February is Hot Chocolate month in Calgary and yes, it’s just as good as it sounds. Cafes, restaurants and even bars are battling it out the entire month of February to show off their take on the cozy winter classic. Probably even greater than you’re thinking since every cup benefits Calgary Meals on Wheels.
Do you really need a better reason to hot chocolate hop?!
Participants are competing for the titles of “Best Hot Chocolate”, “Best Spirited Hot Chocolate” (alcohol!) and the “Cup That Runneth Over Award”. I have no idea what that last one is for and the website doesn’t say either, so your guess is as good as mine, but I’m sure it means something delicious.
Last year my friend Jenn introduced me to YYC Hot Chocolate Fest and took me to Latte Art Love to try their “Jurassic Chocolate” entry, which is just as fun as it sounds. They had a homemade salted-caramel dinosaur marshmallow! This was the only cup I sampled last year.
This year? I was ready. I downloaded the app, made a list of the ones I really wanted to try, and started planning out my life to create hot chocolate opportunities whenever possible.
Not even kidding – you should see my bullet journal!
I’m not trying to completely drain my bank account, so as much as I love hot chocolate, I decided to focus on the non-spirited entries. So far I’ve enjoyed 7 delicious hot chocolates and here’s what I thought:
House-made, vegan raspberry dark chocolate sauce with oat milk made this entry from Bite easy on the stomach, but also super delicious. I loved the added touch of the vegan chocolate ganache torte because come on, who doesn’t want their treat with a side of another treat?!
If you don’t, feel free to bring me along when you try this – I’m happy to take one for the team and eat more chocolate ganache tortes. For the good of the team, of course.
Bite is also a neat place to visit if you haven’t been – the grocery section has lots of unique items you won’t find in a Safeway or Co-Op and the deli / cafe area is so busy you just know it’s going to be good.
I really liked this one. The flavour was good and not too rich, so I could have sipped on a giant vat of this all day. Maybe not what they intended, but a solid compliment nonetheless, right?
BBQ sauce.. Swiss dark chocolate.. candied jalapeno whipped cream.. and crispy bacon bits. What do they have in common? They’re all inside this mug of hot chocolate.
I’ll be honest, this was not my favourite cup of cocoa. The flavour combo surprisingly wasn’t bad, at all, but it was too salty to fully enjoy. The candied jalapeno whipped cream definitely helped cut the saltiness, and once it was gone I definitely noticed a difference in the flavour.
Black Sheep Patisserie is a French Pastry Shop you should absolutely check out if you haven’t yet. The croissants are some of my favourite, especially the fruit ones – they’re filled with house-made fruit preserves and oh goodness, are they tasty.
Even though this isn’t an entry I would try again, I loved the creativity and for that it’s still pretty high on my list. One of the things I enjoy about this festival is seeing the creativity run wild, and Black Sheep’s entry is by far the most creative.
Pumpkin spice latte but ditch the coffee and add some chocolate.. yep. Let’s do that. This entry was as tasty as it was beautiful to look at. I have serious admiration for people who can do coffee art like this – definitely not a skill I possess and won’t acquire any time soon.
Something I really enjoy about Hot Chocolate Fest is discovering new cafes. Euphoria Cafe has been around since 2009, but I had never been there or even heard of this place before. I’m happy to tell you that it’s super good and the vegan cookie dough cupcake absolutely factored into that review because, yum.
This is another favourite so far – I really liked the hot chocolate, but I also really liked the presentation and cafe. Win, win, win. All the wins.
“Dark Cacao with Toasted Banana Meringue” by The Nash
Let’s just start by saying I’m allergic to bananas – this was Andrew’s pick, and since he’s amazing and letting me drag him all over the city to drink hot chocolate, we needed to hit this one up for him.
I tried a tiny bit of the meringue because it is made with powdered bananas and that seemed like it wouldn’t kill me, and it was OK. But the base drink of Valrhona 70% dark chocolate and sweet cream was incredibly good. Like, so good.
