Chocolate and me, we’re a love affair that goes way back to when I was forced to pick one: alcohol, chocolate or coffee (it’s a long story). Uh, no-brainer—chocolate, please. So imagine my delight upon realizing that Kitsilano—that westside, beach-hugging Vancouver, BC ‘hood, “Kits,” once hippie haven, now yoga nirvana (it’s ground zero for Lululemon)—had acquired a sheen of rich chocolate ganache. Start drooling: Kits chocolate class is now in session.
Here, a chocolate walk in Kitsilano, courtesy of us.
Comfort Class: Come to Purdy’s, mama. This chocolate company’s been around since 1907, and is still family-owned and operated—in fact, it’s the largest chocolate retailer in western Canada. Purdy’s chocolates are dependable, kind of like the uncle you can always count on. There’s something here for everyone. A favourite: Sweet Georgia Browns, a turtle-gone-decadent. There’s chocolate by the pound and chocolate bars. This location: 2196 W. 4th Ave., at Yew Street.
Art Class: One admires the signature, seasonal chocolates in hushed tones at Chocolate Arts; the unique chocolates are made daily in small batches, many from single-origin chocolate and locally-sourced organic produce: raspberries, cranberries, hazelnuts and pumpkins. The standout: famed Haida artist Robert Davidson’s eagle, frog, moon and killer whale medallions rendered in solid dark chocolate. Astonish someone with the West Coast Box, decorated with the eagle medallion, highlighted with edible gold, then filled with nine luscious truffles. 2037 W. 4th Ave., between Arbutus and Maple Streets.
World Class: XOXOLAT (pronounced sho-sho-la) calls itself an “edible gallery of all things chocolate.” True to its word, it carries one of the largest selections in Vancouver of chocolate from around the world, including award-winning estate chocolates. XOXOLAT also crafts its own chocolate and caters to special requests (a smoky chocolate to go with your whiskey tasting? Chocolate infused with mint and jalapeno from your yard to make some “peppered-mint” chocolate?). The place hosts a monthly “Chocolate 101” class for those fascinated by all things dark and delicious; sample chocolates from different plantations, plus learn chocolate terms, including the meaning of bliss. 2391 Burrard St., at 8th Avenue.
Master Class: We are blessed that Thomas Haas, a German-born, fourth-generation master pastry chef—one of the world’s best—has chosen to call Vancouver home. Chef Haas’ Kits location has been a smash hit since opening this past October (the other storefront is in North Vancouver). Creations include delicate, handmade chocolates, insanely rich chocolate truffle cookies and chocolate bars (choose the “cocoa percent series”). At the patisserie, sit ‘n savour a decadent cake or pastry made with fresh fruits or nuts. Not to be missed: the intense confection that is toasted pecans and chewy caramel dipped in dark chocolate and sprinkled with Fleur de Sel; dark-roasted, crispy hazelnut praline and milk chocolate; or the exotic milk-chocolate ganache infused with green cardamom and a splash of whiskey. 2539 W. Broadway, between Larch and Trafalgar Streets.
Cooking Class: If you talk about chocolate in cocoa percentages and country origin, then chances are you’re fussy about baking chocolate. Sure, Yoka’s Coffee is a local roaster that provides “premium coffee at affordable prices.” But don’t let the coffee fool you (although the selection is great—over 20 types). Yoka’s also carries an impressive selection of premium bulk Belgian chocolate, cocoa nibs and Dutch cocoa—still at reasonable prices. I’m partial to Callebaut Cacao-Barry pistoles; at 70% cocoa, it’s a bittersweet chocolate with an exceptionally long finish (i.e., no bitter aftertaste)—ideal for baking. Yoka’s also carries unpasteurized Okanagan honey—all in all, a pretty sweet deal. 3171 W. Broadway, between Balaclava and Trutch Streets.