Now here’s a diet I can stick to.

Just a few hours after gorging on Baileys-filled chocolate shooter cups, and the new salted caramel chocolates at Chocolatas, I found myself headed up the freeway to Chilliwack, with my foodie buddy Detta, to the home of Kim and Karen, owners of Aromatica Fine Teas. They were convening a ‘cooking with tea’ class for eleven people lucky enough to sign up for this $20 foodfest.

All attendees were women. What the HECK were the men doing that could have been as interesting as this?!?!

After serving crudite nibbles with a green tea dip, Karen prepared prawns sautéed in a Lapsang Souchong tea. Light soy sauce and orange zest set the smoke off nicely.

The atmosphere was relaxed as we all stood in the kitchen while the couple cooked, and taught us about the best ways to infuse teas and herbs in honey.

While Karen attended to finishing the main course, we joined Kim in the living room, where he delivered a more general background on tea, and a helpful decision tree on which treatments to use when cooking with tea.

The meat eaters noshed on tea-scented pork and chicken, plus chai-infused meatballs, while I enjoyed the sunrise rooibos basmati and nut crunch quinoa, pacing myself for the mammoth dessert course!

Detta and I were a bit like the Sprats, with her taking the meat while I fell upon the sweets. A veritable platter of tea-kissed desserts was placed in front of me: soft angel dreams (mint) shortbread cookies, hearty gluten-free banana walnut tea bread, green tea and pecan chiffon cake (made with Aromatica’s signature Treasures of Japan tea blend), and a no-bake lemon myrtle cheesecake.

As if this wasn’t a cool enough experience, Kim offered to open up the tea shop (9pm on a Friday!), just a few blocks away.

Sweet, excruciating choices: as people trundled over to Aromatica, chocolatier Monica began to roll chai-infused chocolate ganache in expensive flavoured sugars that Karen brought out.

Detta and I tore ourselves away, heading over to the shop to pick up some Kenyan and Chinese black teas, two of over 100 teas on offer.

And the calorie gawds smiled upon me this day: zero weight gain!

Woot! Woot! Bring on the dessert platters, chocolate, and Baileys! Now THAT’S a diet I can stick to.

And thanks to new friend Cora for taking these photos!

Lunch at the chocolate factory…

Yesterday afternoon, I had the rare pleasure of sitting at the communal lunch table with the owners of Abbotsford-based Chocolatas, and their friendly staff. I didn’t expect to be educated (by Veerle Tas) about the proper way to slice an avocado (while still in its skin), but that was just a bonus.

I was really there for the chocolate, having heard that Belgian chocolatier Wim Tas had recently perfected his new salted caramel chocolates. They have been flying off the shelves at the Granville Island location, in a limited test run.

As someone who adores salted chocolate (try Candice’s Hawaiian salted hot chocolate at Sumas Mountain Coffee, folks!), I was eager to try the latest Chocolatas experiment. After an amuse-bouche of a few rounds of the new biscotti flavoured Baileys liqueur in Chocolatas dark chocolate shooter cups, I was ready for my ‘entree’ of salted chocolate. How lucky am I?!?!

The filling of the square pillow of goodness is surprisingly soft without being sloppy. So, you won’t get caramel stuck in your teeth – an attribute especially valued when you are sneaking them! And the coarse salt sprinkle is a welcome first taste just before the tongue settles around the silkiness of the caramel itself. The outer robe of dark chocolate deepens the flavour without overshadowing the caramel centre.

As the Chocolatas crew readies for its main seasonal show – the Circle Craft Christmas Market – I am sure that the salted caramel offering will be a best seller. I suggest waiting a few weeks for the new caramels to hit the shelves.

In the meantime, the new Chocolatas e-commerce website offers a more immediate remedy to chocolate cravings. If you’d rather browse in person, check out their Abbotsford location (where the product is made) or their busy site at the Granville Island Public Market. And of course, there is Circle Craft: November 7-11 at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

Samosas that will ruin you for all others…

A few days ago, I found myself on the City of Abbotsford’s cultural diversity bus tour with my friend Wendy Mc. The first stop was Cedar Park Place in Clearbrook, a largely South Asian strip mall that has, for years, at once intrigued and intimidated me.

Offered pork spring rolls from the Vietnamese Pho place right at the end of one of the two ‘strips’ of mall, Wendy (a vegan) and myself (a pescetarian), gaily headed off to more veg-friendly pastures. The signage for a ‘vegetarian bakery’ caught our eye, and are we ever lucky that we ventured in!

To our delight, we found samosas that are baked instead of fried (imagine a flaky blueberry turnover, but filled with savoury Indian goodies). At $1 each, they are triple the going rate of samosas in the rest of the mall, but they should be charged out at three times as much again.

On that first visit, we enjoyed potato samosas. Today, I gobbled a paneer samosa, which is also filled with onions and peppers, and a yellow curry. It’s pictured below: check out the textures!

We are lucky to live among so many South Asian culinary gems. Abbotsford’s Manohar Vegetarian Bakery is surely among these!

My mouth is watering…

Greetings!

Presumably you have dropped by because you are as passionate about food as I am, and you’re curious to learn what’s happening in the Fraser Valley (BC, Canada) through the culinary lens.

I promise to provide you with plenty of food porn, and opinions on ‘feeding places’ that I have visited. Stay tuned for sections devoted to restaurants, cafes, tea, chocolate, recipes, and other treasured finds.

I look forward to your comments, and hope that you find this blog yummy and worthwhile!

Yours,

The Munching Maven 🙂

A sure-fire way to hasten the impending death of a business…

A few weeks ago, I wandered into the Clayburn Gourmet Gallery, slightly more than 90 minutes before closing time on a Saturday. I had some work to do, and was looking forward to taking over one of their big rustic tables with a cup of tea. The table is a larger draw than the tea: I bring my own tea bags because this place only offers Stash Tea*.

So there I am, basically willing to pay tea prices for a cup of boiling water, in exchange for a nice place to do my reading.

Instead I find all chairs already up on the tables, aside from the chairs where two patrons are chatting. I ask the barrista if the place is closing but she assures me that they are not. I ask permission to take down a chair.

The food display is dying a slow death, filled to around one-third capacity.

A sign taped to the cash register warns patrons that when there is only one staff member on shift, the service will be slower.

I force myself to forge onward, buy the water, and get to work establishing my space. Sigh.

Around 15 minutes before closing, I am reminded by the staffer of the closing time. The unwelcoming vibe (which has now been replicated in the person of the lurking and intense new owner of the Parallel Marketplace location of The Wired Monk) is palpable. It feels as if the goal is for the Gourmet Gallery staffer to have her key in her car’s ignition at 5:01.

Everything in the place screamed scarcity and desperation.

Pity, as it’s such a cute room, and they have a virtual monopoly on the geography.

*As a tea footnote, the man who developed the Tazo tea line sold it to Starbucks, then went on to develop Stash. After selling his second successful tea brand in Stash, he took off to Paris, where he intended to retire and relax. But he couldn’t stay away from tea. Inspired by the Parisian perfumeries, he returned to Portland and started the most superior of his tea companies, Smithtea. Occasionally Chapters carries selections, but it can be ordered online anytime! Check it out! I could BATHE in the stuff.