A funny thing happened on the way to adulthood: hot chocolate became interesting. Remembered by most Americans as the insipid, lukewarm, desiccated powder-based drink of ice rinks (often dispensed from a machine that simultaneously squirts water and dark matter into your cup), 21st century big-kid hot chocolate has heat, depth, spice, richness, variety. It is, in short, both hot and chocolate. And let's not forget innovations in topping technology. Today's hot chocolatiers don't open a bag of petroleum-based white things or spray on the ReddiWip — they make their own marshmallows and whipped cream.
Hot chocolate is also one drink you never find yourself saying, "If only I hadn't had that last (fill in cocktail) ... " Indeed, researchers at Cornell found that hot chocolate has more antioxidants per cup than red wine or tea. So as we enter hot chocolate season — our summer, which they call "autumn" on the rest of the continent — raise a cup to your health.
In the third season of Dexter, top cop Maria has a pair of bonding experiences with women that are consummated with two words "ganache frosting." Ganache — that rich, delicious, thick, delicious, dense, delicious mix of chocolate and cream — is the base element of Boulette's singular cup of Eastern European-style hot chocolate. All day long, Boulette's chefs keep a pan of molten ganache simmering in anticipation of its HC fans. The result is hot chocolate so thick you almost need a spoon, and so satisfying you can omit that dollop of cream.
One Ferry Building # 48, SF (415) 399-1155. www.boulette'slarder.com
This pretty-in-pink Haight Street anomaly makes eight kinds of hot chocolate (including a green tea version for serious antioxidant-counters) plus a milk-free drink for all those people who can't, won't, or don't swing bovine. Billed as warm chocolate pudding, the molten concoction blends dark chocolate and hot water until it's only navigable by spoon. Like our beloved Earth, it also retains its molten core, so it can be toyed with for some time without losing any of its hot, thick mojo. Coco Luxe also has solid chocolates, gorgeous ones that look like mini wall art. And let's face it, we all need a little solid food occasionally to add weight and depth to our c-cups.
1673 Haight SF. (415) 367-4012. www.coco-luxe.com