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Nov 28, 2000 07:29 PM

Where to find best hot chocolate?

  • s

Now that the weather is cooler I am craving GREAT hot chocolate. what I want is small espresso size servings of rich bitter hot chocolate like one gets in Paris. I was there last month and felt coffeed out so I had hot chocolate from one of the street vendors at Marche aux Puces [flea market]. It was thick, bitter, and amazingly rich. Tiny espresso cup but oooh sooo good. the taste lingered long after the drink. Is there any place in Manhatten to recreate this experience? thanks. Sandy
p.s. no milk chocolate please, i can make that myself

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  1. Try city bakery, down by Union Square. They make great hot chocolate with a homemade marshmallow. I have only had milk chocolate hot chocolate there, but I would bet that they make what you're looking for. They even sell a hot pepper hot chocolate, so it's worth a look.

    18 Replies
    1. re: Missy

      Le Gamin Cafe on MacDougal St. around the corner from the Film Forum makes the kind of French hot chocolate you are looking for -- bitter, add your own sugar. I had one the other day & it was close -- but not quite as great -- as some of the hot chocolates I've had in Paris. It doesn't sound exactly the same as what you are talking about -- it comes in a bowl, not an espresso cup.

      1. re: cct
        Jason Perlow

        Actually the best hot chocolate is the kind you make at home, and the stuff I happen to be particularly fond of is the mexican and latin american style stuff that isnt quite as refined as the european and american variety, and yeilds a much better product for your dollar than those fancy shmancy hot chocolate mixes.

        You can usually find them at your corner bodega store, they come in hard blocks or discs of chocolate, and its slightly on the grainy side when you cut it up because it has a lot of sugar and usually cinnamon in it as well, and it has almost no fat solids in it. When mixed with hot milk it yeilds a very strong, deep primal chocolate flavor that has to be experienced to be understood.

        1. re: Jason Perlow
          Jason "Choco Choco" Perlow

          The stuff I like to buy is either Ibarra Chocolate de Mesa from Guadlajara, Mexico

          or Corona from Nacional Chocolate in Medellin, Colombia (

          Both of these are SERIOUS hot chocolates, and they are fairly easy to get at any latin american bodega or grocery in the NY area.


          1. re: Jason "Choco Choco" Perlow

            The best hot chocolate is indeed made at home, but you don't need any special ingredients to do it. Heat 1 cup of whole milk to foaming, pour into a blender, add 1/4 cup of quality chocolate chips or chopped semi-sweet chocolate, and whirl until the chocolate is completely mixed in. Reheat a minute in the microwave, pour into two small cups, and serve, with or without whipped cream. If it's too chocolatey, use less chocolate. If you like it more chocolatey or less sweet, substitute unsweetened for some of the chocolate, etc.

            1. re: Katherine

              a) Yes, Ibarra rocks. When I was growing up, we always had Ibarra in the house, and it was that or homemade from Droste's cocoa.

              For a killer choclate chunk cookie, use your standard Toll House-style recipe, add cinnamon and a smidge of black pepper, and in place of the chocolate chips, use chopped Ibarra. (Note: you must chop Ibarra with a knife; in a food processor, it separates and turns to dust.) Warning: this is an addictive cookie.

              b) It's definitely that time of year when I want a nice warm cup of hot chocolate, and honestly I often don't want the bother or the calories of melting good chocolate down (or using a blender), etc. What to do? In my experience, no instant hot chocolate/cocoa mix, whether it's Swiss Miss or Godiva--and certainly none of the "add water"-type mixes--produces a decent product. Even my mom's standby Droste's/sugar combo doesn't produce as rich a taste as I'd like.

              A few years ago, I found the solution, and it is Ghirardelli Sweet Ground Chocolate and Cocoa, which contains exactly what the name says, available in a gold-colored cardboard canister (NOT to be confused with any variety of Ghirardelli hot chocolate mix). A generous spoonful or two of this stuff whisked into hot milk produces a full-flavored and pleasingly bittersweet hot chocolate. Your choice of milkfat content determines the richness of your drink, but even with skim milk, it has good body and flavor and isn't one bit watery.

              Personally, I like mine spiked with either Kahlua or Grand Marnier.

            2. re: Jason "Choco Choco" Perlow

              On your (collective) Chowhound tips, I went on a mad rampage for Ibarra chocolate while in NYC. The logo looks tantalizingly familiar and I know I've seen it before.

              My quest started on the upper, upper East Side where it seems that all of the "bodegas" are now souks...facetiously speaking, that is...they are owned or run by Egyptians. They tried to be helpful but after being offered Hershey's bars in three different shops, I realised that they thought I was saying "a bar of chocolate".

              I took my search across the park to the upper upper West Side. I was getting least the stock guys knew what I was talking about. Alas none of the six or seven establishments that looked so promising carried it. One gentlement at Associated sent me to Zabar's. At first I was skeptical ("you must be kidding") but he seemed so sure...after 20 minutes searching and asking around, the store manager said "oh yes - it's over here near the register". He proceeded to hand me a bar of Valhrona "JIVARA" chocolate. Close but no cigar (and to pre-empt a tangential thread on not about food...I think this expression comes from the famous race horse...but I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong)!

