Tag Archives: vancouver

CHOCOLATE 201: Chocolate-tasting classes in Vancouver (Spring 2012 edition)

EDIT: Due to scheduling issues, these classes have been postponed to Fall 2012. If you’re interested in a private or corporate chocolate tasting, please contact me.

CHOCOLATE 201 is a series of classes that dig a little deeper into the world of chocolate. If you’ve taken a chocolate-tasting class before, then here’s an opportunity for you to dig a little deeper into topics of interest. If you’re a newbie to chocolate, don’t fear—you’ll do just fine in these sessions.

Classes are small to encourage discussion…and to make sure everyone gets plenty of chocolate. All classes will take place at Xoxolat (2391 Burrard Street, at West 8th Avenue).

Train Your Palate: Guided and Blind Chocolate Tasting
There are two parts to having a good palate: one is being able to taste, the other is finding the vocabulary to describe it. In this two-part class, you’ll learn how to do both. First, we’ll do a guided tasting to demonstrate some common flavours in chocolate. Then, see how you do in a blind tasting.

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly: Can You Taste the Difference in Chocolate?
Most people understand that there’s a difference between handcrafted chocolate, made in small batches and free of junk; and a mass-produced candy bar stuffed full of preservatives, wax and unpronounceable ingredients. But can you taste the difference? In this class, we’ll do a blind tasting of chocolates of different quality and price tags. See what your tastebuds tell you.

Viva Venezuela!
Since the 1600s, Venezuela has been home to some of the world’s best cacao. Today, there’s remarkable diversity in the cacao that comes from this country. In this class, we’ll taste a smattering of chocolate from different growing regions in Venezuela.

Chocolate Matters: Beyond Fair Trade and Organic
Many people buy Fair Trade-certified chocolate because they believe that it’s better, more sustainable or more ethically produced. But is it enough? In this class, we’ll talk about Fair Trade, Direct Trade and organic chocolate and what they mean for the producer, the chocolate maker and the consumer. And, of course, how does it relate to flavour?

Raincity Chronicles: Recipe For…

For the uninitiated, RainCity Chronicles is a regular gathering of awesome people who tell and listen to stories. It’s an entertaining and often touching look at topics you might not otherwise consider, told from perspectives you didn’t know existed.

This month’s event is called Recipe For… and it will go something like this: take one part storytelling, one part super-duper Vancouver people, one part cool venue, and you have a recipe for success. (Oh, I did not just do that. Wait. Yes, I did.)

I’m excited and terrified to be speaking at Raincity Chronicles next week. Won’t you come and watch me make an ass of myself? I don’t promise to talk about my famous Eating Pants (yes, they really do exist) but I promise that it will be fun. Besides, fellow Foodist Mark Busse and the always-lovely Annika Reinhardt will also be speaking. Put the three of us in a room, and at least one of us is good for a laugh.

Details:
Wednesday, May 11
Firehall Arts Centre
Doors 7:00 p.m., show 7:30 p.m.
Tickets $10 advance, $12 at the door
More information
Buy tickets here

Vancouver Hot Chocolate Festival

I’m back and nearly recovered from a crazy weekend in San Francisco. The good kind of crazy, though. Like eating Meyer lemon sorbet from Scream Sorbet while basking in the sun. Without wearing my winter coat. In January. Southern California, you’re so weird and wonderful.

While I was there, I also had the fortune of attending the Good Food Awards and the Fancy Food Show. Talk about a great food weekend.

Back in Vancouver, I’m keeping cozy with sweaters and mittens. And, just in time to tide you through the rainy drizzle, there’s the first annual Vancouver Hot Chocolate Festival. Included in the list of participating places are two of my favourite spots, Chocolaterie de la Nouvelle France and Thomas Haas Chocolates, plus new upstart Campagnolo Caffe and everyone’s favourite gelato place Bella Gelateria.

The festival runs from January 15 to February 13, and each participant is donating a portion of their proceeds to charity. How’s that for a win-win situation?

Read more about the event from CityFood Magazine or check out the event calendar.

Participating businesses:

“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).

EAT! Vancouver chocolate competition

EAT! Vancouver is this weekend and I’ll be checking out some of the sessions. Aside from general trade show excitement, I’m looking forward to the beer and chocolate session (aptly named “Beer + Chocolate”) that’s taking place on the Grapes & Hops Stage. It’s presented by the guys at Just Here for the Beer. There’s one at 5:30 pm on Friday and 1:30 pm on Saturday.

In addition to the trade show and seminars, there’s also a chocolate competition. Competitors are judged on three components: bonbons/pralines, plated desserts, and chocolate sculptures. I’m excited and nervous. It will be nice to be on the other side of the table. In theory, I won’t end up covered in chocolate. But, hey, you never know. Judging starts at 11 am, which means that I’ll be having chocolate for brunch. I know that sounds awesome, but I’ve cleared out my afternoon for some serious napping to recover.

EAT! Vancouver runs from May 28-30, 2010, at the new Vancouver Convention Centre. If you buy your tickets online, you get $3 off the door price.

Maybe I’ll see you there?

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.

A Night with Theo Chocolate

Artisan chocolate meets wine, beer, cocktails and canapes

Theo_Banner4

Mark your calendars: Friday, November 20th will be the chocolate event of the year. Joe Whinney, CEO and founder of Theo Chocolate, will make a rare appearance in Vancouver for this special event.

Theo Chocolate is a fair-trade, certified organic bean-to-bar chocolate producer in Seattle. They were one of the first to create organic chocolate that didn’t taste like dirt. In fact, it tasted amazing. The company’s values, philosophy and transparency is matched only by the passion of the people who work there.

The night will feature Theo Chocolate in some surprising ways: as savoury canapes, in cocktails, and paired with artisan wine and beer. Joe Whinney will talk about the company that he founded, and entertain us with stories about the trials and tribulations of being an artisan chocolate maker.

This unique event will feature canapes from the Refinery, the mixology stylings of Lauren Mote, fine wines selected from the Farmstead Wines collection, and the opportunity to taste some amazing chocolate. And that’s not all. There’s more stuff coming down the pipe, so stay tuned.

Date: Friday, November 20th, 2009
Time: 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Location: The Refinery, 1115 Granville Street, Vancouver
Tickets: $50.00 $40.00 | Buy tickets

UPDATE, November 5, 2009:

We’ll be featuring two single-origin dark chocolates. One’s from Madagascar, the other from Ghana. We’ll also try the fig, fennel and almond bar from the 3400 Phinney line.

I’m not usually a fan of milk chocolate, but I’m not one to argue with the London Academy of Chocolate. In 2009, they awarded the Theo Jane Goodall milk chocolate bar with a silver medal for best milk chocolate bar. Not only is the chocolate good, the company was just awarded the Jane Goodall Institute award for Excellence in Corporate Responsibility.

Wine-wise, we’ll be tasting two gems from the Farmstead Wines collection: the Agricola Marrone Arnies 2007, and the Claus Preisinger Basic. We’ve got some tricks up our sleeves for more pairings, so stay tuned.

Throughout the night, we’ll hear stories about each product: where it comes from, who produced it, and the craft that went into it.

What are you waiting for? Buy tickets here. Tickets are only $50, but the actual value of the experience is well over $75.

This event is proudly sponsored by Sheraton Wall Centre, Foodists, and Industrial Brand, with a fabulous door prize donated by Xoxolat.