Tag Archives: hazelnut

Soma Chocolatemaker (pop) rocks!

I have no willpower. None whatsoever. And when it comes to a case full of chocolates, all shiny and beautiful, I usually err on the side of lavish and try one of everything. Now, if it’s a chocolatemaker in Vancouver, I can pace myself and try a few on each visit. But when travelling, I usually get one piece of everything that’s available. It’s a hard-knocked life.

So when I was in Toronto, I bought a giant box of truffles from Soma Chocolatemaker. They range from classic (fleur de sel caramel, orange marzipan) to modern (single-origin flavours) to unusual (Douglas Fir, olive oil). I’m impressed at the range of flavours, but more importantly, with the execution. Each piece was perfect, each shell was uniform and thin, and the fillings all delivered what they promised.

The standout, though, was Sparky: gianduja laced with poprocks. I know it sounds gimicky. But the gianduja (a combination of caramelized hazelnuts and milk chocolate) was the perfect vehicle to deliver those long-lost childhood exploding candies. It was entirely delightful, entertaining, and whimsical – which is, actually, what the experience of tasting chocolate should be like. It’s a seasonal truffle, but maybe if we all request it en masse, it’ll win a permanent spot on the chocolate menu.

Soma Chocolatemaker
55 Mill Street, Building 48
Toronto, ON
416-815-7662

ChocolaTas, and method to my madness

You’ve probably never heard of ChocolaTas before. The Abbotsford company has been around for a while and does a bustling business providing wholesale chocolates to local restaurants and hotels. ChocolaTas used to have an occasional table at Granville Island Public Market, and made some buzz last year when it partnered with Emily Carr. Students were asked to supply custom designs for a winter line of chocolates. The winning designs were translated into coloured cocoa butter, applied to the tops of handmade chocolates, and sold as part of a limited edition collection.

Anyway, fast forward to today when ChocolaTas has a spiffy new booth at Granville Island Public Market. There’s an impressive selection of flavours ranging from the expected (80% dark chocolate ganache) to the unexpected (wasabi and lemon-thyme, among others).

I chose an assortment of chocolates to try. It has taken me a while to figure out how best to approach a tasting menu of chocolates, because I tend towards the exotic or unusual flavours. The problem with this is that if an unusual chocolate isn’t good, it’s not clear whether it’s the chocolatier or the flavour. I’m more disciplined these days, and try to get a mixture of classic and crazy. I’ll usually get a few classic flavours (caramel, hazelnut, vanilla or coffee) and then a few wacky ones to round things out.

ChocolaTas
151 – 1669 Johnston St.,
Vancouver, BC
V6H 3R9
604-488-1226

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