I don't know what it is about foodie types, but they just won't quit reinventing old standbys. Hot chocolate is a great example: The childhood comfort drink has been given a grown-up twist recently, with several shops in town dedicated to selling fancy-pants hot chocolate the likes of which you've never had before. Whether you're a fan of the classic powder dissolved in water, or intrigued by the decadent new wave of high-end chocolate drinks, we've scrounged up a few joints that should appeal to every taste.
Much has been written about Sahagún Chocolates. The tiny, high-end chocolate shop deserves every accolade, though it's puzzling how such a small store can cope with so much good press—especially since Sahagún's signature hot chocolate, made by combining melted Ecuadorian Arriba chocolate with milk, takes some time to make. The drink is worth the wait, though, even if you have to jockey awkwardly for space with other chocolate-fiending patrons. If you think four dollars seems steep for an eight-ounce hot chocolate, that's because you've never been to Sahagún. The jaw-droppingly rich mixture demands to be savored, sipped slowly, and is so intensely chocolate-y that even when a friend and I shared a cup, we had trouble finishing it. While at Sahagún, I think I heard the words "best hot chocolate I've ever had" three times from other customers, and I'll be darned if I don't agree. ALISON HALLETT
414 SW 13th, 241-0656
Cacao is a tranquil, well-appointed little shop in Southwest, just next door to Masu. Hot chocolate at Cacao is referred to as "drinking chocolate," a subtle indication that there's something unusual about this beverage. The hot chocolate here is reminiscent of that at Sahagún, though Cacao has a few more flavors (three, on my visit). The chocolate is available in an eight-ounce pour, or as a small espresso-sized shot for $2. The shot is a good bet; a little of this stuff goes a very long way. I tried the spiced drinking chocolate, which hit my system like a shot of whiskey: Flavored with paprika, ginger, cayenne, and coconut milk, the tiny cup of chocolate packed a surprising punch. The cinnamon chocolate was a little more civilized, a sweet and complex concoction that's perfect on a blustery winter day. Not only is the chocolate amazing, but this is a great stop to knock out some holiday gift shopping for any chocoholics (or... women) in your life. AH
Moonstruck Chocolate Co.
526 NW 23rd, 542-3400; 608 SW Alder, 241-0955
I figured I'd give Moonstruck's hot chocolate a try, as they are a significant purveyor of chocolates in this fair city. The hot cocoa at Moonstruck is by no means bad, but it's a different animal than what you'll find at Sahagún or Cacao—tellingly, Moonstruck doesn't even sell an eight-ounce drink (the smallest-size cup is 12 ounces). Moonstruck serves up what most people think of when they hear the phrase "hot cocoa" (chocolate-flavored milk), and there's nothing wrong with that: They do a top-notch job delivering exactly what you expect. They also offer a few inventive flavors, like the Mayan, a twist on a Mexican hot chocolate that features almond as well as cinnamon, and the Chocochai, which mixes chocolate and Oregon Chai. AH
118 NE 28th, 235-2794
Like Matlock, Werther's Originals, and the Willamette Week, Ovaltine is usually something reserved for trembly, Alzheimer's-stricken geriatrics. Shit, I didn't even think they made Ovaltine post-1974! But apparently, they do, and Beulahland's got it. You can get a glass of Beulahland's Ovaltine hot or cold, but this time of year, you'd be a goddamn fool not to get it hot, when it serves as pretty much the most awesome hot chocolate ever. Plus, unlike some fancy-pants chocolatier, Beulahland won't empty your wallet—and when you pair some Ovaltine with Beulahland's nachos, you've got a snack that's more bangin' than an AARP convention.