Category Archives: Links

Lost and found: Nacional cacao in Peru

January was a busy month for the science of chocolate.

First, The New York Times reported that the rare, thought-to-be-extinct Nacional strain of cacao had been found in Peru. Amid much excitement, Maranon Chocolate was hailed as hero in the chocolate world. (I’ll note, apologetically, that Canada’s Globe & Mail took a whole two weeks to report the same story.)

Then, Clay Gordon posted this analysis of the situation on The Chocolate Life, which goes into a lot of detail about genetics, chocolate production and the taste of the chocolate itself.

The big commercial deal about this chocolate is that you can buy the roasted beans, enrobed in their own chocolate. You can get them from Moonstruck Chocolate in Portland (where they’ve given it the precious name Fortunato No. 4, which only begs the question of what happened to Fortunato 1, 2 and 3), or from Christophe Morel Chocolatier in Montreal.

A big deal has been made of the exclusivity of the chocolate. And on that topic, I’ll pull out the most interesting detail of Clay Gordon’s post on The Chocolate Life, and that’s that large Swiss chocolate maker Felchlin is actually processing the Nacional beans into chocolate. Nothing wrong with that, but it certainly dulls the romantic glow that some have tried to cast on the situation.

But how does it taste? The chocolate is quite good. The enrobed cacao bean has a nice nuttiness, floral notes and a long finish. Is it the world’s most fantastically amazing chocolate, or remotely close to “profound,” as the Globe & Mail describes? Um, no.

Sure is a nice story, though.


“Chocolate from Bean to Bar” in Northwest Palate

Happy New Year! Somehow, it became 2011 and I want to know where my flying car is. Or my jetpack. I’m not picky; one of them will do. Though really, if I had to choose I’d want a transporter a la Star Trek, because that would really cut down on transportation time.

While we’re waiting for technology to catch up to our expectations, why don’t you take a gander at the January/February 2011 issue of Northwest Palate? My article on bean-to-bar chocolate appears on page 26, and it features interviews with the lovely Hodie Rondeau (Xoxolat, Vancouver), Lauren Adler (Chocolopolis, Seattle) and Aubrey Lindley (Cacao, Portland).

Personal Puddings on the cover of Edible Vancouver

If you love pudding as much as I do, you’ll want to check out the Winter issue of Edible Vancouver. I’m proud to say that my article “Personal Puddings: A Confession, with Recipes” appears on page 36. And, even better, those fabulous personal puddings found their way onto the cover of the issue. (Many thanks to the very talented and oh-so-wonderful Leeanne Munn for making my puddings look as good as they taste.)

Until I get my hands on the pdf of the article, you can read the digital version of Edible Vancouver, which is full of tasty articles about spiced winter drinks, hazelnuts and much more.

Also, I’m working on something cool with Kafka’s Coffee and Tea. We’re still working out some of the details, but it promises to be fun, exciting and chocolatey. If you’d like to get the details before anyone else, fill in the contact form below.

Chocolate in Vancouver: Roundup

There’s a lot of chocolate in Vancouver, and let’s be honest – not all of it is worth checking out. Some of it, however, is drool-inducingly good. Here are some of my favourites:

Thomas Haas

Thomas Haas fruit chocolates

No list would be complete with Thomas Haas, so let’s just get this out of the way. The list of accolades is endless, and he was recently voted one of the top ten chocolatiers in North America by Dessert Professional Magazine. The chocolate is impeccable, the cakes divine, and the pastries couldn’t possibly be made of any more butter than they are. With his new location in Kitsilano, you don’t need to trek all the way to North Vancouver to get your fix. Read my first post about Thomas here.

The fruit chocolates are a layer of fruit-flavoured ganache topped with pate de fruit. As always happens, my favourite (banana) has been discontinued, but the lychee and passionfruit are amazing. The salted caramel pecan is a grown-up version of a Turtle, the ginger confection is rich and spicy, and the Earl Grey is fragrant with bergamot.

Pastry-wise, the double-baked almond croissant is legendary. It’s a croissant filled with almond cream, topped with almond cream, sprinkled with almonds, baked to crispy perfection, and dusted with icing sugar. The pull-apart is chunks of croissant dough mixed with spiced nuts, and the fruit danish is full of fragrant vanilla pastry cream and (sometimes seasonal) fruit.

The pistachio vanilla tart is a favourite, though you can’t go wrong with anything in the case. It’s hard to pick though, since everything looks so damn good. Macaroons used to just be decorations on cakes; now you can get them by the piece. While waiting in line (and you will wait in line), check out the chocolate sculpture(s) on display.

