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Hot Chocolate 2009 - Open season

It is cold. It is rainy. It is time

I'm hopeful for increasingly better cups of hot chocolate.

I started the HC season with lavendar hot chocolate from Cheekos Corner in Sebastopol. I've been thinking about this since I first saw it on the menu this summer. They use a combination of Hershey's and Ghiradelli chocolate. This sounded good in theory, it was not. The chocolate was weak and the combo wasn't a good match

They have a number of other types of hot chocolate. I forgot the brand of chocolate used for the spicy hot chocolate. There is a white hot chocolate in addition to regular hot chocolate.

Moving on and up was pumpkin hot chocolate at Michelle Marie's Patisserie - Santa Rosa

Better ... but not there yet. They have a dozen flavors of hot chocolate and mocha noted in the link

If I can clear some time at all to get to Half Moon Bay, the hot chocolate bar at the Ritz is high on my list to try

"Hot Chocolate Bar & S'mores
Every Friday and Saturday – 4:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.

$9 USD per cup; (Liquor addition - $6 per cup)

Select from a premium chocolate assortment and relish hot, steaming cups on the bluff. We offer a fun medley of toppings, including: vanilla or cinnamon whipped cream, homemade marshmallows, toasted coconut, peppermint chips and more."

I picture myself sipping a boozy $16 cup of hot chocolate while gazing at the rain on the bluff.

Currently Chocoletier Blue, the Fourth St Shop, is serving free hot chocolate after 4:30 during the holiday season.

What is your favorite hot chocolate?

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  1. I recommend two hot chocolate stand-outs:

    The dark hot chocolate at Schoggi in San Francisco (photo #1). It's very rich and complex.

    The Chuao spicy Maya hot chocolate at Coupa Cafe in Palo Alto (photo #2). They use a mix, which you can buy at Coupa Cafe, or online (I have not found a local source). It's the best example of a spicy hot chocolate I've tried. It's way better than the spicy hot chocolate served next door at Bistro Maxine.

    3 Replies
    1. re: ssfire

      I second the spicy hot chocolate at Coupa--just had it yesterday, they do use a mix from Chuao Chocolatier (based in San Diego, but run by Venezuelans) combined with whole milk, but it tasted of rich bittersweet chocolate with a nice kick of heat at the end. My mom got the "Abuela" hot chocolate, which was similarly rich and bittersweet, but without the chiles. The Chuao website says that their products are sold at Whole Foods and Cost Plus, though I have no idea if that includes the hot chocolate mix. It was good enough to be worth investigating.

      I also have enjoyed the hot chocolate at Chocolatier Blue, though I paid for mine since it was early in the afternoon--it was super-rich. I think I've read here that the free chocolate is less rich or maybe just smaller?

      The hot chocolate at Tcho on Pier 17 is also great--they have their own mix which they also sell at their store. The problem is catching them when they are open--although the posted hours are 11 am to 6 pm, several times they have been closed during the middle of the day with no explanation. One time a note indicated they would return at 2 pm--I stuck around until 2:15, with no signs of life inside, and watched ten other potential customers walk up and then turn around and leave.

      My dream hot chocolate would be as thick and rich as the hot chocolate served at Xoco in Chicago, but then I would also like to see Xoco's entire menu imported here...

      1. re: Leadbelly

        The Chuao hot chocolate can also be purchased at whole foods and Andronicos, maybe Sigona's too.

        The Chocolatier Blue hot chocolate you buy is different from the free stuff - they don't use Amano in the free stuff. It is less rich.

        1. re: jsaimd

          Just stopped by Chocolatier Blue today and wanted some hot chocolate to fortify me for the rest of the day. They weren't making it because it was too early in the day--apparently they only prepare hot chocolate when they are doing their late afternoon free chocolate, because they melt the chocolate in a large quantity at that time. The counterperson did tell me that they have ordered a chocolate melter (? I think--I wasn't taking notes) that should be arriving in January, so they will be able to prepare hot chocolate more regularly. They do sell hot chocolate at the University Ave store, though, so I guess I should truck on up there in the meantime.

