Hot Chocolate

By | April 8, 2006

Everyone has an opinion about hot chocolate. You might think you don’t have a ‘thing’ for hot chocolate, but you still probably have something you would say is your ideal. The way it ‘should’ be. Well, I have listened to a lot of people’s preferences, and I’ve boiled it down to at least three main styles: the Traditional, the Uber, and the Steamy. Well, it turns out you can get pretty good versions of each type, right here in Pittsburgh!

The Traditional is the easiest of all to find. It is also the category in which there is the most variance. You can find drinks masquerading as traditional hot chocolate everywhere you go, but they are usually little more than light brown hot water with a frothy top. The worst of these offenders is typically found at places where all you really want is a hot chocolate because it would just be so perfect – like when you are out skiing. Something about high demand gives food-eries the justification to serve the least palatable substances. Seven Springs, for instance, has the worst hot chocolate known to man. It is such an unbelievable let down because you are all freezing cold and then you get this scalding hot watery mess in a Styrofoam cup, good only for warming your hands. I have a conspiracy theory that they designed this beverage with the intention that you burn all the taste-buds off your tongue and therefore can’t even taste the paltry un-cocoa flavors present in the drink. It is hot chocolate abuse!

But, fortunately for us ‘Burghers, there are some people who take their hot chocolate seriously. One of them is Enrico’s Tazza D’Oro in Highland Park. Enrico’s Tazza D’Oro is NOT related to the Enrico’s in the Strip with all the amazing baked goods (that is a whole separate review, but just in case you don’t read that one: eat macaroons and biscotti at Enrico’s in the Strip). Enrico’s Tazza D’Oro in Highland Park has a lot of awesome drinks which you can read about in its very own review, but for today’s purposes what you need to know is that their hot chocolate is exceptional. It is very chocolaty and comes in a great big cup. It also never comes too hot to drink, which is not a necessity of hot chocolate, but sure is nice! Incidentally, if you are more of a mocha drinker, their mocha is fantabulous as well.

Another Traditional hot chocolate that I’ve found to be above the mark is at Coca Café. Coca Café also has its own review where I don’t think I even mention the hot chocolate, which is a shame, but I’m mentioning it now, so there. Coca Café having a good hot chocolate is nice because you might be there for breakfast or lunch and can now have your ho-cho with your munchables. It is definitely chocolaty in nature, but it isn’t an overwhelming flavor. This is good because you don’t feel like you have just drunk a calorie bomb, but it revs you up just like hot chocolate should. It gives you a warm and fuzzy.

OK, Enough about the Traditional! I think everyone appreciates the Traditional and is more than happy to drink it up, but most people I know are looking for something else. One major category of such people includes complete and total chocoholics. My mother is one of these, and though I did not inherit this trait I can still relish the kind of hot chocolate she aspires to drink. This would be: The Uber. It is Uber because it most resembles a mug of melted chocolate. It is considered a beverage only because it is in liquid form. It is so thick that it coats the mug you are drinking it from, and I swear that you leave about a half-ounce of chocolate just on the sides of the cup. It is total decadence! For some, this will cause spasms of joy. For others, spasms of disgust. For me, I have no idea how they make it, but it is goooooood! I had an incredible version of the Uber once at Laudurée in Paris, but they gave me far far too much! And of course I have to drink it all, lest I be wasteful. Too much can be overwhelming though, as I think this would be a treat best served in small quantities due to its indulgence-factor.

That leads me straight to where you can get this luxurious ho-cho style in Pittsburgh. To find the Uber, go to Mon Amie in the Strip District. Mon Amie is actually a chocolate shop specializing in imported and local chocolates. You can get all kinds of luscious truffles, chocolates in interesting shapes, and I always get my little McVitie’s English biscuits with dark and milk chocolate here. BUT, they also have a little hot chocolate bar in the back, where they serve both sweet and spicy hot chocolate, both of which are super schlewp-y! What Mon Amie does smartly though is they only give you a tiny little cup of it. A person who wasn’t expecting this might feel gypped at first, but they’ll soon learn the reason why – it would be hard to drink much more than they give you! Mon Amie serves a phenomenal version of the Uber, so enjoy it – just don’t let anyone see you licking the sides of your cup!

Finally, there is the Steamy. The Steamy is a lesser-known category of hot chocolate in America, but it definitely belongs as a contender. This variety of hot chocolate involves steamed milk into which you, the drinker, dissolve the chocolate. This is a favored hot chocolate method in some European and South American countries, but in Pittsburgh, this style is rare to find at all. But it can be found! Yes, it can be found – at Tango Café in Squirrel Hill. I recently reviewed Tango Café, and focused on their Argentinean version of the Steamy, which is called a ‘Submarino’. Be careful when you order if you want the Steamy, because Tango also offers a traditional Hot Chocolate for those who don’t want or don’t know about the Submarino. Tango’s Submarino is a good version of the Steamy, although I do think it needs about twice as much chocolate. Regardless, it is the only place I have found in Pittsburgh to even order a Steamy, so if this is your favorite style of ho-cho you should check it out! You might even be able to get them to sneak an extra bar in your glass!

Well, that about wraps it up. I have not completed my quest for the perfect hot chocolate, but at least I’ve found a few excellent versions to share with you. I hope to continue to add to this list, because there can really never be too many good ho-cho’s in the world!

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