Tag Archives: cherry

Summer competitions: Seattle chocolate salon, Vancouver blueberry festival

Ahhh, summer. All I want to do is sit on a porch eating cherries, discarding the stems and pits wherever they land. Maybe, if I’m feeling ambitious, I’ll cut up some watermelon and have a seed-spitting contest—but only if I know I can win. Or hey, there’s always long afternoons on sunny patios with endless pitchers of sangria.

Still, it seems to be a season for competition. In fact, there are two coming up next week: the Seattle Luxury Chocolate Salon and the Vancouver Farmers Markets blueberry bake-off. I’m happy to say that I’ll be judging at both of them.

Seattle Luxury Chocolate Salon

As luck would have it, this chocolate salon always coincides with a heat wave. Call it fate. It’s a little unfortunate, since it makes it difficult to really taste the chocolate (less snappy, more squooshy) but it’s still great to see a room full of chocolate fiends. With a nice mixture of bean-to-bar producers, confection makers, this is usually a fun event.

Tickets are $25 at the door. The event runs from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Sunday, July 11 at the Bell Harbor Conference Center (2211 Alaskan Way, Pier 66).

Vancouver Farmers Markets blueberry bake-off

I make a weekly trip to the Main Street farmers market, where I load up on gorgeous fruits and vegetables. Whether it’s luscious cherries, delicate summer squash or insanely fresh spring garlic, the market is one of the highlights of my week. I go for the hard-to-find stuff: collard greens, zucchini flowers, heirloom tomatoes. And I have been known to walk away with pounds and pounds of fruit: cherries, apricots, strawberries, raspberries.

And now, blueberries!

To celebrate the bounty of B.C. blueberries, the Vancouver Farmers Market is having a blueberry muffin competition. I’m, ahem, helping them out as a judge. I’m charitable like that. They’re accepting entries until Monday. More information is available on the blueberry muffin competition entry form (opens a pdf).

And even if you’re not entering, check out one of the faboo farmers markets that run across this fine city of ours.

ChocoLove chilies & cherries in 55% dark chocolate

Chocolate pairs well with cherries and with chilies, but it’s a growing trend to mix all three together. For instance, Lindt does a cherry & chili bar. It’s not bad, but it’s definitely for a sweeter palate than mine. ChocoLove’s chilies & cherries bar is an interesting addition to the market.

ChocoLove puts a spin on the trend by using chipotle and ancho chilies, providing heat and smokiness. The dried cherries are nice and tart, and while I don’t usually like stuff in my chocolate, the experience of melty chocolate and chewy cherry is actually kind of fun. This bar starts with tart cherry and dark chocolate, mellows to smokiness, and finishes with warm heat at the back of your throat.

I’ll admit that I wasn’t blown away by it on first try. The smokiness is a bit too smoky for my liking. It almost tastes a little bit bitter, like the chilies were roasted longer than they should have been. Having said that, it’s an interesting take on a flavour combination that we’ll probably see a lot more of.

ChocoLove is available here (mostly in the US, but some online sources probably ship to Canada) or you can buy directly from them online.

Finally, in a cute twist, some of the chocolate bars come with love poems on the inside of the wrapper. Mine came with George Wither’s Sonnet Upon a Stolen Kiss:

Now gentle sleep hath closed up those eyes
Which, waking, kept my boldest thoughts in awe;
And free access unto that sweet lip lies,
From whence I long the rosy breath to draw.
Methinks no wrong it were, if I should steal
From those two melting rubies one poor kiss;
None sees the theft that would the theft reveal,
Nor rob I her of aught what she can miss:
Nay, should I twenty kisses take away,
Why then should I this robbery delay?
O, she may wake, and therewith angry grow!
Well, if she do, I’ll back restore that one,
And twenty hundred thousand more for loan.

Voya’s petits fours: coffee chocolates

I’m rounding out my discussion of the petits fours plate at Voya, which features six bites of deliciousness. The selection changes frequently, and I got to sample lemon spritz cookies, sparkly coffee cookies, pineapple pate de fruit, cherry cordials, hazelnut praline chocolates, and coffee chocolates.

While tasting, I saved the coffee chocolate for last because I expected it to have the most punch. It was a beautifully shiny chocolate shell surrounding a great ganache: dark, rich, perfectly smooth, with just the right level of denseness. I think I wanted it to have a bit more coffee punch, but maybe I was spoiled by the sparkly coffee cookie I had eaten earlier. In any event, it was a great way to end the night, and paired perfectly with the freshly brewed decaf Americano that I ordered.

Voya (in the Loden Hotel)
1177 Melville Street
Vancouver, BC
(604) 639-8692
Voya Restaurant & Lounge on Urbanspoon

Voya’s petits fours: hazelnut praline chocolates

We’re almost there, kids! The petits fours plate at Voya features six tasty little things, and I got to sample lemon spritz cookies, sparkly coffee cookies, pineapple pate de fruit, cherry cordials, hazelnut praline chocolates, and coffee chocolates.

