Wild Sweets: 2016 Holiday Collection

NOTE: All food and beverages were complimentary, but all opinions are based on my own experience.

Still looking for last minute holiday gifts? With the launch of the 2016 holiday collection, Wild Sweets has you covered whether you’re looking for the perfect cake to bring to your holiday parties or if you’re looking for a box of chocolates for a gift.

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Venezuela Ocumare Chocolate ‘Bûche de Noël’

A beautiful and elegant cake that will be a showstopper at your parties, this chocolate brownie cake has a variety of textures. The cake features crispy crêpes hazelnut praliné, dark chocolate & vanilla bean ganache, dark chocolate Crème Brûlée cream, dark chocolate sabayon mousse and dark chocolate gelée.

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Crispy Chocolate Cherry Orange ‘Tea Cake

One of the most surprising cakes for most of us was this one. They based the cake with the ingredients in a traditional fruit cake but completely modernized it. Usually, I hate fruit cakes because of how dense it is, but this had so many layers, creating a lovely texture.

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The cake is laced with dried cherries, cranberries, and orange peels which have been soaked in brandy. The cake is then placed over a crunchy buttery ‘sablé’ cookie topped with a hazelnut chocolate praline cream with crispy crepe flakes, and finished with a dark chocolate coating. I highly recommend giving this a try.

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Crispy Cherry Ganache Collection

This has a similar cake component to the Tea Cake, but is placed on top of hazelnut chocolate praline cream with crispy crepe cookies. A soft ganache made with different fruit-based liquid caramels is poured over the crispy praline / cake components.Each collection features an assortment of 4 chocolate bouchées with the following flavours,

  • William Pear & Chestnut Cream Caramel Ganache
  • Lychee Rose & Raspberry Caramel Ganache
  • Cassis Blackberry & Elderberry Ganache
  • Mandarin & Orange Zest Caramel Ganache

These reminded me of moon cakes but a chocolate cake version.

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Cocoa Bean Chocolate Tea

I believe when you make a purchase for both the Tea Cake and the Crispy Cherry Ganache Collection, you will receive a pack of the Cocoa Bean Chocolate Tea. I was confused when they told us we were trying chocolate tea. Did they mean they were going to melt chocolate in tea? But how come it looked literally just like tea? Well, the secret is the tea is made entirely from roasted cocoa beans and husks only. There is no sugar other than vanilla bean powder added. Seriously very tasty and something everyone should try!

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Santa-Sphere, Orna-Tree

Making great gifts, Wild Sweets also has Holiday cocoArt Sculptures for sale. These are made with milk and/or dark chocolate. And if you know the story of Wild Sweets, all their chocolates are made in-house from origin cocoa bean-to-bar chocolate.

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Tree

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Snowman

 

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Sleigh

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2016 Vintage Canadian Icewine Collection

Moving on to boxed chocolates, this box is perfect for those who enjoy ice wine. The box features an assortment of 12 chocolates, each comprising of 2 types of fillings: one is a honey nut and Canadian Icewine praline cream while the other is a soft ganache made with different Icewine and fruits purees associated with the specific tasting notes of 4 different types of Vintage Canadian Icewine with some as old as 1999. I’m a fan of ice wine, but I found that the ice wine flavour was too light and I could barely taste it.

The collection includes the following ganache flavours:

  • Cabernet Franc Icewine & Strawberry Apple Ganache
  • Riesling Icewine & Peach Orange Ganache
  • Vidal Icewine & Pineapple Passion fruit Ganache
  • Gewürztraminer Icewine & Lychee Rose Ganache

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2016 Vintage ‘Ganache Classique Nougatine’

This box features an assortment of four different types of chocolate made from Single Origin cocoa beans. Each ganache filling is topped with a piece of salted butter cocoa nibs nougatine before being enrobed in dark chocolate. Therefore, I loved the slight crunch and chew this collection had. This was probably my favourite of the chocolates.

The collections includes the following origins and percentages:

  • 70% Venezuela Ocumare
  • 70% Venezuela Canaobo
  • 70% PeruOro Verde
  • 64% MexicoChiapas

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pRaliNe & caRaMel Collection N°12

I really liked the visual aspect of this box. The ‘Enrobed’ version features a soft and creamy ganache flavoured a fruit juice caramel, and coated in dark chocolate. The ‘Moulded’ chocolate is hand-painted with cocoa butter colours and filled with a rich and smooth hazelnut butter & milk chocolate cream laced with crispy French ‘crêpes’ cookies.I really enjoyed the orange flavours paired with the chocolate.

