In Southern California, we’re blessed with a relatively mild and short winter season. Incredibly, while the rest of the country may still be under a blanket of snow, here it’s already warming up to the low 70s during the day. That doesn’t mean a nice, piping mug of hot chocolate isn’t welcomed in the early morning hours, or late at night (in my case, since I’m not much of a morning person).
Inspiration for this drink came from an amazing hot chocolate I had at a bar after a day of snowboarding at our local mountains. It was so incredibly rich, creamy, and comforting I found myself enjoying it more than the pale ale I had ordered for myself. After returning from my trip, I had to try recreating it at home.
For richness, I used whole chocolate instead of cocoa powder. I’m sure cocoa powder would have been fine, but the combination of bitter dark chocolate and creamy milk chocolate just seemed more indulgent and sinful. The addition of lavender was inspired by the lovely latte and waffles drizzled with chocolate lavender sauce from Café Medina. At this point you’re probably thinking, gross, I don’t want my hot chocolate smelling like soap. Trust me, with just the right amount, it’s wonderfully soothing and relaxing.
Give it a shot, and let me know what you think!
Since lavender is quite fragrant, adjust amount according to preference. For a creamier hot chocolate, a 1 to 1 ratio of dark to milk chocolate can be used. Makes 2 servings.
For whipped cream, place cold cream, vanilla, and sugar into a cold mixing bowl. Beat the mixture with a whisk or mixer until stiff peaks form. keep refrigerated until ready for use.
For hot chocolate, heat milk and lavender over medium heat, whisking occasionally until the milk begins to simmer. Remove from heat and let lavender steep for 5 minutes. Strain lavender and return milk to saucepan. Over medium heat, add chocolate and mix until chocolate is melted and incorporated. Whisk milk mixture for 10-20 seconds until frothy. Pour into mugs or bowls and serve with a dollop of whipped cream.
As I scrolled through the last set of photos for my final Vancouver post, I couldn’t help but smile as I reminisced about the wonderful experience we had at Café Medina. Stacks upon stacks of craggy Belgian waffles, gooey drippy sauces of raspberry caramel and rosewater pistachio, perfectly poured lattes laced with lavender syrup, a cozy light-filled window seat as we passed the morning away indulging on hearty fare like the popular tagine, a earthenware dish filled with spicy Merguez sausage and Moroccan olives in a tomato stew, gilded with oozy poached eggs. I know I say this quite often, but what I wouldn’t give to have a place like this close to home.
Did I mention the lavender latte? A creation so amazingly good I’m surprised others haven’t caught on… yet. I’m definitely stealing this idea!
Let’s not forget the fricassé, two sunny eggs with braised short ribs, roasted potatoes, caramelized onions, arugula, and applewood cheddar, or the oeufs cocottes, eggs baked with cream cheese, smoked sockeye salmon, artichokes, topped with a salad of arugula and cherry tomatoes. Until next time (or if they decide to miraculously open an outpost in Los Angeles), I’ll have to resort to ogling over photos.
On our last night, we decided to keep it close to home in Yaletown and dine right down the street from the Opus Hotel. The sister restaurant to the excellent Araxi in Whistler, Blue Water Cafe features a similar dueling restaurant concept: British Columbia inspired seafood + expertly prepared sushi/sashimi.
The restaurant’s converted warehouse space is rustic, elegant, and uniquely Vancouver.
We had a sampling of nigiri sushi (and beef sashimi) from chef Yoshi Tabo’s raw bar. While somewhat limited in selection, the fish ranked as some of the freshest I’ve had. From chef Frank Pabst’s open kitchen, we ordered a handful of dishes: mackerel with grilled scallions, toasted almonds, wild arugula, crostini with romesco sauce; mixed ceviche with cucumber, grapefruit, ginger, fresh coriander; white sturgeon with wheat berries, capers, celery hearts, and peppery greens, smoked onion aioli; dungeness crab & flying squid with couscous, chickpeas, green onions, parsley, harissa vinaigrette.
Everything was inventive and delicious, but if pressed to choose between kitchens, I would give the nod to the raw bar.
So long, Vancouver!