              I then dragged myself into one last place, where I stated my case to the patient man behind the counter. He handed me a block of Embajador Chocolate de Mesa. Right picture on the front...a cup of steaming chocolate. But no directions, and lots of things besides chocolate in the ingredients list. And no cinnamon. But the guy was Dominican and he said his mother uses Embajador...(I think it might be because she can't find Ibarra!)

              I made it last night...better than powdered but not so great. However, I have a whole box of Embajador with which to experiment, and perhaps I just need to improve my technique. Anyway I'd be surprised if Ibarra is available in London (though if someone knows where it's available in Manhattan for sure, I can get someone to send it)

              Here's what I did. I chopped up a disk. Started to heat milk. When milk started bubbling around the edge, I dropped the chocolate in. It never melted fully and I ended up mashing it down.

              Problem is that it looks like the milk gets hotter, faster. But I don't think this chocolate will melt evenly enough to incorporate into milk - particularly if I'm pour cold milk in; however, if I heat the milk first, and add solid chocolate, the milk will almost certainly burn before the chocolate melts.

              SO: what do you guys suggest?
              I have no electrical equipment (no blender, no microwave and no dishwasher!) so I don't want to make a whole production out of this. (i.e. I'd prefer that the number of pots required to exceed the number of cups of HC I am making - which is usually one or two!) But if that's what it takes...

              1. re: magnolia
                Amanda Plyley

                If I recall correctly from the Ibarra box it recommends pulverizing the chocolate in a blender/food processor before adding to the hot milk. But I think you could probably do a *close enough* job with a cheese grater. Then add the tiny bits of chocolate to the milk as it warms.

                1. re: Amanda Plyley

                  1) Dean & Deluca always seems to stock Ibarra, presumably at a commensurately higher price than at a Mexican market.

                  2) My experience is that chopping Ibarra in a blender or processor results in some chocolate pieces and a lot of powder. This may not matter for the purposes of making hot chocolate, but it was a drag when I was trying to accomplish my other favorite use for Ibarra, which is in place of chocolate chips in cookies (add a tsp. of cinnamon and a pinch of pepper--mmm, addictive).

                  3) The above doesn't matter, because you don't have a machine! Chop the Ibarra with a chef's knife into relatively small pieces. Heat milk as slowly as possible; when warm, drop the chocolate in and start whisking. Don't stop; it tales a while to dissolve the chocolate, and it will never make as creamy a mix as plain chocolate, because of its inherent graininess. You may have to use a "flame-tamer" type of device between pot and burner if you can't heat milk slowly on your stove.

                  1. re: Caitlin
                    Jason Perlow

                    Caitlin and Lisa are right with the prep tips -- you want to really chop the stuff up before adding it to the hot milk.

                    Again, as Caitlin says, this style of chocolate is grainier and much more unrefined than what you may be used to from a euro-style hot chocolate. But the flavor that it yeilds is intense.

                    1. re: Caitlin
                      Melanie Wong

                      Patrick Martin at the Charcuterie in Healdsburg makes an incredibly intense chocolate mousse using Ibarra.

                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        Sounds wonderful. My mom and I started making the cookies 6 or 8 years ago when I was helping her come up with (and bake) dessert for a catered Mexican picnic for 100+ people in Golden Gate Park. We made 400-500 Ibarra chocolate chunk cookies and oatmeal raisin cookies over a couple of days. Bon App├ętit published the Mexican chocolate chip cookie recipe, but much to my chagrin, they edited and printed it calling for semisweet chocolate chips instead of Ibarra, thereby stealing the soul of the concept.

                        1. re: Caitlin
                          Melanie Wong

                          What a shame! I love your idea - shall reproduce it in the proper spirit.

                  2. re: magnolia

                    While it's too late for Magnolia, I've found Ibarra at the take-out shop next to the Bright Food Shop (on 8th Ave., 21st ? St.)

                    1. re: Lisa Z

                      The shop iscalled Kitchen Market; good source for some Mexica ingredients.

                    2. re: magnolia
                      Jason Perlow


                      Had you told me it was such a problem to find I would met you for dinner and brought you some from Jersey


                      1. re: Jason Perlow

                        Jason - thanks! That's very sweet of you. I will now send someone over to the place on 21st Street...and meanwhile I will experiment with the Embajador.

                        1. re: magnolia

                          Just to be clear, Kitchen Market is on 8th Ave. *near* 21st St. If that fails, I bet your friend would find it at Dean and Deluca; I always see it on the shelf there.

                      2. re: magnolia

                        I don't chop Ibarra at all. I drop the entire round disk into one of those glass Visions-cookware pots over medium-low heat, with just a dash of milk to keep it from sticking/burning. I plant a fork in the top of the disk and move it around in circles to melt, adding more milk as necessary (just a splash at a time, not like a cup or anything). Once the big disk breaks, I then chase the two (or more) pieces around the pot with the fork until they're melted, then add milk until the color looks right and let it all heat back up.

                        I like the time it takes. Builds up the anticipation. I would like to get one of those Mexican frothing sticks, which look a bit like a big wooden honey dip. Just to jazz it up a bit.

              2. While roaming NoLiTa for post-holiday bargains, I wandered into Lunette et Chocalot -- a new eyeglass & chocolate store at 25 Prince Street. In the back they have a tiny hot chocolate counter. I ordered the dark hot chocolate and was initially suprised that for $2.50 it came out in this little expresso size cup. Can't compare it to Paris, but it was the best $2.50 I spent all week. Dark, rich, intensely flavored and not overly sweet.