Thomas Haas 2539 West Broadway, Vancouver.

http://www.thomashaas.com/

Terrific!  I could have had two but I’m sure the sugar rush would’ve killed me.

A pleasantly surprising top five finisher – in the #4 spot:

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The Josiah: Basil drinking chocolate topped with housemade strawberry marshmallows.

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

Basil drinking chocolate?  Really?  Oh, yeah.  Really!  I was admittedly dubious but one taste thoroughly won me over.  The best hot chocolate I had that week.

A pleasantly unsurprising top-five finisher – at #3:

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Italian Honey Moon: Honey nougat and hazelnut made with Avalon Organic milk and Michel Cluizel chocolate served with Erin Ireland’s “To Die For” Banana Bread.

Available: At Bella Gelateria 1001 West Cordova Street.

www.bellagelateria.com

I was leery at first.  Hot chocolate topped with shards of honey nougat? I love particulates (that’s what they call ‘em) in my ice cream, but in my drinking chocolate?  Well, they turned out to be a wonderful little textural addition to the drink.  I am now a hot chocolate particulate convert!

As a personal rule, fruit and chocolate don’t mix – and yet, inexplicably, defying all logic, it works perfectly here.  Coming in at #2 (and, incidentally, Akemi’s #1):

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Armoury Amour: Cocoa Barry  “Madirofolo”– a single plantation chocolate, kissed with raspberry and served with a mini lemon and basil ice cream sandwich.

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

http://www.chocolatearts.com/

Well, damn, this was a surprise!  I’m not a fan of the fruit-chocolate combo and find raspberry a particularly reprehensible partner but this heavenly creation sang.  Akemi’s overall favorite so far and a definite Top 3 finisher for yours truly.  Loved the raspberry sugar rim.

Which brings us to my favorite hot chocolate of the festival.  At #1:

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Jasmine: 64% dark chocolate – origin: Ecuador. Infused with jasmine and served with choice of chocolate square.

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

www.chocolaterienouvellefrance.ca

Surprisingly spectacular.  Just the right chocolate married with the perfect balance of jasmine yields the most exquisite hot chocolate of the festival so far.

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And rounding out my Vancouver Hot Chocolate Festival 2013 Top Ten: The King’s Cup – Ode to Elvis (Soirette), Pretty in Pink (Bel Cafe), Ohhh Canada (Thierry Chocolaterie Patisserie Cafe)Blond Mystique (Secret Location), One in a Million (Thierry Chocolaterie Patisserie, Cafe).

 

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Thanks to everyone who took the time to offer their sage advice on my recent “dilemma of the day” (February 10, 2013: Let’s all pitch in and help me plan my life!).  I was actually leaning one way but, after reading some very convincing arguments, am now reconsidering. Tomorrow, I’ll be meeting with my accountant who will no doubt help shed some light on/further complicate the issue.

Meanwhile, things are…progressing (?) on the projects front…

The SF series: Hmmm.  I was kind of hoping we would have received the good word by now (that word, of course, being: “Go!”).  We have broadcasters on board but require another piece or two of the financial puzzle to complete the package.  I refuse to end up in a situation where I’m expected to produce a show with little cash but a lot of good intentions.  Space ships don’t come cheap, y’know?

The Urban Fantasy series: We’ll be delivering our second draft tomorrow.  Word is we’ll be shooting the pilot this spring.  Beyond that…who knows?

The other SF series: Has garnered a fair amount of interest on the concept alone (based on a pre-existing literary work).  It’s with the lawyers now and, whenever the deal gets sewn up, we can finally start working on the script.

The Drama spec: While the aforementioned are all very promising paying gigs, it never hurts to have a few scripts under your belt…just in case.  I’ve decided to simply go ahead and outline this female-driven “fish-out-of-water” pilot.  I’ll spend a few days beating it out and then, once a satisfactory structure is in place, I’ll crack open a bottle of Jagermeister and spend the weekend hammering out that first draft.