    2. Sadly, I think the best hot chocolate I've ever had was a freebie cup while I was waiting for my guide at the Museo de Chocolate in Bariloche Argentina (where the streets are lined, if not paved, with chocolate).

      But here I make my own: chocolate, milk, heat -- not that difficult to make something much better than you can buy anywhere.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Ruth Lafler

        I make our own hot chocolates too. I'm curious to know what your favorite chocolate and/or unsweetened cocoas are for making hot chocolate?

      2. Humphry Slocombe is making a Mexican Hot Chocolate with Vanilla Bean Marshmallows that is actually worth a trip to the city for me! :)

        btw. . they are offering a manischewitz sorbet in "honor" of hanukkah.

        Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream
        2790 Harrison St, San Francisco, CA 94110

        1. I had a good basic peppermint hot chocolate from Peet's on Fourth Street today. The whipped cream was thick and good also. Bonus points for it being a nice day and sitting outside at a table and people-watching while listening to a good guitar player.

          I've decided I prefer Amercian style hot chocolate. One of my all time favorites was when Just Desserts had retail shops. They made a great hot chocolate with the most amazing thick whipped cream. It was my yearly go-to hot chocolate. Peet's was good, but a notch or two below. Still pretty pleasant.

          I haven't really had a thick European style I really like. I just don't dig drinking what amounts to a melted chocolate bar.

          Yesterday I tried that type at The Xocolate bar in Berkeley. They have a spicy version. For the sipping chocolate category this would have been pretty good had it not been close to room temperature. I considered asking them to heat it. They add cayenne to make the chocolate spicy. They add it to taste starting with a small bit. Be careful. My first sip didn't taste spicy so I asked for more. While she was adding more, the cayenne kicked in from the first sip. Fortunately the extra shake didn't significantly up the heat.

          They have some truly beautiful Christmas chocolates. I didn't try any though. I have been happy with what I've tried in the past. The chocolates with the white snowflakes on them were especially festive.

          I was tempted by the banana jerkey ($2) which looked like thin lengthy-wise slice of dried banana covered in chocolate

          1. Has anyone tried the "eastern European-style hot chocolate" offered by Boulette's Larder at the Saturday Ferry Building Farmer's Market? I'm always tempted, but the $5 price turns me off, and they don't provide samples.

            3 Replies
              1. re: ssfire

                I've tried the Boulette's Larder version earlier this year, when they had setup a small heating station just outside their door. I believe they were using Scharffen Berger chocolate. I don't recall exactly how it was, but I think it was decent.

                Not so hot, but there's a pretty good Iced Chocolate at Nopalito. May be a bit too cool for these parts, but they were one of the few to do an iced chocolate.

                The best packaged hot chocolate mix I've had from the bay (I've tried Reccuiti, Marie Belle, all of the brands in Chocolate Covered on Noe, etc.) has been Woodhouse Chocolates in Saint Helena. No spices, just a very good straightforward hot chocolate. I can't comment on if they have an in-store version, as I ordered the mix online.

                1. re: ssfire

                  Unlike David Kaplan below (noted in his link), I think am a sucker for very rich hot chocolate,. I thought the Boulette's Larder version was worth the money. Perhaps I drink it too quickly for it to congeal. :-)

                  Less rich, but very tasty, was the version I had at Ubuntu recently.

                2. I had a hot chocolate at Catahoula today. They are providing it at the request of Four Corners which sells their coffee.

                  It is a nice cup of cocoa with a medium body and very floral taste. Here's what I like best though about the Catahoula hot cocoa, they top it with steamed foam rather than whipped cream. This is a straight-forward coffee roaster that doesn't sell much besides coffee and espresso. So I liked that they used a good foam on top rather than some lame aerosol whipped cream.

