YYC Hot Chocolate Fest Kick-Off

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This past Sunday we headed to Southcentre Mall to support the kickoff to this year’s YYC Hot Chocolate Fest. The set up this year was very different, instead of being able to walk around and talk with the vendors, instead you had to wait in line and visit the five vendors that were present. We got there before the kickoff and talked to a couple people then headed to Analog for a morning beverage. At five to ten we headed back and there was already a line up formed. So we got into line.
While waiting in line, one of the people from Meals on Wheels talked a little about the event and what they do. It was cool learning a little. After his informational session we got to finally learn which vendors were participating into today’s kickoff. There was Analog, Boxcar Cafe, The Chocolate Lab, Waves, and Family Squeezed Lemonade. Each vendor brought a totally different hot chocolate to the table. 
The Thai Chili Chelada from Analog was delicious. They used chilies in their hot chocolate and it was not as spicy as what we thought it would be. We only wished that the hot chocolate was hotter (temperature) since it seemed to be a little colder than we thought it should be. Overall they had amazing flavour.
The Gingerbread Hot Chocolate from Boxcar was interesting. The Hot chocolate really smelled like gingerbread, but when you tasted it, the flavouring was subtle and not overwhelming and they had combined the flavours nicely. Again we wished it was hotter (temperature) though. Overall it was a nice balance of flavour.
The Midnight Casanova from The Chocolate Lab. This was a true hot chocolate since they used four different kinds of chocolate in their hot chocolate. We thought it was going to be so different than it was, instead the hot chocolate was very smooth and delicious. Overall the hot chocolate was the smoothest of all the vendors. 
The Peach Melba Hot Chocolate from Waves. This was a very interesting hot chocolate since it tasted like peaches. I think if it had been hotter it would have tasted a lot better than it did. We also felt like it was a little strange placing peach flavouring into hot chocolate since those are two flavours that you really don’t see together. In this case, it works nicely together.  
The Root Beer Hot Chocolate from Family Squeezed Lemonade. This was a strange hot chocolate since there is root beer in the hot chocolate as well as root beer cotton candy on the top. It was a little to sweet for our liking. My opinion on this is that is might be better as a cold chocolate drink as when I think of root beer I think of a large frosted glass at A&W. Nevertheless I applaud their creativity on this beverage.  
As we finished going through sampling the hot chocolates the line had already reached The Bay. We waited in line one hour and ten minutes and were guests number 110. So there was still quite a few people still in line. We went back around noon just to see how things were progressing and the line was still extremely long. It was a great launch event for them!
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La Boulangerie

IMG_0651One of the highest hurdles in a business is the ability to adapt with current trends and industry developments. It’s kind of like a car traveling uphill, a business either moves forward or slides back; there is no stalling out, you must try and keep your business moving forward.

In coffee as well as any business, moving forward usually translates into staying on top of rising trends, and keeping your business looking fresh. This place looks tired and old.

Sadly, La Boulangerie is not skilled in this; many times a coffee establishment will find success with an initial plan and as long as it works (aka makes money), the business remains in a holding pattern until things head south and by then it’s usually too late. Here’s what’s crazy, I have driven past this place a number of times and seen the patio plugged with people and maybe it’s just because they have a great location on 4 Street SW, I am not sure. With the amount of traffic this place sees, it should be amazing, it was not.

 

The Interior

Once you walk inside, the café looks tired and old. Seating is extremely limited and is very tight. We grabbed a table close to the windows but since the till was mere feet away from us, people were always just about on top of us. There was a guy sitting at the table that was right in front of the till and he could hardly wait for us to leave so he could move a bit farther away so he would stop getting bumped into.

The Drinks

The drinks were ordered were as follows:

My wife ordered the Bernard Callebaut Hot Chocolate and my daughter and myself ordered Vanilla Lattes. The Vanilla Lattes were lacking flavor. La Boulangerie serves illy coffee. Honestly the latte tasted like it came out of one of those automatic machines you see at Tim Horton’s.

