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Category: desserts Page 1 of 19

Honolulu Coffee, hot chocolate offerings

It’s that time of year again, Vancouver’s winter chill paired with the romance season, brings the Hot Chocolate Festival back for a repeat year. And this simple dessert or hot beverage not only warms, but is just the thing to pick the city up as we pass Covid-19’s one year anniversary of existence. The ability to be able to take a cup out quick makes this the perfect minimal contact treat. This year the festival runs from January 16th to February 14th, highlight 39 cafes/restaurants and 89 different limited edition hot chocolates to try.

This year I was especially lured in by Honolulu Coffee’s tropical offerings. The Mauna Loa is a showstopper with its volcano brownie side, whoever came up with this is a marketing genius; I wanted it for visuals alone. This is a 70% dark hot chocolate with a hint of cayenne pepper and maple chilli bacon seasoning. The hot chocolate’s spicy flavour spoke to the volcanic heat and theme. You must like a rich dark chocolate to fully appreciate this one. Whereas the brownie with its dual colour frosting magma, and hovering cloud was much more mild by comparison. It served as a good accompaniment for texture and chew, allowing the hot chocolate to take centre stage.

I actually wanted to try the Mauna L’ai more for its flavour combination. However it was sold out when I stopped by the first time. Luckily, upon my second visit I was much more successful. This pink number combines guava and coconut with the 70% dark chocolate for a more tropical, light vibe. The takeout cup is finished off with coconut whipped cream and a guava flavoured macaron. Sweeter and more dessert like, this less chocolate hot chocolate is more my vibe. I liked the guava macaron idea, but wished they made it more picturesque like the volcano side above. Maybe a pink shell with pearl shaped macaron? Either way I got my guava flavour in both it and the drink. However I much more prefer my hot chocolate paired with their regularly available guava bread (think banana bread, but made with guava purée instead of mashed bananas) .

And taking their chocolate offerings to the next level, Honolulu Coffee is also offering hot chocolate bombs! These limited edition features come just in time for Valentine’s Day. The box sets are available at either of their two Vancouver locations from February 8th to the 14th.

Each box includes two jumbo sized hot Chocolate bombs. One is a 70% Ghirardelli dark chocolate bomb, and the other a Ghirardelli white chocolate bomb packed with mini marshmallows and sprinkles. And to make gifting easy, each set comes with a special Valentine’s Day card with instructions on how to maximize your interactive hot chocolate extravaganza.

Half show, half drink this is an experience in deserting. And I just love food that puts on a show before you get to eat it. A great treat or a gift for a loved one this Valentines.

Honolulu Coffee Nelson
888 Nelson St g1, Vancouver, BC V6Z 2H1
(778) 379-6607
honolulucoffee.com

Passione Gelato, holiday flavours

The holiday season is upon us, but it hardly feels like it with the lack of Christmas marketplaces and light exhibits to flock to. No mulled wine or spiked cider to sip as you stroll past booths to shop from. No groups of carollers or crowds gathered by extra festively lit homes. But fear not, if you are missing the flavours of winter, you can get plenty of them at Passione Gelato (by the still shuttered Parq casino).

Their delicious and creamy gelatos are worth travelling for normally, but especially with this season’s more adult focused ones. Nothing screams the holidays like the stiff drinks you need to get through them.

My visit allowed me to try all their eight new offerings, and from it grab a scoop to enjoy in its entirety.

The London Fog is a classic, a floral tea with milky notes made into a gelato just as lush.

The “white chocolate pistachio” isn’t too sweet. The chocolate comes off as more cream-like, to best pair with the more mild flavour of the pistachio. The nut offers a nice crunch to change up the texture in the mix.

Similarly, the “chocolate chestnut” offers the sweetness of chocolate, but not so much that it overpowers the semi-mashed chopped chestnut chunks within. They weren’t roasting by an open fire, but just as delicious cold here.

I am a fan of the Italian fruit cake pannetone, so was excited to try the cake turn gelato flavour here. Immediately I could taste how spot on this was. You don’t get chunks of the bread-like treat, but you do get chunks of the orange peel and raisin you would find in one normally.

The “matcha 4.0”, takes one of their most popular flavours and makes it four times more potent. The heavier bitterness of matcha comes off great in this dark green gelato. This is a terrific scoop for those who don’t like sweets and who adore matcha.

The “chocolate lavender” is a lighter milk chocolate, further softened with hints of florals. Great for little tongues.

