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

Milano Coffee Roasters

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We were waiting for over an hour to get a seat at the Sardine Can, and since it was a bit chilly, we decided to head into Milano Coffee Roasters. I’ve actually walked past here many times but never noticed this coffee shop. They have several other locations, and this is their Espresso Lounge in Gastown.

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The inside is pretty basic. Simple decor but still gives you a cool hip vibe. They are well known for their espresso as their roots are from Italian roasting and blending.

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Hot Chocolate

We’re not coffee people, so we decided to try some of their other items. C got the Hot Chocolate, which came with chocolate flakes and wasn’t overly sweet. Usually hot chocolate can be really sweet, but this was perfect.

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Raspberry Mocha with Whipped Cream

K and I shared the Raspberry Mocha with Whipped Cream. I usually find mocha to be really strong and bitter, but this was the contrary! It was the perfect balance. You could taste the coffee, but it was smooth and light. However, I couldn’t really taste the raspberry. Really good though!

K says this is one of her favourite spots now. Well priced and the drinks are really good! I would guess that their coffee drinks are very good too.

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Leonidas (Waterfront)

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Hot Chocolate – Dark

I had bought the Social Shopper coupon for $12 at Leonidas which came with Belgian Liege waffles, hot chocolate & chocolate covered strawberries for two people. Since J was busy, I got his to go. For myself though, I sat down on the nice sunny day to catch up on some work and enjoy my desserts. For each item, you get quite a few options. For the Hot Chocolate, you can choose from white, milk or dark. I went for the dark chocolate. It came in a nice tall glass with a frothy top and a drizzle of chocolate sauce. It was actually pretty good with a strong chocolate flavour to it.

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Belgian Liege Waffles – chocolate sauce and fruits

Next was the Belgian Liege Waffle. You can choose two toppings on your waffle. I chose the chocolate sauce and fruits. They actually put quite a lot of strawberries and bananas on it. It’s also presented quite nicely. The waffle was warm and fluffy and not too sweet. For J’s take out, they also put each fruit and sauce in a separate container so he could put it on himself when he ate it. I like the thoughtfulness they put in to make sure the waffle doesn’t get soggy.

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Chocolate Covered Strawberry – dark

Lastly, I got the Chocolate Covered Strawberry. Again, you can choose between white, milk or dark. Of course I went for the dark! This was really good and the strawberry was very sweet. I think it’s as good as Godiva’s.

I was really happy with the service here even though I was using a Social Shopper coupon. It wasn’t as quick as I would’ve liked it to be, but there were only two girls working and there would be times with many customers all at once. One of the girls was extremely courteous and kept apologizing for the delay of my take out. I liked how she did the take out at the end of my meal though, to ensure that the hot chocolate and waffle was still warm. Definitely a great deal for two sets of the desserts! $6 would probably only get you a waffle at any other dessert shop!  Plus Leonidas is known in Belgium to be one of the top. For two sets of these desserts, it would normally be valued at $24.80! Great deal!

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Bella Gelateria – Hot Chocolate Festival

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Bella Gelateria has always been one of my favourite gelato shops. It’s pricey, but their handmade gelatos are always worth it. For the Hot Chocolate Festival this year, they offered a “Hot ChocolatO.” It essentially meant that the hot chocolate were flavoured by a ‘gBar’, which is a frozen gelato on a popsicle stick. We chose the Black Magic, which comes with a Black Seasame & Matcha Green Tea gBar and a 85% & White Hot Chocolate.

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The pairing also came with a slice of Banana Bread. You could actually taste the richness of the chocolate in the drink, and apparently you are supposed to stir your gelato in your drink, but I ate it on its own. I loved the sesame in the gbar, although I found that it overpowered the matcha flavour. Again, the gelato was extremely smooth. The banana bread was also a very nice treat to go with the drink. It’s made by a local called Erin Ireland, and it consists of roasted macadamia nuts, Callebaut milk chocolate, olive oil and organic bananas. All this was for $7.50, which is decent considering the amount of hot chocolate you get and the extra treats on the side.