The collection features the following assortment of flavours:

  • Hazelnut & vanilla bean praline cream
  • Raspberry caramel & vanilla bean ganache
  • Hazelnut & orange zest praline cream
  • Fresh orange juice and zest caramel ganache

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cocoArt ‘Praliné Noisette’ Collection N°17

This box features sweetened hazelnut butter or praliné in various forms and with distinct textures. The collection includes 2 types of chocolates: crispy or creamy praliné. With the glitter and beauitfully painted art, this box is sure to impress.

The collection features the following assortment of flavours including:

  1. Crispy – Cinnamon Spice Praliné
  2. Crispy – Orange Zest Oil Praliné
  3. Crispy – Lemon Zest Oil Praliné
  4. Crispy – Anise Seeds & Oil Praliné
  5. Creamy – Apricot Passion Ganache
  6. Creamy – Orange Zest Ganache
  7. Creamy – Green Apple Kalamansi Ganache
  8. Creamy – Salted Butter Caramel Ganache
  9. Creamy – Double Vanilla Bean Ganache
  10. Creamy – Origin Espresso Coffee Ganache
  11. Creamy – Raspberry Lemon Zest Ganache
  12. Creamy – Black Currant (Cassis) Ganache

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cocoArt ‘Honey Heart’ Collection N°20

Each chocolate within the ‘Honey Heart’ Collection features 2 types of fillings: one is a smooth lightly scented honey-nut cream while the other is a soft ganache made with different fruit and berry juices. Super pretty and perfect for a loved one.

  • Cassis – Blackberry Fruit Ganache & Elderberry Honey-nut Cream
  • Mango – Apricot Fruit Ganache & Saffron Honey-nut Cream
  • Lychee – Raspberry Fruit Ganache & Rose Honey-nut Cream
  • Strawberry –  Pineapple Fruit Ganache & Orange Blossom Honey-nut cream

IMG by SophiaHo on 500px.com

Overall, I was very impressed with the new holiday collection, and especially with the cakes. The cakes are also priced very well at around $20-25 each. Make sure to pre-order online in advance to guarantee your cake.

Wild Sweets Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Beta5

NOTE: All desserts provided in the media event in the first section were complimentary. All opinions are based on my own experience.

Beta5‘s 2016 summer collection, ‘livin’s easy’ launched last month and we were invited to attend their media event to try out all the new items. Beta5 is located in an industrial area which is not transit friendly, but so worth the trip!

The shop front is quite small but you can see the chefs at work in the back which is pretty cool.

Remember to come here early as these goodies run out quick. Many times, I arrived near closing and they sold out of many of the flavours I wanted.

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Cherry Cola Cream Puffbotanical cola custard, Okanagan cherry jelly, whipped vanilla ganache, fizzy cherry chocolate, amarena cherry

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I really enjoyed that fizz in the chocolate. It was like eating those popping candy!

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Pina Colada Cream Puffcoconut ash choux, pineapple curd, whipped coconut-lime ganache, black chocolate rings

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One of my favourite desserts of the night was the Pina Colada Cream Puff. Something about it was so mysterious being all black! But inside was filled with a fruit pineapple curd and was perfect for the summer!

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Lime Spritzer Cream Puffmint-lime curd, greek yogurt pannacotta, cucumber meringue, cucumber pearls

Refreshing and perfect for the summer!

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Ants On a Log Eclairmilk chocolate and peanut whipped ganache, celery whipped ganache, white chocolate celery stick, peanut glaze

This was super witty as the eclair tasted just like peanut butter on celery! Perfect for those who enjoy celery.

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S’More Eclair68% dark chocolate mousse, 46% milk chocolate mousse, toasted vanilla meringue, cinnamon graham cracker crust

This brings back memories of having s’mores in front of the campfire in the summertime. Tastes just like a S’more!

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Neopolitan Eclairvanilla cremeux, strawberry cremeux, chocolate cremeux, caramelized white chocolate crunch, neopolitan whipped ganache ice cream in a chocolate cone

Another one of my favourites and who can resist how cut this looks! Gobble it quick before the ice cream melts!

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The 2016 summer collection also includes some new flavours of their delectable chocolates. The new flavours include Cinnamon S’more, Strawberry Daiquiri, Raspberry Lemonade, Cucumber Cooler, Root Beer Float, and Celery + Peanut.

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The flavours are bold and bright and bring back childhood memories of summer.

