Monday, February 04, 2008

Hot Chocolate Choices

Drop two squares of 70% chocolate into the bottom of a mug of whole milk. Microwave mug for two and a half minutes. Add kahlua or amaretto for supreme tastiness. Stir. Enjoy. Best when made by other half as an evening treat.

But if you are not at home with ingredients before you, there are other options in town. The best hot chocolate I've tasted in Prague came from Pavilon Kavarna on Vinohradská. We wound up there by chance, when we found the cukarna (sweet shop) we'd picked for Caroline’s after recital celebration closed on a Sunday. The café’s coffee is good, their ice cream okay, their hot chocolate delicious. I ordered the double with a touch of Grand Marnier. It had a hefty price tag - 85 CZK/$4.85 - but it came in its own pot and served three cups worth. It met our hot chocolate recipe and raised it (steamed milk makes real hot chocolate sublime). A single, without Grand Marnier, cost 55 CZK/$3.15.

A few weekends ago we took Caroline ice skating at Hockey Hvezda, a typical Czech bunker-style ice rink used mostly by hockey players, but open to the public at random times during the week. I was banned from the rink for balance reasons, so I watched Caroline through the windows of the pub set conveniently close to the children’s corner. To pay for my spot, I ordered a hot chocolate. The pub owner finished topping up the beer from the order in front of me and then (to my astonishment) turned to an espresso machine and foamed steamed milk into a mug. He added a powder mix, but the steamed milk made it the tastiest powdered cocoa I remember. I paid my 25 CZK/$1.43, took mug in hand, and turned back to watching Caroline play chase across the ice with her friends. There are plenty of places to skate in town, but thanks to the cocoa, I'd go back anytime we can fit into their schedule and not fall asleep - weekends, the ice is open from 6 to 8:15 pm, and 11 to midnight.

Then today, after a business lunch, I persuaded my colleague to walk into the new Starbucks with me. It was my first trip (illnesses have abounded in our house since it opened, keeping me on our side of the river) and I knew he’d get a kick out of critiquing the design and layout. It is a beautiful space - an old coffee house with arched ceilings and small rooms still intact. But it feels oddly neutral, not quite a Starbucks, nor the café it used to be. A bag of beans costs more than 10 dollars. I passed it up and tried the hot chocolate. A tall cost 80 CZK/$4.70. It arrived lukewarm with whipped cream on top. I won't be trying the chocolate again, but I’ll give them another chance when I’m a bona fide coffee drinker again.

In the meantime, our microwave beckons.

Kavarna Pavilon - Vinohradská 50, Praha 2
Hockey Hvezda - Na rozdilu 1, Praha 6
Starbucks Prague - Malostranske nám. 28

1 comment:

Kelly said...

We definitely must go to the hot chocolate ice rink. Let me know about Saturday :) I can't decide if I want to try Starbucks or not! I'm torn... On my walk home I'm pinpointing the Vinohradska place :)