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YYC Hot Chocolate Festival brings a choco-lot of love

The annual YYC Hot Chocolate Festival is back for it’s 12th year, all in support of Calgary charity Meals on Wheels.

This year 175 participating cafés representing more than 100 vendors are filling cups to support a sweet cause, helping to eliminate food insecurity within the city.

“There’s a lot of disparity for nutrition in the city, so we’re really working towards giving a lot of people what they need,” said Konnor Weed with Meals on Wheels.

“Events like this are required to really raise awareness for us, and to help businesses along the way.”

This year, the organization has introduced a friendlier-to-use smartphone app to locate cafés, restaurants, and bars serving up their own hot chocolate creations.

They will also be placing QR codes at local businesses across the city, making it easy to scan and then download the app.

The application also allows tasters to take part in the annual friendly competition, which lets Calgarians decide which business created the best hot chocolates. Last year, Cornerstone Music Café won the best hot chocolate award, Kristi YYC won the best alcoholic hot chocolate award, and Hexagon Café raised the most money.

The money raised from sales goes towards supporting the charity’s work, especially as food insecurity has been on the rise as a result of the pandemic, and from rising inflation.

“The money that we use goes to essentially fuelling our vehicles, making sure that all of our chefs get the proper tools, and the proper nutrients to give to all of our people,” said Weed.

Just about doing the right thing

Dino Falvo, owner of Amato Gelato Cafe, said that taking part this year wasn’t about winning awards but was instead about helping people.

The café has been participating in the festival fundraiser for several years, each year coming up with a unique Italian twist on hot chocolate.

“We’ve been at this for a long time, and anytime that we can get a chance to help out any charities—typically we work with the Children’s Hospital, Children’s Wish Foundation—but it’s also nice to be able to extend our reach into the community, especially with food and hunger,” said Falvo.

“That kind of thing is a really big part of why we do this. It’s really the only reason why we do it.”

Staff from Amato Gelato Café came up with a tiramisu hot chocolate, which Falvo jokes has a silly name this year for fun: Tira-I-miss-you.

“Every year we’re trying to come up with something Italian. Last year we did amaretti cookies, the year before that we did Italian bomboloni doughnuts on top. So we’re just trying to keep with this Italian theme,” Falvo said.

“We usually do a consensus with the with the workers around Christmas time, and they said ‘we sell so much tiramisu at the restaurant, why don’t we do tiramisu chocolate.'”

Kat Brody, general manager of Holy Cow, said that the gelato that their pastry chef Larissa Costello created inspired this year’s beverage. The gelato and doughnut shop is using malted milk in their hot chocolate serving.

She said it was fantastic to take part in the festival this year, helping to raise money so Calgarians can have more access to food.

“It just brings the community together in a really fun way in the middle of a fairly bleak month, I would say, so it’s really meaningful for us to be able to participate in such a great community event,” Brody said.

For more information on the festival, see yychotchocolate.com.