The “orange grand marnier” gelato delivers on boozy cognac bourbon, and to it doubles down on the orange with liquor soaked candied orange peel. My guest made this her choice and ended up having to share it with her young daughter who liked it more than her cone.

But my favourite and the one I got as a full cup serving was the “cherry nikka”. The booziest gelato I have ever had, that still tastes good as ice cream; made with Japanese whiskey and whiskey soaked whole cherries. Great for those who don’t like sweet desserts like me and/or like strong spirits, like me.

In short Passione Gelato has some great new flavours in store, ones worth picking a pint up of. Just an extra treat to help put you in that Christmas “spirits”, acknowledging the pun here!

Passione Gelato
55 Smithe St, Vancouver, BC V6B 0R3
(604) 423-4099
parqvancouver.com/food-drink/passione

Bisou Bake House

With the most recent Covid 19 lockdown, due to the increase in cases in B.C., I have been finding myself outdoors even more. I have taken to fishing and the season for coho is fast approaching, so I have been dedicating my weekends out in the country. Rain or shine, cold and colder I have left the warm and connivence of home for the great outdoors. So this weekend, I was delighted to receive a care packaged from Bisou Bakehouse in North Vancouver.

They are well known of their pastries and cakes, so had packed me a selection of their post popular goods, and I happily took them with me to my latest excursion. Given the lack of heat or cooking source, I thought that these would make the perfect snacks for me and my companions. A box of goodie to bring some civility to the wild. And boy they and we appreciative.

Despite them being less then room temperature and a day old, they ate wonderfully. Each croissant and danish was just as flaky as I would expect it to be coming out of their glass showcase.

Most memorable was the cheese croissant that made into a sandwich, cutting it in half and filling it with a grilled smokey. It was cheese on cheese and oh so perfect.

As is, I particularly liked the peach danish with its sweet fruit and luscious cream, offering contrast to the buttery pastry. The blueberry one gave you some crunch with its pecans. The same crushed nuts also found its way into a moist muffin. Moisture that I wish the cinnamon roll had more of. But that would have been too messy to eat as a handheld.

Much like the whole blueberry pie Bisou also sent me, but I thought that would be better suited to dining at home. Fresh BC blueberries baked within a golden brown crust. Warmed up for a little gooeyness. If they ate this good in the wild, I can only imagine fresh out of the oven. This taster has inspired me to head into the actual store, the next time I am in their neck of the woods.

Bisou Bake House
1189 16th St W, North Vancouver, BC V7P 1R4
(604) 984-9478
bisoubakehouse.com

#Mijune x Chez Christophe Collaboration 2020

For those who don’t know her, Mijune Pak is local Vancouverite food blogger turned TV judge, and now chocolatier.

Our very own television personality has teamed up with local favourite,
Swiss Chocolatier, Chez Christophe to release two limited edition chocolate centric treats. They are currently available on the shelves of Chez Christophe Patisserie in North Burnaby, until quantities last. Both scream Canadiana and speak to her home and native land with Canadian inspired packaging and flavour combinations.

The first is a Maple Syrup French Toast white chocolate bar. 34% white chocolate, 35% caramelized white chocolate, maple syrup, and French toast cookie to be exact. Unwrapping this is a treat in itself. With stunning packaging and a sweet (excuse the pun) message within. This heartfelt thanks is surrounded by linear drawings of Canada meets Switzerland (speaking to the heritage of the chocolate). A sketch of mountains to cityscapes and the farms and lakes in between.

The chocolate itself is segregated to align to the mountain peaks of the cardboard wrap. This gives you a stunning visual, but inconsistent prices to break off. But no matter, you are going to end up eating more than you anticipated any how. It’s that good. And then there is the sweet spray painted maple leaf outline detail. A fun homage. As for taste, the white chocolate isn’t too sweet (coming from a person who doesn’t like too many sweets). It is well balanced by the fragrant maple syrup notes. The cookie adds texture and crunch for some mouth interest. A delicious bar I would purchase again for myself, and as a gift for others. And this says a lot as I am not typically a fan of chocolate in general. Although if it has to be chocolate, it has to be white chocolate.

And if you are only going to get one of these two limited edition releases, it has to be the Neapolitan Baked Alaska Snowball. This show stopper is an activity and dessert all rolled into one (yes, I like puns). A gradient: red to pink, and to white round with black speckles dispersed throughout. The viral challenge attached to this, is finding clever and artistic ways to crack into the piñata ball of sorts.

