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Vancouver’s Sweet Side – Part 4 – Chocolate

2 Apr

Chocolate. That word alone makes some people go weak in the knees. If you are one of those people, keep reading! I’m about to tell you about some local Vancouver places where you can indulge that sweet-tooth.

Thomas Haas (Kitsilano)
2539 West Broadway
Vancouver, BC

There is no denying Thomas Haas’ popularity in this town when it comes to chocolate. In addition to his elegant cakes and desserts, macarons, and delicate pastries, Thomas Haas also finds time to create house-made chocolates and truffles. His collection is extensive and includes chocolates that are fruit-filled, ganache-filled, caramels, nut-based, or chocolates infused with exotic flavours, such as Earl Grey tea. Is there anything this man can’t do?! If you can’t make it to the store, some stores (like Whole Foods) do stock some of his stuff.

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XOXOLAT (Kitsilano)
2391 Burrard Street
Vancouver, BC

XOXOLAT, located on West 8th and Burrard, sell their own selection of house-made specialty chocolates (even some shaped as high-heels), in addition to a variety of imported choccies. Prices are expensive here because you are paying for quality and workmanship. I’m a huge fan of their house-made peanut butter cups, their elusive “PBJ” bar, and their chocolate-coated marshmallows. XOXOLAT also put on regular “Chocolate 101” tasting classes – but book ahead as they sell out fast.

BETA5 Chocolates (Strathcona)
413 Industrial Ave
Vancouver, BC

BETA5 has been on my radar since they first exploded onto the scene in late 2011 but I was truly hooked when I saw owner, Adam Chandler, talk passionately about his love of chocolate at a Pecha Kucha event. Like most of the other chocolate purveyors in my recommendations, BETA5 offers high-quality, house-made chocolates in a variety of selections. Options include ganache-filled chocolates in unique flavours, such as tobacco or Imperial Stout, assorted bars of chocolate, and coated nuts and fruits. My personal favourites are the salted chocolate caramels. The shop also bake fresh pastries daily and they make their own jellies, preserves, and individual-sized desserts in a jar. If you can’t make it to their store, you can also pick up some BETA5 supplies from The Dirty Apron deli.

Signature chocolates from BETA5

Salted chocolate caramels from BETA5

Thierry (Downtown)
1059 Alberni Street
Vancouver, BC

Thierry Busset is a veteran local pastry chef who also creates sophisticated chocolates at his beautiful downtown space. Selections include fruit and flavoured ganache, such as whiskey truffle or passionfruit, as well as praline and marzipan options. Prices aren’t cheap but the quality is worth the splurge.

Chocoholic Buffet at Sutton Place Hotel (Downtown)
845 Burrard Street
Vancouver, BC

Although I haven’t been for years, you can’t argue with a buffet. Of CHOCOLATE! Sure, the quality is not in the same realm as my other recommendations, but who cares? Sometimes you just want to gorge and for $28 (for adults), it can be all yours! Chocolate cakes, chocolate pastries, chocolate pies, chocolate ice cream, chocolate slices, chocolate fondue, crepes…with chocolate – it’s all yours! My stomach hurts just thinking about it.

Other places worth noting that I haven’t personally visited enough (yet) are CocoaNymph, Mink Chocolates, and Chocolate Arts.

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Vancouver’s Sweet Side – Part 3 – Bakeries & Patisseries

24 Feb

I have no qualms about putting up my hand and proudly declaring that I love baked goods. I friggin’ love ’em! Whether it is croissants, cakes, cupcakes, pastries, I love it all – but I do have my standards. If I am going to splurge on calories for baked goods then they better be amazing. I don’t want a shitty, dried-out croissant, no thank you ma’am. Thankfully, I don’t have to settle for anything less than perfect when I have these inspiring bakeries and patisseries making the good stuff!

Beaucoup Bakery (Fairview)
2150 Fir Street
Vancouver, BC

A small, chic bakery located at Fir and West 6th that offers freshly baked, exquisite pastries, including croissants, chocolate éclairs, and chausson aux pommes. Seating inside the small café is limited so if you can’t get a table, get your pastries to-go instead. Pack a few extra pennies (as prices aren’t cheap), forget about the calories, and enjoy what Beaucoup has to offer.

