The annual Hot Chocolate Festival in Calgary

Perhaps it’s the fact that the weather in Calgary feels like we are on our 103rd day of January that inspires me to write about the hot chocolate festival that happens here every year!!

For the entire month of February in Calgary, Meals On Wheels has their biggest fundraiser of the year, called YYC Hot Chocolate Fest.

(If you don’t know Meals-On-Wheels, they are an organization that delivers meals to people who aren’t able to purchase or prepare their own meals, like seniors or people who are physically unable to get out or make their own meals.)

I discovered the festival a couple of years ago and it seemed like the best excuse to get out and discover new coffee shops and cafes and restaurants, and enjoy a fancy hot chocolate in the mean time. It was also an excuse to make an event out of a simple coffee date with friends and family, and people I rarely see!

As part of the festival you can review the drinks you try and vendors are vying for the “Best of The Fest” awards, so they often pull out all the stops. One dollar from every festival drink goes towards Meals On Wheels!

This year I decided to try and do a hot chocolate a day! I was able to try 29 different Hot Chocolates at 28 different vendors!!

Here they all are: in order.

Day 1!

First drink of the fest:

Cafe Rosso‘s Orange Blossom Hot Cocoa smelled like an entire satsuma orchard, but actually had a very gentle flavour. It was also served with a cookie. A lovely start to YYCHotChocolateFest!

Day 2, hot chocolate 2.

The Gingerbread Spice at Bell’s Bookstore Café. Reminded me of a ginger cake. Lots of spice and delicious whip cream!

Day three, #3.

I got in a dinner date with my delightful friend Charlotte and we tried the S’Mores Hot Chocolate at Alforno Bakery!

I normally love the offerings at Alforno so I was a bit disappointed by the mediocrity of the actual cocoa. The toppings were good; there was a nice graham cracker rim, and we agreed that the marshmallow was the best part.

As it was the most snowy wintery day that day, clearly double the hot chocolate was in order! Day 3, and 4th hot chocolate of the festival!

At One18 Empire my friends Tawny and Raine and I went for late night snacks and ordered the Toasted Sneaky Pete. This ‘spirited’ hot chocolate had Jamiesons in it, with whip cream and a toasted marshmallow, with a dark chocolate spoon on the side. We thought the spoon was a fancy garnish. Not so, my friends, not so. This beverage came with steps that our server failed to mention: you must stir the spoon in the steamed milk *the second* it arrives at your table, so it melts and actually makes the drink complete.

IF however, no one tells you this, and you eat the spoon immediately, all you are left with is steamed milk and booze. 😄😳

Soooo I can’t say we loved this one, but we never really tried the ‘completed’ recipe. I am pretty sure, however, that even if you were to stir in the chocolate, this is one stiff drink!

 

Day 4 (and drink No. 5)

When I went to pick up my Cocoa Troll at Primal Grounds Cafe, another customer was waiting to ask me if she could take a photo of my drink before I grabbed it. Why? This hot chocolate had a face and cotton candy hair.

And ALL the whip cream. 😁

Once you get past the straight sugar topping, this is a deliciously rich and smooth hot cocoa! I recommend!

#Iamsogoodatadulting 😉 #ridiculouslookingdrinkforagoodcause

 

Hot chocolate #6

Suneshine-y day off plans with my mum included stopping into Bite in Inglewood to try their Kris Kringler hot chocolate. This was my favourite so far. Creamy, rich hot chocolate with divine vanilla bean whip cream and tiny brownie chunks on top. This one was deluxe, people.  😊

 

Hot Chocolate #7: Who knew peach and chocolate made such a delicious combo?

The Peach Melba Hot Chocolate at Waves Coffeehouse was surprisingly delightful. Sweet and like peaches-and-cream-meets-cocoa! Yummy!

Have you heard of UTCA? They make chimney cakes and their hot chocolate was the most colourful drink I had tried of the festival so far!

Also, can we talk about how cozy and inviting this place is? I want to bring people back here!

This one was number 8: called the Chimney Hot Chocolate. Once you get past the uber-rainbow-explosion topping, the whip cream and fresh orange zest melts right into a sweet, caramel hot cocoa. Delicious!!

 

I see your winter storm warning and I raise you: drinking chocolate. 😉 Drink number nine:

The slow motion snowfall tonight was too beautiful to not go for a walk. Thank goodness Analog Coffee is open super late so I could warm up with their #yychotchocolatefest offer!