One positive is my wife’s hot chocolate was actually really good and had lots of flavor. It tasted like it was liquid milk chocolate. Great job on this drink.

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The Food

Unfortunately today we didn’t order any food. A lot of what we seen looked really good and the quality looked like it was there but it was very pricey. We did want to try a macaron so my daughter bought the Orange Blossom and White Chocolate and the sad thing is we didn’t taste any orange until my daughter decided to dissect and find where the orange was. For paying the most for a macaron ($2.50) we have ever paid for, we expected stronger flavour.

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The Service

The service we received was pretty good, the owner was the bubbliest one there that day. The rest of the staff only talked to you if you asked them a question.

 

Overall

Unfortunately, on this day I really feel La Boulangerie failed for me. Maybe it was a bad day for this place, but I don’t think so.

 

Parking and Location

They have a lot that you can sometimes find parking, if you cannot get a space there, it is street parking which can sometimes be very hard to find on a weekend.

 

The Beltliner

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On Boxing Day we decided to head down in Victoria Park at The Beltliner. Gotta love that. We have driven by this place so many times that today we decided to stop in and try their breakfast. We had read reviews that it had amazing food, so today was the day that we were finally going to try it.

After finding some parking on the street we walked half a block to enter in this very unique diner. Once you enter there is drapes to keep the cold out, after looking at some amazing posters that they have on the wall we put our name on the list.

The host said it would be a little, but encouraged us to order some beverages. We decided to try the Vanilla Latte, a Chai Tea Latte, and a White Chocolate Matcha Latte. We where then encouraged to take a seat in the adjoined hotel lobby.

While we were waiting my daughter was flipping through a cookbook that they sell, there was some really exciting recipes that she was excited to try and make.

When our name was called we were escorted to our very comfortable booth and handed some menus. We then handed our post-it to our waiter to make sure she charged us for our beverages.

While we waited for our food, my daughter went to return the cookbook, the owner stopped her, and wished her a Merry Christmas and handed her the book back. What the owner didn’t know is my daughter used to work for the Victoria Park BRZ and  had met several times before this time.

When our food arrived, our mouths dropped open in such awe of the beautiful food that was sat down in front of us. After taking a couple bites, the food definitely did not disappoint. 

We decided on the Clubhouse which is a Mealshare item, the Beltliner Benedict, and the Beltliner Burger. Everything was absolutely delicious.

We plan on visiting The Beltliner again since there is so many different menu items to try, and we look forward to visiting.

Location

 

Edelweiss Village

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Edelweiss Village is located in North West. Now it isn’t your typical coffee shop we typically check out but when I seen all the other things they do, I thought we should go check it out.

It is a café/restaurant with quite an extensive menu, but why I wanted to go was because it is a little European market. Also, I really wanted to take my wife there. Once we entered Edelweiss Village, my wife’s eyes lit up as she started to see stuff that she grew up enjoying with her Grandmother. It was very cool to see the look on her face as we walked around.

 

The Interior

To start with there is European knick knacks all over the place including a whole wall of Coo-Coo clocks. Then as you walk around, you come across food items from all over Europe, some with labeling in German, some in French. It was quite interesting and amazing the number of products they have in the place.

Then you walk over to the food counter, they have a lot of pastries, and other bake goods all made in house. As you walk further down the counter, you come across the lunch items.

They have quite a few seats in the restaurant. Décor is very old fashion.

The Drinks

The drinks we tried today were as follows:

I tried the Vanilla Latte, my wife had the Swiss hot Chocolate and my daughter had the Moccachino.

I unfortunately don’t have much to say about the drinks, but they were not that good. Lacking flavor was probably the best thing I could say.

The Food

We ordered the following items to enjoy with our beverages:

We ordered a piece of the Russian Cheesecake, a piece of the Strawberry Torte and a piece of the Mandarin Torte.

The Russian Cheesecake wasn’t your typically cheesecake, it was more of a square. Normally you expect a cheesecake to be smooth and creamy and this was not.

