Thursday, 16 February 2023

Vancouver Hot Chocolate Festival 2023

Vancouver may be devoid of all things fun - ahem cancelled New Year's fireworks - but we do make up for it with our food festivities. As 2023 starts to unfold, so begins the 13th annual Greater Vancouver Hot Chocolate Festival boasting 65 establishments collectively pouring up 145 unique hot chocolates! 

The Hot Chocolate Festival used to have a small number of participating restaurants making it feasible for me to try nearly all of the hot chocolate creations. As the years have gone on, the Hot Chocolate Festival has grown exponentially and now include several of my personal favourite establishments that I like to frequent year round. 

Another factor restricting me from trying more is the pricing for the hot chocolates. I want to try as many as I can, but the exorbitant pricing for a single hot chocolate has me and others rethinking it. Normally in Vancouver, hot drinks like hot chocolates, lattes, mochas etc would never be more than $7 and that is on the expensive end. For the festival, I found the average pricing was in the $12 range with some going up to $16! That is madness! Sure you can argue that the are served with a treat, but a single small chocolate or tiny donut hole or miniature cupcake is still a major stretch. The insane pricing has been voiced by many Vancouverites this year and I do hope that in the future, participants will reconsider and not price gouge us. 

There were so many hot chocolates I wanted to try, but sadly I was only able to make it to three. I tried The Federal Store, 49th Parallel and Fufu Cafe. I wish I got to visit Whisk as they had a wonderful matcha hot chocolate because we all know I love matcha! 

The Federal Store | The Sasha Velour 

Tucked within a Mount Pleasant neighbourhood, the Federal Store has become a cafĂ© that has won my heart with its incredible bakery case, particularly the cupcakes! I even celebrated my 29th birthday with their Roasted Strawberry Cake. 

As soon as I heard the name for this hot chocolate, I instantly knew it would be rose flavoured.
The Sasha Velour is a direct nod to the iconic moment from Rupaul's Drag Race in which Sasha Velour sent viewers screaming as she pulled off her wig to reveal a cascade of red rose petals.  

The 66% Valrhona Caraibe Hot Chocolate is infused with cardamom pods and the delicate flavour of rose. The hot chocolate is served with a cardamom sugar rim and a massive cube of pink-hued rose petal marshmallow. Accompanying the Sasha Velour is miniature rose milk chocolate cupcake. 

Rose is a strong flavour and the Federal Store team did not shy in their use, but I love rose water, so I was happy to warm up with the floral spiced hot chocolate. The hot chocolate was not overtly sweeet which can be tricky when using white or milk chocolate. I personally love a rich deep dark chocolate, but in this case, the Federal Store could not have gone with a darker chocolate as it would have masked the delicate undertones of rose. Hard to wrong with a homemade marshmallow and it only made the drink creamier as it melted. I have always loved their cupcakes and the rose chocolate is one of their regular flavours that I have enjoyed on many occasions. 

49th Parallel | Florals and Spice

Many people do not know that you can get amazing hot chocolate from 49th Parallel year round. The Main Street location of 49th Parallel has a special device that warms and stirs melted chocolate keeping it at the ready for when someone wants a glass of hot chocolate. The Florals and Spice is made using melted dark chocolate and infused with cardamom and rose petals. 

I did not get the florals or spice. The dark chocolate was strong and most likely masked the subtle delicate flavours of rose and cardamom. Served with the hot chocolate was a fluffy mini brioche doughnut filled with a spiced chocolate custard and topped with an orange blossom glaze, chopped pistachios and rose petals. As always, their doughnut dough is beautifully fluffy and airy. The glaze was too sweet for me, but the chocolate custard was great. The Peanut Butter & Jelly continues to remain my favourite doughnut at Lucky's! 

Fufu Cafe | Two to Mango

I am a mango girl through and through, and it is not everyday that you see a mango hot chocolate. The hot chocolate is made with a base of Valrhona 55% Itakuja dark chocolate and fresh mango puree and a roasted kuro goma (black sesame) puree. A dollop of sweet mango whipped cream and lemon zest finish the hot chocolate. The mango flavour was fruity and the whip was divine! I have never been big on black sesame, but it brought a wonderful rich savoury undertones to the otherwise sweet mango hot chocolate. Accompanying the hot chocolate was a duo black and white sable cookie (crumble style) with a sweet mango filling. I love mango, and pure mango puree filling is yummy to me. 

Their second hot chocolate was a miso cheese flavoured one which I decided to pass on. I just draw the line at salty miso and cheese in my hot chocolate. It might have been the best hot chocolate ever created. I guess I will never know and I am okay with that! 


