The yellow and occasionally red leaves are peaking through the white glistening snow. It’s scattered here and there; mostly on mailboxes, signs and parked cars. The first snowfall of the season has come.
More importantly, it heralds the beginning of Hot Chocolate Season. While it is true that hot chocolate can be enjoyed at any time of the year, it’s not quite the same. There are many things in life that are heightened/ improved by contrast. The steaming hot mug of chocolate counters with the frigid, invasive air outside. Nothing is quite as comforting as sipping that warmth after spending time in the cold. I think hot chocolate on a wintery day is about as close as you are going to get to drinking a hug. And it’s really not the same when it’s warm or mildly cold outside. I suppose a good bout of Victorian death weather could serve as a contrast, but it’s not the same. That’s what brandy is for.
But like most endeavours in my life, I try to make it into an adventure. For the past few years, I’ve been trying to find the best hot chocolate in Chicago. This has been hard. I’m a proud Chicagoan but NY has us beat so far. City Bakery has amazing hot chocolate and fresh marshmallows and Jacques Torres’ has wonderful thick hot chocolate (and wonderful chocolates to boot). And the hot chocolate at Angelique’s in Paris is a meal in itself.
Now before you get all judgmental about my tastes, I have a soft spot in my heart for Swiss Miss. Made with milk, it does the trick very well. And Land O Lakes has a nice packet that produces decently thick hot chocolate without milk. But when I’m feeling fancy, I want something I can’t make at home. I’ve tried Starbucks (too watery), Sarah B’s (disgusting), Hot Chocolate (too pretentious), Hershey Store (too watery), Sprinkles Cupcake (okay, but the marshmallow may make up for something lacking) and many more that apparently didn’t make their mark since I don’t remember them. The winner, as far as Chicago goes, is Ghirardelli, which really shouldn’t count since it’s a San Francisco brand. But as far as non-homemade chocolate goes, it’s so thick, it could serve as a meal.
But Hot Chocolate season is upon us. And it’s time to get testing.