I don’t drink coffee. Can’t really; it makes my heart go pitter patter, but not in a good way. I do drink other hot beverages primarily tea and hot chocolate. Finding a good cup of hot tea is not so challenging but finding good hot chocolate is another story.

Case in point. The other day I stopped by a coffee spot on Market Street. The menu had both hot chocolate and hot cocoa. Did they really have both I asked? No, the proprietor said as he smiled and shook a packet of Swiss Miss in my general direction.

Hot chocolate is not actually the same as hot cocoa. Here is how cocoa powder is made: the beans from the cacao tree are processed and the cocoa butter is extracted leaving what is called the chocolate liquor (not alcoholic) this is dried and powdered and becomes cocoa powder. Cocoa mix or instant cocoa is a combination of cocoa powder, sugar, some powdered milk and maybe some flavorings. What is it missing? In both the cocoa powder and the cocoa mix, there is no cocoa butter. A critical ingredient. In a chocolate bar it’s the cocoa butter that makes it rich and gives that distinctive mouth feel.

You can get amazingly good hot chocolate in Paris (visit Chez Pim for a listing of great places to find it) Here in San Francisco it is a little bit more challenging to find a great cup of chocolate but a couple of places are worth mentioning.

My two top picks for divine hot chocolate (not cocoa!)

Cafe Madeleine
43 O’Farrell Street @ Market Street
300 California Street @ Battery Street
Here they make hot chocolate from ganache, a rich combination of semisweet chocolate and heavy cream. It is used to fill and frost cakes or melted into a cup of milk for hot chocolate.

2102 Union St @ Webster
A graduate of the local culinary academy developed several decadent hot chocolates including hot lava and a peppermint version.

In Search of Hot Chocolate… 9 February,2005Amy Sherman


Amy Sherman

Amy Sherman began blogging in 2003, because all her
friends and family were constantly asking her where
and what to eat. Three months after it launched,
Forbes chose her blog, Cooking with Amy, as one of the
top five best food blogs, praising her writing as
“smart, cozy and witty”. Since then her blog has been
featured and recipes reprinted in many newspapers and
magazines in the U.S. and the world.

In addition to regularly updating her blog, Amy is a
guest contributor to the Epicurious.com blog, and
Contributing Editor of Glam Dish. She also writes
restaurant reviews for SF Station.

Her focus on Bay Area Bites is primarily cookbook
reviews along with some interviews and current events.

Amy is a recipe developer and freelance food writer.
She is author of WinePassport: Portugal and wrote the new introduction to the classic cookbook, Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book, published by the University of Nebraska Press. She recently completed 45 recipes for a Williams-Sonoma cookbook and wrote her first piece for VIA magazine.

She is currently serving on the board of the San Francisco Professional Food Society and is a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals. Amy lives in San Francisco with her husband, tech journalist Lee Sherman.

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