Within, is a bevy of tiny chocolate balls, nuggets of chocolate covered marshmallows, and chunks of cookies and freeze dried strawberries. Once again the chocolate and flavours are well balanced. It isn’t too sweet and every element just sings in harmony. If half the fun is breaking into it, the other half is exploring its insides. This is a great reward for any kid or adult. And for a lucky few, if your ball contains a magic ticket, you win a dessert experience with Mijune herself!

Chez Christophe
4717 Hastings St, Burnaby, BC V5C 2K8
(604) 428-4200
chez-christophe.ca

mello doughnuts

I am under the employment of an essential service. This means while majority of the folks are staying home safe, myself and my coworkers are continuing our day to day to ensure that the world is still running during this precarious time. We aren’t health care workers, but the service we provide ensures that they and everyone else has the resources they need to do what they have to.

So as a blend between my own want to try and my desire to treat them, I travelled down to Chinatown for some Mello doughnuts. I have seen a lot about them online, so figured now was a great time to grab a dozen to share.

Like everywhere else that is still open, seating has been removed to better illustrate that they are not open for dine in, but take out only. Two clerks in masks man the empty store front. One at the counter doling out the doughnuts, the other in the kitchen bringing out a fresh batch.

The counter is still stocked as this is the sort of item you order with your eyes. Their full assortment on display, a few with name cards for easy identification. Plus a few other treats like cookies and cakes to round out their offerings.

I ordered a dozen to fit perfectly in their largest box. One of each and doubles of their two signature stuffed doughnuts for 75 cent to a $1 more. These were the strawberry short cake with fresh cream and the tiramisu with plenty of coca powder. Naturally I didn’t try all of the doughnuts, but I made sure to get a taste of both of these. I liked their doughnuts because they weren’t overly sweet. The three that I had were well done. I prefer them over anything I can get from any fast food chains.

The tiramisu lacked the coffee flavour you’d expect. It reminded me more of a mild chocolate, with a chalky finish due to the powdery topping.

The strawberry was stuffed full with luscious cream and fresh fruit. And the coarse sugar topping added a nice sort of crunch to the fluffy doughy round.

The rest of the doughnuts weren’t stuffed. It got its flavour from the frosting and toppings. Flavours like lemon curd, cookies and cream, vanilla, and a dark chocolate. I tried the green tea. It was the last one left when I stopped by, and I can see why. A wonderfully bright doughnut with plenty of green tea flavour, gently sweetened. This was my favourite of the three for its flavour.

In short, Mello is a great way to grab yourself and others a treat. For the lovers of doughnuts when store bought and fast food ones don’t do. Be warned, they are a cashless store, so debit and credit only.

mello
223 E Pender St, Vancouver, BC V6A 2T9
(604) 423-3556

Le Doux Ciel, Chinese New Year High Tea

I have seen photos of this newer cafe floating around, but what got me through the door finally was their limited edition, Chinese New Year themed high tea set. It is only available for a month starting January 15th and running to February 15th, 2020

In order to indulge you must make a reservation and that comes with a commitment. The cost is $59 per person. You leave your credit card information and are billed “50% or more” if you cancel with less than 24 hours notice. Therefore, we made sure we got there early to avoid complications. Parking is easy enough, if you seek a spot in the underground lot of the “Praq Casino” adjacent. This is within walking distance of “Le Doux Ciel”.

The cafe is a wonderfully curated space. A touch of elegance with soft pastels, velvet upholstery, marble counters, honeycomb tiles, and flourishes of gold. On the ceiling dangled oversized balloons in whites, teal, and gold. They bounced around adding whimsy, and adding to the celebratory mood. It all definitely got us more excited for what’s more to come.

Your journey begins with a choice of tea, two pages to skim through, all served in a bird themed set. Individual tea pots that resembled bird houses, tea cups that had a tiny bird perched on its handle, and a saucer shaped like a gilded cage.

We would take our server’s suggestion and order their two most popular teas. The “milky blue”, isn’t actually blue in colour (we checked before ordering it). It had a naturally milky essence to it, without the need to add any actual milk product. And enough sweetness from candied chestnuts to enjoy without any honey or sugar. Its creaminess matched the indulgence of the set well.

The second most popular brew was the “blanc and rose” white tea. You got plenty of gentle rose notes in this cup. More light and floral than the blue tea above.

