Hot chocolate festival offers up sweet treats in support of Calgary Meals on Wheels

Drinks available throughout Calgary and in Canmore

Cindy Browning and Heidi Lambie launched the Meals on Wheels Hot Chocolate Festival in Calgary on Friday, January 28, 2022. The festival features 112 restaurants, cafes, and chocolatiers, and runs through the entire month. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Calgary’s annual hot chocolate festival is returning for their 11th year in February.

There are 112 cafes, restaurants, and chocolatiers from across the city taking part this year. The bevy of hot chocolates on offer this year runs the gambit from sweet to savoury to spicy, and maybe even a little salty.

Between $1 to $3 from purchases will go towards supporting the food and nutritional security that Calgary Meals on Wheels provides.

“Last year, we doubled what we did the year before—we made just under $60,000, and that $60,000 goes to making meals and getting that ready for our clients,” said Cindy Browning, event coordinator for Meals on Wheels.

The annual fundraiser has raised over $223,000 since 2011.

The festival runs for the entire month of February. Patrons can use the Meals on Wheel’s YYC Hot Chocolate Fest app to find vendors across Calgary. The app is available on Google Play and the Apple App store.

“If you look at one of the cafés, you think ‘gosh, I gotta go try that, how am I gonna remember?’ Push on little heart sign and it’s gonna go right into your favorites list,” said Browning.

Vendors will also be competing for the most popular, top rated, and best spirited hot chocolate awards.

Full details are available at yychotchocolate.com.

Honoured to be involved

Element Cafe is taking part in the festival for the first time this year.

“So when we opened the place, I was a huge hot chocolate guy, and I was kind of like I knew we need to always have good hot chocolate—this has always been a dream of mine to actually participate in this festival,” said Braeden Nobis, co-owner of Element Cafe.

Hooman Hodaie, co-owner of Element Cafe, said that participating in community events like the festival was part of being a Calgary entrepreneur.

“I think it’s an honour for us to work with Meals on Wheels, first and foremost as entrepreneurs. I think secondly, being able to welcome the city through our doors. That’s the ultimate goal for any small business,” he said.

The pair is selling a ruby hot chocolate with passionfruit syrup and whole milk. It’s topped with raspberry-infused whipping cream with homemade raspberry syrup and raspberry coulee. Flaked on top of that is pink pepper corn and pink sea salt.

And perfect for valentines day, it even comes with a heart shaped cookie.

Beer infused?

Chef Eugene Hicks, executive chef for the Shoe and Canoe Public House, said that it was the second year the restaurant was involved in the festival.

“I think this has been a great thing,” he said.

The Shoe and Canoe has put together spirited blonde dulcey hot chocolate. It includes a syrup made from their signature Stargazer beer. It’s topped by whipped cream, shaved chocolate, and a toasted marshmallow.

He said he wanted to infuse the beer into the drink in a way that made it sweeter. They wanted to bring down some of the bitter flavours.

Chef Hicks said he was excited to share his hot chocolate with Calgary.

“We love doing a lot of things to get the community community out, and interacting with a lot of other people and getting getting to see more people in Calgary,” he said.

YYC Hot Chocolate Fest goes from Feb. 1 to 28.

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