Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Haute Chocolate

Philadelphia’s current wintry weather calls for a cozy spot by the fireplace and a steaming cup of something warm. What’s my drink of choice? A mug of decadently rich hot chocolate, lavishly topped with a generous swirl of whipped cream and fluffy marshmallows. Cocoa is not only a sweet treat, but also a health drink in disguise: the beverage has nearly twice the antioxidants of red wine and up to three times those found in green tea. There’s no better reason to sip away!

The best hot chocolate I ever had was at a small café located on Île Saint-Louis, a natural island in Paris that overlooks the Seine. I was stunned when the waiter arrived at my table with a cup, spoon, and pitchers of whole milk and melted chocolate. It was the first experience I had at a café/restaurant where I could adjust the level of “chocolateyness” to my liking—needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed it. As I sipped my cup of chocolat chaud slowly and people-watched, I knew I was having the ultimate Parisian experience.

What about the times you can't jet off to Europe? There are plenty of Philadelphia locations that can satisfy your hot chocolate cravings. Right near the Radian on campus, Capogiro makes more than just incredible gelato—they serve a delightful Italian Hot Chocolate, accompanied by a generous helping of whipped cream and dusted with cocoa powder on the side. The foam on top of the cocoa masks the thick richness beneath; the drink completely warms you from the inside out. It’s like sipping pure melted chocolate, only better. (For those adverse to such a heavenly drink, they also offer “regular” Hot Chocolate.) Max Brenner in Center City is famous for their wide cocoa selection (not to mention any other chocolate dessert you can think of). They offer global options (whether it’s the Mexican Hot Chocolate spiced with red chili, nutmeg, cinnamon and pepper; the Swiss Whipped Cream Chocolat; or the Hot White Chocolate hailing from Trinidad) in both hot and cold varieties. An added bonus? The fun you get from drinking out of their architecturally cool cups. RIM Café in South Philly’s Italian District is also notorious for adding chocolate to every beverage on their menu. The drinks go well with their massive cannolis and excellent biscotti, making you feel like a true Italian for a day.

My other hot chocolate favorites:
Seattle’s Best Coffee’s “Cocoa Trio”: hot cocoa topped with whipped cream, chocolate drizzle, white chocolate shavings, and a log of dark chocolate.
Caffe Nero’s Hot Chocolate Milano: a true European hot chocolate (thick, rich, and smooth).
Recchiuti’s Dark Hot Chocolate: there is a slight bitter tone from the dark chocolate they use in the drink, which perfectly counteracts and balances the drink’s natural sweetness. The huge vanilla bean marshmallow on top is the icing on the cake.
Jeff de Bruges' Chocolat en Poudre: the resulting drink made with this French chocolatier's hot chocolate powder will instantly transport you to the streets of Paris.

If you prefer to be your own barista in the comfort of home, check out these recommendations for the best supermarket hot chocolate mixes!


  1. i absolutely loved loved loved the paris reference! and i loved the variety of places to try stateside!! :D

  2. Your article on Haute Chocolate" brought back beautiful memories of Paris, relaxing by the Seine, and sipping a cup of luscious hot chocolate. I can't wait to try the hot chocolate in Philadelphia.

  3. Wonderful article. I'm running to the kitchen to make some hot chocolate right now!



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