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Mint Chocolate Sundae

We also got to try their Mint Chocolate Sundae which is part of their ice cream social.

Beta5’s Ice Cream Social happens every Saturday from 1-5pm. They serve up sundaes, ice creams and sorbets and they have a special flavour every week.

On another occasion, separate from the media event, S and I checked out their ice cream social which featured the Raspberry Earl Grey Sundae.

Raspberry Earl Grey Sundae

This was so delicious! It came with earl grey sundae, raspberry swirl ice cream, fresh raspberry compote, raspberry-earl grey macarons and chocolate garnishes. Loved how creamy the ice cream was!

Signature Chocolate Sundae

One of the sundaes they featured in July was the Signature Chocolate Sundae. We were able to choose from a variety of sorbets and ice creams and the toppings were preset. We went with the cola sorbet and it was so refreshing! I loved the textures of the different chocolate garnishes as some had a nice crunch.

Overall, we had an amazing time at the media event as well as our own visit to Beta 5. Definitely worth checking out during the summer as you can grab some ice cream (which is only available during summer) and take a box of the summer collection goodies home! Makes a perfect gift too!

BETA5 Chocolates Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Purdy’s – Truffle-Making Class

Over the weekend, S and I attended the truffle-making class at Purdy’s. The class is $50 per person and happens on select dates every month. Check on their website for dates and to sign up.

We chose the Granville location and it is really one of their retail stores, but they’ve turned their back room into a space to host their class.

We arrived a bit early so checked out their retail store, including the aweseome chocolate fountain while waiting.

Purdy’s actually began in Vancouver in 1907 and the first store was on Robson Street! We were then taken to the back office to begin our class led by our chocolatier, Mark.

The first hour was an introduction of Purdy’s history and how chocolate is made. We learned that chocolate begins with this huge cocoa pod and that most of the cocoa is from West Africa.

When you crack open the cocoa pod, there is some white flesh similar to lychee and these little cocoa beans.

Crack open these cocoa beans, and you will have cocoa nibs. We got to sample some of this and it was rather bitter and had a roasted flavour similar to coffee.

Cocoa nibs can go through a hydraulic press to be separated into cocoa powder and cocoa butter. Cocoa butter is commonly used in cosmetics and is great for making lotion.

We were then shown the chocolate flavour wheel and told to taste some chocolates and determine what type of flavour profiles we could taste. We were also taught to smell the chocolate first and take a bite of the chocolate instead of putting the whole piece in our mouth.

We started off with this medium roast 72% dark chocolate made with cocoa beans from Peru. I found this to have a slightly tart flavour with cherry tones.

Next was a dark roast 72% dark chocolate with beans from Ecuador. I quite enjoyed this one as the flavours lasted longer in my mouth and had a bitterness to it.

A new creation we got to sample was the Yuzu Jelly Ganache. I loved this one as I enjoy the citrus flavours of yuzu. Jelly in chocolate is always a plus!

After the hour of history and chocolate processes, we finally got to put our hands to work! They set up a station with various liqueurs and flavours we could add into our chocolate. There were also toppings that we could put on top of our chocolates.

They provide you with chocolate shot cups which are our base where we pipe our truffle filling into. We then mixed cream into already melted chocolate and whisked it up until smooth and consistent. We then added our flavours. I chose a hazelnut liqueur while S chose the raspberry flavour.

We then did some piping and here is our finished product! We each got to take home 21 truffles. You can pay an extra $30 to make another set.

Overall, we had a great time learning the history and process of making Purdy’s truffles. A great two hours of knowledge and fun and you get to take home the recipe to make at home. Great event for a date or just with friends! They also have a chocolate bark-making class available.

Purdy's Chocolates Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Temper Pastry (Summer Soirée and New Menu Launch)

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NOTE: All food and beverages were complimentary as part of the Temper Pastry media event.

Last week The PR Company invited me to Temper Pastry for their summer soirée and new menu launch. Temper Pastry is located in the village of Dundarave in West Vancouver, which is an area I am not too familiar with. However, going along Marine Drive, I realized how beautiful this area is! Tons of cute cafés and boutiques in this seaside village. Temper has both seating indoors and outdoors. The patio was perfect to enjoy the sunny evening.

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Owner and chef, Steven Hodge was on site and greeted me as I arrived. Steven actually grew up in Dundarave, but later moved to California to study business administration and then at Le Cordon Blue, specializing in pastry and chocolate. Steven has years of experience from all over the world, from apprenticing at Dominic’s Restaurant in West Hollywood to working in England at Gordon Ramsay’s 3 Michelin star restaurant. He then returned to Vancouver to work with Thomas Haas to fine tune his culinary skills. And just last January, he decided to open Temper to follow his culinary dreams.

