Where To Get New York’s Best Hot Chocolate This Winter

hot chocolate While New York has many worthwhile offerings during the holidays – seeing the tree at Rockefeller Center, ice skating at Bryant Park, browsing the many holiday markets – the bitter cold of the city makes it important to know where to go for a hot beverage. Home to many cozy bars, restaurants and cafes, you’ll have numerous options, including R Lounge in the Renaissance New York Times Square Hotel.

Chilly travelers can take in 360-degree views of Times Square and beyond while sipping special hot chocolates relating to the month’s holiday and season, each served with a complimentary sweet. There will also be ongoing chef selection choices including Milk Hot Chocolate, Dark Hot Chocolate and White Hot Chocolate made with homemade marshmallows, fresh fruit, chocolate shavings and various other toppings. If you’re in the mood to get a bit tipsy, you can add Grand Marnier, Rum, Franjelico or Baileys to any cocoa.

In November, cinnamon churros are served with beverages like Pumpkin Spice Hot Chocolate, Mexican Spiced Hot Chocolate and Hot Apple Cider. If visiting in December, you’ll get a free piece of peppermint bark as well as Peppermint Hot Chocolate, Gingerbread Hot Chocolate or Mulled Wine. In January, seasonal flavors include Frozen Hot Chocolate, Peppermint Hot Chocolate and Mocha Hot Chocolate served with peppermint meringue and chocolate ganache. And in February, meringue cookies come with cocoas like Lavender Hot Chocolate, Strawberry White Hot Chocolate and Hot Chocolate With Coffee.

Hot chocolates are $8, or $18 when you add liquor.

[Image via R Lounge]

Seattle’s best spots for hot chocolate

Seattle best hot chocolateBaby, it’s cold outside here in Seattle, and that makes me want to drink. No, not coffee or craft beer, despite Seattle’s status where those beverages are concerned. I’m talking about chocolate. Hot chocolate. It’s a national obsession these days, along with its more solid counterpart. There are chocolate boutiques, chocolate tastings, chocolate cafes, chocolate factory tours. Whether you love a single varietal 72% Madagascar from the Sambirano Valley, or a bar of Hershey’s, one of the many great things about chocolate is that it caters to all tastes and budgets.

While I loathe the culinary pretentiousness that frequently goes hand-in-hand with fine food and drink, I’ll be the first to admit that there is a vast difference in quality (and sustainable growing and harvesting practices) when it comes to chocolate. That same quality variation extends to hot chocolate, which these days also goes by such nom de plume’s as drinking chocolate, sipping chocolate, or chocolate chaud. There are even health benefits to ponying up for a quality cup if it’s within your means.

Generally speaking, the above terms are interchangeable, although it’s implied they contain bittersweet (dark) chocolate, rather than cocoa powder. Dark chocolate (65% cacao or more) is loaded with antioxidants; a quarter ounce per day is has significant health benefits, and also acts as a natural antidepressant. Researchers believe that the endorphins and opioids in chocolate elevate mood and reduce anxiety.

So, because it’s delicious, heart-healthy, cancer-preventing, mood-enhancing, and mojo-making (just in time for Valentine’s Day!), here are my picks on where to find Seattle’s best hot chocolate. If a trip to the Pacific Northwest isn’t on your itinerary, I’ve provided online sources so you can make your own cup of chocolatey goodness.

Fran’s Chocolates
Seattle’s own Fran’s is my top pick, thanks to a rich blend of 65% Venezuelan single-origin chocolate, and half two-percent/half whole milk topped with a healthy dollop of unsweetened whipped cream. Three locations in Seattle and nearby Bellevue. You can order Fran’s Dark Hot Chocolate pistoles (pellets designed for melting) here.Seattle best hot chocolateTrophy Cupcakes
Topped with unsweetened whipped cream or a housemade marshmallow, this European-style hot chocolate made with heavy cream is the beverage equivalent to fuzzy bunny slippers. Three locations in Seattle and Bellevue.

Theo’s Chocolates
This hometown company in trendy Fremont was the first organic/fair trade chocolate factory in the U.S.. Today, Theo’s delectable chocolates are available nationwide. The factory also has tours and a retail store/cafe counter, where cups of sipping chocolate are available (depending upon the day; call ahead). The Dark contains a 70% blend and whole milk, making for an intensely chocolately cuppa; Chipotle Spice has the mouth-tingling additon of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and smoked and ground ancho chile. You can also order cans of ground sipping chocolate online.

Café Presse
A heady blend of bittersweet and unsweetened chocolates, cocoa powder, cream, and milk make for one of the most well-balanced cups in town at this charming Capitol Hill spot. You’ll find more of the same at downtown sister cafe Le Pichet. P.S. It’s worth the extra cash to slip some Armagnac in your cup.

Five ways to make a dollar go further in New England this holiday season

New England was made for the holiday season. Sure, it’s a bit chilly up there in the winter, but bundle up, and it’s impossible not to be sucked in by the charm of one of the oldest corners of America. If you’re looking for a great way to maximize your spending power this Christmas (who isn’t?!), check out five great ideas from New England Inns and Resorts. There’s plenty of variety … but little room for Scrooges.

Cut your own Christmas tree
This is a tough one if you’re traveling any distance, and trying to cram a fir into the overhead bin will not help you win friends and influence others. But, if you’re within driving distance, check out The Beachmere Inn in Ogunquit, Maine. The holiday package gets you two nights in an ocean view room and a fresh-cut Christmas tree from nearby Bragdon Farms. Fortunately, they’ll wrap it and fasten it to your car. Back at the inn, you’ll also get two hot chocolates and use of the sauna and spa – you’ll need this to warm up a bit; Maine gets pretty cold.

Shop ’til you drop
At the White Mountain Hotel & Resort in North Conway, New Hampshire, you’ll be close to the outlet stores (famous to anyone who grew up in an adjacent state). The package includes discount coupons to make the savings even greater, and you’ll also get breakfast every morning (two-night stay required). So, instead of cramming into the local mall, dash off to do your shopping this year, and make it an experience worth remembering.

No stress involved
Up in Lyndonville, Vermont, The Wildflower Inn wants to make your holiday season as easy as possible. Rather than worry about fold-out couches and relatives lurking in your kitchen in the middle of the night, invade the Wildflower and occupy its 570-acre resort. Stay for three nights, get a full breakfast every day and unwind. Every room has a Christmas tree that’s ready to be decorated. And, the inn will serve dinner on Christmas Eve and Christmas day itself. Don’t worry: Santa goes to Vermont (hell, he doesn’t live far from it). Every room can be expected to have packed stockings!

Movie marathon by the sea
Meadowmere Resort in Ogunquit, Maine is offering a low-key holiday that will make any holiday host drool. Instead of fussing over guests, take advantage of the “Ho-Ho-Ho Package,” and enjoy a holiday movie marathon, caroling and a visit from Santa himself (he doesn’t live far from Maine, either). Bring an unwrapped gift for Meadowmere’s Toys for Tots tree (do it), and relax be the fire.

Think past Christmas
There’s more to the holiday season than Christmas. For the next big event, skip the mayhem of Times Square (or the boredom of watching the ball drop on television), and go to Adair Country Inn & Restaurant in Bethlehem, New Hampshire. Spend two or three nights at the inn, and sit for a four-course dinner on New Year’s Eve. Bring your tux; formal attire is encouraged. A party will follow, with dancing, champagne and a fireworks display. When the festivities are over, scarf down a late-night snack. Drag yourself out of bed the next day for high tea.