Hot Chocolate Festival 2015

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I didn’t know it was possible for so many things to happen in the span of three weeks, but they did. Let’s rewind all the back to the start of February…

I took a small reprieve on a Thursday afternoon (a cancelled tutorial = a total luxury) and caught up with two friends from high school over a sort-of warm cup of hot chocolate.

Although we haven’t seen each other in at least six months, our conversations fit together just as they did years ago– a comfortable rhythm, familiar laughter.

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This is at Thomas Haas, which is conveniently located on the 99 bus route. I’m pretty sure the mental map I have of Vancouver is largely based around where bakeries are located. Main Street, to me, is equivalent of Forty Ninth Parallel and Beta5 Chocolates. West Broadway is equivalent to Thomas Haas, with Whole Foods, Rain or Shine, and Beaucoup Bakery a couple stone’s throw away. That being said, I am only aware of the “famous” (maybe hyped up) ones, so if anyone knows of secretly not-so-well known bakeries or food places, I’d love to hear about them!

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I got “This is Nuts!” (55% cocoa infused with caramelized hazelnut & almond butter, served with “haaselnut”cream & financier sandwich), as did my friend, and my other friend went for the “Pep Me Up!” (70% cocoa infused with fresh peppermint and a kick of chartreuse, served with minty chocolate ganache bar). Also pictured is the tropical cheesecake, or whatever it’s called.

After fidgeting around with the placement, and taking our fill of phone photos, I took my first sip…

and okay, truthfully, I was disappointed. If I’m going to be charged close to 7 dollars for a cup of hot chocolate, I’m expecting like, liquid chocolate. Or close to that richness. Or major flavour punches going around. As much as I’m interested in food, I’m sad to say that my palate isn’t actually all that sensitive or sharp, so I need flavours to be pretty apparent in order to appreciate it, or have it stand out from other things I’ve tried. And also, because I subconsciously attribute noticeable flavour with good-quality ingredients.

That being said, it was pretty good. Adequately good. I don’t know. I didn’t pick up too much of the caramelized notes, though. HOWEVER, the financier sandwich was memorable. It looked so unassuming, but once I bit into it… Chewy, but not in the same way a brownie would be… you could tell it was made from nut flour (I’m assuming hazelnuts? or almonds?) and the layer of haaselnut cream contrasted with the crunch of the exterior hazelnuts perfectly. And it definitely tasted more natural than Nutella does. So A++++ for dear Mr. Thomas Haas for that.

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And here is a robin-blue earl gray macaron we obtained by mysterious but fortuitous means. Now here, the earl gray flavor was undeniably bold and sophisticated.

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Anddd fast forward over a hectic week comprised of job training, two midterms, two labs, some quizzes, and a Sam Smith concert in the middle (major love. I still can’t get over how good he is live)… it wasn’t actually that bad, and I made it through, like everyone manages to do.

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And next thing I know, I had to say good-bye to my last free weekend morning that I have at my leisure. I drove to Forty Ninth Parallel to check out their offerings for the Hot Chocolate Festival. It was their first year participating, so I was preeetty excited. IMG_0865

Forty Nine Parallel’s offerings:

Hot Chocolate & Doughnut – Our classic dark hot chocolate and a Lucky’s doughnut of your choice.

The Nanaimo Bar – A 72% dark chocolate paired with sweetened milk, topped with coconut whipped cream. Served with a doughnut shaped financier.

The Lumberjack – Spicy dark hot chocolate served with maple marshmallows and a chocolate covered wafer log.

An easy choice for me– financiers, dark chocolate, coconut… you’re speaking directly to my heart here.

Now, this hot chocolate I was more impressed with… for a few reasons. So I was half-paying attention to the guy making my drink, and half mindlessly staring at the oh-so-hipster lights (see picture below). I noticed the guy making latte art while pouring out the milk. Then he proceeds to top it with coconut whipped cream, and sprinkles chocolate shavings and coconut shreds, in a precise manner. This is what I appreciated– the attention paid to that single cup of hot chocolate. The coconut cream would’ve covered the hot chocolate anyway, so technically he didn’t even have to bother making the pattern, but he still did it. So it was actually pretty perfect, aesthetically, with part of the pattern visible around the edges.

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The chocolate flavour was deeper/richer than Thomas Haas, but it’s just because its cocoa percentage of this one was higher anyway. Coconut cream was a wise choice, with its creaminess rounding out the bitter notes.

The financier was textually perfect, although the flavor wasn’t anything to note. Just sweetness. And whatever flavour present in the ground nuts would be overpowered by the powdered sugar anyway.

We also tried their doughnut– I don’t remember the name, but it was essentially a yeasted doughnut with peanut butter pastry cream inside, chocolate ganache outside, and caramelized bananas on top. Again– the flavours were really strong, but the doughnut itself was more on the doughy/bready side, where I would`ve preferred something slightly more melt-in-your mouth.

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I had all these dreams of what I was going to bake during reading week, but it turns out I won’t even be here at all in Canada. Things have just been unsettling in my normally routine life, so I’m just trying to go with it.

Hope you’re all doing well, and that you took advantage of the discounted chocolates post V-day.

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