Now, here’s the thing with hazelnut praline and chocolate. It’s one of those combinations that 99% of the population loves, and the 1% that doesn’t love it is weird because they don’t like hazelnuts. Think about Nutella, Purdy’s hedgehogs, and Ferrero Rocher – they’re all based on hazelnut praline and chocolate.

Now, just so everyone’s on the same page here, hazelnut praline is a very particular concoction. It’s shelled, peeled, toasted hazelnuts that are incorporated into caramelized sugar. The entire mixture is spread on a sheet and allowed to cool into, for lack of a better term, hazelnut brittle. The mixture is then broken into pieces and whizzed around a food processor until it forms a paste. This paste includes the best of both worlds: the toastiness and nuttiness of the hazelnuts, and the sweetness and caramel notes of the sugar.

Hazelnut praline is usually combined with milk chocolate for a deadly combination that few people can resist. For this reason, I’m a little bit skeptical when I see it on chocolate menus, because people like it regardless of how well it’s done.

Well, this hazelnut praline chocolate at Voya is impressive. It has clean hazelnut flavour, and isn’t too heavy or rich. Even better, there are little bits of praligrain inside. These toasted, caramelized pieces of hazelnuts give a sugary, caramel-y snap as you bite into them. It’s a great contrast to the otherwise creamy and smooth inside of the chocolate.

Voya (in the Loden Hotel)
1177 Melville Street
Vancouver, BC
(604) 639-8692

Voya’s petits fours: cherry cordials

Well, I’m halfway through talking about the petits fours plate at Voya. While the specific items change quite often, I’m hoping you’ll have a chance to try some of what I had: lemon spritz cookies, sparkly coffee cookies, pineapple pate de fruit, cherry cordials, hazelnut praline chocolates, and coffee chocolates.

When I think of cherry cordials, I think of those gross things that came in cheap boxes of chocolate at Christmas. They were cloyingly sweet, the chocolate was cheap and waxy, and the cherry tasted like anything but a cherry.

Well, cross your fingers and hope that you get to try pastry chef Maurizio Persichino’s cherry cordials. Encased in the thinnest possible dark chocolate shell, the cherry cordial puts emphasis on the “cherry” rather than the “cordial” part of the name. The cherry is plump, succulent and just boozy enough, and the surrounding syrup is pleasantly sweet.

One of these days I’ll have to tell you the magic behind making cherry cordials. But that’s another story for another time.

Voya (in the Loden Hotel)
1177 Melville Street
Vancouver, BC
(604) 639-8692

Voya’s petits fours: pineapple pate de fruit

If you’ve just joined us, I’m dissecting the petits fours plate at Voya. It’s a delicious assortment of beautiful little things, and the plate I had featured lemon spritz cookies, sparkly coffee cookies, pineapple pate de fruit, cherry cordials, hazelnut praline chocolates, and coffee chocolates.

I love pate de fruit. Directly translated, it means “fruit paste” and that’s exactly what it is.  Just think about it: delicate little squares of fruit puree, concentrated and slightly sweetened, and rolled in sugar so it sparkles. Slightly sticky, tangy and tart, it’s like candy for grown-ups.

Voya’s petits fours plate came with pineapple pate de fruit, and it surprised me. I was expecting tart, brash pineapple that would make my tongue pucker a little bit. Instead, it was a kinder, gentler pineapple that started out a little bit shy, and then became bolder as it melted on my tongue. The flavour developed even further on the back of my tongue and throat.

Not what I expected at all, but lovely nonetheless.

Voya (in the Loden Hotel)
1177 Melville Street
Vancouver, BC
(604) 639-8692

Voya’s petits fours: sparkly coffee cookies

If you’ve just joined us, I’m waxing poetic on the petits fours plate at Voya. It’s a changing plate of miniature deliciousness, and the plate I had featured lemon spritz cookies, sparkly coffee cookies, pineapple pate de fruit, cherry cordials, hazelnut praline chocolates, and coffee chocolates.

So, what’s this about sparkly coffee cookies?

That’s probably not their real name, and it really doesn’t do justice to just how pretty they are. They probably have some fabulously Italian name that means coffee-almond-bites-of-eternal-and-undying-love, but I’m just going to call them sparkly coffee cookies.

They’re perfectly round, loonie-sized cookies that are dusted in sugar and garnished with a coffee bean. Coffee bean aside, these cookies pop with coffee flavour, and then mellow to the slightly sweet and nutty almond base. It’s like a chewy version of a coffee amaretti. But prettier.

Voya (in the Loden Hotel)
1177 Melville Street
Vancouver, BC
(604) 639-8692