Sunday, March 31, 2013

Chocolate Arts Cafe

A couple of weeks ago Sheila was in Vancouver for work and I joined for the weekend.  Sheila had Saturday morning off and I took her to areas around False Creek that are not Granville Island.   We  stumbled in Chocolate Arts by accident.  

I grew up in the Lower Mainland, lived in Kits and East Van as an adult and was in the city at least several times a month until about five years ago - I did not know the city well and knew of many interesting places.   On this day I was looking for this wholesale jade store that was on W 1st at Pine.   It was unfortunately no longer there, neither was Lesley Stowe fine foods on W 3rd at Burrard.  Still there were many interesting places to investigate such Crystalworks - Sheila bought a nice pendant there.

The Chocolate Bar
photo by Sean Neild of Sean's Adventures in Flavourtown
A few blocks further east on W 3rd I saw Chocolate Arts.  Initially Sheila resisted going in because the two of us really do not need to eat more sweets, but I talked her into trying it out.    Inside at first it just sort of looks like any other coffee place until you notice the one side is all various chocolate treats.   Also near the door you can sample many of the bulk chocolates they have on offer.  

We ordered coffees and a small selection of chocolates:

Salted caramel - the caramel was nicely salty and had a decent bite to it, no wimpy liquid inside.
The Pallette - a dark chocolate disk with an almond, raisin and dried cranberry.   We did manage to share this one, but it was the hardest one to split between us.   It looks deceptively simple, but the combination of the nut and dried fruit was a perfect balance to the chocolate.

 Crispy stick - we had a raspberry milk chocolate filled one.    The fruit flavour was subtle in this one.  It had a nice crunch but it was by far the least exciting of the chocolates we had - though it is still one of the best chocolates we have eaten.
 The splinter is a serious of different nuts dunked in dark chocolate.   Once again a very simple idea but with high quality chocolate and nuts it is a stellar bite.

The last one was the framboise and it was beyond description of how good it was.  I would happily eat no end of these every day.

The owner Greg Hook was talking to a couple of people trying the bulk chocolates  Sheila joined them and then when the other two left she motioned for me to join them.    We tried all nine different bulk chocolates.  It is quite amazing how fundamentally different they can taste, as an example the Alto el Sol was incredibly fruity.  

Most of their bulk chocolates are single source.   They do not make their own chocolate from raw cocao nibs, it was when I started talking about trying to make chocolate from nibs myself and how it is more or less impossible to grind it properly that it because clear to Greg were food geeks.   He then said to us  "So you want to come and see the back?"   What could we say other than yes.

We had a chance to see how the operation runs and talk about details of foodie geekiness that interests us and Greg.    Much of the conversation was about the science behind food and how understanding this makes such a huge difference to how you cook.   In part of the conversation we talked about the reality of what machinery is needed to be able to actually grind cacao nibs into the raw chocolate paste - the starting price of a machine that is not really good enough is around $50,000.

When we saw the running taps of milk and dark chocolate we realized our third son Stephen was going to be very jealous that he missed seeing this.   Stephen is 12 and loves to work with pastry and chocolates, Greg said Stephen was welcome to a tour when he is next in Vancouver.   On every level it is clear that Greg Hook has a complete passion for what he does and wants to share it with others who have a similar passion.

Greg said one of the reasons they opened a cafe was because of his own coffee addiction  having an espresso machine on site saves him a lot of money each year.

When we go to Vancouver I am going to make a point of always stopping in here for coffee and chocolates.

  Chocolate Arts CafĂ© on Urbanspoon
Post a Comment