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Hot List: Hot Chocolate

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Frances janisch

One of my very first signs of food snobbery sophistication came in the form of hot cocoa. I always had Swiss Miss made with milk at home. MILK! IT MUST BE MADE WITH MILK!!! Imagine my surprise (and devastating disappointment) when I realized most other people, restaurants included, made their hot chocolate with *gasp* water. Ew. Just. Ew.

In metro Detroit, we have quite a few places that "get it." Whether their hot chocolate is of the trendy frozen variety or properly hot as the name would imply, there are some truly decadent chocolate drinks to be had. (And some non-traditional ones too: check out Cliff Bell's in Detroit for their hot chocolate martini, or stop by Treat Dreams in Ferndale to see if they have any of their hot chocolate ice cream.)

Of course, sometimes nothing beats curling up on your own couch with a cup of cocoa -- I recommend Kay's Hot Cocoa powder from Bay City's Lindsay Truffler (they ship anywhere within the U.S.) with milk from Calder Dairy.

#1 Shakolad Chocolate Factory (Birmingham)
Shakolad Chocolate Factory is a Florida-based chain, but don't let the fact that they have a corporate headquarters make you think that their chocolates are any less artisanal. In addition to their gorgeously-displayed collection of luscious truffles and specialty chocolate items, Shakolad also boasts an extensive menu of chocolate beverages and elixirs. There's iced hot chocolate and iced chocolate gelato for the warmer days, but right now it's all about the hot chocolate. Choose milk, dark or white chocolate for any of their MANY different hot chocolate creations. Hot chocolate ganache with your choice of truffles on the bottom. Mexican hot chocolate with honey, instant coffee and chili pepper powder. Mayan hot chocolate with chili pepper powder and cinnamon. Thick Italian hot chocolate. Mocha hot chocolate in mint, caramel or ganache. And the super-intense "Angelina" -- a French-style dark hot chocolate that's so rich and thick it's more of a sipping chocolate. (Hint: leave whatever you can't finish in the fridge overnight and enjoy it as pudding the next day.)

#2 Cafe Con Leche (Southwest Detroit)
This independently-owned SW Detroit coffee house is a favorite with the locals and a social hub of the community. They serve standard (but well-made) espresso drinks and also seek to promote traditional Latin drinks in the mainstream. For hot chocolate, choose between the Mexican hot chocolate ("regular" hot chocolate spiced with cinnamon), or be a bit more daring and try the Chocolate a la Taza, a traditional Spanish hot chocolate made by melting real chocolate in milk. It's as rich as a chocolate truffle and thick as molasses.

#3 Good Girls Go to Paris (Detroit, Grosse Pointe)
There's really not a whole lot that can be said about the little creperie that could that hasn't been said before, except maybe... HOT NUTELLA!!! The addictive chocolate-hazelnut spread that is to Europe what peanut butter is to America is even better when served hot in a mug, and GGGTP is the only place that serves it.

#4 Zingerman's Delicatessen (Ann Arbor)
"Ohmigawd, Zingerman's, it's so expensive." Shut up. It's expensive for a reason and you don't get to say "I pay more for higher quality but not THAT much more." The end. Now go get some of their Mindo Hot Cocoa, made with chocolate from Dexter's Mindo Chocolate Makers. Bold and beautiful, this is the difference between hot chocolate made with syrups and hot chocolate made with hand-made, small-batch artisan chocolate.

#5 Farmhouse Coffee and Ice Cream (Franklin)
It's cute and quaint and cozy and other hard "k"-sounding words. They serve hot homemade soups, ice cream from Guernsey, pastries from Zingerman's, teas from Teavana and also have a fancy-schmancy espresso machine, but their hot chocolate also happens to be some of the best around. And, really, it's so cute you want to pinch it.

Bubbling under: Cafe Muse (Royal Oak), 1515 Broadway (Detroit), Sweet Dreams (Orchard Lake), Gayle's Chocolates (Royal Oak), Le Petit Zinc (Detroit), Caffe Far Bella (St. Clair Shores), Chez Zara (Detroit), Red Hook (Ferndale), Commonwealth (Birmingham), Heritage Perk (Taylor), Toast (Birmingham, Ferndale), Looney Baker (Livonia), The Chocolate Gallery Cafe (Warren), Hudson Cafe (Detroit)

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