Hot chocolate is definitely a warmer-upper for winter days and cozy evenings. Cold weather chills work to pull us toward that distinctive cocoa aroma virtually no one can resist. Whether ordering in a café or purchasing at the market to whip up at home, hot chocolate is a favorite cold season drink. Read on for the absolute best hot chocolate around the Peninsula.
Burlingame, CA 94010
Preston’s Candy & Ice Cream has been around for 60 years offering hand-made candies for everyday and holidays too. A favorite is Preston’s Velvet Dark Hot Chocolate kit ($15.95), the shop’s “custom blend of shaved premium chocolate” specially paired with Preston’s small-batch marshmallows, which by the way, are “created with a specific moisture content to melt easily in cocoa.” Who knew? Preston’s also sells top-quality ice cream, although the shop no longer makes it in house. Visit the website to see the full range of sweets at Preston’s.
1010 El Camino Real
Menlo Park, CA 94025
Café Borrone is a favorite outdoor Peninsula café, not far from Stanford University and smack next to Kepler’s Books, one of the few great independent bookstores still around. Both the cafe and the bookstore have wide fan bases and seem be a natural together. Café Barrone serves a long menu list of tasty food for breakfast, lunch and dinner with options to please vegetarians too, along with the best coffee served anywhere, according to its faithful customers. Topping the list of drink crowd pleasers is Café Borrone’s Mexican hot chocolate, with its just-right mix of bitter Mexican chocolate and cinnamon flavor. Also a favorite is the café’s hot chocolate, described as “rich and tasty.” The indoor seats fill up quickly but there is plenty of outdoor seating, a lovely bonus especially on warm weather weekends, which are frequent in Menlo Park.
539 Bryant St.
Palo Alto, CA 94301
Monique’s sweet shop is filled with beautiful chocolates: an array of exquisite dark and milk truffles in varying cocoa percentages, some fruity with hints of berry or cherry tastes, some spiced or salted caramel along with other sinful options. The selection can be mesmerizing and hard to choose from at first, but everyone manages to find a bit of deliciousness. There are also yummy drinks here, both hot and cold, including milkshakes on Sundays and more than one hot chocolate to try as you choose your own ingredients. How about a chocolate and caramel hot chocolate, or hazelnut, or build your hot chocolate with an assortment of chocolate intensity options, flavors and sweetness? You can go the non-dairy route too with a choice of almond, hazelnut or rice milk and then customize the rest. You can also customize cold chocolate milk. Or give it all up and have a rich, dark truffle with a cup of liquid chocolate made with dark chocolate and orange, and then go directly to heaven.
Westgate West Shopping Center
5325 Prospect Road
San Jose, CA 95129
Dolce Bella Chocolare Cafe is the place to go to satisfy your choclate cravings, made especially gratifying as you watch chocolates being created in the shop’s open kitchen. Before indulging in dessert enjoy a fresh salad, soup, panini or dinner special along with a glass of wine from local vineyards. Ready for dessert? Try a choclate fondue, terrific pastries, or a slice of Valrhona chocolate cake. If cravings for a cup of hot chocolate bring you in you won’t be disappointed. Here is the lineup: Hot cocoa with fresh marshmallows/whipped cream $3.25, kid’s hot cocoa $2, hot chocolate made with 72% chocolate, fresh marshmallows/whipped cream $4, chili hot chocolate $4, drinking chocolate, rich and thick in an espresso cup $3.
419 University Ave.
Palo Alto, CA 94301
Located in the heart of downtown Palo Alto’s busy shopping district, Café Venetia brings a fine European café experience to the community. The café offers a range of delectable foods and fine coffees, and several nice wines by the glass, bringing a taste of Italy to its customers. Café Venetia also carries seasonal items from small but high-end Italian producers, adding to the special quality and continental ambiance of the place. In addition to serving the best blends and single-origin coffees, Café Venetia serves three hot chocolates of varying levels of thickness, the thickest being a killer hot chocolate called Mousse al Cioccolato. This is a deliciously thick and tasty drink, not too sweet and with a shot of espresso blended in. Another Café Venetia location is at 95 University Avenue in the art deco train station.
Melanie Graysmith is a writer, artist and educator based in San Francisco. She writes on adult education, art and lifestyle topics, and enjoys writing short stories and poetry. She is also a member of an independent filmmaking group. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.