Like many places, their featured drink Thai Chili Chocolate was more popular than expected and they were out of all their fancy garnishes (in this case, a mini pastry and macaron). C’est la vie, and really, I didn’t feel like I was missing a thing. This is the closest thing to “drinking chocolate” (true chocolat chaud) that I have had outside France, though this had a hint of heat to it with thai chili.

It was a perfect way to watch the snow come down after a long day!

 

The next morning’s hot chocolate adventure brought me and my friend Norm to Boxcar– the cutest little board games/coffee shop on 1st St SW!

Drink 10: Gingerbread Hot chocolate. Delicate cinnamon and nutmeg flavour that made it feel almost like a chai flavoured cocoa.

Beautiful, simple presentation.

 

The 11th hot chocolate of the festival was enjoyed at Sauce Italian Kitchen and Market. The flavour: Vanilla Pistachio Cannoli!

Yep. This was truly a full dessert hot chocolate. It came with an entire cannoli perched on it. Rich and sweet and delicious!

 

The next #yychotchocolatefest adventure was had at Ca’Puccini in the Arts Commons.

Drink 12: Can’t Beet Red Velvet.

Well…

It sure tasted like beets… Warm, sweetened beet juice. With some fake whip cream on top. It’s… a choice… and a poor one. Bottom of the list! 😳

#foragoodcauseatleast

 

Lucky 13 of the YYC Hot Chocolate Festival was enjoyed at The Bean Stop and their hot chocolate specialité: Amour.

With ginger-lemon infused dark chocolate, this came with toffee/cookie crumbs and purple edible glitter sprinkled on top of the whip cream.

Definitely rich, definitely good, and yet not quite the best ginger-chocolate combo I have had (that goes to last year’s dreamy drink by Monogram 😍).

 

The Nash served up their Smoked Chocolate Chili Mocha for drink 14.

There was no dairy-free option; this one had the best whip cream so far. Good heat in the chili, and perfect sweetness.

 

We ventured to Fiasco Gelato to try their Salted Malted Hot Chocolate complete with crushed Maltesers on top. Definitely the sweetest so far.

#15

 

The Cinnamon Bun Hot Chocolate at The Main Dish marked #16 on the list. Cream cheese marshmallow topping was a sweet surprise, and the cinnamon/cocoa rim was a nice touch, but the hot chocolate itself was rather average. I decided I would have to come back for their Salted Dark Rum + Baileys Caramel another time.

 

My mum and sister are the best company ever!

On this particularly delightful afternoon we visited the Deane House for their Caramelized Honey Hot Chocolate (my 17th).

Excellent flavour and texture, and check out that *chocolate* marshmallow!! It was divine. 😍

I highly recommend this one!!

 

I stopped into Phil & Sebastian’s for my 18th hot chocolate of the festival.

The Tonka Soul Hot Chocolate had a rich dark chocolate flavour with hints of caramel. The presentation was some of the finest latte art I have seen. I’d recommend this one for sure. I loved it!!

 

An impromptu visit and breakfast with my friend Elizabeth was an awesome excuse to go out, so of course it included a hot chocolate; and a return to the Main Dish for their alcoholic offering.

(We had to wait until 11am to order their Salted Caramel Rum and Baileys Hot Chocolate.)

Sadly, it was just so-so, and tasted more like rum than hot chocolate, but maybe that’s what they are going for. The Cinnamon Bun was definitely the better drink here. Drink 19:

 

My friend Shanny and I went for the Orange Florentine Hot Cocoa at Sucré Patisserie, and it did not disappoint.

Luxurious flavour, not too overpowering, and lovely presentation. No wonder this place is so busy. A delicious (20th!) hot chocolate.

 

The 21st Hot Chocolate was the Earl of Ginger at Cococo (Bernard Callebaut), which came with a ginger chocolate candy on the side. The hot chocolate was rich and creamy and a perfect ‘classic’ hot cocoa, though apart from the chocolate candy served with it, I tasted no ginger. I’d still recommend it!

 

#22 -This next ‘hot chocolate’ was the Frozen Hot Chocolate milkshake at Boogie’s Burgers.

People in Calgary rave about Boogies, and particularly about their milkshakes so I had high hopes. In the end it was a very basic, boring, chocolate milkshake. I expected much more, honestly.

The 23rd of the hot chocolate festivities was enjoyed at SAIT, and the company was the best part! My friend Nicole works on campus and we wandered into the sunshine to enjoy our pink drinks. The Flirty Chai Hot Chocolate.

This hot chocolate was a powdery pink (coloured by beetroot without the intense veggie flavour), and was *without* even the tiniest, remotest, slightest hint of the promised chai flavour, but was still very pleasant simple white chocolate.

