It took me a long time to realize that the chocolatey drink I had as a kid what wasn’t hot chocolate, but hot cocoa. For some, hot cocoa may evoke a powdery, chalky drink that doesn’t match the sweetness of real chocolate. Not for me. As I wrote last year, my father was the designated hot
chocolate cocoa maker in our house and managed to make a perfectly balanced cup of chocolate-y sweet goodness every time.
That didn’t mean I didn’t have a soft spot for those admittedly inferior hot chocolate packets like Swiss Miss, I just wasn’t allowed them. When I did get them — like at friend’s houses — it was a treat to be enjoyed, all the more so if my cup came decorated with mini marshmallows.
I can’t remember the first time I tried real hot chocolate, made from melted chocolate and milk, but I’m nearly certain it was at City Bakery. Thick, rich and tongue coating it’s a chocoholic’s dream. While the drink is a bit heavy for regular consumption — or solo consumption — it’s the perfect indulgence for a chilly pre-Christmas day. As I wrote on my festive bucket list, I share a small cup with someone when I go home (hi mom!).
Italy is known for their intense hot chocolate and it was a foregone conclusion that I would to have to try it some time this year. I wasn’t sure where it was going to be, whether I’d go to a random bar in Pavia, search out a gourmet location in Milan or what not, but I knew that I was in for an unforgettable experience. If I survived. In Venice, I stumbled upon a gourmet chocolate shop called Vizio Virtù and decided to get my hot chocolate fix there.
On my chilly Saturday afternoon in Venice, I wandered into the shop after their lunch break to order an espresso sized cup of hot chocolate. I don’t have any better words to describe the drink than its name; it truly tasted like a cup of hot, melted chocolate. There wasn’t much milk, sugar or powder-y texture in there mitigating the experience of pure chocolate.
I didn’t exactly drink it so much as I spooned it out of the tiny paper cup. It was more like chocolate fondue. Perhaps other chocolate-lovers are fond of this Italian style of drink, but I wasn’t. As I tried to drink my hot chocolate, I realized just how much I love hot cocoa. I love it’s sippability, I love it’s light taste, but most of all I love how it reminds me of home and reminds me of my family.
If you’re interested in trying Italian style hot chocolate, there’s a great recipe and explanation of the decadence that awaits at Bell’alimento. I’m sure it’s also served as a dessert at a variety of fine Italian restaurants.
Have you ever tried Italian hot chocolate? What’s your favorite type of hot chocolate?