The last few days in New York City have been gloomy, wet and cold. The only upside to this weather is that it’s great for drinking hot chocolate. You can drink it in the comfort of your own home (see Cisse Trading Co.) or by adventuring out onto the streets of New York (Hot Cocoa Activity Guide). Or maybe you just want to read up and visit one or two of the best cocoas you can find (Dessertbuzz’ own list). Whatever your preference, there’s a lot of New York City hot chocolate news to catch you up on. I don’t even know where to start.
Everybody loves a freebie, so let’s start with Scharffen Berger’s Thursday event at the Chelsea Triangle featuring free hot chocolate, brownies and tiny chocolate squares.
The event will feature free samples of Scharffen Berger® Hot Cocoa and Assorted Tasting Squares, as well as an exclusive Scharffen Berger® Chocolate Brownie made by Le Pain Quotidien. Plus there will be caroling (special performances by The Mistletones holiday caroling group from 3–6 pm)
It’s called an “activity guide” because it functions partly like a hot-chocolate-centric Rough Guide to your favorite city and partly like an expert food guide with all kinds of local knowledge, tips and insider tidbits. The book also contains pages for you to rate and compare 16 of New York City’s best cups of hot chocolate. There’s even a ladder so that you can have your own “US Open” of NYC Hot Chocolate with a champion, decided by you. Who receives the highest marks is entirely up to you instead of some foolish blogger! The book makes for a fantastic gift for that foodie friend at work or a stocking stuffer for a family member. More info on the book is here.
If you want to make and enjoy super-high quality hot cocoa at home but you also care 1) where your beans come from, 2) whether they are organically farmed and 3) if the farmers are getting a fair price for their cacao, you migth be interested in Cisse Trading Co. Cisse was started by Pastry Chef Jenny McCoy and Diana Lovett and their desire to merge high quality with a truly social responsible product. These products feature a number of innovations including a a very cool traceability feature. A QR code on the box tells you the whole history of the beans in your box, where they came from, where they were processed etc. I’ve tried a number of the hot chocolate mixes and they are excellent.
Their website is here. Available at Westside Markets, Union Market and Park Slope Food Co-op (in Brooklyn). They are expected in Fairway soon,
Finally, here is the DessertBuzz hot chocolate guide–updated from last winter but still missing a few entires. Please send us your recommnedations (Niko at DesertBuzz.com).
I have found that New Yorkers are particular about their hot chocolate. Usually, they fall in one of two camps:
1) The hot-chocolate-as-dessert camp. These people believe that no hot chocolate is too thick or too sludge-like. They’re happy if a plastic spoon can be stood on end, supported only by the pudding-like contents. They view hot chooclate as a meal.
2) The hot-chocolate-is-a-drink-like-coffee camp. These people are no less fussy about quality, percent cacao, etc. but they believe that you should be able to drink hot chocolate easily in any situation where you would drink coffee or tea. If they get a cup of hot chocolate and notice that it spills easily they are happy.
To make things easy, Dessert Buzz is rolling out a 10-point scale to rate the density or thickness of the different hot chocolates. A ranking of “one” means the hot chocolate is drinkable and fluid. A rating of “ten” means it’s basically melted chocolate or melted chocolate with some heavy cream or half-and-half–you get the idea.
City Bakery Notes: Very, very thick. A solid 9 on the MCD scale. Interesting and innovative flavors. Annual hosts of the Hot Chocolate Festival. Every day in February 2013 they will feature a different hot chocolate flavor such as fresh ginger, banana peel and “What would Faulkner drink”.
Donatella Notes: Really more of a restaurant but I’m including them because they have such a great pastry chef in Andrea Jarosh and also superb pizza. Not a thick hot chocolate–easy to drink (a 5 on the scale). Also made with Valrhona chocolate. Because they are a restaurant they can add a shot of alcohol.
Donatella is located at 184 8th Aveneue. Donatella’s website is here.
Eataly (Lavazza cafe) Notes: The Cioccolata con panna (Chocolate with cream) is pretty thick but also very dark and flavorful–not too sweet. Plus, you’re in Eataly so you’re sure to find other good stuff while you’r e in there.
Eataly is located at 200 5th Avenue
Francois Chocolate Bar Notes: Old school thick! Made with milk and heavy cream or half and half in an Ugolini machine. An 8 on the MOD scale. Grab a famous Payard almond chocolate
Francois Chocolate Bar is located in the Plaza hotel food hall at 1 West 59th Street (Francois Payard Bakery at 116 West Houston St. also has this hot chocolate).
The Francois Payard website is here.
Jacques Torres Notes: Plenty of locations around the city, a number of different size and flavor options and a great value at $3.59 for the small or $4.36 for the large. An 8-9 on the MCD scale. Available in classic, wicked w/chilies, peanut butter and mocha. Jacques Torres has five locations in the city. Recently named best hot chocolate in US by Travel and Leisure.
The Jacques Torres website is here.
L.A. Burdick Notes: Our favorite easy-to-drink dark hot chocolate, a very pleasant shop in Flatiron where you can sit down and enjoy your drink. A 3 on the MCD scale.
L.A. Burdick is located on 5 East 20th Street. L.A. Burdick’s website is here.
Peels Notes: very thick, comes with a delicious honey-vanilla marshmallow. They are in the 9 range on the MCD scale. Try a slice of their “monkey bread” too.
La Maison du Chocolat Notes: Available in two grades–milk and dark chocolate (we agree with Kathy YL Chan of Serious Eats NY –go with the dark), nice shop to drink in (Rock Center). A 6-7 on the MCD scale.
La Maison du Chocolat is located at 30 Rockefeller Center (49th Street). Their website is here.
Wafels and Dinges Notes: (See their website and Twitter feed for locations) Very thick Belgian chocolate, half-and-half base, uses similar machine to the Ugolini at Francois Chocolate Bar. An 8-9 on the MCD scale. Add a Liege waffle while you are at it. Tip: Check the Wafels and Dinges Twitter feed daily to learn the question for a free topping.
Wafels and Dinges’ website and schedule is here.
Serious Eats NY also has a list of recommended hot chocolates.