                  They currently are selling 100% Jamaican Blue Mountain beans ($40 lb). This is one of the few roasters where I would not question these were not only all Blue Mountain beans, but a great quality bean. I'm giving some to a coffee fanatic for Christmas. Will let you know how he likes them.

                  1. A real winner, at last .... Citizen Cake. Beautiful, classic American hot chocolate with lots of chocolate flavor. They were out of marshmallows but didn't need it. Good stuff.

                    1. I'm just not having luck with this this year ... it is sort of my pumpkin strike out earlier this year. L'Amyx Tea Bar on Lakeshore sells Ghirardelli with foam on top. It's a big cup and only $1.50, but what can I say ... Ghirardelli. Ok but not great.

                      1. Have you tried the hot chocolate from Recchiuti? I don't know if they have it every day, but they have it often at their Ferry Building store; I've only had tastes of it, but it's pretty good.

                        1. Is Bittersweet hot chocolate old news by now, or is there some other reason nobody has mentioned it? I haven't tried any of the hot chocolates named in this thread, so I wonder what I've been missing while so enthralled w/ Bittersweet's!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: indigirl

                            I was wondering the same thing! I thought their spicy hot chocolate was fantastic, and my husband really enjoyed their white hot chocolate.

                            I did not think that the free hot chocolate at Chocolatier Blue was that good (despite having high praise for everything else there).

                          2. Chop Bar uses Callebaut chocolate and it is quite good. It is served in a large glass wiith a spoon. The slightly frothy top didn't seem to warrent a spoon, but toward the bottom there were melty pieces of chocolate, so the spoon was handy in to scoop those out and enjoy.

                            Not destination hot chocolate but quite excellent if in the area.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: rworange

                              Blue bottle does a Recchiuti hot chocolate (and a Recchuiti mocha).

                              Come to think of it, one of the best coffee drinks I've ever had was the iced mocha at New People in Japantown where they not only serve Blue Bottle, but also iced espresso drinks, which Blue Bottle does not have, and will refuse to make.

                            2. www.caffedeldoge.com

                              Caffe Del Doge in Palo Alto has several thick hot chocolates, some are like hot chocolate pudding and come with a spoon. You also have option of adding espresso.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: myst

                                Definitely my favorite chocolate in the area, and now you've made me want to drive to the peninsula. It is more a pudding than a drink though, so not to everyone's tasttes. (Just mine.)

                                Personally I recommend getting the espresso shot on the side rather than mixing them.

                              2. do you know if any of these places will make the hot chocolate with soy milk (or other nondairy) and dark chocolate? I love hot chocolate, but it never have luck finding a safe version.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: artemis

                                  Bittersweet Cafe (on Fillmore) does a non-dairy hot chocolate which I find very rich and chocolatey, but not sweet or too thick. It's actually my favorite hot chocolate in the city. (In fact, on my second visit, I couldn't figure out which chocolate I'd had previously, because it never occured to me it might be the dairy-free version!)

                                  They describe it as:
                                  The Bittersweet
                                  A deeply chocolate experience. Non-dairy, rich and wonderful.

                                  1. re: waldrons

                                    I haven't had that Bittersweet version for awhile, but it really is delicious.

                                  2. re: artemis

                                    Most cafes have soy milk on hand, at least when I've asked for it, so I'd expect the places mentioned in this thread to have it, too. Blue Bottle has it for sure. I may have had it at Coupa and Caffe del Doge, too.

                                  3. The $16 spiked option sounds far more economical once it's just a steeply priced alcoholic beverage and not a $9 cup of melted chocolate. Be sure to get your monies worth of marshmellows.

                                    On the topic, of the Boullette's Larder version, I found it to be really dull, and at $4, not worth that price. It's hard not to want to try it, because they're using fresh whipped cream, and stirring it constantly on that hot plate outside the shop, but unless you like your Hot Chocolate bitter yet thin, American style, it's pretty deceiving stuff. Scharffen Berger mix at home is a better option, but in general their powder mixes do not marry to the milk well.

                                    Has anyone tried if from Saratoga in the old Joseph Schmidt space?