The actual full food set comes out fast. Many of the elements are pre-made and simply assembled on these speciality, miniature shelves. They typically house small figurines and leave quite the oriental impression. But there were so many pieces to this set that they had to spread it across two fixtures. The second one was a platform, and like the shelf, it was topped with waxy paper to protect the wood from oils and sugars from the snack-sized feast before us. We worked our way through everything, looking to the menu as a guide of the order in which to do so. It was in doing this that we realized that we were missing one of the listed items: the traditional new year cake. But alas the chef had already retired for the day so we were unable to try it. However, the clerk offered us our choice of any of the treats in the showcase, but more on that below.

Once again, in the order that we nibbled and savoured: We started with the “Vegetable spread mix”. It looked half thought out. A slice of cucumber topped with sautéed vegetables. A mix of red peppers, eggplant, and mushroom. It ate like a vegan chip and salsa, but needed more. It was missing seasoning and a pinch of salt. And perhaps a final topping to complete the concept. My suggestion would be a sprinkling of fried onion. It tasted healthy and was light, giving you a similar feeling that you would get from a cucumber finger sandwich, in other high tea sets.

I really liked the “Smoked bacon on steam buns”. A nice thick cut of bacon with a maple syrup finish, its sweetness went well with the sweet onion paste smeared within the doughy bun. All that was missing was more vegetables, something pickled like you’d get in banh mi, for a nice tang.

By comparison, the “Sesame brioche buns with roasted pork belly” was similar in sweetness and tangy sauce. But here, the thick and crunchy skin was hard to bite through, and just as dry as the bun. Overall great flavours, I just wanted the dish to be better curated, and once again with more veggies to balance out the heavy juices.

The “Exotic mushroom veggie spring roll” came served with a sweet chilli sauce on the side for dipping. It was crunchy with plenty of mushroom filling. I don’t know about the “exotic” part though. It was pretty standard all in all.

Next, we transitioned from savoury to sweet with the “Bird’s nest soup with red dates”. It had a jelly-like texture that drank like slurping down minced jello. It was refreshing and only mildly sweet, with the flavour of the dates coming through.

The “Fermented rice cake” was interesting. Three desserts in one, including the decorative white chocolate piece crowning it. There were a few more scattered across the set, similarly decorated it Chinese characters and/or symbols to really round out the theme. At the centre was a tiny glutenous rice ball with sesame seed paste at its centre. I have never had one so mild, it contrasted well the tangy fermented jelly surrounding it. But overall this had a medicinal quality to it.

The “puff pastry” is one that I am familiar with. Shaped like a lotus flower, with a flaky shell, surrounding dense date paste. Given how dry and ashy it is, it is best paired with tea or coffee and nibbled on.

I was most excited by the sugar coated hawthorn fruits. Visually, it was juicy looking strawberries coated in syrup and wrapped in edible, translucent paper (like what you get with white rabbit candy.) I would later learn that this called “bing tanghulu”, a popular Beijing snack. It tasted like “haw flakes” and was fun to eat off the stick. This was all kinds of sweet, across different textures.

Once again, the menu also listed a “special Chinese traditional cake”, but it was missing on our tower, and by the time we realized this, the chef was already gone for the day. Therefore to round out our meal, our server (the lone employee left to hold down the cafe), offered us the following.

A couple of their Chinese New Year themed macarons like red bean and osmanthus. The former actually tasted like red bean, whereas the latter was just sweet. I was waiting, but I never got the floral notes I expected from the blossom. It simply tasted artificial, and a little like mango?

And in keeping of our asian theme, we choose the “Black sesame cake”. One of their single serve, individual sized desserts, pre-made and waiting behind glass. It was mostly mousse with a thin layer of sponge. I found the texture sandy, whereas if I was going to have this much mousse I wanted it rich and creamy. At the centre was a mildly tart blueberry gel core. It helped to brighten up the dessert, but as a whole, this one isn’t for me.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
Honest this it is one of the better high tea sets I have had. Everything is made in house, and I definitely tasted the value across each course. Complex and creative, this is one to try! Don’t deny your cravings.

LE DOUX CIEL
65 Smithe St, Vancouver, BC V6B 0R3
(236) 520-2888
ledouxciel.ca

Gram Cafe & Pancakes

The latest dessert trend is the soufflé pancake. An airy and light round stacked one on top of another, and dressed in a bevy of toppings. A few dessert shoppes specializing in this treats have opened up last year, with other cafes adding it to their menu. But “Gram” originating out of Japan is the first to coin this method of pancake preparation. And their highly anticipated opening is now set in mid February 2020.

