Sweet DreamsWho wants to winter in Palm Beach if it means missing out on hot chocolate? Here, the best new (and unexpected) places to go cuckoo for cocoa.
What's not to like about hot chocolate? It's warm, it's sweet and it's the perfect antidote to the chilly days and nights we endure this time of year. Consider it a hug in a mug. Luckily, we live in a city where there are plenty of places to indulge in the classic winter warmer: Spots like Payard and the City Bakery have long been known as go-to hot choc spots. Maury Rubin, owner of the City Bakery, has scores of devotees for his take on the old favorite, and says that any kind worth drinking should be made with high-quality chocolate such as Valrhona from France or Scharffen Berger from San Francisco. "A good base will make for a better drink," he says. "The price of top-notch chocolate has gone up in the past few years, so there are a lot of impostors out there." We've found five spots that don't skimp on quality—and even add unexpected ingredients for a one-of-a-kind treat (which we've rated on a decadent marshmallow scale). Perfect for when you want to drink—and think—warm thoughts.
The Hard One MADE BY: BATCH 150B W. 10TH ST. (AT WAVERLY PL.); 212-929-0250
Pichet Ong opened this bakery in May and added hot chocolate to his repertoire this winter. But the chef, known for his unique twists on dessert, presents his hot chocolate in the form of a lollipop. Made from heavy cream, milk, vanilla, Amedei dark chocolate from Tuscany and Valrhona milk chocolate, the candy is stirred into a mug of steaming organic milk to create a very chocolaty drink. For a different experience, Pichet, who counts Liv Tyler and Mary-Louise Parker among his boldface fans, suggests stirring in only half of the one-inch lollipop and eating the rest.
The Fragrant One MADE BY: LASSI 28 GREENWICH AVE. (BETWEEN CHARLES AND W. 10TH STS.); 212-675-2688
This Indian takeout joint might seem an unlikely spot for hot chocolate, but owner Heather Carlucci-Rodriguez' provenance as the pastry chef at Union Square Café and Veritas means she's well-versed in creating sweet treats. Since she introduced her jasmine hot chocolate, it's developed a cult following among her clientele (which includes Julianne Moore and Sarah Jessica Parker). She begins by boiling whole milk and a touch of heavy cream, then adds chunks of Michel Cluizel 75 percent bittersweet chocolate. Finally, Heather mixes in a jasmine compound from France for a drink that is incredibly rich but not overwhelming.
The Spicy One MADE BY: MACONDO 157 E. HOUSTON ST. (BETWEEN ALLEN AND ELDRIDGE STS.); 212-473-9900
When Máximo Tejada was designing the menu for Macondo, the six-month-old Latin tapas bar, he knew he didn't want to just include standard hot chocolate. So the chef, who has cooked at Pipa and Rayuela, does the classic winter drink with a bold kick. First, whole milk is simmered in a large pot with cinnamon, cloves and a little chipotle pepper, then it's left to sit in a fridge overnight (to deepen the flavor). Chunks of dark Mexican chocolate are added to the reheated mixture, which is then strained and beaten until it reaches the consistency of thick cream and is topped with slivers of ginger. Best of all, it comes with the perfect dippers—freshly fried churros.
The Light One MADE BY: DESSERT DELIVERY 360 E. 55TH ST. (BETWEEN FIRST AND SECOND AVES.); 212-838-5411
Dessert Delivery has been selling out of its elegant pastries and cakes for the past 20 years, but this family-run bakery, popular with Paul McCartney and Bette Midler, can also lay claim to making one of the best (and undiscovered) hot chocolates in town. First, steamed whole milk is added to a ganache made with dark Guittard chocolate and heavy cream. The mixture is then frothed in a cappuccino machine and topped with whipped cream, marshmallows and sprinkles. The end result is a light and airy drink that's easy to digest. "We consider our hot chocolate a beverage, not a meal," says co-owner Joann Cohen. "You'll be able to finish the whole thing."
The Creamy One MADE BY: SOUTH GATE 154 CENTRAL PARK SOUTH (BETWEEN SIXTH AND SEVENTH AVES.); 212-484-5120
The winter warmer at this upscale new American eatery may be the most decadent of them all. Pastry chef Morgan Larsson starts by gently boiling half-and-half, water, sugar and fresh vanilla bean. The mixture is poured over a combination of Valrhona semisweet and bittersweet chocolate chunks and blended three times (the first two by hand and the last with an immersion blender). The finishing touch is a topping of just-whipped cream and a side of pistachio biscotti for dunking. This hot chocolate is super-thick, but it's served in a small three-ounce cup, so it is possible to drink it all.