Tag Archives: bacon

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
604-924-1847

2539 West Broadway
Vancouver, BC
604-736-1848

ChocolaTas

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
604-566-1065

Xoxolat

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
604-733-2462

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.

…I’m back!

Huzzah!

Hello, lovelies. Thanks for your patience while I took a bit of a break. It was a case of life spinning madly out of control, and something had to give. While I’m sad that it was this blog, I’m glad to be back and writing. I’ve had a good think about how to balance the things I need to do with the things that I want to do, and I’ve come to a decision.

I’m going to post, at minimum, once a week. Yes, that’s significantly less than the daily posts that I started with. However, seeing as how I started this blog while I was delightfully unemployed, I think that a weekly post is a happy compromise. It’s a case of quality versus quantity. This way, I can have a week to think about what I want to say, and make it count. [So she says hopefully.]

Yup. And now we return to your regularly scheduled programming.

I’ve started working with chocolate again. I’ve been writing about it and tasting it for nearly a year now, but I really needed a break from working with it. It didn’t occur to me how much I missed it, but I’ve been experimenting for the past couple of weeks. And, I’m pleased to report, I love it again. LOVE. IT. There’s something about watching chocolate melt, playing with the temperatures, tempering it, and inspecting the final products. And, of course, eating it.

In honour of International Bacon Day, I made a batch of bacon caramels and dipped them in chocolate. Dipping the caramels was surprisingly tricky. They were softer than caramels that I’ve worked with before, so I had to work quickly before they relaxed into limpid pools of caramel goodness.

And, each caramel donated a bit of bacon fat to the bowl of chocolate. It was exceedingly generous of them, but by the end of the batch the chocolates were looking like they weren’t setting as well. I panicked a bit (oh noes! have I lost my tempering touch?) until I realized that it was a layer of bacon fat on top of the chocolate. Hrm. They did set in the end, and they were delicious, but this is a logistical detail that I’ll have to work out.

This weekend, when gifted with some fresh basil from a friend’s garden, I made some lemon-basil truffles. They’re more basil than lemon, but they taste bright and summery and delicious, and I’ll take it.

In culinary school, I always emerged from chocolate classes looking like I had taken a bath in it. I was notorious for getting two horizontal streaks, one each at chest-level and waist-level. Chest-level corresponded to the rim of the giant bowl of chocolate that I was tempering, and waist-level corresponded to the height of the granite counter.

Thankfully, I work cleaner these days. The kitchen is spotless and I didn’t get anything on my apron – though, I confess that on my evening run yesterday, I found a  streak of chocolate on my high-tech, air-wicking running shirt. The chocolate pixies must be after me. It only makes me run faster.

Like Picasso at IKEA

I wandered into a chocolate shop the other day, just to have a look around. I really didn’t plan on buying or eating anything.

What’s that phrase about the best-laid plans?

One VISA swipe later, I sat down with a cup of coffee and two square-ish nubs of chocolate: one that was raspberry flavoured, and one that purported to contain bacon.

Yum, bacon.

The problem is, I’ve become kind of cantankerous and picky when it comes to chocolate. I can’t just eat it. I have to dissect it. So, I couldn’t ignore the fact that square chocolates should be, well, square. They should also be even and flat, and not sort of sideways and woozy-looking. And you know, as pretty as that cocoa butter design was on top, it was too bad that the corners of the chocolate were all cracked. And when I turned the chocolates over, it was really too bad that the bottom was cracked along every edge.

This told me a few things.

1. Quality control wasn’t there. I know there are some places that think that mistakes make things look handmade and rustic, but it actually just makes things look messy. If you’re going to do the handmade thing, then really give ‘er and make them look cozy and handmade. But trying to sell me a sad-looking piece of chocolate just makes me sad.

2. Someone mistreated these chocolates. Trade secret: most chocolate shops work weeks in advance, and then refrigerate or freeze the confections until they’re needed. The trick is to acclimatize the chocolates very slowly as they cool, and even more slowly as they warm up. This is because the inside of a confection is made of ganache. A mixture of chocolate and cream, ganache expands and contracts at a different rate than plain chocolate.

If you’re patient and let the confections cool down and warm up slowly, then they’ll look fine. However, if you’re impatient, then the ganache inside will expand faster than the chocolate outside, resulting in sad, cracked edges.

And really, if you’re impatient, you shouldn’t be working with chocolate. What’s the point?

In this case, not only did the chocolatier fail to make sure that every chocolate was perfect, but whoever handled them afterwards couldn’t be bothered to treat them properly. It’s like putting a tacky copy of a Picasso in one of those do-it-yourself cheapie IKEA picture frames.

Boo.

(Oh, and the bacon chocolate? Not nearly as delicious as I thought it would be. Neither the chocolate nor the bacon tasted very good, and the two flavours together just seemed like an afterthought. Double boo.)

Three cheers for brunch!

I love brunch. Actually, I love breakfast but I’m rarely able to enjoy breakfast. And on the weekends, I love to sleep in – which means that breakfast becomes brunch.

Anyway, I’m having my two oldest friends over for brunch today. By oldest, I mean that I’ve known one girl my entire life, and the other since I was eight. We don’t see each other nearly often enough these days, so I’m looking forward to seeing them.

I’m making French toast with boozy bananas (dark rum or orange liqueur? I can’t decide) and honey-glazed bacon. We’ll finish with lime-ginger sorbet, and wash everything down with mimosas.

The combination of good friends, food and stories – it’s going to be fabulous.

Bac’n: however you spell it, it’s delicious.

Jer tweeted about this, and I had to pass it on.

Do you love bacon? If you said no, you’re lying. I will make exceptions if your religion says you can’t eat pig products, but aside from that you’re a big fat liar. Even when I was vegetarian (which I was for nearly 10 years), the mere thought of bacon drove me absolutely bonkers.

If you haven’t been to bacn.com, thou shalt get there post-haste. It’s an entire site dedicated to – you guessed it – bacon. There’s an online store (buy bacon!), instructional videos (cook bacon!) and Bac’n swag (wear bacon!).

I would kill for a BLT right now.

Bacon explosion

Would you like bacon with your bacon? Okay, how about sausage with your bacon? Wait, actually – how about you weave a mat out of bacon, cover it with Italian sausage, top it with more bacon, and then string the whole thing up? And then, let’s say – hypothetically – that you take this bundle of pork product goodness, slather it with barbecue sauce, and then put it in a smoker for two hours?

Well, my friends, you’d have a bacon explosion.

I can’t even take credit for having discovered it. My dear friend Roxy passed it on after seeing an article in the New York Times.

Does anyone have a smoker? I’ll bring the bacon and Italian sausage.

Ho ho ho, green giant.

Brussels sprouts on Commercial Drive

Brussels sprouts on Commercial Drive

Take these home, trim the ends, and cut them in half. Saute them in olive oil, with garlic, julienned sundried tomatoes and lots of salt & pepper. Or, if you’re feeling particularly decadent, fry up some bacon and cook the sprouts in the rendered bacon fat. Ohhhhhh, divine…