The 2 pieces of torte we ordered were quite large, but only the Mandarin torte had really good flavors, the strawberry torte was not bad but again didn’t have great flavor. Fillings were very creamy and smooth.

Overall, I most likely wouldn’t order these items again if I was to go back there.

Other Food

The Service

Overall the service was really good. The ladies were very friendly and helpful with all our questions.

Overall

I wouldn’t go back for the coffee, I may go back and try the lunch menu out as that food looked outstanding but that can be deceiving as well as the baked goods looked great as well.

As far as the market side of things, my wife would like to go back and purchase a few things.

Parking and Location

They have a number of parking spots available on their lot but I would suggest if you a truck, park on the road as the parking lot is a little tight.

Platform 7 – Nov 2016

I don’t know what happened, but when I went to Vancouver last November I also visited Platform 7. I wrote a blog and posted it, but for some reason it didn’t post on my blog.

So on day three of my trip to Vancouver we decided to try Platform 7 on East Hastings. The decor is quite quirky and is decorated like an old train station, it was really cool. It’s amazing how they were able to make this place look like an old London train station. If you ever get the chance to visit this shop, it is definitely worth a special trip. What’s so crazy is that I have driven by this place numerous times and have not stopped in, my loss for missing out on this gem of a coffee shop.

Platform 7 has plenty of seating in the shop including several small booths and some bigger tables up front of the shop.

While I was waiting for my drink, I came across a sign on the wall, “Secret Garden” pointing to the back, I decided to check it out and it was very cool, I can only imagine what it looks love in the summer when everything is blooming. Platform 7 has thought of everything. A total relaxing place to enjoy a caffeinated beverage.

I was thrilled to see they serve Stumptown coffee as their coffee of choice. I love their products. Since I am here I will have to buy their new winter blend called “Snow Day”.

I was also excited to see that they do Siphon Coffee. So we both ordered a siphon, I had the Ethiopia nano challa blend – tangerine, jasmine, kiwi. My son had the Costa Rican blend Montes De Oro – vanilla, nutmeg, apple cider. I am normally a latte guy but siphon is so excellent, no need for milk or sugar. You get to taste coffee how it is meant to be drank. I highly recommend a Siphon Coffee.

I ordered the cranberry pumpkin muffin, it was so heavy and filling. The flavours were outstanding. All the baked good looked excellent as well.

As I sat there, all the drinks the barista was serving were all very visually appealing. Staff were all very friendly. The girl that took our order was excellent and very helpful. She answered all my questions and in my discussions with her I found out that she was from Calgary too. Small world! All the staff there that morning were very friendly.

If I was a local, I would be here everyday. This is a place to come for really good coffee and great place to hang out. It’s a place where coffee should be enjoyed and not rushed.

Top 10 Cafes of 2017

Euphoria Cafe

img_4868It’s not a huge place but a great place to go for a coffee or whatever else you are into. Their menu has a wide assortment of hot drinks such as specialty coffees as well as juices, smoothies, gelato and bake goodies. They are also known for their waffles as mentioned in one of my previous blogs. Staff are always great to talk to, and very helpful.

Find them at euphoriacafe.ca or at #124 – 5403 Crowchild Trail NW, Calgary

 

Societe Coffee Lounge

IMG_9746Societe Coffee Lounge is a very modern espresso bar that is wonderfully equipped with both a sleek industrial cafe decor and a huge focus on coffee and presentation. The décor has huge steel beams coming out of the walls with lots of oversized lighting everywhere and it is well lit and very clean. The baristas were very friendly and clearly very knowledgeable. One thing I really enjoyed was that the barista’s were very talkative and very helpful when asked questions about their menu.

Find them at societecoffee.ca or at 1223 11 Ave SW, Calgary

 

Sucre Patisserie and Cafe

img_4872Stepping into this location you can really tell that there is a French ambiance in the heart of Calgary, from the white walls to the openness of the front cabinets. Since we got there really early they hadn’t put out all of their fresh baked pastry’s ranging from buttery croissants to rich ganaches and irresistible macarons. We got to watch as they slowly placed out all their delicious confections.

