MIX the Bakery – Vancouver, BC

MIX the Bakery
4430 West 10th Avenue
Vancouver, BC
(604) 221-4145
Monday to Saturday 7am to 5pm; Sunday 8am to 4pm

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My neck of the woods has a few gems when it comes to simple but cozy cafés that pump out solid sandwiches. I’ve written about some of them previously: Coco et Olive, and Pane e Formaggio.

MIX the Bakery is another one that churns out not only fabulous artisan breads made fresh in-house (which can be seen from the order counter at the front of the house), but also a solid array of sweet desserts and pastries, and take home preserves that utilize wonderful BC sources (such as Fraser Valley blueberries and Okanagan peaches).  To top it off, they also have a catering service as well.  It’s a great spot for a quick lunchtime meal or takeout, and the following are my thoughts on two recent pickups there…

A hearty but incredibly satisfying part of MIX’s menu are their homemade soups.  With the weather turning for the worse as we head towards winter, I can’t think of a better way to get a meal going.  On this day, they had a trio of offerings: a pork adobo, a butternut squash, and pictured above, a corn chicken chowder.  Filled with healthy vegetables including onions, potato, celery and flavoured generously with cilantro and cumin, it was not fully creamy like a seafood chowder would be, but not totally thin and liquid-y in consistency either.  The large size take away container (three inches high, and four-and-half inches in diameter) was plenty for two.

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Debra’s Artisan Chocolates – Calgary, AB

Debra’s Artisan Chocolates
Located within Eclair De Lune

1049 – 40th Avenue NW
Calgary, AB  T2K 0G2
(403) 370-4592

Debra’s Artisan Chocolates is a modern day food tale. Something that is not completely uncommon in this day and age. You take a passionate person with a hobby. Their friends and family are impressed. Supportive. Encouraging. “You should go into business doing this! You’re soo good at this.” Invariably they try. They open a small business. Pour their heart and soul into the venture. Sometimes they succeed. More often than not, they don’t.

Debra’s Artisan Chocolates was born from a similar story. Fed up with the quality of chocolate available, Debra Fleck started reading more about the manufacturing of chocolate. Then she started to experiment – import her own couverture, tempering her chocolate, making her own bon bons. From doing custom orders, she decided to open her own location to help fill a niche. Quality homemade bon bons.

I sat down with her one morning and talked chocolate. Much like coffee, I know very little about the intricacies of fine chocolate. However, I am always interested in learning more. And she had a lot of information to share.

From harvesting, to processing, to manufacturing, to tempering and creating bon bons, she lead me through a brief history of chocolate. Including sampling different couvertures, and understanding more about the terroir of chocolate. I’d like to say I understood everything she was saying. But i didnt. Chocolate, like wine and coffee, is a very complex topic. And while i took away a lot from the experience, I only ended up with one dominant impression – I had so much more to learn.

The last part of her explanation involved sampling some of her bon bons. She brought out some of her molds to show me how things like transfer paper. gold leaf, and different elements had an impact on the final product. Then i got to try them! This is what happens when you ask a lot of questions 🙂

All i can say is delicious. The quality of chocolate is definitely varied – as she uses chocolate from different beans. Criollo, trinitario, and forastero. But what I found most interesting, was the different notes and tastes. The bon bons themselves are obviously homemade – small imperfections, air bubbles, and other small differences you’d notice in a bigger production environment. I don’t have a problem with this, but if she wishes to take this past boutique into something bigger, it’ll have to be addressed.

Like many small home grown business’, it’s a bit kitschy. Their slogan “we create chocolate snobs” definitely needs some TLC. Debra has some grand plans for where she would like to grow the business, but like many small business’, it will need a lot of time, work, and attention. But, the fundamental element required for a good business is there – the product is good. And she’s very passionate. And she uses very good chocolate. Combined with Chokolat, we’re getting two locations in Calgary that are raising the bar for chocolate in this town. Definitely a foodie tale that I hope has a happy ending.

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