Butter CroissantKouign Amann

Cadeaux Bakery (Gastown)
172 Powell Street
Vancouver, BC

Cadeaux is a diamond in the rough – a beautiful little café in an area that has seen better days (Powell at Main Street). The café is a tribute to everything feminine – think flowery wall paper, tea cups, chandeliers, and pretty cake stands – and the counters are full of tantalizing pastries and danishes, cupcakes, cookies, and cakes. I love the peanut butter and jelly cupcakes, the seasonal fruit danishes, and the bacon twist (below) might just be my new favourite pastry.

Raspberry DanishBacon Twist

Thierry (Downtown)
1059 Alberni Street
Vancouver, BC

A sophisticated patisserie (and café, and chocolaterie) that comes to us from veteran local pastry chef, Thierry Busset. Prices aren’t cheap but the quality is worth the splurge. Everything looks picture-perfect at Thierry and they sell a wide range of macarons, individual or large cakes and tarts, loaves, and viennoise. Chocolates, caramels, or nougats are beautifully packaged and make great gifts. Personal favourites of mine are the macarons (some with real fruit inside) and the warm apple tart.

p1010497Thierry’s Cake SelectionsTrio Cake

Thomas Haas (Kitsilano)
2539 West Broadway
Vancouver, BC

A popular patisserie and chocolate store, owned and operated by renowned pastry chef and all-round nice guy, Thomas Haas. The café’s display cabinets proudly exhibit handmade chocolates and truffles, elegant cakes, colourful macarons, and delicate pastries. Personal favourites of mine are the lemon tart, the salted caramels, and the sandwiches. Prices are above average, but then again, so is the quality.

Thomas Haas Chocolate SelectionsI just gained 5 pounds looking at this pictureLemon Tart

Faubourg (Kerrisdale)
2156 West 41st Ave
Vancouver, BC

This busy bistro/café way up in Kerrisdale has made itself very popular by offering delicious viennoise, loaves of authentic breads, and afternoon tea. Although I found the croissants disappointing on my last visit, I am still thinking about the baguette and the tri-chocolate decadent cake (which unfortunately I ate before I got a picture of it). Coffee was disappointing but make the trip for the breads and the cakes.

Mix the Bakery (Point Grey)
4430 West 10th Ave
Vancouver, BC

At Mix the Bakery, it is all about the breads. I haven’t been to their store a lot but when they have their stand at the Farmer’s Markets, I always stop in for some bread. They bake many varieties of bread, including not-your-average types, such as Three Chili Cheese and Yukon Gold & Scallion Focaccia, as well as sweets and pastries.

Cassia Cupcakery (Commercial)
1706 Commercial Drive
Vancouver, BC

I’m not impressed by the well-known cupcake chain in Vancouver – I find them to be too processed and sweet – so I’d rather bake them myself or hunt for other contenders. Whilst they are not the best cupcakes that I’ve ever had (can anything really beat fresh-out-the-oven?) I found the cupcakes at Cassia, an unassuming, cute cupcakery, to be quite delicious. Flavours include red velvet, peanut butter, vanilla, and banana but they also have gluten-free and vegan cupcakes.

This list will continue to grow as I keep on my search for Vancouver’s best patisseries and bakeries. Please let me know if you have any recommendations!

Also, I recently completed a croissant crusade, where I visited five different pastry stores in search of Vancouver’s best croissants. You can read all about that here.

Vancouver’s Sweet Side – Part 2 – Ice Cream

23 Feb

First up on my Guide to Vancouver’s Sweet Side was donuts. If you have finished digesting those, we are moving on to ice cream, gelati, and sorbetto!

Although I have a weakness for good ice cream, I don’t splurge as often as I’d like as Vancouver’s weather doesn’t typically allow for indulgences of the cold variety. However, when those few hard-earned months of summer finally peek out from behind grey clouds, I find myself heading straight for these local favourites.

Bella Gelateria (Downtown)
1001 W. Cordova Street
Vancouver, BC

Inside the small, stylish gelateria you won’t be greeted with rows of whispy gelati peaks, like the ones you find in Italy. Instead, you will find a large menu and rows of stainless steel tubs covered with lids (this is to keep the temperature exact). It is underneath those lids that lies a variety of authentic, innovative gelati. Personally, what I think makes this gelati so tasty is the quality of the ingredients. Bella Gelateria uses only Avalon organic milk and sources high quality ingredients from BC, California, and some from as far away as Italy. They also use only natural ingredients and do not add any preservatives. Just pure and simple. And the proof is in the taste.

