I’ve never been a big fan of hot chocolate. For some reason, I don’t like cauterizing the inside of my mouth after being fooled by the deceptively lukewarm whipped cream or marshmallow topping.
These days I mostly drink hot chocolate when my three teenage daughters, who started drinking coffee at a young age, invite me and my credit card to join them in the drive-thru of one of our more than 200 local cafes. Since I never learned to savor the searing bitterness of designer coffee and refuse to order anything with such a silly name as “Frappuccino”, I usually order myself a hot chocolate to avoid feeling left out.
Unfortunately, in addition to costing about the same as several gallons of premium unleaded, hot chocolate from these caffeine dispensaries usually tastes like water from an old tire – if the tire was on fire. .
And I won’t even go into the abominations inflicted on the American public by Swiss Miss. I don’t know who this young lady is, but she should apologize to the good people of Switzerland for representing them with these so-called marshmallows.
Despite my checkered history with this classic winter drink, I was ready to put it all behind me on our recent family vacation in New York. We happened to be in the Big Apple during a historically freezing Arctic outburst that made it too cold even for New York natives to curse tourists.
Since we were in town over the holiday season, my daughters were keen to visit several famous holiday markets. Our first stop was the Holiday Shops in Midtown Manhattan’s Bryant Park Winter Village, billed as a “European-inspired open-air market” and designed to separate tourists from their money with a multicultural twist.
For me, the highlight of the market was a large mug of classic Max Brenner hot chocolate. It was the hot chocolate my blood sugar had been waiting for all my life. It was the perfect temperature (meaning it didn’t make the top layer of my tongue peel off) and it tasted like a freshly baked, liquefied homemade brownie. It was so good that I almost forgot about the frostbite.
The next day, we went to the Union Square Holiday Market, with 185 local artisans, artists and entrepreneurs (all equipped with handcrafted credit card readers). This is where my eldest and dearest daughter introduced me to the famous Rubyzaar Baked Liquid S’mores.
Normally I prefer to eat marshmallows, chocolate, and graham crackers in their pure, untouched state, but the combination of ingredients in this cup of melted decadence was something to behold. It’s really hard to describe, but let’s just say, if making hot chocolate requires the use of a miniature torch, sign me up.
Our visit to New York opened my nostrils to new levels of freezer burn, my wallet to new levels of emptiness, and my taste buds to new levels of chocolate delight. Until I get back, I guess I’ll somehow make do with Swiss Miss – and my own miniature blowtorch.