Updated on June 12, 2010
New York City: Hot Chocolate Season
Residents of New York City enjoy an embarrassment of culinary riches in all sorts of niche categories, which means that the winter hot chocolate selection is incredibly diverse. I’ve identified three of my personal favorite hot chocolates, two in Brooklyn and one in Manhattan, though I could name many others. Also worth mentioning is the annual Hot Chocolate Festival hosted by The City Bakery every February (3 W. 18th St. near 5th Ave.), featuring an array of flavors, some more successful than others, and their own homemade marshmallows (which I detest, but most people I know love them).
La Maison du Chocolat is an expensive but excellent chocolate boutique. One afternoon at the Madison Avenue location, I sat in the café toward the back and had the Guayaquil hot chocolate, made from South American cacao beans, which is very smooth, nutty, and not too dark. You can order whipped cream on the side, but it’s actually too light and almost flavorless, and the chocolate needs no sweetening or additives. This hot chocolate is equally good as Payard (an upscale patisserie and bistro on the Upper East Side) but the service at La Maison is truly terrible (count on being ignored, seeing random people seated before you, and struggling to make eye contact with the waitresses). With tax and tip, the bill comes to $10 for one cup of hot chocolate! It’s so delicious that it’s worth a taste, but it probably won’t become your (un)friendly neighborhood café anytime soon.
1018 Madison Ave. at 78th St., 30 Rockefeller Ctr., or 63 Wall St., Manhattan
Chiles & Chocolate is a Oaxacan restaurant that makes quick use of exquisite Oaxaca cheese and mole, and serves a mean cup of Mexican hot chocolate. They will prepare the spiciness to-order, and a “mild” cup will probably be enough spice for this drink ($4; they also serve a hot chocolate with cinnamon and almonds, $3). A combination of chipotle and traditional Mexican hot chocolate, it’s milky, earthy, just a little bit sweet, and full of pure flavor. Be warned, the chipotle may accumulate at the bottom of the cup. For those of us who’ve been victims of painful, prickly, way-too-hot cups of spicy hot chocolate, it’s best to order it mild.
54 Seventh Ave. at Lincoln Pl. in Park Slope, Brooklyn
Rose Water is a lovely restaurant with fresh, seasonal food. The brunch fare features items beyond your typical New York Sunday brunch (harissa and cod cake for example), which is usually overpriced and mediocre. Rose Water also serves a cardamom hot chocolate, which sounds intimidating at first, but this flavor combination is so harmonious, and so suitable for winter, you couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Cardamom can be overwhelming to smell or taste if overused, but a small pinch is perfect. I recommend this very highly to anyone who likes chocolate (check ahead, as the hot chocolate may not be available at all times, $4).
787 Union St. at 6th Ave. in Park Slope, Brooklyn