There’s a lot of chocolate in Vancouver, and let’s be honest – not all of it is worth checking out. Some of it, however, is drool-inducingly good. Here are some of my favourites:
No list would be complete with Thomas Haas, so let’s just get this out of the way. The list of accolades is endless, and he was recently voted one of the top ten chocolatiers in North America by Dessert Professional Magazine. The chocolate is impeccable, the cakes divine, and the pastries couldn’t possibly be made of any more butter than they are. With his new location in Kitsilano, you don’t need to trek all the way to North Vancouver to get your fix. Read my first post about Thomas here.
The fruit chocolates are a layer of fruit-flavoured ganache topped with pate de fruit. As always happens, my favourite (banana) has been discontinued, but the lychee and passionfruit are amazing. The salted caramel pecan is a grown-up version of a Turtle, the ginger confection is rich and spicy, and the Earl Grey is fragrant with bergamot.
Pastry-wise, the double-baked almond croissant is legendary. It’s a croissant filled with almond cream, topped with almond cream, sprinkled with almonds, baked to crispy perfection, and dusted with icing sugar. The pull-apart is chunks of croissant dough mixed with spiced nuts, and the fruit danish is full of fragrant vanilla pastry cream and (sometimes seasonal) fruit.
The pistachio vanilla tart is a favourite, though you can’t go wrong with anything in the case. It’s hard to pick though, since everything looks so damn good. Macaroons used to just be decorations on cakes; now you can get them by the piece. While waiting in line (and you will wait in line), check out the chocolate sculpture(s) on display.
Two locations, both open 8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
128-998 Harbourside Drive
North Vancouver, BC
2539 West Broadway
Tucked amid the hustle and bustle of Granville Island Public Market is ChocolaTas, which boasts a pretty impressive line of chocolates. They’re best when consumed fresh, so ask the person behind the counter which ones are newest. I like the tea-flavoured ones myself, though the fresh mint tastes just like summer – even when it’s drizzly, cold and grey outside. Check out my previous reviews of their salted chocolate, dent-du-midi (almond praline), Earl Grey, and four-spice milk chocolate bonbons.
In the past, ChocolaTas has worked with the design students at Emily Carr University to develop custom designs for their chocolates. These limited edition chocolates are stunning, and if you’re lucky enough to be there when they’re on display, you’re in for a treat. They’re almost too beautiful to eat. Almost.
Open 9:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m.
151 – 1669 Johnston Street (inside Granville Island Public Market)
Chocolaterie de la Nouvelle France
Check out Anne-Geneviève Poitras’s cute little shop in Hipsterville. The shop is cute as a button and the truffles are deep, dark and delicious. Be warned, though: they’re all rolled in Valrhona cocoa powder and are indistinguishable from each other, so it’s impossible to tell them apart by looks alone. You’ll have to taste each one to figure out what’s what.
Also note that the packaging isn’t much to sniff at, so don’t expect lush boxes or pretty bows and ribbons. What you get, though, is honest, well-executed, thoughtful chocolate that tastes exactly like what the name says it should be. Read my first post about Chocolaterie de la Nouvelle France here.
Seasonal items cycle through the store. Look for sucre a la creme (a traditional Quebecois confection, kind of a maple fudgey thing) in the winter, and pate de fruits in the summer.
Open 11:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday.
198 East 21st Avenue
Xoxolat (pronounced sho-sho-la) has Vancouver’s best selection of bean-to-bar chocolate. At last visit, they carried Pralus, Amano, Bonnat, Claudio Corallo, Zotter, Theo Chocolate, and more. The selection changes and there’s always something new. If you’re new to artisan chocolate, the lovely ladies at Xoxolat are happy to provide a bit of background.
Open Tuesday to Saturday (10:30 a.m.-6:00 p.m.) and Sunday (noon-5:00 p.m.)
2391 Burrard Street
Other places worth noting
The Vosges bacon bar is legendary, and Dandelion Emporium is the only place in Vancouver that carries it. When not sold out, Dandelion carries it in milk and dark chocolate, in the 3 oz and 1/2 oz size. If they are sold out, they also have other tasty offerings from the Vosges line. Rumour has it they might be getting the flying chocolate-bacon pigs!
There’s only one bean-to-bar chocolate producer in Canada, and that’s Toronto’s Soma Chocolatemaker. You can get these unique bars at 49th Parallel Cafe in Kitsilano, where they also serve the Soma Chocolatemaker drinking chocolate in dark, spicy or milk hazelnut. The selection rotates, so it’s a bit like playing a chocolate lottery. Except that you win, every time.
Read more about both of these finds in “Surprising places for chocolate in Vancouver.”
Also, Chocolate Arts does beautiful stuff, and for some reason I’ve never written about them. Hrm.