By Michelle Gillan Larkin, a mom and writer living in Northern Westchester
I wasn’t born with a sweet tooth, and neither was my four and a half year old son. That said, the boy is a chocoholic. Milk or dark, he loves it all. So, on a recent 20 degree day, when we were both going stir crazy indoors, I decided to get us out for a treat. We headed right to our local coffee shop; latte for me, hot chocolate for him. He was in heaven. Little angel offered me a sip and I went – Eh. I can find him a better cup o’choc. After days of exploration and taste-tests, I discovered a hearty handful of really outstanding hot chocolates—many of them going easy on the sugar. Which made this mission much easier to swallow (I know, it’s a dirty job…).
The Most Interesting
This may come as a surprise, but there is some really good and unique hot chocolate warming inside the doors of a Colombian coffee house in Ossining. In fact, at Picante Quimbaya, there’s a whole menu of different chocolate “cocktails,” some hot and some cold. Each is made with pure Colombian chocolate, semi-sweet or unsweetened, and panela, an organic sugar cane. Some are dusted with cinnamon or cloves for a cocoa experience like no other. The brew master has a gentle hand, so no cup is too sweet or overly flavored. It’s smooth, it’s mellow, and in some cases, like the chocobanana or the one with peanut butter, it’s practically a meal. 193 Main Street, Ossining
For hot chocolate that requires a knife and fork instead of a spoon, head straight to Cocoa in Larchmont. I exaggerate, but this potion is more like a thin pudding, than a drink (though, it does go down easy). Very simply, it’s a hunk of Belgian dark chocolate blended with whole milk. A homemade marshmallow or unsweetened whipped cream, also homemade, can be added on top. This drink is made for sipping and served in a 4 oz. cup, which is enough, but, trust me, you’ll want more. 2107 Boston Post Road, Larchmont
The mug of thick and creamy hot chocolate that has been haunting my dreams can be found at City Limits in White Plains. Like liquid velvet, it’s a divine concoction of premium French Valrhona chocolate chunks, heavy cream, cinnamon stick, and vanilla bean that is steamed together with milk using the cappuccino machine’s frothing thingy. A honking, homemade, toasted marshmallow, is plopped into the cup along with a generous dollop of whipped cream from scratch. Both toppings melt away slowly, becoming one with the drink and leaving you to wallow in what some would call the highest quality chocolate in the world. It’s luxurious, it’s indulgent, and it’s all I can think about. 200 Central Avenue, White Plains
The Biggest Effort
For an honest to goodness hot cocoa that requires nothing on top—perhaps because so much work goes into it at the start—run, don’t walk, to The Kneaded Bread in Port Chester. Here, a ten pound bar of semi-sweet American chocolate is melted down to a thick and luscious, dark lava. It is then mixed with milk, cinnamon sticks, and vanilla and left to delicately simmer for hours in a heavy pot. It’s stirred gently and often. At the appointed time, it is whipped into foamy bliss with the cappuccino machine’s frother. This is another hot chocolate that begs to be sipped slowly. Every day. 181 North Main Street, Port Chester
The Pure and Simplest
At Irvington’s Red Barn Bakery, the hot chocolate is made simply by steaming chocolate chips with milk, using, once again, the cappuccino machine. But, these are not just any chips—they are organic, dark chocolate, and imported from Italy. The whole process makes for a lightly flavored and fluffy drink that is truly soothing. 4 South Astor Street, Irvington
Worth a Mention
A decent cup of hot chocolate can be found at Chocolations in Mamaroneck and Jean-Jacques’ in Pleasantville. The latter wouldn’t reveal its “secret,” but it didn’t seem homemade. What it did have going for it was the fancy Monin syrup that made the drink either mocha-mint or raspberry. A nice twist. At Chocolations, the hot chocolate is powder-based, but like all chocolate sold in the shop, it’s American. So, while it may not be house-brewed, it is homegrown, and really, quite delicious. I look forward to summertime when it will be transformed into frozen hot chocolate. Good thing my little guy won’t have his license in time.
Did we miss your favorite hot chocolate spot? Tell us about it!