HoCho Fest Day 12: The Jamaican Kiss

A field trip downtown for myp hot took me nearer to some of the farther off locations of the festival, so I took advantage of this spare time and went to the Vancouver Convention Centre – such a beautiful place! I went in the wrong entrance, so I got to detour through a lower level to return to the West Plaza, and there is lovely art and design throughout, and I was all by myself to enjoy it. Eventually, with the help of an eager guide, I found Leonidas Chocolates.

I had not realized how many options they offered for the festival, and was greeted with six when I walked in! This is two more than what is currently listed online. Tempted by the two darker chocolate options, I decided to resist and go with my decision made ahead of time: The Jamaican Kiss. There were also a handful of treats to choose from to accompany it (so many decisions…), these included: a small cheesecake, ice cream, a liege waffle, two pieces of fancy chocolate, or a macaroon flavour of my choice. I vouched for a dark chocolate ganache macaroon and sat down while I admired the quaint shop and looked over the ocean, where the mountains sat so close and wrapped in a sash of banner clouds in the dimming evening.

When my drink arrived, I was immediately excited. I already knew the major components I would be tasting: Chocolate, coconut milk (with soy milk), and rum-infused pineapple purée (what?!), but it just LOOKED good – there was chocolate drizzled down the inside walls of the glass mug and they had decorated it with a cursive “L” for Leonidas! 

Belgian Milk Chocolate flavoured with coconut, pineapple and rum. 
Served with customer’s choice of liege waffle, cheesecake, chocolate, or a scoop of Italian ice cream.

The first sip was very smooth, and all of the flavours were immediately evident and delicious! The strongest flavours were the chocolate mixed with soy and coconut milk, as they made up the body of the drink, but the pineapple purée made its way to the front of the drink, and the citrus taste of the pineapple was muted by the rum and the creamy milks.

It was a full flavour, and nothing was overwhelmed or overwhelming – it tasted perfectly balanced. Perhaps important to note: I am a fan of pulp in juices. For this reason, I quite enjoyed that the pineapple purée was very much from real pineapple and added texture throughout the entire consumption experience.

Leonidas is worth returning to. This conclusion is worth reaching based solely on the fact that drinking my beverage resembled drinking a warm, chocolaty piña colada! While that may sound unappealing at first, I can assure you… It is not.


Third Time’s the Charm? Interviewed Again

Tuesday night marked my third round of the carousel interview process of becoming a residence advisor. It is not part of the process that occurs once you KNOW you are an advisor, but rather part of the process leading up to one of the following three points of contact:

  1. The phone call: You’ve got it! You will hear from the Residence Life Manager of the residence area that you have been assigned to, and will be informed that you’ve been offered a position to be an advisor the following academic year.
  2. The “who knows what might happen” e-mail: You have been placed on the alternate list; it is not a “no”, but it is not a “yes”. Based on others accepting their offers, and the retraction of some of those offers throughout the next several months, you may be hired later on. This will be dependent upon how your conveyed personality and attributes (during the interview process), along with perhaps your schedule, will complement a tentative team of advisors that has lost one of its members through one of the aforementioned processes.
  3. The e-mail: You have not been offered a position as a residence advisor. There were many applicants and many strong contenders, but unfortunately what was collected through the decision-making process did not leave you competitive above those who were hired.
This year’s interview felt different than the two before it, as I went into it without expectations about what was going to happen after. I was not trying hard to impress anyone with my bouncy personality and peppy, cheery tone; I was simply being me, and presenting my honest assets and what I felt were the contributions I could bring to a team. Additionally, I had gone in without 100% commitment to the idea of being an advisor – a large part of me wants to, because I think it is a path that would fulfill me and lead me towards something I could really enjoy doing for the first part of my life (whatever it is); another part of me is resistant to the moderate control over my schedule (required to be “in” 4 nights every week). That is the biggest concern, I think, which goes hand-in-hand with being placed where they think I am suited which will most definitely be far from that guy I’m fond of.

I have several other opportunities: Peer Wellness Coach, Wellness Peer, UBC REC, Residence Hall Association (take 3), amongst other things that may arise; more feedback and interviews still lie ahead.

The usual order of events goes like this:
– Apply for residence lottery
– Apply for advising
– Get placed around 2,500 on the residence waitlist
– Hear that I have been “alternate listed” for advising
– Go for council instead
– Get council position

In less than two weeks I will hear about residency, and advising by the end of February. In the beginning of February I will hear about interviews and more applications to fill out.

The next couple of months will be full of craziness and elections and tests and fun times and frustrating times, I am sure. I look forward to finding out what may happen.

As a celebration for my third interview being completed, we decided to go out for dinner – I wasn’t wanting super filling food, but I was hungry and had not eaten very much, so I thought of a place I had been wanting to share with my fella: Nūba!

Halloumi Cheese, pita, Garden Falafel
Not pictured: Najib’s Special (crispy cauliflower tossed with lemon and sea salt)

Dessert: Various baklava – vegan varieties!