Find them at sucrecafe.com or at 1007 8St SW, Calgary

 

 

Lucid Kustoms Koffee House

IMG_8271In Bragg Creek at a very cool coffee shop called Lucid Kustoms Koffee House.  It is located in a strip mall with a bunch of different shops. From the outside it looks like a log building, and when we looked at images of this cafe there were a bunch of motorcycles out front. We entered in through the motorcycle side so there was a bunch of motorcycles and apparel. When we entered into the cafe side there were a bunch of comfy seats around and a couple people inside, but since it was a nice day we sat outside as well as the others. The decor inside was very biker inspired which is absolutely amazing, there was a giant drawing of a motorcycle on one whole wall. On the other wall there was pictures of motorcycles that I could assume that they made.

Find them at lucidmoto.com/koffee or at #408, 7 Balsam Ave, Bragg Creek

 

Matamata Coffee House

IMG_6762It’s called MATAMATA COFFEE and it is located in the heart of Paris, in the Montorgueil neighbourhood, cultivating the art of specialty coffee and home made food. Walking down the road to this little gem, you would never know it is there unless you were looking. From the outside it just looks like a little storefront with a couple tables in the front for seating, inside there was a high-bar and some tables for seating.

Find them at matamatacoffee.com or at 58 rue d’Argout, 75002 Paris

 

Platform 7

outsidePlatform 7 transforms you to a Victorian London train station in East Vancouver and a Belle-Époque Parisienne train station in Kits.  The journey imbues a sensual, passionate and vibrant joie de vivre to Vancouver’s specialty coffee scene.  Experience beautiful hand-crafted espresso drinks from our Espresso Bar, exquisitely brewed single origin coffees on the Brew Bar or refreshing cold brews from the Cold Bar. From a delectable selection of the finest locally-sourced artisan bakeries to our tailor-made sandwiches, the Platform 7 experience takes one on an exotic journey to taste exquisite single origin coffees from around the world.

Find them at platform7coffee.com or at 2331 E Hastings St, Vancouver

 

BRU Coffee and Beer House

IMG_8973BRU is dedicated in bringing you exceptional coffee and beer in Edmonton. It makes sense – everybody drinks coffee, and everybody loves beer. Thats why we are proud to present you with the first of its kind – BRU Coffee and Beer House. It was nice and quiet while we were there, and it was amazing because we got to talk to the guys there and see where else they would suggest us going to check out. On the back wall there is a poster explaining the numerous different kinds of beers. On the opposite wall there is a poster explaining coffee. The night we went there, there was only a couple people drinking hot beverages.

Find them at brucoffeeandbeerhouse.com or at 11965 Jasper Ave NW, Edmonton

 

JJ Bean

img_0676I was really impressed with the decor of this location. It was very cool and a trendy place with very modern clean lines. They had these wood beams running from floor to ceiling that gave the place a forest like appearance. There was lots of seating inside including some more secluded booths for a more intimate setting. There was also a lot of cool seating outside on their patio. One complaint I would have about this place is that the drink menu seemed non-existent. Not that I need a menu to order from but it would be good to know what I was going to be paying for our drinks.

Find them at jjbeancoffee.com or at 125 East 17th Street, North Vancouver

 

NHBR

IMG_5845Today we wanted to try somewhere new, in my searching I found NHBR, which I believe is Neighbor.  They are located in Altadore and it is a prime location on a corner lot.  It is very small and very easy to miss, the first time we drove right by, since there is a lack of signage. Once we found parking we walked up next to a very nice could-be patio around to the front entrance.  When you walk in there is a single bench to your left, to your right there is a cooler with cold beverages, and in front of you there is a long service bar with a cooler to the right with their food products made by Our Daily Brett.

