Pondering sweets for your Vancouver Valentine? Then think outside the typical box of chocolates. Here are five swoon-worthy dessert destinations to enjoy with that special someone this year.
If you and your darling like your chocolate liquid and luscious, savor a chocolate shot at Chocolate Arts, an airy café near Granville Island. This espresso-style drink is made from the shop’s proprietary Allure blend or from your choice of fine chocolates from around the world. For an even more decadent experience, try the Haute Chocolate, a chocolate-y take on high tea, with hot chocolate, an assortment of pastries and bonbons. Long known for his high-quality chocolates, owner and chocolatier Greg Hook sources local fruits for many of his signature confections. Choose the fruity-tangy Rhubarb Rhapsody or the Allure Intense chocolate with blackberry essence inside, when you’re assembling an assortment.
When Jackie Kai Ellis was growing up in Vancouver, she taught herself to bake by borrowing cookbooks from the library and spending her allowance on pastry ingredients. After going to art school, launching her own design business, then taking a year off to travel the world and study pastry making in Paris, she opened Beaucoup Bakery, her petite pâtisserie one block off South Granville Street and a short stroll from Granville Island. She blends French style with Canadian sensibility in sinful pastries like better-than-mom’s peanut butter sandwich cookies, rich Valrhona brownies, buttery caramelized Kouign-amann (a flaky, sugar-filled treat) and her elaborately constructed apple tart, with a square of pressed apples atop a layer of pastry cream.
German-born pastry guru and chocolate-maker Thomas Haas has been dazzling Vancouverites with his creations since he and his wife Lisa opened their pastry kitchen more than 10 years ago. Among their classic European-style cakes are a chocolate-raspberry confection with a creamy mousse atop a chocolate sacher cake, or a champagne truffle cake, with champagne ganache between chocolate, almond and hazelnut layers. The shop crafts beautiful bonbons as well as special holiday creations; this year, they’re making special treats for both Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year (the chocolate “orange” filled with gold chocolate coins makes a perfect Lunar New Year gift). Haas’ flagship location is in a North Vancouver industrial park, but there’s a more convenient café in Kitsilano.
Does your beloved crave crème brûlée? Then head for Chinatown, where entrepreneur Daniel Wong launched his cozy café last year to serve a creative selection of caramelized custards. Asian flavors such as jasmine tea or pandan coconut share the stage with classics like vanilla or salted caramel. Wong regularly concocts new inspirations, too, like the childhood-channeling “frosted flakes.” If you can’t pick just one, order a tasting flight of three varieties. Besides crème brûlée, espresso drinks and hot chocolates, Crackle Crème also serves Liège-style waffles that you can enjoy plain or with locally made ice cream.
Colorful macarons. Chocolate éclairs. Rum-soaked savarins. An assortment of finely crafted chocolates. These are just some of the goodies that draw well-heeled pastry partisans to Thierry Busset’s posh Alberni Street café. The perfect winter warm-up might be the spiked drinking chocolates, like the Heart Warmer, which blends cinnamon liqueur and brandy, or the Winter Rose with crème de cassis and vanilla vodka. Open from 7 a.m. (or 8 a.m. on weekends) until midnight, this spacious stop has plenty of room to dally with your special someone. And that’s pretty sweet.