The cafe is located in Aberdeen Mall, right as you enter from their 1st floor parking garage. The space was once a clothing store, but anticipating the eventual opening of “Gram’s” first Canadian location, the mall quickly renovated to install the proper ventilation system, so that they will be able to prepare and serve food. The cafe is spacious, with plenty of isle room in between rows of white lacquer tables paired with thin wire chairs and grey cushions. The restaurant is kept pretty simple, a “Gram” branded bar at the back and a mural advertising their premium pancake paired with a cup of coffee and spilt beans.

The chain actually started out offering regular flat, flap jacks. Buttermilk rounds that they still currently offer, both in savoury and/or sweet. Bacon and scrambled eggs or French toast style with chocolate and banana.

We tried their tiramisu sweet pancake with mascarpone tiramisu cream, cocoa powder, and milk chocolate. I am not normally a fan of the soft and heavy cream focused cake, but did like it recreated with pancakes here. You definitely get the flavour of the iconic dessert, but with a nice spongy base and powdery cocoa finish. A lot for one, so better shared.

But out of the two we tried, the “Premium pancakes” are definitely the ones to order; the name says it all. Each order takes 30 minutes to make. They are made to order, with only 90 plates available daily. They foresee themselves running out daily, much like it is in Japan. For now it is only available as “regular:” Three fluffy soufflé pancakes stacked one on top of another, finished off with house made butter, whip cream and a light syrup. With talks of offering seasonally driven specials in the future.

By the time we got to our pancakes they were no longer fresh. However, unlike other soufflé pancakes, these did not wilt or slough. They held their shape and their freshness, and were just as tasty at room temperature, with a mild sweetness and eggy finish. The butter offered up some salt, and the syrup additional sweetness, more like sugar cane and less like maple syrup. But the texture is what makes it special, the texture of angel food cake and pancake combined, crafted from a special pancake mix flown in from Japan, with everything else sourced locally, when possible.

In the future they are working towards customization of all their pancakes and the ability to top, smear, and drizzle each as you like. Along with a monthly premium pancake special, that will be reflective of the season and any festive occasions.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
From what I saw, they are promising an experience much like you would get in Japan; with the company sending trainers from Japan to Canada, and hiring as many Japanese speaking individuals as possible. I cannot wait to see how the Lower Mainland welcomes their highly anticipated opening, and how they evolve to cater to and be shaped by Canadian culture. Keep your eyes and ears open for the actual opening day, and be warned there will be lines and they will sell out early. Don’t deny your cravings.

GRAM
1284 Robson St, Vancouver, BC V6E 3Z6
gramcanada.com

Billy Button, revisit

Looking for desserts in the area, we found ourselves at “Billy Button” for some of their most photogenic treats. Our group of 5 foodies came in, just in time for last call. We decided to make it worth the while of the cafe, by ordering one of each of their remaining desserts. Whatever was available 45 minutes to closing.

We almost missed our destination, but having been once before I knew to look for a nondescript entrance, beside the tanning salon. From exterior to interior, the restaurant is themed in black. Black walls, black matte menus, and dim lights barely illuminating the darkness. It gave the restaurant a very calm energy, and a romantic feel for an after dinner destination. And by contrast, all the colourful plates they served really stood out.

You are seated up front and a sever takes your order, this is despite the showcase of goodies at the back. It features specials of the day, that aren’t on the regular menu. So it is best to take a gander before committing to your choices. And as I mentioned, we got one of each of these.

I was the most enamoured with the “Orange”. An accurately decorated, white chocolate shell hides a filling of whipped white chocolate ganache, and a core of marmalade gel. It was so realistic looking with all its dents and dimples, and is even finished off with a real leaf, that crowns it. Like all their other desserts, this one wasn’t very sweet. It reminded me of an orange creamcicle, but much more mild in fruit flavour and sugar content. Great with tea, and for those who don’t like most desserts.

By comparison the “strawberry” disappointed in its presentation. This too played homage to its namesake fruit. Made with a similar white chocolate shell and ganache, but filled with a house made sorbet jam at its centre, instead. The strawberry lacked details and without its trademark black seeds, it looked more like a glossy beet. They tried to add some authenticity to it by using an actual strawberry stem, but it was disproportionately small, and only made the cake look cartoonish. Given its vibrancy, I expected it sweeter and with more character. Instead, it was bland for a dessert. And the jam centre nice, a familiar flavour, commonly found as spread with scones and cream, at high tea.

