Travel PhooD: Thomas Haas

    City: Vancouver, Canada
    Location: 998 Harbourside Drive, North Vancouver; 2539 West Broadway Avenue, Vancouver
    Eaten: Small hot chocolate and double-baked almond croissant
    Damage: $11.08CAD

    There used to be a bakery called sen5es that made gorgeous cakes in the Metropolitan Hotel in downtown Vancouver.  Their head pastry chef, Thomas Haas, also did dessert consulting for the restaurant attached to the hotel, Diva at the Met (so, unsurprisingly, their desserts are also delicious!).  The Met started renovations a few years back and, as such, I didn’t ever get a chance to try any of their cakes.  However, I soon discovered (thanks to the internet) that Chef Haas also owned a bakery and chocolate shop out in North Vancouver – why not go straight to the source?

    The trek out to North Vancouver was a rather long one, a good two hours one-way, so I always set aside an entire half day to go (it’s not somewhere you go on a whim unless you have a lot of free time).  I’d have to walk about 30 minutes from the nearest bus stop to the pastry shop, which was located at the end of a quiet industrial street – not exactly the place you’d expect to find a world-class chocolatier and pâtissier.

    Thomas Haas is a fourth-generation pastry chef, whose great-grandfather opened the Café Konditorei Haas in Aichhalden bei Schramberg in the Schwarzwald (eng.: Black Forest) in Germany in 1918.  He is one of the top pastry chefs in Canada and has won a number of awards, and every time I go back to his shop, I’m so excited to try his chocolates.  So when I heard from my former professor at UBC that a second location in Kerrisdale had been opened, I absolutely had to go visit.

    Though I really love Haas chocolates (my favourite is the vanilla with smoked Hawaiian sea salt chocolate caramel, but do try them all), the star of his pastry case has to be the double-baked almond croissant.  Out of all the croissants I’ve eaten anywhere in the world (and I’ve eaten a lot more than I care to remember), this has to be the best one.  Yes, the BEST one.  Better than Paul, better than Ladurée – I’ve never had a croissant like it before.  The outside is incredibly golden and flaky, smothered in thinly-sliced toasted almonds and a light dusting of powdered sugar; inside is a soft, sweet almond filling.  You can tell they don’t skimp on the butter with every delicious, crispy bite.

    The hot chocolate was rich and silky dark chocolate with a thick layer of foam and a cocoa powder heard dusted on top.  An excellent accompaniment to any of the desserts, but together with the croissant, it was a little too much for one person.  I still felt really full four hours later.  A better idea would be to go with friend, get two hot chocolates, and split a croissant.  You’ll also feel slightly less guilty if you decide to try a second dessert. =)

    The Kerrisdale location is a little more spacious and has more seating, but I still think the chocolate selection is better at the original North Vancouver location.  If you’re lucky, you might even seen Chef Haas himself!