Reading Week 2014

With reading week already three days past, the midterm grind is on and I have become unnaturally fatigued following the men’s gold medal hockey game (the early morning seems to have triggered an insatiable weariness). However, I had a wonderful week off from classes and was able to do lots of adventuring thanks to an out-of-town visitor who wished to pursue some tourist attractions in Vancouver.

The break began on the last day of the hot chocolate festival, with my fellow’s birthday and Valentine’s Day all making for a delicious three-way celebration:

 We chose Nuba restaurant as our spot to celebrate a 21st birthday and Valentine’s Day dinner.
Our fuel of choice included delicious tomato and crispy cauliflower appetizers, and
stuffed eggplant for the main course – all vegetarian or vegan and SO DELICIOUS!

Following the Friday, we began our tourist adventures.

 

Looking over the bridge’s edge!


After our guest took a hiatus over on the island, I studied and made my way home for a couple of days to continue recuperating and Olympic-watching.

(We won gold.)

 















THEN we returned to our tour guide lives (after doing some morning muffin making).

“Goddess Bowl” at Aphrodite’s Organic 
Cafe and Pie Shop.

And…. It snowed!

Quite a lot!
(By Vancouver standards.)

My reading week was full of reading (for three midterms that I just overcame), family, friends, and an adequate amount of rest. Plus, a lot of exciting and emotional Olympic moments! Overall, I would deem it a success. Now, I am back to the home-stretch of this school year with finals to prepare for, papers to write, elections to get through next week, a couple more interviews to see through (as well as outcomes of previous ones), and the move out of residence.

HoCho Fest Final Day (27): Popped Cherry

A bittersweet day for the hot chocolate festival and me! The only sweetness of it comes from the end of my sense of obligation to buying expensive hot chocolates and then later consuming them in greater quantities than I ordinarly would. The bitterness is the end of my contributions to the Women’s Job Skills program in the Downtown Eastside, the end of exploring new venues and their exciting specialty items for the festival, and the end of blogging about them every day. However, it has been an exciting four weeks, and the day itself was beautiful and everything (beyond the chocolate) felt very ‘right’.


My last stop of the festival seemed somehow appropriate for Valentine’s Day, as Gem Chocolates was serving up Glenn’s “Popped Cherry” hot chocolate (it is only appropriate for Valentine’s Day in a way that is slightly inappropriate, ha ha). Also, the store was decorated for the day, and employees vouched for red, sparkly ties as their uniform!

Popped Cherry: Cherry, chocolate and fig, with a surprising pop.
Served with a dried cherry chocolate creation.
($6.25?)

It turned out I had arrived just in time, as they were onto the last scoop of the specialty ganache for the drink! I think this is what made it difficult to detect the specific flavours during the first quarter of the beverage. Not only that, but I asked for almond milk – and they ran out of that, too! So we decided to go crazy and combine it with soy milk so as not to waste what was already poured.

Each sip was distinctively flavoured with milk chocolate, and the soy-almond milk combination made it smooth. The cocoa sprinkled on top was a nice chocolaty touch, as well (Glenn remembered that I have a no-whip preference, so the cocoa shavings sat upon delicious foam instead).

Towards the bottom of the hot chocolate, I could begin to taste some of the cherry flavour, though I do believe I truly got what little was left of the ganache, ha ha. In addition to all of this last-day-of-the-festival craziness, I missed out on the cherry chocolate creation! However, I was not disappointed by the consolation prize: A homemade chocolate fudge cookie made by a Gem Chocolates employee. It was a moist and gooey and amazingly delicious cookie to be paired with the yummy hot chocolate!


Off to birthday/Valentine’s Day dinner we went, and finished off the hot chocolate back at home. Overall, I believe that the hot chocolate was a lovely accent to what turned out to be a really excellent day.

At the end of my chocolate journey for 2014,
I am content with all of my new dining discoveries
and the time with friends and family that the festival
was able to make even more delicious and exciting.
I do not consider myself much of a hot chocolate
connoisseur, but it has most definitely been fun to
experience so many unique creations and locations!

Until next year,

HoCho Fest Day 26: Bacchu’s Dream

The penultimate day of the hot chocolate festival is upon us! I took this opportunity to make a quick trip down to Cocoa Nymph before other evening obligations came upon me.

Bacchu’s Dream: Made from 72% dark chocolate with red wine
reduction and apple ginger compote.
Served with walnut shortbread (vegan).
($6.65)

 This particular beverage was made with coconut milk (though I ordered almond – this works, too!), and I thought I could detect an aroma of red wine before I even took a sip of the drink. 