The “Blueberry tart” would be my favourite of the three, from the showcase. This tasted more like a proper dessert in its richness and sugar. Blueberry jam and pasty cream, all on a bed of almond sponge cake. Fresh and vibrant with the ripe fruit, I just wanted the crust a little more buttery and a lot more firm. Both to better contrast the silken cream and glazed fruit.

From off the regular menu we had the following. The “Matcha green tea tart” was matcha on matcha, with a side of matcha. And surprisingly none of it was overwhelming, only all together was it slightly bitter. An airy matcha soufflé sitting atop of a butter-based crust. Served with a side matcha ice cream, a tuff of matcha sponge cake, and a shard of meringue. The cake was warming and rich, similar to a lava cake in the way it oozed, when you cut into it. Ideal for matcha lovers who complain that they don’t get enough matcha flavour.

The “Salted caramel brioche” was the most dessert-like with its salted caramel sauce, brown sugar crumble, vanilla chanillty cream, and dark chocolate. It was fluffy and satisfying. The burnt caramel flavour was amazing, although it did overpower the brioche. But aside from its presentation, this would be a premade muffin or loaf, that you would expect to find at the counter of your local coffee shoppe.

The following three desserts, I have had before, during my first visit. And it was exactly as I remembered it. Stunningly beautiful, and subtle in flavour. Great for those who don’t like too much sweetness, but lacking for those that do.

The name, “The garden” spoke to the freshness of cucumber featured, and the farm to table quality it gave the plate. Cucumber, yogurt mousse, yuzu cremeux, raspberry powder, and house made crostini. The cucumber had a savoury nuance to it. It reminded me of a finger sandwich, but tzaziki to my table mates. It would have been nice to have the fruit flavours more produced, to better balance out the above.

The “Osmanthus udon” is fragile strands of “udon” noodles. It is shaped from osmanthus panna cotta, and topped in a berry sauce, and crumble. It has a fun texture, but is easy to break. I wanted more flavour from the “noodles”, but it just didn’t absorb enough of the berry soup it pooled in. It would have also been nice to have more crunch in the mix.

“The autumn” is a red wine poached pear on an chocolate cake, sitting in a red wine sauce, with shards of sugar and sticks of chocolate. You finish off the dessert with a little jug of cream that you pour over it. The chocolate doesn’t over power the fruit, and everything melds together well in one bite. It is heavier than it looks with it being wine forward. This would be my least favourite overall, but for taste it would be “the garden” and the “udon”.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
Upon my second taste, I conclude that I like their desserts far more for their visuals, then to actually eat any of it. I don’t have a sweet tooth but found that it wasn’t even sweet enough for me. It felt like appetizers, warm up plates building up to the decadent finish that never came. Best shared with bites from each, not something I would like from start to finish, all to myself. Don’t deny your cravings.

BILLY BUTTON
44 E Broadway, Vancouver BC, V5T 1V9
604-423-3344
billybuttondessertbar.com

SweetHoney Dessert

“Sweet Honey Desserts” is a cafe serving traditional Taiwanese desserts. This summer they have garnered much attention from their hyper realistic dog cakes. And now with two locations, you can visit them in either Burnaby or Richmond.

I have dined with them once before in Richmond, but after trying two desserts with little excitement I decided not to return. That was until I saw that they have new Christmas treats for the winter season. Riding the wave of success with their dog theme, they now have two more dawning Santa hats. And for me it is like collecting “Pokémon” in the augmented reality game, “Pokémon Go”. It is essentially the same chocolate dog, but now that it comes with a hat, I wanted it all over again.

So here I was, now at their Burnaby location getting a better second impression of this chain. A more favourable visit with some desserts I will return for. Located on Grimmer street, the area is quickly expanding with many like dessert and drink cafes. The shoppe is easy to spot with their entire menu pictured as decals splashed across the exterior. A collection of well groomed fluffy pancakes, rice balls, and fruit beverages.

The interior is fairly modern. Geometric shapes adhered on to a mirrored surface on one side of the room, and red and white striped wallpaper on the other. The dining area is spacious with plenty of room to move between lacquered table tops and cushy chairs. We were given our choice of seats and handed a stack of menus to peruse through.

The main menu was handsomely bounded, arranged by specific items, featuring plenty of glossy photos. A page for “durian lovers”, and two for those who like mango, grass jelly, and ice cream. For more traditional Chinese desserts look to their “tofu pudding series”, “rice ball series”, or “sago”. There was a lot or options, and a lot of overlap within each category. Though the photos definitely helped in the ordering process. For noting is that everything we had was exactly as pictured in the the photo.