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Temper offers many take home chocolates and are perfect for gifts. I especially loved the chocolate animals.

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And of course they offer their gourmet handcrafted chocolates. Any items that are coffee flavoured feature Stumptown coffee.

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Temper offers some items for the summer. That evening, we got to sample some of these summer items as well as new menu items.

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Pink Grapefruit Iced Tea

I started off trying their Pink Grapefruit Iced Tea, which was extremely refreshing and pretty to look at. There is just a slight grapefruit flavour without it being too tangy or sweet.

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Almond Croissants

We also got to sample various croissants. Temper’s croissants go through a three-day process: a 17 hour-polish and 24 hour dough. He also uses high quality ingredients like European butter to ensure that the croissants are the flakiest they can be. I got to try the Almond Croissants, which I had high expectations for, knowing that he had trained under Thomas Haas. Thomas Haas definitely makes the best croissants in Vancouver in my opinion, and you can tell that Steven has learned to do just that. These croissants were flaky and melted in your mouth. There were also various truffles, which were also exceptional.

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Lime and Coconut Fruit Tart, Passion Fruit Dessert (Back – left to right)
Rum Baba Parfait, Pistachio & Strawberry Parfait, Eton Mess Parfait, Lemon Yoghurt Mousse Parfait (Front – left to right)

Next were some of the new desserts, featuring a variety of parfaits. I didn’t actually end up trying all these, but I did get to sample the Rum Baba Parfait. Just like how a rum baba should be, the cake was moist and saturated with rum, although I found it rather sweet than strong in alcohol flavour. There was just the right amount of cream and there were some crunchy bits at the top to give it some texture. Delicious treat and I liked how it wasn’t too heavy.

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What’s great about Temper is that they also support the local community. They actually feature their neighbouring business, Sebastian & Co Fine Meats Ltd. We got to sample some charcuterie and the meats were delicious! I especially enjoyed their salami and prosciutto.

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Sebastian and Co. also sell cheese, so we got quite a variety of cheese to sample that night.

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Loved the Smoked Gouda!

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Drinks were also being served that evening. For wines, Tightrope Winery was a featured sponsor, and I got to try the Pinot Gris (2014). I liked how it had a fruity aroma to it.

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Several breweries also sponsored beer that night. This included Bridge, Grolsh, Hoyne, Black Kettle, and Postmark. Unfortunately, I did not get around to trying all these.

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Mini Ice Cream Bars

And then the Mini Ice Cream Bars rolled in! These are homemade and featured just for the summer. The perfect size without feeling too guilty! There are three flavours: almonds, chocolate, and vanilla. The little cups featured a caramel dessert which I forgot what the name was, but other guests mentioned they were really delicious!

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Chocolate Mini Ice Cream Bar

I went for the Chocolate Mini Ice Cream Bar, which was absolutely delicious! Just the right amount of sweetness, and the chocolate inside was creamy smooth!

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A snapshot of the interior of the chocolate mini ice cream bar.

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Affogato Espresso with Vanilla Ice Cream

Next up, I sampled the Affogato Espresso with Vanilla Ice Cream. I’m not a regular coffee drinker, but I loved the contrast of hot and cold in this drink. The espresso is from Stumptown Coffee and the drink was smooth and creamy. If you love coffee and ice cream, then this is the perfect drink for you.

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Longaniza Sausage

Last but not least, Temper had a barbeque going on, so we got to try some of Sebastian and Co.’s specialty sausages. That night, they had three sausages being grilled: Hot Italian, Longaniza, and Classic Pork. I believe I got the Longaniza since it tasted like chorizo. The sausage was flavoured with chilies and spices, and I added some grainy mustard to my hot dog. Super tasty without an overwhelming amount of heat.

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Guests left with a gift bag, which featured some of Temper’s chocolates. This included Temper’s Signature Dark Chocolate Bar, which I really enjoyed. A slight bitterness to it, but extremely smooth chocolate.

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We also got some truffles and chocolates including, a Ganache, Pina Colada Truffle and Salty Ball, which has won an award. The Salty ball is chocolate enrobed in liquid caramel! Delicious!

