Story by Dave Eckert
As a child growing up in Chicago, I loathed the onset of colder weather. However, as an adult, I look forward to the crisp days and nights of autumn, and even the snowy, blustery days of winter. One big reason for that is hot chocolate – high quality, decadent, even adult beverage-infused versions that permeate the metro. Join me as I visit a few.
First up, Succotash, that fantastic breakfast and brunch spot and their unique twist on a hot chocolate bomb. “I actually call them ‘chunkies’ because they’re not a ball and they’re a lot denser than your standard hot chocolate bomb,” Succotash’s owner, Beth Bardon, told me. “We do them at the holidays. It’s a mold of a chocolate shell filled with a variety of flavors: Nutella, white chocolate, marshmallow-you name it. You drop them in a mug and pour hot milk over them.”
“I decorate the outsides with sprinkles and metallic glaze so they all look different and put them in individual cellophane bags. I have at least nine or ten different flavors,” Bardon shared. Interested? Go to succotashkcmo.com to place your order and swing by the restaurant at your convenience to pick the “chunkies” up. Brilliant!
They’ve been doing world-class hot chocolate at Andre’s Confiserie Suisse for generations. Third generation owner and chocolatier Rene Bollier, who basically grew up in Andre’s kitchen, says he loves this time of year as much as he loves Andre’s hot chocolate. “I love the warmth that the holiday season brings through gatherings with friends and family, cuddling with our kids in front of a fireplace or bundling up to play in the snow. That warmth is amplified by a deep rich cup of hot chocolate that warms your body and puts a sweet smile on your face,” Bollier said.
Bollier describes Andre’s hot chocolate as rich and balanced, the perfection combination of intense chocolate notes, sweetness, and the rich creaminess of the milk. “The simplicity of it is what makes it perfect. With only three ingredients in our signature hot chocolate, the 60% dark chocolate becomes the star of the show,” Bollier concluded. It’s a show running at Andre’s Confiserie Suisse since 1955!
PHOTO COURTESY OF CHRISTOPHER ELBOW
Panache Chocolatier has been a staple of Kansas City’s sweet scene for over four decades. There’s a different feel to the new space in Leawood’s Park Place development and the chocolate choices are more diverse than ever, but one thing that hasn’t changed and never will-delicious hot chocolate flows daily. “We begin many of our mornings at the store with our hot chocolate. Sometimes we add espresso — delicious and a great jumpstart to the day! Currently, we are experimenting with a few new hot chocolate flavors for an upcoming competition,” owner Julie House shared.
House describes Panache’s hot chocolate as classic-a special blend of rich cocoa with just the right amount of sweetness. For sure, it’s a perennial favorite, and not just locally. Panache Chocolatier Hot Chocolate was awarded a Gold Medal at the International Chocolate Salon Competition for Hot Chocolate in 2019.
As for secrets to hot chocolate success, House recommends always using milk over water, and have some fun with mix-ins. “Add in caramel, experiment with adding spices, add peppermint, lots of marshmallows. Create a hot cocoa station and have fun —it’s hot chocolate!” House exclaimed.
They call it “drinking chocolate” at Christopher Elbow, but whatever they call it, call me extremely interested. So, what does the city’s more famous chocolatier have to say about his drinking chocolate? “Our hot chocolate is made with our ground premium dark chocolate and not cocoa powder. This results in a chocolate drink that has superior flavor and a rich, decadent texture. It tastes like you are drinking ‘liquid chocolate’!” Elbow exclaimed.
As for tips, Elbow recommends heating the milk or water first, then whisking in the chocolate off the heat. “Once the chocolate is melted you can heat a little longer while whisking, but since it’s made with real chocolate you need to be very careful as it can burn. Top with some freshly whipped cream and cozy up to the fire!” Elbow smiled. Yum. I’m heading to The Crossroads and Christopher Elbow Chocolates very soon.