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Pierre Marcolini – Brussels

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I love to eat chocolate, but to say that I’m anything close to understanding chocolate is definitely an overstatement. So while we were in Brussels, chocolate was literally everywhere! Belgian chocolate is so well known, but honestly, I can’t say I could tell the different brands apart. They all tasted pretty good! Like for instance, Godiva was everywhere, and very accessible in Canada, and personally, I think Godiva is pretty good chocolate. And when I compare it to some other Belgian brands like Leonidas, I honestly can’t say that one is way better than the other. Since these two Belgian brands are easily accessible in Canada, C and I were looking for chocolate brands that we weren’t able to find back at home. Pierre Marcolini was one of them. Pierre Marcolini opened his first store in 1995, and since then it has stores in major cities like Paris, New York, London, and Tokyo. We had walked by this store the previous day, but we forgot where it was. We were desperate to get some hot chocolate here, and ended up walking in the rain for probably 30 minutes, but it was well worth it!

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Each hot chocolate comes with a speculoo. We found that speculoos are very popular in Belgium. They are a shortcrust biscuit that is spiced, usually with pepper, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom, and nutmeg. We found that it was very similar to a gingerbread. I believe they were offering this because it’s a tradition to eat these biscuits before St. Nicholas’ feast. Their Santa is called St. Nicholas, and he looks a bit different!

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And this was the hot chocolate. Unlike the hot chocolate in Barcelona where it’s basically melted chocolate, this was something I was much more used to. The chocolate was very rich and strong though. I think it was also lightly seasoned with nutmeg. Very smooth as well.

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After, C bought a cake to try. Their cakes are beautiful but definitely quite pricey! This one had a hazelnut filling with layers of crispy wafers inside. The filling was smooth and rich in flavour. A good splurge if you want some visually beautiful and tasty cake! I probably should’ve have spoiled myself on a piece of their chocolates since I hear they are one of the best in the city!

Aksum Coffee House – Brussels

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C and I had done some sightseeing and since it was a rainy day, we wanted to take a rest and looked for a coffee shop. Aksum Coffee House was rated as the top coffee house in Brussels on Tripadvisor, so off we went. It’s a little hidden since their company name isn’t in vivid colours. A tiny mint green shop owned by an Ethiopian man.

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The inside is filled with vintage coffee machines and African artwork on the walls. There’s only a few seats but when we were there on a weekday, there weren’t that many people. Their menu is also very limited, with some cakes from a local bakery as well.

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For myself, I got the Hot Chocolate, since I’m not a big fan of coffee. When it arrived, I was surprised by the way it looked. It was very frothy at the top, and you could see glimpse of chocolate at the bottom. I mixed it up, and it became a light brown colour. Taking a sip from it, it didn’t really taste like typical hot chocolates. It was frothy, and the chocolate taste wasn’t too strong. There was a nutmeg flavour to it as well. The drink was a bit pricey, but apparently they use high quality ingredients.

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C got a coffee drink. I don’t remember what it’s called, but it had a special name and the owner recommended it. However, he warned her that it might be a little bitter. There was a shot of espresso in it, which made it strong. She didn’t really like it because it was so bitter, but I believe true espresso lovers will enjoy this drink.

All in all, I wasn’t too impressed with their drinks. It might just be me, since I’m not a coffee expert, and don’t know much about coffee. Still, I find the drinks to be quite pricey.

Cafe Granja Viader – Barcelona

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Cafe Granja Viader was recommended by my Spanish professor. This cafe has so much history! The family business began in the 1870s and started as a farm. They are also among the first to start the dairy industry in Spain, and they invented Cacaolat, which you will see all over Spain. Cacaolat is basically the Spanish version of our Milk2Go. The cafe is actually located just inside the streets off of La Rambla, so extremely accessible. You’ll find locals eating here with their children, but tourists have also discovered this cafe and has been a popular destination.