Thursday, 9 February 2023

Maria Ida Designs Vancouver Glass Blowing Artist

There are few art mediums as captivating as glass so I was excited to connect with Vancouver glass artist, Maria Ida Designs and see her in action firsthand! Working out of the Terminal City Glass Co-op, Maria creates colourful home objects ranging from bud vases to glasses. 

I came across Maria Ida Designs pieces at the Little Mountain Shop Holiday Pop-Up 2022 where I fell in love with her miniature bud vases. She also makes bubble bowls, glasses and vases in vibrant colours. Since each piece is made by hand, no two are alike. 

So how does glass blowing work? 

Tuesday, 20 December 2022

Suncatcher Rainbow Decals at The Little Mountain Shop Holiday Pop-Up - The Polygon Gallery

The Suncatcher Rainbow Decals are a part of The Little Mountain Shop Holiday Pop-Up inside North Vancouver's The Polygon Gallery! I am bouncing with joy because The Little Mountain Shop selects which brands to include, so it is an honour to have been asked to be a part of the Holiday Shop. The Little Mountain Shop Holiday Pop-Up has an all-all Canadian lineup of mostly local, women-led, BIPOC makers and creatives which includes me!

The Suncatcher Rainbow Decals look pretty alongside Vancouver's most coveted lifestyle brands like East 29th (phenomenal facial serum!), Flax Home, Mumgry, Zimt Chocolates, and Homecoming Candles. Many of the brands are Vancouver-based, female-owned and BIPOC. 

Tuesday, 6 December 2022

Safe Sweat is Revolutionizing the Gym Game

Over the past decade, workout facilities have been seeing significant revitalizations with spin rooms, boxing bags and even treadmill group classes. Long gone are the days of the big warehouse-like spaces filled with subpar workout equipment. Safe Sweat is redefining what a gym facility should look like with its "Fitsuites."

The 2,700 square foot space has been divided into 8 pods dubbed "FITsuites," which are outfitted with what I affectionately call the Rolls Royce of gym equipment. Each pod is equipped with cardio, squat rack, multi-functional bench, dumbbells, kettlebells, focus & recovery devices, fitness accessories and a massive TV fully stocked with streaming, music and workouts. 

No detail was missed by co-owners Emre Ozgur and Andrea Kloegman in designing the FITsuites. Together, they have 50 years of experience in the fitness industry. 

Saturday, 5 November 2022

McDonald's Boo Buckets 2022 Complete Collection

The internet has been going mad for the McDonal's Boo Buckets and it was not until I was gifted the McBoo for my birthday did I suddenly develop the urge to acquire all three and complete my collection! The Boo Buckets have been released around Halloween on a number of occasions, with 1986 being their debut year. 

After many years of reiterations, some great, others downright awful, the Boo Buckets have officially returned in 2022 since their last release in 2016! Maybe McDonalds needed the 6 year break because they have completely revamped the buckets and drawn inspiration from the amazing designs from the 80s and early 90s before everything became commercialized and cringe. 

Saturday, 29 October 2022

Capilano Suspension Canyon Frights


Capilano Suspension Bridge Park has been taken over by skeletons for their annual Canyon Frights! The iconic bridge was looking extra scary in the morning fog. On either side of the bridge, there are loads of pumpkins and Halloween decorations. 

I happened to have picked the morning of Vancouver's first fall rain and wind storm, so I was up against the elements too. Not one to let the rain deter me, I pressed on and made the most of my time at Capilano Suspension Bridge. I always go to the park's opening because I get to have the bridge all to myself. There is no other way to do it!

Friday, 28 October 2022

Michelin Guide Vancouver Restaurants Announced

Kissa Tanto - 1 Michelin Star

After months of careful delegation by a team of anonymous Michelin Guide inspectors, eight Vancouver restaurants have been awarded 1 Michelin Star each. In addition to the eight Michelin Stars, 12 restaurants were given the Bib Gourmand and a list of recommended restaurants in Vancouver was also released. Really is about time that Michelin Guide came to Canada, so it is a big deal that Vancouver has received its very first ever Michelin Stars. 

A few of my predictions matched Michelin Guide, so you could say I am pretty much now qualified to join the elite individuals tasked with selecting which restaurant deserves a Michelin star. My personal favourite is Kissa Tanto which is now officially a 1 Michelin Star restaurant! If The Four Seasons Vancouver had not closed, I strongly believe The Yew would have been a strong contender for a Michelin Star.