We started with their Christmas specials. And what I thought was their ice cream dog cake with Santa hats, like below, was actual a solid chocolate puppy with a fondant hat. Not as realistic as the cake, but just as cute and as memorable. Plus they make for great stocking stuffers. They line the top of their refrigerated glass case in easy to take out plastic boxes with handles. But be warned the hat isn’t secured all that well to the top of the dog, and the dog isn’t stable on the cardboard base either.

As for the original dog dessert, the cake only comes in chocolate. A bull dog on his belly with pudgy arms and meaty legs outstretched, and a nub of a tail at his end. It comes right out of the freezer and has the white ice crystals to prove it. Said crystals highlights the detail in the dog’s coat well. I advise waiting for them to thaw and for the cake to start sweat a little, in order to be able to cut into it with ease. Honestly that is half the fun of this treat, to be able to slice into the dog and ruin the illusion as such. As for taste it is like a melty chocolate mousse. Not very rich, not very chocolatey. But if it had both of those characteristics, it would have been better for it. Great to have once for the novelty of saying that you have. But as for taste, you are better off with chocolate ice cream by the scoop.

Next was their soufflé pancake, holiday edition. They are the latest restaurant to offer this jiggly treat. The lightest pancake you will ever have, in a rendition that is especially eggy. This gave it a more savoury feel; one that I preferred, and was best highlighted by the salted cheese foam it cams in. The foam is very similar to the topping you can get crowning a bubble tea. Tasty. But sadly, the only thing festive about this was the fondant red and white Santa hat. The very same one used for the dogs above. The fruit on the side felt out of place and out of season. I would have liked green and red sprinkles instead. Although the papaya, mango, watermelon, and blueberries did offer a nice freshness, complimenting the salted foam and helping to balance the dessert as a whole. Except, I could make out the taste of durian in each of them. I guess they were all stored together, and that the very distinct and fragrant flavour of durian bleeds. And as for the Santa hat, it was horribly sweet with a tougher chew. Maybe not for eating. Its sugariness was overwhelming, but it did what I wanted it to visually.

As cute as these ideas were, I much rather their regular menu items. Desserts with great textures, that aren’t too sweet.

As a fan of durian, who is also too lazy to crack open the fruit herself, whenever I see it featured on the menu, I have to take advantage. I went for the “Durian Mochi”. There were three perfectly gummy rounds, well filled with durian fruit from Thailand. And rolled in shredded coconut. Deliciously done, but out of personal preference I would have been happier without the coconut, to be able to best enjoy the smooth texture of the mocchi and its hidden fruit centre. As a whole it was deliciously sweet yet mild enough for those who don’t necessarily like the flavour of durian. Plus we didn’t get any of the smell if you aren’t a fan of it either.

If you are looking for a great sticky chew, you have to try their rice balls. These are “Glutinous rice balls” sitting in a pool of syrup. The sweet liquid adds sweetness, and also helps in adhering the mix of crushed peanuts, sesame, and coconut flakes to your ball; when you dip into it at the centre of the bowl. But be sure to eat these first, the crushed nuts do get soggy quick; and as a result, you don’t get that great contrast in texture between gooey rice ball and crunchy peanuts.

But if you are looking for something more decadent, you can get your balls stuffed with black sesame, and served in a pool of split sesame and walnut soup. I loved the simple and clean presentation. Biting into a ball, it was an unexpected and delicious surprise to have a pool of liquid pour out in to your mouth. I just wish there were more rice balls, especially given how much sauce you get with an order; and it isn’t as great without something to dip into it. There was more than half of the blended colour soup left when we were done with it.

And during the last visit to their Richmond location, I also tried the “mango pomelo sago”. I expected something more like mango pudding in taste and texture. But this was thin and bland. There was enough mango flavour in the soup, and you wanted something more substantial to dip into and/or eat with it. Maybe more rice balls? Or larger tapioca pearls. Overall, I likened this to a watered down smoothie bowl.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I highly recommend their rice ball series, and don’t know another restaurant that offers such an extensive array of it and durian themed desserts. And now with a location in Burnaby, I can visit them more often, and at my convenience. Don’t deny your cravings.

SWEETHONEY DESSERT
5358 Grimmer St, Burnaby, BC V5H 2H2
(604) 559-8599
weethoneydessert.com

O5 Tea Tasting, ft. A Toi Gourmet Gifts

I was invited down to “O5 Tea” to try their new collaboration with local French bakers, “A Toi”. Together, they have prepared small bites to pair with their specialty loose leaf teas. And not only was this a great experience, it really sold me on necessity of proper tea preparation.

