CHRISTOPHER ELBOW CHOCOLATES
When the abundant novelty of SF's innovative hot chocolate scene has worn off, head to this sleek corner store for even more innovation. The boutique chocolatier, which originated in Kansas City, Mo., has all the customary spicy, dark, and milky brews you'll find at many of our other HC providers — along with some never-before-seen variations spiked with ginger, curry, and coconut milk. Christopher Elbow also makes powdered versions of some of its best-selling drinking chocolates, which make a lovely nyah-nyah-nyah gift for friends still living in Hershey's just-add-water-powdered-packet land.
401 Hayes, SF. (415) 355-1105. www.elbowchocolates.com
FIVE STAR TRUFFLES
You gotta love this under appreciated one-man operation, where the one man makes your cup by shaving generous helpings of his superlative block chocolate into every liquid cup. The price is right — $2.75 for 16 ounces — and the one man always offers one of his handmade truffles on the house. The one man also exhibits a sincere liberalism about how much milkfat is really necessary for hot chocolate. If you want nonfat hot chocolate (no judgments!), so be it. With base chocolate this good, you won't miss the milkfat.
411 Divisadero, SF. (415) 552-5128, www.fivestartruffles.com
Although most people waiting in line at Bi-Rite see only the ice cream and soft-serve, hot chocolate heads can't help but notice, tucked as it is on the counter behind the cookies, la machine. A combination hot plate-whirligig, Bi-Rite's single-purpose hot chocolate machine (rumored to have been developed by SF's own Recchiuti) keeps its brew in a perpetual state of warmth and agitation. What does this mean, besides one terrific cup? No waiting! Traditionalists all the way, Bi-Rite uses only ground chocolate, cocoa, sugar, and milk. A word of warning, though: Bi-Rite only makes HC during the winter (other people's winter) and on unusually cold or rainy days. Pray for rain.