January 16, 2013

Soup to Nuts: Trending hot! Hot chocolate, that is

For hot chocolate (or cocoa) lovers, Portland may well be paradise.

By Meredith Goad mgoad@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Winter is supposed to be returning this week.

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Marguerite Swoboda uses the frother on her espresso machine to make her salted caramel hot chocolate.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Marguerite Swoboda of Sweet Marguerites in South Portland melts chocolate that she’ll use in her salted caramel hot chocolate.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below


SOME PEOPLE ARE MARSHMALLOWS. Others are whipped cream. People feel strongly about what they put in their hot chocolate, and they can get awfully creative, too. I asked folks on my Twitter and Facebook pages to tell me what they like to add to their hot chocolate, and here are some of their suggestions:

Cayenne, cinnamon and maybe whiskey

Peppermint Schnapps


Homemade marshmallows

A shot of Bailey's Irish Cream with a dust of cinnamon and shaved chocolate on the whipped cream

Cinnamon, ancho chile and cardamom, just like the lovely sipping cocoa from Black Dinah Chocolatiers

Marshmallow Fluff

Godiva liqueur

A candy cane to stir it with

Toasted coconut marshmallows

Cinnamon and cardamom,a bit of ginger

Mini marshmallows

"I like to dip buttered toast into it"


Amarula liqueur


Plain cake doughnuts

A touch of chai


Coffee ice cubes

"Booze! Kahlua, Bailey's, Chambord, Nocello, Fra Angelico, etc. All good"

-- Meredith Goad, staff writer


You know what that means: Good hot chocolate weather.

Portland is a coffee town, but in the winter nothing beats a good cup of classic hot chocolate or hot cocoa.

What's the difference? Hot cocoa is made with cocoa powder, sugar, and milk, while hot chocolate is made from finely chopped chocolate melted in milk or cream.

Cocoa powder does not have the cocoa butter that's found in hot chocolate, so it's usually thinner and a bit less rich than hot chocolate. Hot chocolate is also usually smoother and creamier, thanks to the cocoa butter.

"Even high-quality, unsweetened cocoa doesn't have the cocoa butter that chocolate has," notes Dean Bingham, owner of Dean's Sweets in Portland, which sells three varieties of hot chocolate mixes.

Bingham's "Double Dark" hot chocolate mix contains unsweetened cocoa, sugar, chocolate chips that are 70 percent cacao and a touch of vanilla.

Marguerite Swoboda, owner of Sweet Marguerites in South Portland, says hot chocolates are becoming more popular, partly because coffee houses are making lots of mochas -- hot chocolates mixed with espresso.

"I think that's more of an adult thing," she said. "They're not feeling so bad about drinking hot chocolate. They're cutting it with the caffeine a bit."

Mocha hot chocolates aren't the only variation of the decadent drink hitting the stores. There's white hot chocolate, "Aztec hot chocolate" with chile powder to give it some heat, salted caramel hot chocolate, peppermint hot chocolate, chai hot chocolate - you think of a flavor, it's probably out there.

To help guide you through the dizzying array of choices, I've put together a little guide to hot chocolate in the greater Portland area.

If I don't cover your favorite spot, don't send me angry emails. This isn't intended to be a complete guide, by any means. (No one can, or should, drink that much hot chocolate.)

Let me know -- politely -- where you like to go, and I'll follow up with a blog post covering your other suggestions.

As for my list, some places were deliberately chosen because I knew they'd have hot chocolate that would make me swoon. Other places, I just randomly stopped in to be sure I had a fair cross section of the area's hot chocolate hot spots.

Generally speaking, hot chocolates from chocolatiers or establishments specializing in sweets were the best. Perhaps not surprisingly, hot chocolates served in coffee shops usually played second fiddle to the coffee.

Here's my list, ranked from one to four hot chocolate cups:



434 Fore St., Portland

Variety: Italian hot chocolate

Cost: $3.99 one size

Four hot cocoa cups

Don't be surprised if you start hearing sleigh bells while you drink this. This is classic hot chocolate, the kind of drink you dream about when you hear the song "Winter Wonderland" or crave after coming in from a long day of skiing or playing in the snow.

It's made with two kinds of Belgian chocolate and whole milk. Be sure to ask for whipped cream on top -- it's real whipped cream, cold, thick and delicious, and floats well and long on top of the chocolate. You don't have to worry about it all melting into the cup before you take your last sip.

This was one of my favorites. It's classic, it's chocolatey, the whipped cream is divine, and I felt like a kid again while I was drinking it.



382 Cottage Road, South Portland

Varieties: Regular and salted caramel. Also sells a "Hot Chocolate Kit."

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Additional Photos

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Ingredients include Maine sea salt, caramel, cinnamon, whole milk and El Rey bittersweet and milk chocolate.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Gelato Fiasco's hot chocolate

Photo by Meredith Goad/Staff Writer

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Hot chocolate at Gorgeous Gelato

Photo by Meredith Goad/Staff Writer

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Sweet Marguerites hot chocolate

Photo by Meredith Goad/Staff Writer


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