Overall, I was extremely impressed with Temper’s chocolates and pastries. Steven’s creations show the years of experiences he has gone through in perfecting his skills. I guess I will have to make trips out to West Vancouver to try out more of his desserts now! Thanks to Naz from the PR company and Steven for inviting me to this wonderful event!

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Chocolaterie de la Nouvelle France

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It’s the 5th year that Vancouver has hosted the Vancouver Hot Chocolate Festival. From January 17 until today, February 14, 2015, a list of shops offer hot chocolate flavours that may not normally be on their normal menu. We decided to check out Chocolaterie de la Nouvelle France, which is hidden away just off Main Street. The sign is so small, that it was actually difficult to locate.

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They offered the following hot chocolates which they said are exclusive to this festival:

“Marocchino”
Classic Italian drink: half drinking chocolate, half espresso.

“Praliné Chocolat”
Liquid house made Nutella: drinking chocolate + hazelnut praline.

“Lavande Classique”
Available only once a year, during the hot chocolate festival, the simple but classic lavender hot chocolate is back by popular demand.

“Aztec Glacé”
Anne’s favorite iced hot chocolate. Spicy, hot, cold, salty and sweet. Purely addictive.

All hot chocolates are also served with a meringue of your choice. They didn’t have any meringues, but offered either their house-made truffles or toffee.

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The interior is really small and homey, but there are still a few seats if you want to sit down and drink your hot chocolate. They offer chocolates, waffles, and take home products like jam.

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A display case of chocolates and as you can see, their meringues were sold out.

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I chose the Orange Blossom Truffle which was complimentary with my drink. Loved that hint of orange blossom.

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Lavande Classique

I chose the Lavande Classique. Very strong in chocolate flavour, but I found that the lavender aroma wasn’t strong enough. Very smooth though.

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Orange Blossom Hot Chocolate

K decided to go for their original menu and went for their Orange Blossom Hot Chocolate. You can order just plain hot chocolate for $4 and add a flavour of your choice for $0.50. It tasted basically like my truffle, but I still found that the flavour wasn’t very strong in their drinks. If you order from their regular menu, then you don’t get a complimentary truffle or toffee.

Overall, we thought the hot chocolates were decent. They didn’t look special like the ones at Bel Cafe or Mink. Just came in a simple paper cup and no decorations. we found it pretty pricey since they weren’t really special, other than the flavours. Friendly service though.

Pros:
– Cute coffee and hot chocolate shop
– Decent hot chocolate and friendly service

Cons:
– Nothing too special for the price you pay

Price Range: $5-10

1: Terrible 2: Poor 3: Average 4: Good 5: Excellent

Food: 3
Service: 4
Ambiance: 3
Parking: 3
Overall: 3

Chocolaterie de la Nouvelle France on Urbanspoon

Beta5 Chocolates

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Milk Chocolate Praline,  Blueberry Yuzu, Cherry Cola, 85% Dark Chocolate and Caramel

Cream puffs are one of my guilty pleasures. I’m not always craving for them, but they always make my day when I have one once in a while. There’s the go to place, like Beard Papa, but Beta5 Chocolates is the place to get unique cream puffs! I’ve had one before, and finally, K came home with a box of 4 to share. How could I say no? A box of 4 will come to a price of $16. It’s quite pricey, but they’re also quite large and well worth the splurge! They recently launched the Cherry Cola, which is the one with a red piece of chocolate. I loved the hint of cherry flavour, but it was mostly a cola flavour. Felt a little fizzy actually. The Milk Chocolate Praline, which was dusted with icing sugar, was also quite good, with the milk chocolate being very creamy and smooth. I liked how it wasn’t too sweet.

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Blueberry Yuzu

The Blueberry Yuzu had a yellow piece of chocolate on top. Beta5 is very famous for their chocolates, so of course even the piece of chocolate was smooth. The cream puff shell’s texture is a bit different from typical cream puffs. It’s a bit harder, so even when you cut into it, the shape stays.

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The Blueberry Yuzu was very refreshing. It was filled mostly with vanilla cream, but you could taste the slightly sour taste of the yuzu. The blueberry jam was great to bring sweetness to the puff.

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85% Dark Chocolate and Caramel

The 85% Dark Chocolate and Caramel of course came with a piece of dark chocolate with a speck of gold. The puff itself was chocolate flavoured and filled with dark chocolate cream and caramel, which made it extra smooth and creamy. One of my favourites out of the four I tried!

Overall, Beta5 is a great change to your typical Beard Papa or store bought cream puffs. They are slightly pricey, but a great treat once in a while. I just wish their location wasn’t so far off. Their hours also close when most people get off work…so it’s always hard for me to get more!