The SF/Horror/Fantasy spec: Ah, why choose one when you can do all three at the same time?  Colorful characters!  Humor!  Over-the-top action!  Writing this one will be a lot fun – provided I have the time.

The Horror movie: It went out a couple of months ago and has engendered some interest, but nothing solid.  This one seems like a no-brainer to me and, depending on how these other projects pan out, I’m thinking of pulling it back in March, financing it through Kickstarter, and producing it myself.

The Vancouver Hot Chocolate Festival ends in three days!  You better move quickly if you want to check out  the 50-some flavors available around town.

I, of course, have been trying my best.  But, evidently, my best won’t be good enough in the end.  Still, I gave it a game effort.

I started off sampling fourteen different hot chocolates in the the first week of the festival: January 31, 2013: The Hot Chocolate Festival!

Followed by another ten soon after: February 6, 2013: The Vancouver Hot Chocolate Festival Tour II!

And, most recently:

1Tosca: Dark chocolate and rum served with a choice of chocolate or liege waffle sample.

Available: Every day of the festival at Leonidas #29 – 1055 Canada Place (Vancouver Convention Centre West), Vancouver.

www.leonidaswaterfront.com

A fine hot chocolate though a touch too boozy.

1Frozen Noisette: Melted praline blended into frozen yogurt, topped with a shot of melted chocolate, and finished with crushed hazelnuts. Served with a choice of chocolate or liege sample waffle.

Available: Every day of the festival at Leonidas #29 – 1055 Canada Place (Vancouver Convention Centre West), Vancouver.

www.leonidaswaterfront.com

A double rarity: gjianduja-based cold hot chocolate.  And it was utterly, doubly delicious.

1Beyond the Milky Way: Dark chocolate (64%) made with almond milk and coconut milk, flavoured with natural pear extract. Dairy free.

Available: February 2-8 at French Made Baking 81 Kingsway, Vancouver

http://frenchmadebaking.com

Liked the chocolate a lot but thought it was weakened by the almond and coconut milk.  The pear was very subtle.

1Rose of Ecuador: 64% dark chocolate – origin: Ecuador. Infused with rose petals, and served with choice of chocolate square.

Available: Every day of the chocolate festival at Chocolaterie de la Nouvelle France 198 East 21st Ave., Vancouver, B.C.

www.chocolaterienouvellefrance.ca

Finally!  A rose-infused version that makes use of dark chocolate instead of the standard white.  And it was wonderful.  A perfect balance of flavors.  That gang here definitely know their hot chocolate!

1Anise:  64% dark chocolate – origin: Mexico. Infused with aniseed, and served with choice of chocolate square.

Available: Every day of the chocolate festival at Chocolaterie de la Nouvelle France 198 East 21st Ave., Vancouver, B.C.

www.chocolaterienouvellefrance.ca

With the exception of the Orange Blossom, every hot chocolate I’ve had at Chocolaterie de la Nouvelle France has been incredibly well-balanced.  Here, the licorice flavor is present but compliments rather than conquers the chocolate.

1The Emily Rose: Orange drinking chocolate, topped with housemade rose-coconut marshmallows.

Available: February 2- 14 at Cocoa Nymph 3739 W. 10th Ave (at Alma), Vancouver
www.cocoanymph.co

Cocoa Nymph makes a damn fine cup of hot chocolate.  The tartness of the orange combined with the sweetness of the coconut and the bitterness of the dark chocolate to deliver one of Akemi’s favorites.

1The Josiah: Basil drinking chocolate topped with housemade strawberry marshmallows.

Available: February 8 – 14 at Cocoa Nymph 3739 W. 10th Ave (at Alma), Vancouver
www.cocoanymph.co

Basil drinking chocolate?  Really?  Oh, yeah.  Really!  I was admittedly dubious but one taste thoroughly won me over.  The best hot chocolate I had this week.

I’m really going to have to make these last few days count!

3rd-vancouver-hot-chocolate-festival

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