 

The Lavender Honey Hot Chocolate (#24) at Higher Ground was as pretty as it was sweet. The flavour danced right on the line of ‘dessert’ and ‘perfume’… 😳🤔

 

I made it to Blush Lane Organic Market on a dinner break from work, and got to indulge in and surprise my friend Chris with the Pistachio Orange Blossom hot chocolate. #25!

This drink was soooo good; the chocolate ganache and orange blossom whip cream was divine. I highly highly recommend it.

I wandered into Famoso for my second coffee-infused hot chocolate of the festival. The Nutella Mocha is the perfect combo of hot chocolate, coffee, and Nutella.

This was drink 26!

 

A new discovery! Société Coffee Lounge opened up recently on 11ave SW and my mum and my friend Karen and I got some good chatting in over warm drinks and delicious breakfast baking! ❤️

We tried their Bumblebee hot chocolate. My 27th of the festival, this turmeric & honey hot chocolate was a nice start to the day.

 

#27- A snowy day’s walk had me stopping into Ollia for the Rocher Chocolate Chaud: a perfectly refined hazelnut & chocolate combo. I felt sophisticated drinking it. And French. 😉

Plus it comes with a tiny hazelnut macaron so how can you go wrong?!

 

The 29th and my final hot chocolate of the YYC Hot Chocolate Fest was had at Cornerstone Cafe: their Mexi-Cocoa.

This was the spiciest of the chili hot chocolates that I have tried, and I wish there was something to cool the heat or at least compliment it. The good/bad news was they ran out of the much anticipated topping (homemade marshmallows) because they sold 100 more drinks than they expected to. A good problem to have, I guess!

If you have a chance to go out and get a hot chocolate next February, do it! Support Meals on Wheels, maybe discover a favourite new coffee shop or restaurant, and enjoy a delicious fancy hot beverage as well!

A dessert that could feed a small country and a rant about chocolate.

This entry is about desserts.

Okay, so it’s about many things, and dessert happens to be a feature. 🙂 Because, to be honest, I started this post with the intention of writing about walking around Paris, but then I realized that walking is simply a means to an end in Paris. To eat. (Okay, okay, and also to get to cool places. True story.) 😉

I definitely recommend comfortable shoes to explore Paris. Seriously. If you want to eat all these crêpes and croissants and baguettes and cheese and desserts and whatever else is rich and delicious in France without having to buy drawstring-waist pants, ya gotta walk. A lot. On cobblestones. And if you want to keep up with Parisians during rush hour on the metro, you feel like you are training for a speed walk competition. (Although as a general rule I try to avoid rush hour on the metro; it’s just too many people, too little air, and too much stranger-body-contact-to-stranger-body-contact.) I have to admit, the footwear I brought are somewhat lacking in the ‘cushion’ department and there are mornings where I get up and feel like the soles of my feet have gone on strike and are violently protesting.

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On Friday night after class I decided to go for a walk (of course 😉 ) and revisit the 3rd Arrondissement (the Marais) , check out the Canal St Martin and scope out a couple cafés and restaurants that had been recommended to me. Not that I have to go very far for good restaurants- I walk by dozens of great places close to my apartment every day, and I passed three crêperies and two gelato places on the same small street on my way to the Marais. It’s fantastic and dangerously tempting at the same time.


It turned into a very ‘romantic night for one’ as I walked across the Seine and along the St Martin canal through rose gardens and ivy arches, passing numerous couples and several groups of friends hanging out under the arches, at the base of old twisted trees and on park benches and garden edges.

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This is the first sculpture I have seen in Paris with is much (or any...?) graffiti on it.

This is the first sculpture I have seen in Paris with this much (or even any) graffiti on it.

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A zig-zag stroll through the Marais brought me past many fancy boutiques, funky jewelry shops, art galleries, tea houses, bars, and as usual, so much amazing architecture. The perfect Paris evening sky made it a gorgeous walk, and the streets were decorated with rainbow flags and banners, along with crowds of people lined up outside the busy night clubs celebrating Pride weekend.

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Saturday was the rainiest day of the weekend, and after the parade I wanted to warm up with some tea and the famous tarte au limon meringue at Le Loir Dans La Théière (aka the Doormouse In The Tea Pot).

