It is now halfway through this year’s Hot Chocolate Festival, running from January 16 to February 14 with 25 participating shops and 59 unique flavours. I’m on leave at this time so how many would I get to anyhow?
January 16 / Glenburn Soda Fountain and Confectionary
For all that NPY lived and worked closeby and loves his ice cream floats, I was surprised he hadn’t been to Glenburn and barely knew about it. Well, that’s the lovely part of the festival, to introduce you to new places.
For the first half of the festival, they were serving up a red-tinted milk chocolate hot chocolate with a cream cheese whipped cream and a pecan “shortbread” mitten cookie. While NPY doesn’t quite understand cream cheese frosting/whipped cream, he would have to admit that it is pleasantly “not too sweet”.
January 17 / Bella Gelateria Coal Harbour
After a lovely brunch with friends, Edna and I found the guys were happy to take the LOs off our hands and we head to Bella where there was a choice of four hot chocolates. Bella’s black sesame hot chocolate with a matcha whipped cream was so Asian fusion and I really wanted to try it.
January 18 / Terra Breads
You try everything in your ‘hood, right? Terra is just a couple blocks away and Brenda and I head there after a fascinating session listening to a kids’ physiotherapist talk. It was funny because just the day before, while I was having hot chocolate with Edna, Brenda texted me, “R u into hot chocolate?” I knew where she was going with it and that we can help each other sample widely!
January 19 / French Made Baking
Now that I’ve started going to the VPL at Mount Pleasant Community Centre, I end up passing by this cafe and haven’t had a strong urge to go in until now, to check out their “back by popular demand” orange/thyme hot chocolate. So I went for a solo
coffee hot chocolate break and was happy to learn there is seating in the back, they serve Kusmi tea and have delightful treats like macaron cake.
The hot chocolate was lovely smooth drinking chocolate and the mediant was delicious too but just altogether a little much. It really is better to enjoy hot chocolate with friends and/or not four days in a row!
January 21 / East Van Roasters
When Brenda and I were strategizing where to hit up next for hot chocolate and I thought I’d help her check off the one close to her as we both like to check out the participants in our neighbourhoods. I would not have known to walk into this coffee shop were it not for her recommendation. They make their own chocolate and hire staff from the immediate area who need the work. The honey used to flavour the hot chocolate is also very local and lightened up the drink.
January 25 / 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters
Brenda said I wouldn’t likely get a seat at 49th Parallel and I have seen it is packed every time I have been to the Main Street location. But after E’s 9 a.m. doctor’s appointment, I wanted to walk around some more and it’s a decent distance from the Broadway/Cambie area where I started. It wasn’t empty but I had a choice of seats and enjoyed a solo hot chocolate break. I’ve been spoiled by thick drinking chocolate so 49th Parallel’s hot chocolate was a bit thin but certain still good hot chocolate. The sides were plentiful with both biscotti and a marshmallow.
January 26 / Bella Gelateria Yaletown
Bella’s second location has been around for a couple of years but I still hadn’t been there for their food. Thankfully C & E were down for dinner and hot chocolate – C lives just above Bella and E and I are just 15 minutes walks away. We followed a nice pasta dinner (we all ordered pappardelle ai funghi) with hot chocolate. This was delicious and smoky with a salty hit every now and then.
February 1 / Earnest Ice Cream
I thought this one might be a flop – what do you expect to get when you pour hot drinking chocolate over ice cream? Not the melty mess I thought but a great warm and spicy milkshake. It was just too little for my liking!
February 4 / diva at the Met
Brenda and I were to meet up again for Storytime on Thursday and we try to hang out afterwards. I should learn not to be so tentative suggesting having yet more hot chocolate because she seems down for having as much as possible like I am, haha. There aren’t so many downtown locations left but we were intrigued by diva at the Met(ropolitan Hotel Vancouver).
When we were served these beautiful drinks, the bartender who served us mentioned something about the ball dropping into the hot chocolate and we thought that was straightforward enough. I found the ball was fused fast to the “paper” which “tore” and I learned was also chocolate that was fashioned into a thin wafer. For some reason, I thought we were to invert the wafer so the ball would unfuse in the heat and drop in. And since my wafer was broken, I just tossed all the pieces in. The bartender realized how confused we were and came out to show us how the loop was a handle and if we used it to place the wafer over the mug’s mouth, the wafer would melt and the ball would drop in like a bomb. It all tastes the same in the in and it was a pretty concoction and tasty very citrusy hot chocolate.
February 5 / Mink Chocolates
Shortly after the festival started, I texted Andrea to see if she would join me. I thought she’d be so down for it but I didn’t receive a reply for days. Only when I wanted to send her something else did I realize the message failed to transmit and when I re-sent it, she responded right away. Yes! And we would get to try out Mink who comes up with a creative entry each year. I didn’t know they would default to giving us to-go cups. Andrea ordered the other hot chocolate which tasted like toasty marshmallow throughout and brazenly was served with a sparkler. This drink was indeed different, not nearly as rich but still creamy.
February 6 / Thomas Haas
Since the middle of the week, I told NPY we’d go to Butter Baked Goods but he suggested we go to North Van to check out a Funko Pop! figurine sale at Bed Bath & Beyond and get something fixed in the car. We would be so far from Butter but we would be close to Thomas Haas. In fact, we learned that a trail has been created that connects the auto mall to nearby amenities in a picturesque walk. We must have visited last on a week day because it was a madhouse that day. We were grateful for indoor seats so we could enjoy our treats for real despite the chaso all around.
February 10 / Railtown Cafe
It had been a few days since my last hot chocolate and I’ve sworn off treats that are mindless and utterly extraneous (which thus excludes hot chocolate, birthday celebrations, coffee accompaniments such as biscotti, you get the idea). And I was headed to Chinatown/downtown so Gastown wasn’t really out of the way. And I had plenty of time to kill.
It has been my experience that when I went alone (like the nut I am), it hasn’t really been worth it. Railtown Cafe didn’t seem so out of the way but it certainly wasn’t on the way anywhere and when I walked on Alexander between Quebec and Dunlevy on an overcast afternoon threatening to enter twilight, it certainly didn’t feel worth it. I had tried so hard to avoid Main & Hastings since I was with E in a stroller but I feel more anxious on Alexander!
The cafe itself is warm and really quiet at 4 pm on a Wednesday. The salads and sandwiches sound excellent and I look forward to an opportunity to try it one day. And it was a value hot chocolate compared to all the others, to be sure. The whippets were excellent and as I find with pandan, the flavour is very faint – I miss it. Same with the hot chocolate which was thin and had huge kick. No wonder, there were two chili peppers infusing their spice.
In the past two years of festivals, I have been to Bel Cafe, The Last Crumb, Thierry, Terra Breads and Bella Gelateria, the last on an awesome bender with Andrea that included in the same sitting their Dineout Vancouver dessert trio!