The Nash is a popular restaurant in the National Hotel building in Inglewood. I’d never been there before either, and I’ll admit it was kind of uncomfortable to get this drink. We asked if they offer the hot chocolate to go and while they said they do, we were still served the hot chocolate in a glass as you can see.. and then given a paper cup to try and pour it in ourselves. In the lobby of a nicer restaurant. So that was interesting.
The entry was really delicious, but honestly the point of this festival for me is to have fun and try interesting drinks in a casual setting, so I didn’t enjoy this experience.
Jenn, my OG Hot Chocolate Fest buddy, took me to CrossIron Mills to try the offerings from Family Squeezed – you know, the people who make that awesome lemonade at the Calgary Stampede. And they so did not disappoint.
I tried the “Dark Chocolate Strawberry” and Jenn tried the “Brown Sugar” Hot Chocolate – both came out looking incredible! Hand-blended Belgian chocolate with fresh and freeze-dried strawberries made my cup of cocoa extra fresh and delicious. Jenn really enjoyed her sponge toffee topped hot chocolate as well, but said the flavour of hers was more about the toppings, while mine was strawberry through and through.
Family Squeezed is a well-known food truck and stand in Calgary, with lemonade and edible cookie dough. Yeah, that’s right – edible cookie dough. We shared the unicorn cookie dough, which is butter cookie dough with marshmallows and sprinkles, and left the food court in a sugar-fueled haze.
Totally worth it. If you’re looking for a visually impressive cup of cocoa, head to Family Squeezed at CrossIron Mills and you will not be disappointed.
The first entry I tried this year was this “Rocher Hot Chocolate” at the always yummy Ollia. As soon as I saw it was made with creamy chocolate hazelnut ganache.. yeah, I knew I wanted that asap.
Even though it’s the first one I had, I still compare everything to this cup of cocoa. The sweetness was perfect and it was deliciously rich without being “too much” if that’s even a thing. And? Yep! Treat with a side of a treat – this one came with a homemade chocolate hazelnut marshmallow and what seemed like their take on a Ferrero Rocher chocolate. Perfection.
Ollia is a name you’ve likely seen around if you live in Calgary – their macarons are to die for and can be found on all sorts of menus and even in the grocery store, though purchasing them from the source is always best. Nothing beats a freshly made macaron!
This entry is solidly in my top three – the price, presentation and side treats makes this a strong choice to win!
As you can gather from the name, Sucre’s entry is hot chocolate infused with earl grey tea. Sounds simple, but paired with their delicious earl grey shortbread, this combo was actual perfection.
The flavour was subtle yet spot on – like Bite’s entry, I could sip on this all day, and would really like to if I could arrange that! The value was also really great. Sucre offers two size options (this is the 12 ounce) and gives you a shortbread cookie. In case you couldn’t tell by now, I’m a fan of this whole “have a treat with your treat” business. Yes pleeease.
Sucre Patisserie & Cafe is probably my favourite discovery from this hot chocolate adventure. It’s like a French oasis in the city! The quality and selection of pastries is fantastic and the atmosphere is delightful. I’ll definitely be back.
This entry left quite the impression on me – the balance of flavours, value and overall atmosphere was just wonderful.
So many hot chocolates.. still a bit of time!
If you’re a hot chocolate fan and are local to Calgary, you need to do yourself a favour and get in on this sweet treat adventure. See the full line-up on the YYC Hot Chocolate Fest website and then get yourself a cup of hot cocoa before the end of February!
When I finally have to submit my vote.. I really don’t know what I’m going to do. And yes, you have to pick just one to vote as the winner. Sheesh! How on earth am I supposed to do that?!
But I’ll do it. Someone has to. It’s for the good of the hot chocolate loving people and as a member of that sweet group of people, I will do my solemn duty and vote for a winner. Later though — I have more hot chocolate to drink first!