BETA5 Chocolates on Urbanspoon

Museu de la Xocolata – Barcelona

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Got back to Barcelona and a few days later, A invited some of us to join her at the Museu de la Xocolata to celebrate her birthday. Apparently, one of their professors at ESADE was the director at this museum, and they had done a field trip here, but A was away for it. The professor said she could bring a few friends to check the museum out and also make some chocolate at a discounted price! The museum has a variety of chocolate activities for both kids and adults. Our activity was called “Lollipops” and it was actually targeted for children, but I have to say, it was tons of fun! They have adult activities as well, like “Chocolate Tasting” and “Combining Brandies with Chocolate”. They all sound really interesting! When my sister visited, she had actually wanted to visit the museum, but we thought it was a bit pricey once you wanted to join these activities since they were pretty pricey. I think the original price of the Lollipops class, which includes a 30 minute guided tour of the museum is 17 euros.

 

 

 

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Once you pay at the register, which also connects to the cafe, you get a ticket! Your ticket is actually a chocolate bar though! It’s like going to the Willy Wonka chocolate factory and receiving a golden ticket! The chocolate inside was pretty good too. It was piece of dark chocolate.

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You’ll see some of their chocolate sculptures near the entrance. Can’t believe this bear is made of chocolate! So cool!

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Then our chocolate chef took us to the classroom where we would make our chocolate lollipops! It’s pretty cool since you actually feel like you’re at a cooking workshop. I didn’t get a picture, but there was a chocolate fountain come down, and we were able to just dip our fingers in if we wanted to. The birthday girl even got to just drink some chocolate out of the fountain. The chef was really nice even though our group were a little rowdy and messing around. So basically, she gives us some pointers on different designs we can make and how to control our piping bag. Then we go ahead and fill our piping bag up with chocolate, and it’s definitely more than enough. Most of us ended up just squirting some in our mouth since we had so much leftover. The chocolate is dark chocolate too, although we all thought it looked like milk at first. But when it dried up, it became apparent it was dark chocolate. She also gave us some white chocolate to work with to make our designs more interesting. Then at the front of the table, there were an assortment of toppings we could add such as marshmallows, coconut flakes and fruits.

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Here is what I ended up with! I realized how difficult it was to control the piping bag since the chocolate comes out pretty quickly. It’s also really hard to get the chocolate to be smooth on the surface.

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We got aprons and chef hats as well which was cute! And in the back was our chocolate chef!

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These were my friend’s lollipops. Love the monkey!

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They really don’t care what you do with your chocolate here and let you be as creative as you want…and so…my friend decides to make some sort of chocolate masterpiece. A flag maybe? I have no idea, but he used a ton of chocolate and I think he got a stomach ache that night from eating so much chocolate…. We were told they had never seen someone do something like this before. Not sure if that’s a compliment…

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While we waited for our chocolate to solidify, she took us on a quick tour around the museum. There was an explanation of the history of cacao and where it’s from and the differences between dark, milk, and white chocolate. Then the best part was seeing these chocolate art sculptures. Seriously, they are so impressive and I can’t believe they are made entirely of chocolate! Here is Messi!

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Chicken Little

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The famous Salamander Gaudi always uses in his art

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Bambi!

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And even the Sagrada Familia! Wow!

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Then when we got back, our chocolate had solidified. We carefully pulled them off our plastic sheet, and got little baggies to take them home in. Well other than that masterpiece… He had some trouble taking that home… And how were the lollipops? Not bad. Not the most amazing chocolate I’ve had, but it sort of reminded me of the Purdy’s lollipops. I did find it a little sweet even though they were dark chocolate. I guess it wasn’t a high percentage of dark. I didn’t even end up finishing all my lollipops, since they can only be fridged for around 2 weeks. I was pretty much away the next few weeks, so I never got to try all my lollipops! A really fun activity for a few hours if you have time in Barcelona though! Obviously not something to do if you’re on a tight schedule though. The museum itself isn’t that big, and they’re mostly the sculptures that are really impressive, but you could probably walk by it all in 30 minutes. It’s the activities that are really fun and worth coming for I think!

