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

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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


Cost: $2.79 each, one size

Salted caramel: Four hot cocoa cups

Marguerite Swoboda makes both a "regular" hot chocolate and a salted caramel hot chocolate. Both drinks start with her chocolate base, which is made with hand-chopped El Rey's bittersweet and milk chocolate and half the amount of whole milk that will go into the final cup. Then she uses the frother on her espresso machine to add the rest of the milk. Both recipes also contain a bit of cinnamon and salt.

For the salted caramel, Swoboda adds the same salted caramel that she uses in her handmade chocolates. It's a drippy, soft caramel that melts well into the hot chocolate.

"We also have chile powder, so if someone wants it spicy when we're doing the final step, the frothing, we can add chile powder to it," Swoboda said.

Salted caramel is a trendy flavor profile right now, but sometimes people overdo it. What I liked about the salted caramel hot chocolate at Sweet Marguerites is that the flavoring was subtle. Overall, the drink was smooth and balanced; the delicious chocolate was not overwhelmed by the caramel or a lot of salt.

Swoboda does not add whipped cream to her rich hot chocolates because she thinks it "would just be too much." I'm not sure I agree. I think whipped cream should always be an option -- hey, it's hot chocolate -- but Swoboda is just listening to her customers.

"When we first started serving it, people were telling us it was too rich, so we cut back on the size of the cup that we were using, and I was afraid that adding whipped cream on top of it would just make it over the top," she said. "We're testing a drink called liquid chocolate, which is a much thicker version of a hot chocolate served in an espresso cup, and I'm thinking of doing whipped cream for that."

If you'd like to take some regular hot chocolate home, Swoboda also sells "hot chocolate kits" for $12. The kits serve four.



43 Washington Ave., Portland

620 Congress St., Portland

67 India St., Portland

Varieties and cost: Regular chocolate $2.65 for 12 ounces, $2.95 for 16 ounces and $3.25 for 20 ounces; white hot chocolate $2.75, $3.05 and $3.35; peppermint hot chocolate, salted caramel, Mexican and hot chocolates flavored with syrups $3.15, $3.45 and $3.75

Regular chocolate and white chocolate: Two-and-a-half hot cocoa cups

Coffee By Design probably has the widest variety of flavors, but each location offers different hot chocolate specials, so what's available will depend upon which store you visit. I went to the India Street store and tried both the regular hot chocolate and the white hot chocolate.

The regular chocolate was thin but had a stronger chocolate flavor to it than some other coffeehouse hot chocolates. It would be just fine for an everyday choice when you don't want something that's too rich.

It turns out there's a reason for that good chocolate flavor. Apparently, CBD uses Ghirardelli sweet ground chocolate powder in their hot chocolates. They add a little milk to the powder to create a syrup, then add that syrup into more milk.

I'm not normally a white chocolate person -- white chocolate isn't really even chocolate, it's just cocoa butter, sugar and some other ingredients -- but if you like white chocolate, you'll like the flavor of Coffee By Design's white hot chocolate.

One caveat: Although the flavor was good, it was way too sweet for me. So if you don't like sweet drinks, maybe this one isn't for you.

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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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