 

Find them at ourdailybrett.com/nhbrcoffee/ or at 4038 16 Street SW, Calgary

 

Bike and Brew

IMG_9853A bike shop and espresso bar. I don’t think a better combination exists. Yet, here I am, at the Bike and Brew in Bridgeland. Trying to figure out how I didn’t know about this place before. Does the rest of Calgary know? If not, you should. Located in the thriving community of Bridgeland, we proudly serve coffee by Fratello, baking by Corbeaux Bakehouse, and Sandwiches by Peppino Gourmet Foods. For seating we have three large community style tables with benches. 

Find them at gobikeandbrew.ca or at 921 1st Avenue NE, Calgary

 

Honorable Mentions that Closed in 2017

Red Bush

img_4123Their laughs were extremely contagious. The customer service they provided was outstanding. The environment at Red Bush is so relaxing, so before you know it the girls were doing there clean up as Red Bush closes at 9pm. They told us not to rush, they would just lock the doors. I thought this was terrific as we have been to other places, and they made you feel uncomfortable so that you do leave. Great Job Red Bush!

 

Tea Factory

img_5655The Tea Factory, specializes in 100% natural premium lose leaf tea. They have multiple different kinds from Green Tea, White Tea, Oolong Tea, Herbal Tea, Rooibos Tea, and Black Tea. This location has been open for three years and if you are a Tea lover you have to check this place out. The decor of The Tea Factory is very spacious, very clean looking and modern. The ceiling are high and there is very cool lighting. There is a few tables and four bigger black leather chairs at the back of the shop.

 

 

Cafe Blanca

IMG_0118Cool place with a very modern flair and yet is very laid back. There is a small stage with a piano on it. On part of this stage there is a bunch of cushions for you to sit or lay out on. The whole environment is very relaxing. They also have a bunch of inspirational quotes on the walls. The had open mike nights, comedy nights as well as they have guitars just sitting there just in case you feel like doing some jamming while enjoying a beverage.

UTCA

About a month ago I starting seeing posts on Instagram about UTCA. So during the Christmas break we decided to go down to Victoria Park just off of MacLeod Trail to check this place out.

Utca, which means “street” in Hungarian, makes chimney cakes and chimney cake cones. The Hungarian street food is made with dough that’s wrapped into a tubular, hollow shape and rotated in the oven until it’s cooked. 

The Interior

The inside of the shop is made up of exposed concrete walls with some reclaimed wood near the entrance and in the seating area. There is seating for about 30 people. The long seating against the wall is nice as they have placed cushions down. They also have some shelves up for the goods that they sell. On the walls they have some artwork for sale.

The Drinks

We ordered were a couple of honey lattes and a chai tea latte. First, the chai tea latte was not very good, taste wise it was very weak and lacked flavour. My wife over the past year has drank numerous chai tea lattes and this was one of the worst she has had. My daughter and myself had the honey latte. These drinks were really good. It was great to see that UTCA uses Drizzle honey in their honey lattes, Drizzle honey has a great taste.

My biggest complaint was the wait time for our drinks. By the time we got our drinks, our food was cold.

The Food

I ordered a Breakfast Cone, which is a cone shaped chimney cake filled with egg and bacon. It was made fresh and was pretty good. My only complaint was that it took a long time to get.

My wife ordered the Cinnamon Sugar chimney cake with icing cream cheese. The cake itself was already made and was not warm. It was actually pretty tough to tear apart. They also gave us a small dish of the icing cream for dipping.

My daughter originally ordered the Cheese and bacon bits chimney cake but after the lady helping us couldn’t get the bacon bits to stick so she recommended the Cheese and Herb chimney cake instead. You think if the Cheese and bacon bits is on the menu, you would know how to get the bacon to stick to it.

We also had tried to order a chimney cake with ice cream, only to be told that they were cleaning the ice cream maker.

The Service

Overall the service was ok. The people working were very pleasant.

Overall

Unfortunately, I don’t think we will be going back to UTCA. The prices are high, 3 of us with 3 drinks and 3 chimney cakes came to about $50. I could have went for a nice lunch somewhere for that kind of money. So I am sorry to say that I would not recommend this place to anyone.

Parking and Location

There is some street parking as well as some parking out back of the building.