Earnest Ice Cream
No fixed address (see below)

Perhaps you prefer to eat your ice cream in the privacy of your own home? If so, Earnest Ice Cream is for you! Pints of their delicious home-made ice cream are sold direct at the Vancouver farmer’s markets or through select retailers, such as The Dirty Apron (a full list of retailers is on their website). With Earnest, it is all about the ingredients (seems like this is always the case with good ice cream) as they don’t use artificial colours or flavours, preferring to use whole food ingredients, with a focus on seasonal ingredients. New flavours are always popping up but I’m a huge fan of the traditional flavours; chocolate or Tahitian vanilla.

Earnest Blueberry Cheesecake

Gelateria Dolce Amore (Commerical Drive)
1588 Commercial Drive
Vancouver, BC

I hadn’t heard about this place until a friend recommended this impressive, little Commercial Drive hot-spot. It really is hidden away on Commercial but if you venture inside, you will be greeted with tubs of colourful, hand-crafted gelati and sorbetto. As is the case with all of the places I have chosen, there is a focus on seasonal flavours, whilst also keeping the traditional flavours that you’d expect. Don’t go in expecting “over 500 flavours!!” like other places – these guys stick to small batches.

Vancouver’s Sweet Side – Part 1 – Donuts

22 Feb

Alright Vancouver, what’s your weakness? I have spent years searching the city to find treats that will satisfy my sweet tooth and I’d like to share them with you, on one condition; that you will tell me your favourites too! I hate not knowing ALL of the good places, so don’t be shy – let me know!

I recently read “Paris, my Sweet” which is written by self-confessed sweet-aholic, Amy Thomas. The book details her recommendations of Paris and New York’s most outstanding spots to get your sweet fix. I was inspired to do the same for Vancouver and have started with my donut, or doughnut (seriously, which is it?!), selections. Over the next few posts, I will also share my favourite ice cream, bakeries, and chocolatiers. But for now, put down your Tim Horton’s donut and check out some of these local hot spots.

Cartems Donuterie (Gastown)
408 Carrall Street
Vancouver, BC

Cartems is, quite simply, all about the donuts. They sell nothing else but that – no coffee, no other treats – just old-fashioned donuts. What makes them different from Tim Horton’s and Krispy Kreme is that they aren’t the airy, yeasty donuts that you’ve come to expect. The Cartems donuts are dense, with an almost cake-like consistency – yum! My personal favourites are The Earl Grey, The Carrot Cake, The Classic, and Cinnamon Sugar. Prices are about $3 per donut.

Stack o’ Donuts

Earl Grey

Lee’s Donuts (Granville Island)
1689 Johnson Street
Vancouver, BC

Lee’s was the first really good donut that I had in Vancouver. In fact, I made sure that I had one on each trip that I made to Granville Island. They must be doing something right – Lee’s has been around for more than 25 years! The donuts are made fresh daily (you can even watch through the window) and fresh, still-warm batches are regularly added to the large wall of donuts throughout the day. There is a huge variety of flavours, including jelly, powdered, old-fashioned, and Dutch chocolate. My favourite is easily the honey-dip donut, particularly when they are still warm.

Lucky’s Doughnuts (Main Street)
2902 Main Street
Vancouver, BC

Lucky’s is a fairly new addition to the donut scene (they opened in Summer 2012) and can be found on Main Street, inside the 49th Parallel Café. A Kits location will be opening soon. Lucky’s offers donut-lovers some bold flavours such as salted caramel, bacon apple fritters, and peanut butter and jelly. I found the simple glazed donut to be wonderfully airy and light, with just the right amount of sweet glaze. The donuts are made fresh daily and all jams, glazes, and fillings are made from scratch. Because of the higher than Tim Horton prices (around $3 a donut), a friend of mine refers to this as “The Holt Renfrew of Donuts”, which makes me giggle. You can also enjoy a coffee or tea in the beautiful café space (if you are able to snag a seat).

Lucky’s Glazed Donut