Search for the perfect cup of hot chocolate, Part II

by Bonnie McGrath, Guest Blogger

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I had no idea that people felt as passionately this winter as I did about hot chocolate.  But when I guest-blogged a few weeks ago about my quest for the perfect cup, I got quite a bit of feedback. 

It turned out my two favorite cups happened to be free:  one at the Chicago History Museum (Julius Meinl) and the other in the Art Institute's members' lounge (a mystery brand, but tasting a lot like Meinl).  One reader of the post said the best cup he ever had was also free:  complimentary for guests at Chicago's Conrad Hotel.

Some people thought I should withstand the wait at River North's crowded Xoco in order to try their Mexican hot chocolate; but just as many said its spicy version wasn't worth the wait. I have yet to settle that difference of opinion.  Still haven't found a convenient time to wait it out.

But two places whose hot chocolate I want to try based on readers' recommendations are Dollop in Uptown and Angel Food Bakery--in what I guess will now be known as Mayor Rahm's neighborhood (or at least former neighborhood, depending on when the tenant finally leaves).

One respondent seconded what I'd heard about the wonderfulness of McDonald's hot chocolate, implying, however, that what really made it good was the drizzled chocolate atop the whipped cream--and the oatmeal cookie alongside it.   Another took issue with my dissing the hot chocolate at the restaurant Hot Chocolate, explaining that the hot chocolate there was totally topnotch because it was made with heavy whipping cream.

I was meaning to see if one place I frequent for breakfast (Yolk on South Michigan Avenue) had a decent hot chocolate, as I had forgotten all about them during my sojourn.  But I never got around to it.  And I don't have high hopes--they don't use real maple syrup, or half-and-half in other than little plastic thimblefuls.

But I had breakfast at Wishbone recently--which does have real maple syrup (albeit for two bucks extra) and I noticed they had a nifty sounding hot chocolate on the menu made with "a pint of milk." However, I read that it was made with Ghiradelli cocoa, one I'd already bought and tried and which didn't send me.  So I skipped it.  But maybe I shouldn't have--maybe it was my preparation that was no good.

Plain old brands that were recommended by people who swore they were their all time favorites included Safeway Select white hot chocolate; and Nestle's Abuelita.  However, I am simply not convinced.

Some recommendations were really fancy.   One was to keep Dagoba organic unsweetened drinking chocolate on hand for when I got a hankering for some tasty hot cocoa, and a special recipe would soon follow from the person posting the recommendation; the other was to look far and wide for Criollo beans from the Mexican State of Tabasco.   

One punster I know, still thinking about Chicago's mayoral election asked me if I'd ever tried "Gery Chicolate."  Very funny....

Someone also reminded me of an older version of Starbuck's hot chocolate that came and went a few years ago very quickly--and of which I used to partake.  It was truly rich and very thick.  Like drinking a cup of melted chocolate bars.  As excellent as it was as I recall, it was really over the top.  It was fun to revisit the memory, though.

And lo and behold, I suddenly remembered a really good hot chocolate I had last year and totally and unbelievably forgot about--from the restaurant Uncommon Ground in both Wrigleyville and Edgewater.   I remembered having that same feeling trying it then that I did when I tried the free Julius Meinl at the history museum recently:  Wow!  There can't be much better than this!  (By the way, I have since tried the Meinl at Meinl's on Southport--and I think the history museum does a better job of preparing it, whatever the reason.)

In any case, now that my 2011 hot chocolate odyssey is finished with the posting of this post, guess what?  It's Spring.  And time for an iced tea.

Bonnie McGrath is a columnist and blogger at the Chicago Journal

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