HoCho Fest Day 11: Magnifique Brunette

A wonderful end to the previous evening left me feeling relaxed today, a day where I had very little going on in the middle of my day, but commitments that required me to return by a decent hour to get things done with wifi available. I decided upon a more eastern location for hot chocolate today, and made my way over to French Made Baking.

The great thing about some of these places is that when they seem to suggest a certain country of origin (such as Bella Gelatería from the other day), the individuals who are employed there have the background and accents to match! French Made Baking did not disappoint in this regard, as I asked the barista to repeat a handful of phrases because I am terrible with accents – it was great!

With this festival being so full of things to experience, I always go for the combo when getting the hot chocolates (and always go to the gym before heading out to get them) – if there is a treat to be offered alongside the beverage, it will be included. Today’s bonus treat turned out to be double the fun – two chocolate-dipped coconut macaroons! They complemented the beverage, as its blend of flavours were almost exclusively chocolate and coconut.

I paid what I thought to be a fair amount for the drink and its two rather filling treats alongside, and made my way to a artfully decorated table, small enough for two to share a couple of cappuccinos at, but not much more. It went along with the interior of the small café, which felt… French? I have never been to France, but this felt like what I would imagine it being like.

Valrhona Araguani Dark Chocolate (72%) with coconut milk and toasted coconut. 
Served with “Congolais” (coconut macaroon dipped in chocolate).
Available: January 18, 24, 29 and Feb 3, 8, 13

The dark taste of the chocolate settled on the back of my tongue, while the sweetness of the coconut milk and coconut shavings settled on my tongue’s tip. I had expected the drink to be thick and heavy, but it was instead surprisingly light and not overly filling; the macaroons took care of that aspect for me. If you are a fan of coconut flavour, this whole drink and snack experience should be very enjoyable! There are no hidden undertones or overtones or extra flavours thrown in – it is hot chocolate made with coconut milk, and it is great (speaking as a fan of coconut). The beverage was simple and, with its treats, made for a nice afternoon snack. The macaroons were sweet and full of chewy coconut texture, and the chocolate-dipped portion added some smoothness to each bite.

French Made Baking appears to have a wide range of items available for lunch, snack, or thirst desires – and seeing “crepes” on the menu was a sure sign (for me) that the small location had promise to entice my return. I also happened to encounter and speak briefly with a woman who was also on a Hot Chocolate Festival journey of her own! She was trying to catch up after missing the first week, and was having two drinks each day (whew).

 Tomorrow should be fun!

HoCho Fest Day 10: The Campfire

The day’s gray weather seemed to reflect my mood: Nothing too extreme, but somewhat low energy, and very much conducive to collapsing into a nap. This was not an ideal mental state with an interview later in the afternoon, but what better to help remedy a melancholy wave than with a cup of hot chocolate?

I returned to my first stop in the festival to satisfy today’s chocolate quota, as it was close by and I was in a time crunch with my interview fast-approaching. Plus – the second option on their festival menu had looked very good when my friend had it. 
With a couple of good folks, I headed off to Thomas Haas for the second time this month.
A classic hot chocolate, only with smoky caramel, smoked Hawaiian sea salt.
Served with vanilla marshmallows.

The drink was meant to come with vanilla marshmallows, but they had run out of these (I likely would not have eaten them anyways, as gelatin is something I try to avoid despite its lack of explicitness in its non-vegetarian-ness).

Anyways! As a replacement, they offered Grand Marnier-infused whipped cream (which I requested be left out) and provided DELICIOUS dark chocolate almond sugar cookies – however, they didn’t seem like the traditional sugar cookies – they were ooey gooey good on the inside! And did not crumble in the least. Perhaps I misinterpreted what the barista described to me.

I ordered my drink to be made with almond milk, as I thought it would complement the rest of the beverage’s characteristics: Chocolate, smoky caramel, sea salt… The nuttiness of the almond milk made the dark chocolate flavour less heavy, and the “smoky caramel” left a pleasant aftertaste on the tongue while making the drink’s name come to life on the tastebuds.

Towards the middle of the drink, the true caramelly flavour began to really show itself; evidently, the caramel usually drizzled atop the marshmallows had sunk straight to the bottom of the drink undetected! So, as the rest of the beverage disappeared, the caramel could more easily slip into each sip (deliciously). The Hawaiian sea salt was very subtle, and I probably would not have taken notice if not for the drink’s description being read ahead of time. I quite enjoyed this drink, and think soy milk would make its body feel more full; but the almond milk was lovely and light.

I’ve begun to schedule where my next stops will be, so I look forward to trying something new tomorrow with some free time on my hands!

HoCho Fest Day 9: The Intimate Act

Today was a slightly unpleasant day for my physical well-being – body aches, nasuea, foggy-headedness. The foggy weather made my state feel very real, but I trudged through the beginning of my day and wondered whether or not it was wise to get hot chocolate, particularly from the nearby location (due to time constraints) that was serving a white hot chocolate. I decided I may as well, as it was on my to-do list and I would feel worse for having not checked it off! With that, I made my way to Beaucoup Bakery & Café.

