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Last week Chocolate Arts launched a brand new, enhanced take on high tea – they call it the Haute Chocolate service. I was invited to try it out and my friend JX has joined me for some girly time. The good thing about this is that you don’t need to make reservations ahead of time, so it can be a spontaneous date with your favourite girl(s), or an afternoon chocolate break from a stroll around the city.

Haute Chocolate at Chocolate Arts

Food

For $15.95, the Haute Chocolate service includes a carafe of hot chocolate along with 4-6 house-made chocolates, pastries, petits fours and pâte de fruits, as well as a small piece banana bread with butter and seasonal jam.

For hot chocolate, you have endless options. You can select its classic house blend of semisweet or bittersweet, or the spiced chocolate with chipotle, cardamom and cayenne, or you can go to its collection of chocolate chips, sample some of them and pick out your favourite. It’s not an easy choice. Here are a few that we’ve tried: Lactee Superieure (38%) gives you the rich milk chocolate flavour; Madirofolo (65%) has a good balance of semi-sweetness; Alto el Sol (65%) has a hint of banana because the beans are grown near banana trees; Araguani (72%) is a single-origin dark chocolate with a rather complex flavour, slightly sweet and fruity. In the end, I chose the Araguani for its fruitiness. The hot chocolate comes with whipped cream, or vanilla or raspberry marshmallows. If you chose neither, which I think is a silly thing to do, you will receive an extra piece of chocolate on your plate. OK, maybe it’s not so silly anymore.

Chocolate ChipsSampling Chocolate Chips

The next difficult decision is to choose one piece of chocolate from its display case to add to your plate. There were caramels, truffles, chocolate bonbons, and some seasonal offerings that they rotate every few months. I chose the Fleur de Sel Wafer.

Chocolate Display CaseChocolate Display Case

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Since I started working downtown, I’ve been wanting to try Mink Chocolates but was never able to find a good time to drop by (they close too early on weekdays to make it happen). During the Hot Chocolate Festival earlier this month, I finally made the effort to swing by. It was the only chocolate shop I visited during the festival.

Food

Of the two offerings, I opted for The Sheba – ganache hot chocolate with pistachio. There’s an option of milk or dark chocolate, and I chose milk.

Hot Sheba Milk Chocolate

Hot Sheba Milk Chocolate

I had to order it to-go. However, I took a sip almost immediately after I received it, to make sure I was trying it at its best form. It was rich and creamy, like drinking a bar of melted milk chocolate, with some additional boiled milk. I wasn’t sure if I could taste any pistachio, though. It may be very subtle, too subtle for me to tell apart. I don’t think the pistachio flavour was prominent enough to call it The Sheba. And it’s certainly not a cheap cup of hot chocolate, and I would prefer it to be slightly hotter. The accompanying 72% dark chocolate wafer demonstrated to me that Mink has some good quality chocolate, which brings us to the 2nd reason why I went to Mink.

My visit was two-fold. (more…)

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As Joyce has mentioned on our Facebook page, Hot Chocolate Festival is going on from now until February 14. My first stop (maybe my only one) was at Bella Gelateria in the downtown area by Burrard Station.

It was late in the afternoon, the rain was pouring down and you could feel the cold bite at the tip of your nose. Hot chocolate was the only solution to help cure my body after a tough week at school and help me finally unwind for the weekend, even if it was just for an evening with good company before having to immerse myself back into school work.

The outside of the gelateria is simple and elegant. The inside is a fairly small space, with a display window filled with desserts and wooden tables that were decorated with little vases and flowers and candles.

Sweet fix for the weekend.

There were about 5 types of hot chocolates to choose from, so we picked the Italian honey nougat with milk chocolate and the salty caramel with dark chocolate, both came with a slice of Erin Ireland‘s famous It’s To Die For Banana Bread.

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