Snacks and Travel Tips for Brussels

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Belgium wasn’t exactly a country I had planned as a must-go during my exchange. However, when C found a Ryanair flight from Barcelona to Brussels for 30 euros round trip, I couldn’t say no to that. What was interesting about this trip was that instead of staying a hostel or hotel, like I usually did, we stayed at a guesthouse. I hadn’t really looked into guesthouses, since I didn’t really know how it worked, but C found it randomly. Useful websites or apps are hostelbookers or booking.com. Anyways, we stayed at this lady and her husband’s house which was really cute! She loved antiques so our room was all decorated with dolls and sculptures. It was definitely a more girly room. It was a sort of bunk bed with a queen size bed above the desk, so we had to share the bed. Not exactly what we had imagined since we requested two doubles. We had our own separate bathroom at the lower floor, and each morning, she would prepare us a basic breakfast. Bread with a variety of jams and spreads, as well as tea/coffee and orange juice. I wouldn’t say this was cheaper than a hostel, but it was definitely nice to live somewhere that felt more cozy than a hostel. Also, it was great to have a local tell you where to go and give us advice. Maps were provided for us. Our guesthouse was also extremely close to the metro, so that was a plus!

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On our first day, we really just had an adventure in the city. I guess we walked into the more touristy part of the city, since there are a ton of chocolate shops everywhere! One street would probably be half filled with chocolate shops. Some were more like souvenir shops with chocolate being sold, while others were chocolate boutiques and some were big international brands. This was Belgique Gourmande, which I believe we saw two of them during our time here. This shop has a large variety of chocolate, and they sell brands from other companies. Perfect place if you’re looking for a gift. You can find things like just a chocolate bar, to gift boxes and truffles.

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What we liked about Belgique Gourmande was the option to just pick and choose truffles and some select chocolates which would just be priced by weight. Here, I got some truffles as well as a chocolate orange. Not bad, but I wouldn’t say they are anything better than chocolates like Godiva or Lindt. It was just fun since you can try different flavours.

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Godiva is also everywhere! I actually didn’t realize that Godiva was Belgium since I first encountered Godiva when I was in the United States. What we have in Vancouver is pretty much the same as in Belgium though. Warning: The prices are either the same or even more expensive in Belgium than in Vancouver! Not sure if it’s because tourists would assume that Godiva would be cheaper here, since it’s from Belgium, but they really weren’t. Some items were maybe slightly cheaper by a dollar or two, like the chocolate dipped strawberries, but honestly not that much and not worth bringing all the way back and wasting luggage space. I guess it might also be because the euros are so strong, so everything is just expensive for us Canadians!

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Belgian waffles are a must! You’ll find these little waffle shops all around the city. They advertise their waffles to be 1 euro, which is true, but only if you get just the waffle itself! Of course we didn’t, and added some toppings. Each topping has additional costs, but I think ours came to under 3 euros, which is a decent deal. The waffle was so warm and fluffy! They make it right on the spot. Strawberries were also fresh, and the whipped cream made it a perfect combo!

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And then we found Mannekin-Pis. I didn’t even know about this famous statue, but all around town, you would see little figures of this naked boy urinating. Even chocolate. Yup. Anyways, when we finally reached this landmark, I was like “Wait, what? That’s it?” I was sort of disappointed. He was so tiny! Even those chocolate sculptures of him were bigger… Apparently the original is actually at a museum since it was stolen many times. While I was there, I still didn’t really know the story behind this boy. Now that I’m home, I did a quick search and learned that this statue was made by Brussels sculptor and has many different legends behind it. The most famous one is about the troops putting Duke Godfrey III of Leuven, who was a two year old lord in a basket and hanging it on a tree. Apparently, the boy urinated on the other troops who then lost the battle. Interesting…

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Belgian is also known for beer! I don’t know much about beer, but we found this shop that had a ton of beer! Like I’ve never seen so many types of beer in my life. I don’t even like beer, but I wanted to buy them all since the packaging were so nice! A lot of them even catered to girls too with really girly labeling. Some were holiday versions as well.

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C and I ended up grabbing two beers to drink for the night. She chose the Delirium Beer since we saw many people getting that. However, she found it very strong and bitter. We’re definitely not beer drinkers, so probably why. I went for the Peach Lambic Beer. I actually really like it and C did too! It tasted more like a cider than beer to me. Fruity and bubbly.

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While were in Brussels, the Christmas Market had just begun as well. We didn’t find the market to be too impressive compared to the others in Europe. A reason might be because it was the first day and they were still setting up. It was a lot of arts and crafts, and mostly drinks. Not a lot of food, and since we’re foodies, we’re always looking for food… They had an outdoor skating rink and also a Ferris wheel.

