The 13th annual Hot Chocolate Festival is back from January 14 to February 14th 2023. The event is a reminder that it is still cold out and we have a good reason to visit local cafes and bakeries, in a season that typically sees less sales and slower business; coming down from the holiday high. And it keeps chocolate top of mind just until Valentines Day.
Seeing as we were in the area, we decided to try all 6 of the limited-edition hot chocolate offerings presented by the Kitchen Table Restaurant group. They are known for their specialization in traditional Italian fare, which includes their series of cafes, all located on the same block.
We started at Super Veloce, an auto themed cafe with carbon fibre surfaces and green, white, and red racing stripe detailing. The space opens up with vaulted ceiling and comes together with a seated bar that centres the room. It appears to be suspended by a series of thick wires criss-crossing from ceiling to table. The wires match the barstools surrounding it, giving it a very technical aesthetic. All together an interesting theme, that certainly has this cafe standing out.
Here, they have 2 unique hot chocolate creations available for the duration of the month-long festival. Each hot beverage comes with a two-bite protein ball that acts as a hearty meal replacement. On the side, they made the hot chocolate feel more like a mid-day snack.
The #127 – TESTA ARANCIONE has a limit, with only 10 made a day. House made, sugar-free orange zest syrup with cocoa powder and steamed hot almond milk. Topped with vegan coconut cream and fresh orange zest. Served with a Coconut Rocher Protein Ball. It reminded me of Grand Marnier and Terry’s chocolate orange rolled into one. The classic and familiar pairing of orange and chocolate, given some lightness with the use of almond milk and vegan coconut whipped cream.
Out of the two we preferred the nuttier #128 – MIURA SV. This is a Macadamia maca dark hot chocolate whipped with shaved dark chocolate. Served with a Pistachio Power Ball. You get the butteriness from the macadamia nut, which balances out any bitterness of the dark chocolate. And with the pistachio protein ball on the side this go you nuts for nuts.
Caffe Super Veloce
1067 West Cordova St.
Moving our way Eastward, our next stop was Giovane Caffee. A long-standing hallmark of Fairmount Pacific Rim, well known for their popular sugar buns. In the recent years, the cafe has been shrunken down to accommodate the new late night dining concept next to it. Although down 2/3 in size, the cafe still boast its same caffeinated beverages, sweet treats, and light pastas and sandwiches; just with very limited seating.
Their 2 hot chocolate options are also available from January 14 to February 14, 2023. The #69 – MANDORLATA CALDA is described as being rich with cocoa powder and creamy with almond butter. It promises a traditional Italian almond flavour and hints of cinnamon with a topping of cinnamon sprinkles and crushed almond bits. It is served with a cantucci cookie on the side. The latter is also known as biscotti: a twice-baked, oblong-shaped, dry, crunchy cookie typically served with coffee. Out of the two, this was the one that was lightest in flavour, more almond than sweet chocolate, it paired well with the fragrant cantucci.
If you are looking for more punchy notes, go with the #70 – AMERENA CALDA. This is a dark chocolate, cherry-infused hot chocolate made with plant-based milks. It is topped with chantilly cream and dusted with chocolate shavings. This drink is a nod to the Italian Tartofu. “Tartufo” is an Italian dessert shaped like a ball that is composed of two or more flavors of gelato, often with melted chocolate within, (as per Wikipedia). This hot chocolate was very cherry-forward and drank like dessert in a cup, faintly reminding me of a cream-heavy black forest cake. The vanilla amaretto cookie on the side offered a complimentary, not as sweet break and a textured bite in between full bodied sips.
1049 West Cordova St. & 418 W. Georgia St.
And our last Kitchen Table Cafe stop was Motoretta, their newest cafe and gelato hub. Run by the same owner and operator of the wildly popular Passione Gelato. The restaurant is sharp, tiled in yellow with a 70’s style motif that includes bi-pedal vehicles. A new face look, but still quality gelato within.
Naturally, one of their hot chocolates features a side of gelato. The #106 – BEL PAESE is made with a classic Italian dark chocolate, highlighting ingredients from Southern Italy, specifically calabrian chile and bergamotto citrus. The recommended pairing is their zabaione gelato, but customers are welcome to pick any scoop of their choice instead. “Zabaione is iconic for its sunshine yellow hue, which also happens to matches the caffe’s colour scheme. It is an Italian dessert, or sometimes a beverage, made with egg yolks, sugar, and a sweet wine, (according to Wikipedia). We would have this as intended and the contrasting combination with the hot chocolate was just lovely.
The hot beverage is bitter with the dark chocolate and spicy with the chillies. The heat hits the back of your throat with a warm tingling sensation. The creaminess of the gelato then washes the palate. Together, it drank heavy and deep like a mulled wine. With this, as soon as you discovered a new flavour profile, it becomes the dominant one. What an interesting drink and one worth further exploration.
#107 – IL RE also throws your head for a spin, as this hot chocolate features Parmigiano Reggiano, which is considered to be the “king of cheeses”. This is a blend of milk and dark chocolate infused with Parmigiano Reggiano and Castelvetrano olives. Served with a guava rotolo cake that balances out salty with sweet. Once again you have contrasting flavours coming together in an unexpected way, and you find yourself taking sip after sip to better discern each. This one is rich, offering bursts of chocolate and cheese, which then ends in a salty and creamy sensation. The more your drink, the more you enjoy what’s in your cup.
1001 W Cordova St., Vancouver
In closing this is just 6 out of the 145 offerings across 95 different locations. So how will you take on this endeavour?