Two locations, both open 8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

128-998 Harbourside Drive
North Vancouver, BC

2539 West Broadway
Vancouver, BC


Tucked amid the hustle and bustle of Granville Island Public Market is ChocolaTas, which boasts a pretty impressive line of chocolates. They’re best when consumed fresh, so ask the person behind the counter which ones are newest. I like the tea-flavoured ones myself, though the fresh mint tastes just like summer – even when it’s drizzly, cold and grey outside. Check out my previous reviews of their salted chocolate, dent-du-midi (almond praline), Earl Grey, and four-spice milk chocolate bonbons.

In the past, ChocolaTas has worked with the design students at Emily Carr University to develop custom designs for their chocolates. These limited edition chocolates are stunning, and if you’re lucky enough to be there when they’re on display, you’re in for a treat. They’re almost too beautiful to eat. Almost.

Open 9:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m.

151 – 1669 Johnston Street (inside Granville Island Public Market)
Vancouver, BC

Chocolaterie de la Nouvelle France

chocolaterie_logoCheck out Anne-Geneviève Poitras’s cute little shop in Hipsterville. The shop is cute as a button and the truffles are deep, dark and delicious. Be warned, though: they’re all rolled in Valrhona cocoa powder and are indistinguishable from each other, so it’s impossible to tell them apart by looks alone. You’ll have to taste each one to figure out what’s what.

Also note that the packaging isn’t much to sniff at, so don’t expect lush boxes or pretty bows and ribbons. What you get, though, is honest, well-executed, thoughtful chocolate that tastes exactly like what the name says it should be. Read my first post about Chocolaterie de la Nouvelle France here.

Seasonal items cycle through the store. Look for sucre a la creme (a traditional Quebecois confection, kind of a maple fudgey thing) in the winter, and pate de fruits in the summer.

Open 11:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday.

198 East 21st Avenue
Vancouver, BC


Xoxolat (pronounced sho-sho-la) has Vancouver’s best selection of bean-to-bar chocolate. At last visit, they carried Pralus, Amano, Bonnat, Claudio Corallo, Zotter, Theo Chocolate, and more. The selection changes and there’s always something new. If you’re new to artisan chocolate, the lovely ladies at Xoxolat are happy to provide a bit of background.

Open Tuesday to Saturday (10:30 a.m.-6:00 p.m.) and Sunday (noon-5:00 p.m.)

2391 Burrard Street
Vancouver, BC

Other places worth noting

The Vosges bacon bar is legendary, and Dandelion Emporium is the only place in Vancouver that carries it. When not sold out, Dandelion carries it in milk and dark chocolate, in the 3 oz and 1/2 oz size. If they are sold out, they also have other tasty offerings from the Vosges line. Rumour has it they might be getting the flying chocolate-bacon pigs!

There’s only one bean-to-bar chocolate producer in Canada, and that’s Toronto’s Soma Chocolatemaker. You can get these unique bars at 49th Parallel Cafe in Kitsilano, where they also serve the Soma Chocolatemaker drinking chocolate in dark, spicy or milk hazelnut. The selection rotates, so it’s a bit like playing a chocolate lottery. Except that you win, every time.

Read more about both of these finds in “Surprising places for chocolate in Vancouver.”

Also, Chocolate Arts does beautiful stuff, and for some reason I’ve never written about them. Hrm.

“The Real Thing” in Edible Vancouver

The new issue of Edible Vancouver is out, and if you turn to page 12 you’ll find my article about hot chocolate. Or, read the article here. If you want the recipe, you’ll have to get an actual copy – at least, until the recipe gets indexed and posted on the site.

Copies tend to fly off the shelves pretty quickly. Get yours at one of these fine establishments. Or hey, you know what would make a great Christmas gift? You guessed it: a subscription to Edible Vancouver.

Tasting cocoa powder

I’ve posted my tasting notes on confections and bars, but I’ve yet to add cocoa powder to my arsenal.

Thank goodness for LunaCafe, who collected and tasted a nice selection of cocoa powder.

(Dude, it’s too hot to talk about chocolate, even in powdered form. My kingdom for a kiddie pool!)

Would you like camel with your chocolate?

I hate making excuses, but here we go… I have a wicked deadline and my brain feels like it’s made of soup.

So, in lieu of my usual bemused commentary, I’m going to send you here to read about milk chocolate that’s made with camel milk. I have a few bars that are made with yogurt instead of milk solids, but I haven’t tried them yet. I’ll think about moving them to the top of the tasting list.

Apparently, you’ll be able to buy them in San Francisco. What, it’s not enough that the Bay Area gets Michael Recchuiti, TCHO and Chocolatier Blue? You also get to be the first ones to try camel milk chocolate?

(Thanks to Joseph for the link.)