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At night time, I finally decided to try the Hot Wine, which is called Vin Chaud. Oh, did I also mention that they speak French in Brussels? I never knew that until I got here and saw everything in French! I guess it’s because they’re situated so close to France. Anyways, they were selling Vin Chaud at almost every drink booth at the market, so I decided to give it a try. I didn’t really like it though. I found it difficult to go down my throat. The red wine they used must’ve been quite dry. I personally wouldn’t get this again and prefer cider more!

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Then we came across Grand Place again. The Grand Place is a must see since it’s the central square of Brussels. On the four sides are guildhalls, the city town hall and the Broadhouse. We walked by this square a lot since it was on our way to other tourist landmarks and to the metro. It’s absolutely beautiful during day time and we had seen a Christmas tree had been planted in the center in daytime. This specific day though, people were surrounding this area and we were sort of confused. Like what was going on? C and I kept discussing I guess a little too loudly, and I told her there must be something special going on! A young man overheard us and laughed and said “Yup, today’s the lighting of the Christmas tree, except it was scheduled a while ago, and nothing has happened, so everyone’s waiting anxiously, unsure what’s happening.” Funny enough, we found out this man was from Seattle, very close to my home! This is what I love about traveling. You meet people from all over the world, and even people who are close to you back at home. After a few minutes of chatting, the tree finally lit up! And music began to play and lights flashed everywhere. It was beautiful! They basically had lights flashing on the buildings on the four sides and they would move based on the song’s rhythm. Absolutely amazing and it really started to feel like Christmas! (even though it was only November). A must see if you are traveling here around December.

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After, I suggested we go to see the Atomium! It wasn’t on the top of our list, but since it was our last night and we had some time, I wanted to go see it. It was constructed for Expo ’58 and is supposed to be a cell of an iron crystal. You can actually go on the top of the sphere which gives you a panoramic view of Brussels. Perhaps where we saw it wasn’t the best spot because we were slightly disappointed. It was sort of situated beside a parking lot… Two pictures and we left. Also, it’s not near anything else, so you really have to go out of your way to come here. Not worth it if you’re on a tight schedule.

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So apparently there’s a bar called Cafe Delirium which has over 1000 different types of beers and is a must go for beer lovers. Although we don’t love beer, we thought if we’re in Brussels, we might as well. Sadly, I think we ended up at the wrong Delirium. Apparently, there are a bunch of bars called Delirium with this elephant logo. I’m not sure if they’re related and owned by the same one, but this wasn’t the one that was famous! The original one is listed in the Guinness to have the largest selection of beer in the world and has two floors! We had asked the bartender if this was the right one, but of course he said Yes… The sad thing was that I think I saw the real Delirium Cafe just a few blocks down… So confusing.

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Well, we still settled for some beer. I chose the La Corne since I saw the girl next to me drinking it. It came in this horn shaped glass so I thought it was really cool! It was a bit difficult to hold and drink though. It was a golden colour and wasn’t too bitter. Yea I’m not very descriptive with my beers, since I don’t know much about them.

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C got the Chocolate Beer, but she really didn’t like it. I thought it tasted sort of funny too. There really wasn’t a chocolate flavour to it and tasted more bitter than mine. They do have a bunch of fruitier beers, which she probably would’ve enjoyed more.

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The next day, we had half a day left before we needed to catch our flight. We decided to head over to another part of the city which had lots of new, modern buildings. Lots of offices too. Here, we also found the European Union building. Wasn’t as impressive as I had imagined though, and there was a ton of construction going on all around.

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We also went to the Parc du Cinquantenaire, which translates to the Park of the Fiftieth Anniversary. This is in the European Quarter of Brussels, and basically next to the EU building. It features the triumphal arc, that I swear almost every city in Europe has! It commemorates the 50th anniversary of Belgian independence. What I thought was impressive was the horseshoe shaped arcade they also hard. Seems like a nice park to walk around on a nice sunny day. I think there’s also a museum here. This area definitely gives you a different feeling compared to the rest of the city. A much more modernized and business-like area.

And that concluded my trip to Brussels! We stayed for 2 nights and 3 days, which we found more than enough. There wasn’t too much to see in terms of tourist spots. It was more of a food trip for us and it was nice to travel with just another friend who shared the same interests. Always great to have someone who will splurge on food with you! Tip: Book early to avoid high prices. Also, we found Brussels quite touristy, so don’t fall into tourist traps. Do your research on food and restaurants, so you can truly enjoy the local experience. We also found locals to be quite friendly here and the city is relatively safe.