For my first post back, I thought I’d write on something current: the 3rd Annual Vancouver Hot Chocolate Festival, which started January 19th and is running until February 14th (that’s next Thursday!). Hot chocolate is always, always a great idea, especially in the chilly Vancouver weather that’s been hitting us lately.
Fortunately, for my meet-up with Enoch, whom I haven’t seen since high school (much to our surprise), the Vancouver sky gods decided to give us beautiful weather– so beautiful that I wouldn’t have minded sitting outside, which was very nearly our fate, since Thierry is often so busy. Luckily enough, a couple vacated their seats just as I was about to head outside to the patio.
Enoch decided to order for us the Hot Chocolate Festival flavour One in a Million ($9.75), which came with a little dish of clotted cream infused with chocolate shavings, a mini chocolate-dipped madeleine, and a mini chocolate bar. This hot chocolate is made with Maranon, the world’s rarest chocolate, and of course we felt pretty special drinking it. This was a lot sweeter and syrupy than I thought it would be, and while it tasted great right off the bat, I found it a little too overwhelming towards the end. I was confused as to how a certain kind of chocolate could be the “rarest in the world” (I hope I’m not the only one), so I did a little bit of research. According to http://www.maranonchocolate.com/, the cacao beans for this chocolate had been lost for 100 years, but had recently been found in Peru, and are 40% white beans. The Madeleine tasted very lemony, which went well with the chocolate dipping, but I thought it was a bit too tiny (it is complimentary though, so I shouldn’t complain). The dark chocolate bar tasted pretty typical to me, but I thought the star of the side dish was the clotted cream. It was incredibly thick and creamy and delicious, we took to scooping up some with our forks and dipping it into our hot chocolate.
Now of course we couldn’t just leave without trying some of the other desserts, and one in particular struck our fancy. The couple next to us had ordered it as well, and it just looked so beautiful and perfect, we had to have it. Here is the Pear Cassis Charlotte ($6.75), a mousse-based cake filled with pear bavaroise and pieces of poached pear, topped with a semi-tart layer of cassis gelee, and then wrapped around with pistachio ladyfingers. I really enjoyed this cake, as all the flavours balanced nicely and it wasn’t too sweet, each bite contained just the right amount of cake and mousse. I would most likely order this again.
One of my other favourites from Thierry are their tuiles, specifically the Almond-Orange Tuile and the Brandy Snap Tuile (both at $7.45/100g). I didn’t get a picture of the Almond-Orange, but pictured here is the Brandy Snap. These are crisp, wafer-thin cookies, one with chopped almonds and orange zest, and the other flavoured with caramel. I love dipping these into their hot chocolates, and even more just by themselves– if they weren’t so costly, I’d probably be buying boxes and boxes to snack on at home.
And lastly, I ordered a few macarons to go– clockwise from the top, we have the Coffee, Pink Praline, and Apple Cinnamon Macaron. I’ve only had macarons from 2 places before (here and Bel Cafe), and I find that at times the ones at Thierry are a little too sweet for my liking, and I prefer jam filled over cream-filled ones. My mom really likes these, however, so I really couldn’t go without getting her some. Of the ones I’ve tried from past visits, my favourite is the lemon– just a little tart, filled with a gelee instead of cream, and a bright, happy yellow– perfect for a rainy day.
So that concludes my visit! I find myself going to Thierry every once in a while when I’m downtown just for old times’ sake (not that my first visit and my first spiked hot chocolate was such a long time ago…), and I really enjoy their pastries. I’ve had the triple chocolate cake and lemon tart as well as the tiramisu recently, and all are pretty well executed in terms of taste and presentation. There are times when I wish the cafe were quieter, as it can be really difficult to have a conversation there if you’re sitting across from someone, but I do like that it’s such a hub for university students and business people in the downtown core. If you haven’t been yet, I would urge you to go, just to try their cakes out! If you do, try to go around 5:30-6pm, as I found it less busy at that time. That way, if you’re catching up and sharing stories, like we were, you can actually hear about the awesome adventures your friends are talking about!
Until next time!
Thierry Chocolaterie Patisserie Cafe
1059 Alberni St
I don’t remember when Cynthia and I talked about going to Medina for brunch, but it was certainly a while ago– probably sometime back in January. Anyways, for some reason or another (craziness of school, craziness of work, craziness of life in general), we had to keep postponing our date– but with the end of finals in April, and a lighter course load in the summer, we were finally able to meet up for some much-needed catch up time.
Of course, a brunch trip would be incomplete without Darek; if it weren’t for him, I probably wouldn’t have met Cynthia in the first place (ah, the joys [?] of math tutor…). So we drove over to the Gastown restaurant (kind of misleading to me, since it’s actually right by Stadium Station and nowhere near the Steam Clock) on a Friday morning, parked at the meter (which promptly stole Darek’s toonie), and put our name down for a table for 3.
