This was, of course, just an excuse, for four greedy women to spend 36 hours eating their way round Vancouver, ably abetted by Stephane Mouttet, the charming and hugely knowledgeable concierge at the Shangri La hotel.
Having had such an enjoyable time when we stayed there last, I recommended the Shangri La to the others and it was such a relief when our stay was even better than I had remembered. If there are friendlier, more helpful, more informative hotel staff anywhere in the world, I’d love to meet them.
Our first stop on the Hot Chocolate Tour was Thomas Haas in Kitsilano. Haas has world-level patissier credentials, most recently as Executive Pastry Chef at the Four Seasons in Vancouver and the sumptuous chocolates and exquisite pastries in his shop were metaphorically, and probably literally, to die for.
Their hot chocolate was the best we tasted on the tour and the almond croissant was the best I’ve ever had anywhere in the world – the perfect combination of crisp savoury outer shell, perfectly toasted almonds and dense squidgy, not too sweet almond filling. The macarons I brought back for the Minx (who has expensive tastes) were as good as Laduree.
Later that afternoon we visited Mink Chocolates and indulged in yet more hot chocolate and a decadent individual chocolate fondue. The speciality here is individual bars of premium quality iPhone-sized ganache-filled chocolate with super cool names, such as Ruby & Tawny Are Friends, Open In Case Of Emergency, Pas De Deux or Mermaid’s Choice and funky colourful packaging. Their striking beauty, and the individual bold statement chocolates in the shapes of hearts and lips, reflect owner Marc Lieberman’s fine arts background – he does all the graphic design himself, as well as develop the chocolates. I bought a stack of chocolate bars for the Husband’s Valentines’ present and can confirm that they are pretty darn wonderful.
For supper Stephane at the hotel recommended ReFuel, again in Kitsilano, which specialises in fresh local ingredients and did fabulous things with charcuterie, marrow bones, BC spot prawns, chalkboard art and funky light fittings at a very reasonable price.
Another highlight of the trip – though my photos unfortunately didn’t turn out too well - was our trip to Bella Gelateria. We had every intention of trying the hot chocolate but after James the owner talked to us at length about the wonders of his pistachio gelato, made from specially-ground paste, using pistachios from the slopes of Mount Etna, we changed our minds. I consider myself to be something of a pistachio gelato connoisseur – it’s been my flavour of choice since I was a kid and I’ve eaten it all over Italy – and this really was incredible.
Finally here are a few more photos of the splendours of the ShangriLa, featuring their signature chandeliers, their smiley staff, an immense afternoon tea (with OMG! REAL clotted cream) and a doozy of a breakfast, including my first ever taste of congee, which I adored.
And a couple of pics of the incomparable Stephane at work, who did so much to make our trip one of the most fun and memorable I’ve taken in ages. Merci beaucoup!
We had a lot of fun posting pictures and tweeting and checking in from all Vancouver on Facebook and Twitter and will definitely be back again next year to check out all the chocolate stops we didn’t make it to this time round.
If you’re on Twitter you may want to follow @thaaschocolates @ShangriLaBC @bellagelateria @CityFood_mag @refuel_bar @minkchocolates or my lovely friends and travel companions Viv @bonnevivante, Tracy @choicemorsel and M @bitterbiscuit.
And of course I can be found at @mirrormirrorxx or on www.facebook.com/mirrormirroronline