The decor of the the café was warm and homey, and brought life to what would otherwise be a very industrial-looking neighbourhood. I was pleased to be offered the option of a small, medium, or large beverage; this way, I would pay less in the face of my upset stomach. I discovered that the flavour had, in fact, changed a day earlier than what was listed online – now it was milk chocolate rather than white chocolate! That was a step in the right direction, at least. I discovered with this change came a new flavour blended into the chocolate – passion fruit! My second of the festival and of my life of hot chocolate consumption. As this was my second time encountering passion fruit, I was sure to order it with soy milk rather than almond this time. 

Milk Chocolate with passionfruit
Served with a hazelnut cookie.
Available: January 28 – February 5

When the order arrived on the counter, it was a perfectly small drink with a small cookie on the side – 
evidently, a white chocolate hazelnut strudel cookie. I detected no white chocolate, but the hazelnut was yummy and the wee cookie deliciously textured. I sat down and sipped my drink: Immediately evident milky chocolate flavour and equally evident passion fruit overtones. The creaminess of the soy and chocolate seemed to absorb the fruitiness in the way I would have liked for my first time with the flavour. It was a little milky for my preference, but it was small-sized and reasonably priced! The overall flavour was balanced and creamy, without an overpowering sense of passion fruit (which I appreciated).

I would return for tea, baking, and a delicious pear sandwich!

HoCho Fest Day 8: The Evita

Ah, the beautiful day arrived when it came time to go to Bella Gelatería! This was probably my favourite stop from last year’s hot chocolate festival, and this year it seems they somehow stepped up their game.. In a couple of ways.

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

The “gBAR” mentioned in the description is the frozen gelato bar; this is where the specific flavours of each of the 6 available hot chocolate festival items come from. The beverage comes as a more-or-less basic hot chocolate of varying darkness with soy and almond milk options available, and the gBAR is then stirred into the hot chocolate. My company and I each chose a different beverage flavour – Mine, the Evita; hers, Monkey’s Uncle; his, the London Foggy.

The gBAR reminded me of a Fudgsicle in its texture – perfectly frozen and creamy and biteable without hurting the teeth! It was smooth with caramelly flavour, and it melted easily into the hot chocolate as I began to stir.
As for the almond milk hot chocolate on its own, it was not particularly smooth. This was not bad, though, as it was “rough” with almond, nutty flavour and dark chocolate. After I mixed in the gBAR, it seemed there was too much hot chocolate for the flavour to be strongly mixed – and part of my bar fell into the bottom! I figured this may serve me well later, but in the mean time I could not continue stirring it with my tiny gBAR stick. There was a subtle caramel flavour at this point, however.
3/4 of the way through the beverage, the lost and unstirrable chunk of gelato could be swirled into the hot chocolate with a couple swooshes of the cup. The caramel now became evident and cancelled the rough dark chocolate texture and the drink became smooth and creamy.
The hot chocolate was delectable, and my company seems to have similar sentiments – we were VERY satisfied when leaving! Partially due to satiation as well, I would recommend going without being too full beforehand (but have something nutritious to absorb the chocolate blow!).
There seemed to be a majority vote to return for gelato (a particularly strong vote from M to return for lavender gelato), so I imagine those photos will crop up one day. We ended our day with sushi and then headed back for football to make use of the deliciousness (it worked, we won).

For more information about the “To Die For” Banana Braed, check this link.

HoCho Fest Day 7: Mint To Be

After a somewhat stressful dinner experience, I made my way over to Blenz to snag the day’s hot chocolate festival item before all of the stores closed. I was pleased that my original hot chocolate location closed after all, because the second Blenz option was rather nice!

An organic peppermint tea infusion combined with Belgian milk chocolate. 
Served with a mini chocolate croissant.
($4.25 sans croissant)

Unfortunately, for the second time, I went without the mini chocolate croissant! While this was disappointing, I went forth into my beverage-consuming experience. I ordered it with soy as the flavour itself was milk chocolate infused with organic peppermint tea – so while I could not avoid that dairy, I did what I could with the soy. The peppermint flavour was stronger than I had expected, as I have tried steeped tea hot chocolates of this sort before – and this one was much more quality! The peppermint flavour was strong and well-blended with the smooth chocolate.
The soy milk was smooth and delicious as usual, and it took in the minty chocolate flavours easily. Simplicity really defined the entire flavour experience, but in an elegant and effective way – just the kind of beverage to finish the night with! Texturally, the drink was light, as I believe the peppermint tea kept the drink from settling and sitting heavily on the tongue, and it was very easy to drink.

Tomorrow, I believe,  shall be an exciting adventure – with many different flavours being shared amongst the three of us that shall go – EXCITING.