I was worried that we would have to wait a long time for a table, since there were at least 3 other groups ahead of us, and the storefront looked quite small (and full). Silly me, I didn’t realize that there was more seating in the back of the building, which was spacious and bright, with high ceilings and big windows. After a wait of about 15 minutes, a waitress brought us to our table, where we eagerly perused the menu.
We ordered our drinks first: for Darek, an Americano; for Cynthia, a Chai; and for myself, a large Hot Chocolate. The Americano was “good”– the perfect pick-me-up for Darek, who honestly looked pretty dead when we were waiting outside. The coffee smelled and tasted really pleasant, and we liked that the half-and-half was served on the side. Cynthia’s Chai was presented with a foam leaf on top; this was so pretty, she barely wanted to drink from it, and insisted (jokingly) that we could only drink from the stem. Her cup of tea was cinnamony and flavourful, and is certainly just as good as, if not better than, the chai I had at Aphrodite’s Cafe. Her only qualm was that it was smaller than what she wanted– our waiter didn’t confirm the size she wanted with her. I was surprised that my Hot Chocolate came with a foam leaf as well– it was nice to see that they put the effort into all their drinks. My cup was appropriately hot and sweet, and I felt that the price I paid ($3.25) wasn’t too unreasonable.
And now, onto the food! Darek, being a meat-lover, ordered the Fricassé— applewood smoked cheddar melted over a mix of braised short ribs, roasted potatoes, watercress, caramelized onions, finished off with two sunny-side-up eggs and julienned granny smith apples. In general, Darek thought that the ingredients weren’t anything special when eaten separately– for example, the green apple slices were too sour, and the short ribs were a little on the dry side (perhaps they were overcooked?); meanwhile, the eggs and potatoes, while good, were fairly standard. It was when he took a balanced mouthful that all the flavours worked together– the tartness was balanced by sweetness from the onions and saltiness from the short ribs and sauce, and the crispness of the watercress complemented the runny eggs, the crunch of the apples and the softness of the potatoes. With the exception of the cheese, which he could have done without, Darek ended up really enjoying his dish– so much so that he was using the small piece of foccacia to mop up all the sauce on the plate!
Cynthia’s Saumon Fume, served on an open-faced ciabatta bun, was quite different from what I expected. I thought that there would be slices of the usual cedar plank smoked salmon you could find at the supermarkets, with salad served on the side– I couldn’t be any more wrong! Instead, the salmon was actually flaked and mixed with a creamy, lemon-dill sauce, making it look somewhat like a less-pungent tuna fish sandwich. The salad of arugula, cherry tomatoes and a strong and tart vinaigrette was placed on top of one of the pieces of bread, and not in a side dish; meanwhile, a sliced avocado half and a fried egg sat atop the other. Since it was so beautifully presented, Cynthia ate this sandwich using a knife and fork (how ladylike!), so that the ingredients wouldn’t fall out of the sandwich. This way too, she was able to grab a little bit of everything– a sliver of egg, a square of avocado, some greens along with the bread and salmon– so that each bite was jam-packed with flavour. While the portion looked a little small at first, Cynthia found that it was actually the perfect size, and by the end of the meal was quite full– not a bad deal for $12! Her only problem with her meal was that her knife wasn’t nearly sharp enough to cut through the bread, so it did get a little messy. Maybe we’ll ask for a steak knife next time…
For myself, I had the Paella, which was a curried orzo dish mixed with corn niblets, pieces of zucchini, tomatoes, Hungarian chorizo sausage, red peppers and grana padano cheese. This pasta-y mixture was then finished off with a spicy tomato stew, a baked egg, some pieces of avocado and a ton of watercress. Having never had raw bunches of raw watercress before (I’ve had it in tea sandwiches, but in that case the cucumber tends to overpower the other ingredients), I was very pleased with the taste– it definitely wasn’t as bitter as I thought it would be. Besides that, the mingling of the curry and tomato stew along with the lemony avocado (I’m guessing to keep them from browning? But it tasted really good) made for a very delicious dish– and a very filling one too. I really struggled to finish my portion, and I was pretty hungry that day too.
Unfortunately, we were all too full to try out their liege waffles– but maybe that’s a good thing, since it meant that we got our money’s worth! For about $15 each, there was a ton of great food, and while it may have been a little on the pricey side for lunch after our drinks, tax and tip (I usually spend less than $10… but then most of my lunches are eaten at school), I would certainly return in the future. In general, I found that while the staff was a little aloof at times, the atmosphere and food more than made up for it, so that my experience was on the whole a great one. Thanks for the recommendation, Cynthia!
556 Beatty Street