WHOA. I definitely could smell it before I sipped it – I realized this upon actually sipping it, and tasting what turned out to be a very strong red wine flavour. My expectation had been to experience more of a red wine undertone, rather than a half-wine half-chocolate drink. This was slightly distressing as I am not a fan of wine, so the taste was overwhelming, and I struggled to detect anything else about the drink for a few sips. Eventually, though, I was able to pick up on some of the apple ginger compote, as little pieces of apple made their way to my mouth as I sipped.
Now that walnut shortbread cookie – that was amazing! It was chewy and had texture from the walnuts in it, and would be perfect to dip in a less wine-y hot chocolate or some tea in the morning, I think.
It was a nice night with a big moon in the sky as I left, and it felt like the week would be ending on a good note. Valentine’s Day, big birthday, and the beginning of our reading break – I would expect no less from such a day!

I just couldn’t finish it…

HoCho Fest Day 25: …?!

I was disappointed to find that another location in the hot chocolate festival has stopped serving festival specials – but this time, the website was not overlooked by me! They stopped early according to the schedule online. With a tight schedule and a lot of driving ahead of me, I went to Beaucoup Bakery and decided to get something to drink as an alternative to their “Hungers Satisfied” item.

Note: This post will be short.

The drink I chose was their regular hot chocolate (to upkeep my daily intake of cacao products), and was made of dark chocolate ganache and was flavoured with salt. It came with small sugar cookies on the side that were delicate and lightly sweet.

I ordered my drink with soy milk, and the ganache and soy blended so smoothly, and the richness was countered by the salt, which made the drink more dynamic. Additionally, the small size of the drink was very nice – the perfect amount of hot chocolate for me! While I am disappointed that I was unable to grab a festival item today, it was nice nonetheless to try one of the participants’ regular drinks.

HoCho Fest Day 24: Brunette Bangle

Today was a hot chocolate festival day marked with both high and low moments.


First, the low (because then we can move on from them): Really there is only one, and it is having made the discovery that Thierry Chocolaterie stopped participating in the festival as of yesterday – I do not know why, but this means there will be one location that I do not get to attend while it participates in the festival – perhaps I will go visit anyways!

The highs: I was able to enjoy a very unique and delicious hot chocolate with three lovely people! The four of us ventured to Koko Monk this afternoon.

Having done a bit of research ahead of time, I learned that all of their creations are preservative and chemical free! All of the flavours come from their natural sources. A novelty that I appreciate, and a point of pride in their establishment made clear by the chocolatiers that served us today.

Brunette Bangle: Hot chocolate with the exotic hint of curry.
Served with your choice of cookie.
($6.75)
I was hesitant in approaching this unique flavour combination, as I do not generally like curries because the majority I try are spicy and have caused me to avoid them. However, this soy-milk beverage was a surprise to me: It was a really nice balance of real, homemade dark chocolate, and curry flavours! The curry flavours were not spicy, but added a unique dimension to the drink and paired well with the dark chocolate, which was bitter and full of flavour. 

Halfway through the drink, we stirred it with the spoon provided and whew! Curry flavour was in abundance. After more mixing and including the chocolate drizzled along the sides of the glass mug, the flavours seemed to balance again and reach a very happy place.

As for the cookie.. There is not much to say, and not much needs to be said: It is a cookie filled with delicious jam and covered in soft and powdery sweetness. It had the soft, chewy texture that I so love in my cookies.



This spot is a definite need-to-try if you’re ever in the Kitsilano area! I want to sample all of their yummy chocolate confections and take a stab at that chocolate fondue fountain… Droooooooling.


HoCho Fest Day 23: Monkey’s Uncle

Happy B.C. Family Day!

To celebrate the day, some of the folks I love came out to my end and we all went for “Italian soul food” at the restaurant Incendio. My pasta was delectable, and the crusts of my family members’ pizzas were as well.

S and N’s pizza.
My rotini pomodoro pasta.
Mom and J’s pizza.



 












After our lunch, we made the journey over to the hot chocolate location for the day – the second trip to Bella Gelatería! I thought it would be a good spot to showcase some of the festival’s creativity and unique locations to my family.

Monkey’s Uncle: gBAR made from banana liquer and swirls of “To Die For”
banana bread crumb. Served with a slice of Erin Ireland’s “To Die For”
Banana Bread.


The gelato gBAR for this drink tasted SO GOOD! It tasted exactly like banana bread, except it was in a popcicle form. S and N tried this as well, but tried it instead in a cone and dipped it in their white hot chocolate (with moderate success). 

Dipping our banana bread gBAR into the dark almond milk hot chocolate made it melt, and the oozing flavours tasted oh-so-yummy. The hot chocolate was dark and nutty from the almond milk, and was quite filling. Similarly to my last experience at BG, the gBAR did not flavour the hot chocolate very strongly, and the flavours of it were hardly present until the last quarter of the drink, where it became thicker with the gelato and hints of banana crept up.

As was the case last time, the “To Die For” banana bread was delectable, and I think that everyone enjoyed their hot chocolate experiences as well. 



I personally think that last year’s hot chocolate at BG was superior because of how strong the flavours were. However, this year’s is very unique in how you come to have the specialty drinks – to make this year’s top last year’s, I think the drinks should be smaller so that the gBARs can flavour the hot chocolate more effectively (maybe 12oz drink cups instead of what appear to be 16oz ones would help).