I trekked out to North Van to visit my old boss today. It was great to see my former co-workers, but wow – lots of things have changed in 10 months. I only knew two people in the pastry kitchen – the other four people are all new. And most of the girls in the cafe are new, and had no idea who I was.
At least things are pretty much the same in the chocolate kitchen, where I used to work. At the height of the Christmas season, we produced more than 60,000 identical, perfect, delicious-tasting chocolates each week. It was an insane exercise in organization, efficiency and artistry. I definitely enjoyed the experience – and my fantastic co-workers – but at the end of the day I knew that I wasn’t cut out for the madness of 16-hour days on my feet, fuelled by expensive cappuccino and pastries.
I had hoped to grab one of the fruit danishes before the sold out, but I was too late. The fruit danish is to die for – I would honestly reach through the computer screen and steal it from you if you had one right now. The danish dough is croissant dough (as it should be) and it’s flaky and buttery and tastes like a croissant dough should taste. Instead of the danish, I had an orange blossom brioche: a flower-shaped brioche flavoured with candied orange, with a pastry cream-apricot centre, garnished with a single pistachio slice. Beautiful and tasty – but still not as good as that fruit danish!
I also had an Aztec hot chocolate, which is 70% Valrhona hot chocolate, milk, and a secret blend of several chilis. It’s a deep, dark hot chocolate that gives your throat a slow burn. Thomas does an Aztec chocolate bonbon too, which is really deceptive – at first it just tastes like a really nice dark chocolate, but then the smoky burn kicks in. It can be pretty intense, actually.
There’s a new chocolate on the menu, too. There’s a line of fruit chocolates, which is half dark chocolate ganache and half pate de fruit (fruit paste), in your choice of lychee, passionfruit, cassis, raspberry or banana. The banana is my favourite, but it’s being temporarily (please God, only temporarily) discontinued in favour of a new lime flavour. I have to say, I’m a big citrus fan, and the lime is really tasty. But bananer! I love the bananer one. And I really love saying bananer instead of banana, but only in reference to this chocolate. Somehow, it made the 16-hour days go by faster.
(My other favourite chocolate, the pink grapefruit-campari-white chocolate truffle, was discontinued last Christmas. If you got a chance to try it, you’re lucky. It literally blew my socks off. The flavour palate is so perfectly deliberate: you got the sweetness of the white chocolate, which turned into the acidity and brightness of the pink grapefruit, and finally the slight bitterness and booziness of the campari. It. Was. Perfect.)
So I left with a loot bag of little chocolates (Earl Grey, coffee, salted toffee pecan, maple caramel, passionfruit truffle, salted caramel truffle, and a Chocolate of the Day) that I can’t wait to dig into. While I was working there, the last thing I wanted to do was eat these chocolates. I’m so glad that’s changed.
128-998 Harbourside Drive
North Vancouver, BC