It is a very popular spot and there was a huge lineup to get in, but this ‘party of one’ was seated rather quickly at a shared table by the window. 🙂 They have a sign at the front door stating that laptops are not allowed in the establishment, and though my blogging heart would have been happy to move in for the afternoon and type away in a corner, I like the fact that they encourage people there to enjoy each other’s company over tea and dessert. (My table-mates and I didn’t talk too much more than a) marveling over each other’s dessert selections and b) laughing at the fact our table had one off kilter leg that made us spill each other’s tea any time we moved even slightly in our cozy corner of the place.)

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I ordered an Earl Grey tea which was brought over in a beautiful heavy silver teapot, and then was served the largest piece of lemon meringue pie that I have ever seen in my life. I believe that the meringue alone would feed several people. And really, you should have seen the size of the entire pie- it was gargantuan. It was deliciously luxurious and rich, and everything that is indulgent on this rainy afternoon. But I think I should not have eaten at all that day- in preparation. Or worked my way up to it -over several weeks…Is there training to prepare oneself for such an epic dessert? Alas, after my best efforts, I could not finish it. I tried. I really did. It hurt. In the best and yet saddest way. Next time I’m bringing a friend (or a hidden take-home container). 🙂

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Sunday was an excellent day with market shopping, more walking, company, and another delicious – um, we’ll call it ‘dessert’- that I couldn’t finish.

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In the morning (who am I kidding- late morning….so, at noon) I went to the outdoor market down the street from my apartment and got some great fresh produce- and possibly the best strawberries and cherries I have ever tasted. You know you are a little over-excited about your food when you have a mini photo-shoot about it.

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Yup. And now I wait for all the food magazines to start calling me.

It was a little rainy for a couple of hours, and I got to Skype with my pal Erin who is in Italy right now, which was fantastic. I then met up with my friend Hugo to go for a walk and possibly check out a cheap movie as it was the Fête du Cinéma on Sunday. The sun had come out at this point, so we started with a walk, but about five minutes in, charcoal clouds took over and rain sort of chased us along our route up past Notre Dame and along the Seine. (Yup, this girl still can’t get over the fact that on regular occasions she strolls past Notre Dame. *loooooove*). Even in the rainy weather, tourists were all over that place. It was the perfect day to explore inside a gargoyle-covered ornate ancient church, obviously. (And stand in line for a good long time beforehand, of course.)

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We went to a restaurant in the Odéon area called Le Hibou for something to drink, and both decided to try the Chocolat Chaud. Which turned out to be like eating an enormous dessert. It had been eight years since I’d had a chocolat chaud in Paris- with my sister at Le Chat Noir in Pigalle- and I will not forget again: a chocolat chaud is NOT like a hot chocolate. Unless you make your hot chocolate by melting down a giant Belgian chocolate bar and don’t add any milk. Or to be more accurate, you grind up your own cacao nibs and then melt them down and then pour that directly into a mug. It is likely the richest thing I have ever tasted. It is served with sugar sticks on the side, because, of course, you need to add sugar to your melted-chocolate-bar-in-a-mug. We asked for milk, and were brought a small creamer container, and we realized that we should have asked for a pitcher. Or a cow. I am certain that one chocolat chaud could easily be shared by four people (and a pitcher of milk). It was kind of ridiculous. And this girl loves chocolate, but come on, now. Hugo and I were beside ourselves, both bemused and considerably distressed at how on earth someone was actually expected to finish this ‘drink’ unless they were Augustus Gloop from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Neither of us could finish it for fear of being sick. Let that be a lesson to you all. And by all means, if you have had an entire chocolat chaud to yourself and lived to tell the tale, I want to know how you did it. End of chocolat chaud rant. 🙂

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We decided not to go see a movie, and as the sky brightened and that amazing Paris ‘evening magic’ happened again, I decided to explore Odéon, and see what the fuss was about with all the sales going on. The biggest sales in Paris happen twice a year: in February, and now. Danger danger: Paris fashion at 20-70% off…. I may end up shipping a box home…. 😀

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Window shopping in Odéon

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Many stores were closed because it was Sunday evening, so I ended up window shopping (and croissant buying), and finding my way around to my favourite place, the Jardin Luxembourg. Again, after a rainy day, it’s a fair bit quieter in terms of crowds, but diehard park lovers like myself were enjoying themselves on the metal chairs and around the fountains. With some Roquefort cheese, a demi baguette, and some fresh cherries, I had a lazy evening enjoying the delight of after-rain weather.

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Check out that sky!! (And the less-than-aesthetically-pleasing architecture of the Montparnasse building in the background.)

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Getting some evening sun!

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That’s all for now, but perhaps I will have a few more things to share before next weekend, when I will be joined by my mum and sister! I cannot wait to see them!!!

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