Can you really have adventures (and even life lessons) by drinking hot chocolate that others have ranked as Top Ten?
This is what happens when you get a hair-brained idea to put together a Meetup for a hot chocolate tour of NYC. Last summer I tried a chocolate tour – and had one person show up because apparently chocolate and summer aren’t tempting. It’s almost February, it’s very cold, and I’m still having a hard time getting people to sign up for my Meetup. Honestly, my anti-inflammatory diet means I am not supposed to have any sugar, dairy or booze. Despite all this, I see going on a Hot Chocolate exploration as an Adventure. I'm willing to take the chance that my hair-brained idea may be enjoyed by others too.
Researching Hot Cocoa in NYC
An article in Time Out NY for the “Top 10 Best Hot Chocolates” was my first inspiration. When I looked closer at the article, I noticed it was over a year old and one place no longer sells hot chocolate. I knew this because it was a little taco store near my former offices at Weight Watchers HQ. This tiny restaurant's hot chocolate was a savior on many of my Adventure Wednesdays winter outings when I left the offices, needed an easy meal and something delicious that also warmed my hands as I walked to try something new. On a cool day last Fall, I stopped in and discovered my treat was no longer served. I took the rest of the listings and mapped them out. While looking at these places, a few other articles on "Top 10" popped up! So – this is now more than just TONY, but Zagat and some other lists too. (Click here for the map I created http://bit.ly/AWHotChocMap2018).
Since I no longer work in Manhattan, going to these places is not as easy as it used to be. I lucked into a dog/apartment gig for an editor friend. I could work from her home, and walk to several of the locations. My partner joined me for a jaunt down to SoHo to test another place.
CITY BAKERY (Chelsea)
DOMINIQUE ANSEL BAKERY (SoHo)
PAPER CAFE AT MADE HOTEL (near the Flat Iron District)
BOQUERIA (several locations, this one is in Chelsea)
MATCHA BAR (Chelsea. Plus a new location on Prince St)
VAN LEEUWEN (West Village)
AMY'S BREAD (West Village. Also in Hell's Kitchen)
GROM (Bleeker Street. Several locations)
How many cups of hot cocoa?
A friend had asked how many hot chocolates can one person have in a day? With the recent research I conducted, I’ve come to the realization that it depends on the hot chocolate. The one hot cocoa from Dominique Ansel Bakery was satisfying. On another day, walking all around the City, I had six in six hours. At my meeting that evening I was buzzing with chocolate euphoria. A chocolate euphoria from high quality cocoa is a kind of glowy speed, where you feel your heart is open and loving to everything. (Theobromine, the "feel good" ingredient in raw cacao, is usually processed out of mainstream chocolates. One reason to stick with the high end, artisanal stuff.) This feeling isn’t easy to maintain. For a while I was really chatty and energetic, but then I start to feel the endorphins decrease.
It’s a balancing act, when you're used to a low-sugar diet
Almost 5 years ago my doctor placed me on anti-inflammatory diet to help me with health issues. It started with clean eating – which includes taking sugar out of my diet. Over the years I’ve been good about my sweets, except of course – my spirit food…cacao. When it comes to my favorite food, I’ve developed a love for the bitterness of the high cacao content of (often fair trade/organic) dark chocolate. There are health benefits to dark chocolate…which is my excuse for not giving it up. Changing my diet for health reasons I’ve learned to listen to my body’s needs better.
The artisanal hot chocolates tasted so deep and delicious, I forgot how much sugar I was consuming. When the euphoria started wearing off, my body was telling me all that sweetness may not have been great. My body started feeling cranky. Like a weird off-center space. My ex-husband has diabetes, and has had diabetic reactions. I wonder if this is something close to that (don’t worry, my doctor assures me I do not have diabetes). When I could, I made sure to have some food that balanced all that sugar, and it helped.
My food adventures have taught me many things – including self-care by learning my limits of “cheat foods.” I am still having a Hot Chocolate Adventure (which I also added a Facebook event, since the Meetup event hasn’t gained traction) with at least one friend. Adventures are about having fun. But they are also about having learning experiences. I’ve learned from six + cups of hot cocoa, and plan on having more fun with a shifted perspective.
Come with me on an Adventure!
In case you want to join me on the Hot Chocolate Adventure, here’s the Facebook event page (AWFBHotChocEvent ) as well as my Meetup event (AWMeetupHotChoc ) There’s no charge (because peoples’ ability to have one or more cups of hot cocoa is up to them, and I want them to feel free to join – or leave – the group at any time). It will be the Saturday before Valentine's Day (not all adventures happen on just Wednesdays!) If you want to create your own adventure, use the map I posted here (Hot Chocolate Adventure Map). Since today is National Hot Chocolate Day, and a Wednesday, I will be continuing my research today. Mmmm, peppermint marshmallow anyone?
Do you like gourmet hot chocolate? What’s your preference? If you're not in NYC, are there places near you to create your own adventure? Have you had any experiences where your body told you a certain food or food category was making it feel off? Please share your story in the comments below!