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The cafe still has such a vintage feel to it! Very basic furniture with the waiters dressed professionally.

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Painters are hung around the wall. We came just when the second opening time began, and hence we got a seat right away. The cafe closes from around 2-5, abiding to the siesta. Therefore, many of my friends have found it difficult to visit here, or when it’s open, there are usually huge crowds.

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Swiss Hot Chocolate

N had came to visit me in Barcelona, and I decided to take her here after she got off her flight. Another friend had suggested items to order, so I followed. First, we got a Swiss Hot Chocolate. This was basically the Spanish Hot Chocolate, but topped with a huge lump of whipped cream. The whipped cream was actually light and didn’t have that heavy milk taste that cheap processed whipped cream had. You need to realize that the hot chocolate in Spain is literally melted chocolate. It’s so thick! I don’t think they put any milk in it… The whipped cream really helped lighten the hot chocolate and give it a more milky texture.

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Spanish Hot Chocolate

My friend suggested we order just a Spanish Hot Chocolate, and because the Swiss one had so much whipped cream, you could just scoop over half of it onto the one without the cream. This worked out perfectly. When we tried the Spanish Hot Chocolate by itself, we felt it was too heavy. They use dark chocolate, and hence it’s not too sweet. But still, imagine yourself drinking a cup of just melted chocolate… It’s quite something. We both agreed that we wouldn’t be drinking hot chocolate in a while… Extremely rich and smooth though!

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Churros

We also got an order of Churros. The plate came with around 4 looped churros and there was one that was a bit different. It had a lot more sugar on it and had a slight cinnamon taste to it! The churros were fresh and surprisingly not too sweet. I did find that the churros were a little hard for my liking, so I ended up dipping it in the hot chocolate. It was the best way to eat it, especially since it got a little boring just drinking the thick hot chocolate.

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Overall, I was quite satisfied with Granja Viader! It’s a nice place to sip on some hot chocolate and grab a snack. I really felt like I had went back in time and was experiencing the true Catalan way of enjoying tea time.

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To finish off with some Barcelona attractions, I attended the El Clasico 2013! For those who aren’t football fans, like myself, El Clasico is a football match between the Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. The two teams are among the richest and best teams in the world, and Barcelona and Madrid themselves have always been rivalries in football. Also because of other political issues, like independence, the two cities are always heated when they compete. My friends luckily convinced me to attend, and it was the best decision! I’ve never been to any sports game in my life, let alone football being of any interest for me. However, it was so much fun, and the crowds were full of spirit. Never felt so excited watching a game! Camp Nou, the stadium is also the largest football stadium in Europe! It was fully filled and although our seats were almost the last rows, we still had clear vision of the game. And of course, Barcelona won!

The Edge Social Grill and Lounge

Hot Chocolate

Sweet Potato Fries with Parmesan Aioli

Honey Garlic Wings

BBQ Wings

Mac & Cheese with Caesar Salad

Eating at The Edge was actually by random as we were planning to go to The Twisted Fork, just very close by, except they didn’t take reservations and was very full by the time we got there. Can’t say it was anything out of the extraordinary, but it’s not bad for the price and service. Food, did however take extremely long to be served. The yam fries were great, but maybe it was because I was hungry. The wings are just average – I didn’t really like the honey garlic ones as it almost tasted bland. Mac & Cheese is one of my favourite comfort foods, but this one was definitely not up to par. It didn’t have that cheddar taste to it, and tasted almost like alfredo. I really only enjoyed the crusted top, but it still wasn’t that great. I could get a better Mac & Cheese at Boston Pizza or somewhere else. Service and ambiance was great, although it was very empty, but maybe it was because it was a weekday. I just wish the food would’ve came out a little quicker. Okay food at a decent price, but probably wouldn’t go back again.

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