Located on West 4th, this tea experience is worth travelling for. The salon is a tea bar on one side, with retail shelves on the opposite. It is designed with the Japanese aesthetic of minimalism and texture. Black wooden panels, fold out paper lanterns, simple dried flower arrangements, and fresh sprigs of green. You grab a seat at the bar that runs down the length of the space. Behind it stands three employees ready to talk tea and serve up pots of the steeped stuff.

Not only are you able to pick any tea they sell for a taste, but you can also sample one of their in house made, flavoured kombucha on tap. We started with the latter, sampling a taster that featured their one of their teas. The toasted green “hojicha kombucha” was fantastic. It tasted better than any other kombucha I have had to date. It didn’t drink like juice or vinegar. It had a good balance of effervescent-like soda and the distinct flavour of hojicha, a nice aftertaste that lingered and got our appetites going for the below.

The pastries are prepared ahead of time by “A Toi Gourmet Gifts”, made featuring a tea from “O5”. Its leaves and the flavour of the tea featured in the pastry, then again in a steeped cup for complimentary sipping. A great idea, and a different way to enjoy high tea, especially when you couple it with the informative nature of the service. I fully enjoyed being able to watch and learn proper tea etiquette, and was thrilled to find Annie, our host, especially informative. She was very smooth with her movements. Boiling water for cleaning and more for steeping, retrieving cups with tongs, rinsing them out between teas, and measuring leaves with wooden scoops.

The following is in the order the pairings are presented. The tea is steeped to order, but the pastries come displayed all together on a slate plate.

Assam tea and “64% guayaquil double chocolate cake” made with Assam tea. The French style chocolate cake was made with Guatemalan chocolate. It was dense and slightly bitter, but didn’t over power the darker tea.

My favourite course was the “Kirishima Matcha” with “Mini financiers”, mostly because I have never see proper matcha preparation before, nor tried it as such. Here, a quality matcha powder was whisked until frothy and we drank it like cream. Said whisking went from slow to frantic and back to a steady flow. This was described as an “entry level matcha” one that is easy to drink, and doesn’t turn brown when you bake it. The balls of dough were sweetened, but a little dry, I found it best to dip them into the matcha to pick up its creamy dessert notes.

Next was hojicha paired with a “Dacquoise sandwich and tea infused ganache”. Hojicha is roasted Japanese green tea. It is typically older tea leaves that they don’t know what else to do with, that is roasted to revive it. The result, a deep, smokey, aromatic brew that was warming. It well balanced out the sweeter cake. This sandwich-cake was my favourite of the desserts, and the sweetest of the 5. A fluffy sponge with the mild flavour of hojicha in the cream filling.

Next we had something lighter in the fruity “Thai hibiscus”. A tea paired with “A Toi’s” petal infused financier and raspberry gel. The tea is steeped from whole flowers, the same petals that went into the cake. The tea drank like punch, its tangy fruit flavour much like the raspberry at the centre of its cakey pairing.

And lastly we had the “Wuyi oolong” with two French sables. The tea was toastier, the heaviest we have had and heavily oxidized. It got a rinse before steeping in order to get rid of dust and bits. The rinse also helps to open up the leaves and release more of its earthier flavours. I liked the tea, but not the cookies. I expected a butter cookie, but got one that was hard like biscotti, but made better after a soak in the tea.

I enjoyed each course individually, but questioned the order in which they came. Lightest to strongest teas, mildest to sweetest dessert? I would have liked it Assam, Hojicha, Oolong, Matcha, and Hibiscus. Working through it like a 5 course meal with savoury bites first and the sweetest and most refreshing last.

The pastries are only available for a limited time. $20 for the tray, and $20 more for the teas that go with it. The latter is a deal considering said teas would normally run for $50 for the taste of 5.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
This is one of a kind experience great for anyone who is interested in learning more about tea, or for someone who is curious about the differences between loose leaves or tea bags. I walked in not knowing to expect and walked out a big fan of this specialty tea salon. They are a great alternative to any cafe, and perfect to keep warm and toasty in on a rainy day. I would like to see them repeat this service, but with savoury bites and maybe even a whole tea tower. Don’t deny your cravings.

O5 TEA
2208 W 4th Ave, Vancouver, BC V6K 1N8
(604) 558-0500
o5tea.com

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