HoCho Fest 2016: 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 + Farewell!

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: Railtown Cafe, Gem Chocolates, 49th Parallel and Lucky’s Doughnuts, Chez Christophe, Schokolade Artisan Chocolates, and Glenburn Soda Fountain & Confectionary

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HoCho 24: Pandance With Me, Railtown Cafe
This was my first visit to Railtown Cafe! Tucked away in East Vancouver in a corner I didn’t know existed, I found my way one Wednesday at dusk to “Pandance With” their cocoa.
This cocoa was infused with honest-to-goodness, in-my-cup, lime leaf and chili-infused coconut milk blended with almond milk (original recipe called for dairy milk). The first sip left me with a bit of a *kick* in the back of my throat, and a light, smooth taste in my mouth.

 

Darker chocolate flavours, along with the aforementioned *kick*, grew more prominent throughout the hot chocolate’s consumption – this is probably because the things that actually flavoured the drink continued to sit and steep as it was drunk. To cool off the tongue, we had a chia bar with jam in lieu of the festival “whippet” cookie due to them selling out before we arrived!
Overall, I would definitely return to this funky establishment (that also does catering!) to try more of their baked goods, lunch items, and non-dairy drinks in this unassuming part of town. Recommended!
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HoCho 25: Let’s Do The Time Warp Again!, Gem Chocolates
Rushing to the door 5 minutes before closing, GD and I ordered two dark chocolate versions of the final flavour at Gem Chocolates. Red chocolate lips topped this rocky-road flavoured drink, and I wish I had eaten them before they dipped beneath the surface, lending to the s’more-like flavours.
I enjoyed this not-too-sweet chocolate (that probably would have been sweeter with another chocolate) that tasted like a liquid s’more! It was being consumed on-the-go, so there are unfortunately no post-worthy photos following this initial capture!
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HoCho 26: The Bee’s Knees, 49th Parallel and Lucky’s Doughnuts
A filling meal at the Foundation, followed by a post-dinner walk, led us to 49th Parallel’s Main Street location. This location has a wooden interior, lodge-y vibe of which I am personally a huge fan. With unreasonable impulsiveness, I ordered The Bee’s Knees in the hopes that it would top my previous 49th experience alongside a PB&J doughnut from Lucky’s.
Made of almond milk, the honey in this dark chocolate cocoa made it sweet and delicious. While I personally would have preferred a tad less of the sweet stuff, it definitely made it smooth and took away any potential dark chocolate bitterness. There were overtones of lavender that made it a bit lighter in the mouth than it otherwise might have been.
The biscotti had a mild lavender flavour with visible pieces of the plant inside it, and the white chocolate on the outside was an automatic win.
… Need I describe how delicious a jelly-covered doughnut with peanut butter filling was?
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HoCho 27: Winter White, Chez Christophe
Finally, we made it eastward enough to reach Chez Christophe – an upscale chocolate and pastry establishment that impressed last year with a Fererro Rocher-type treat that was dropped into their hot chocolate. This year, I ordered their Winter White, as this flavour could be made with non-dairy milk (and sounded pretty delicious).
The orange flavours in the drink reminded me of an herbal tea in the way it almost “floated” in my mouth and lingered after I was finished each sip. There were visible bits of orange zest in the drink, and they made an otherwise very smooth white chocolate texture a little more interesting. I believe that the almond milk was a good call in stunting the sweetness of the white chocolate, and the flavours all balanced quite well.
A candied orange dipped in dark chocolate accompanied the drink, and was deliciously sweet! Dark chocolate likely helped buffer the intense sugar, but not so much that we missed out on any magic.
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HoChos 28, 29, 30: I Want You, I Need You!, I Love You, Schokolade Artisan Chocolates
On the same day as Chez Christophe, my team and I ventured to a similar neighbourhood where we found Schokolade Artisan Chocolates! An enjoyable stop for the last two festivals, I was intrigued by the offerings for this year’s. I was even more intrigued by how our names were interpreted by the folks behind the counter.
I Need You!: 100% dark chocolate. J (“George”) ordered this one (boldly, I would argue), and allowed me to give it a try. 100% not my cup of cocoa – it was so bitter that it reminded me immediately of coffee (I suppose it did contain caramel “expresso”) and was not a flavour I wished to continue indulging in!
I Want You: My (“Kathy’s”) selected flavour. I had expected something different based on the online description of this flavour – a “choose your own adventure” kind of vibe – but was somewhat frustrated when trying to order it. Clearly, in the eyes of the woman serving me, I did not understand basic instructions when it came to choosing my drink components off of the clipboard she used to cover up the menu, and when I tried to ask why the clipboard instructions didn’t match the festival description, she told me, with great exasperation, to “FOCUS”. In the end, I had an almond milk, hazelnut dark hot chocolate that reminded me of my disappointing experience at 49th Parallel (due to my own personal preferences) and a bitter taste in my from being scolded.
I Love You: Afforded correct pronunciation of her name, M went for this one – a pomegranate white hot chocolate mind with almond milk. Topped with real pomegranate seeds and whipped cream, I took more readily to this flavour, and ended up trading with M. It tasted quite sweet and somewhat strangely fruity and tangy, like the flavours of white chocolate and fruit were battling rather than harmonizing. This was not necessarily a bad thing, but it was somewhat “unsettled” as a flavour combination.
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HoCho 31: Get The Green Light, Glenburn Soda Fountain & Confectionery
A bitter(but mostly)sweet day: My final stop for the 2016 Hot Chocolate Festival.
Upon finding Glenburn Soda Fountain & Confectionery, it was obvious that this spot is a beloved neighbourhood gem: A line-up had formed outside the doors before it opened! As soon as the doors were unlocked, people scrambled for a seat at the bar and in the booths of this old-school establishment that resembled a diner with its checkered floors and traditional caps atop the heads of its employees.
Alternating between two flavours throughout the festival, Glenburn offered their Creme de Mènthe, Grasshopper pie-inspired cocoa as their final festival treat. A fan of the alcoholic grasshopper drink and a fan of chocolate, I expected to be a fan of this (even if it did have to be made with dairy milk).
Topped with white chocolate shavings and chocolate wafer crumbles, the whipped cream had a green tinge and was lightly minty in flavour. The hot chocolate beneath was itself a dark chocolate and blended with non-alcoholic Crème de Menthe, which left an “after feeling” of mint post-sip. Alongside the drink in its handsome glass was a white chocolate cookie that tied the drink’s theme and name together – it was a bit crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside, a texture pattern I salivate at the mention of, thus winning my heart.
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Thank-you for joining me and my friends as we explored the 2016 Hot Chocolate Festival! If you took part in any way, you were supporting a great cause and have contributed in small part (or large part) to a women’s job training program in the city’s downtown eastside. I certainly (obviously) enjoyed taking part, and hope that you have enjoyed my reviews and photographs of my adventures on my third devoted festival experience.
Until next year…
 
 

I could use your help to win!

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.

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

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.

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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!).

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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. 

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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.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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Until next time…