Baby, It's Cold Outside—Westchester's Hottest Hot Chocolates
Plus: Salep and other Turkish delights at Legume Gourmet Market; the best juices, smoothies, and raw foods.
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Warm Up with Westchester's Best Hot Chocolate
We're in for the long haul, folks. The groundhog won't even give you the time of day for another month, and another car just drove by and splattered you with slush. Now's the time to warm your hands on a cup of hot chocolate—and if you're going to have it, have the best:
The Newcomer: At Blue Tulip Chocolate (Rye), Diane Holland makes some of the richest, thickest hot chocolate you've ever tasted, in dark, milk, and caramel, with raspberry and seasonal flavors to come. With whole milk and a bit of cream, she blends chocolate by flavor: Valrhona and Belcolade, sometimes Venezuelan, for the dark. The stuff’s good even cold, but grab a seat and relax.
» What else to get: Truffles, not shy about their flavors.
The Local Legend: Angela Ingrao’s hot chocolate at Cocoa (Larchmont) Lis still a revelation: creamy lava of Belgian chocolate, with an optional homemade marshmallow or unsweetened whipped cream. The same beverage, minus the marshmallow, is served at Bread & Cocoa across the street, where it also comes in peppermint and I-warned-you hot cinnamon cayenne.
» What else to get: A croissant fresh out of the oven at Bread & Cocoa.
The Sophisticate: Tarry Market’s (Port Chester) hot chocolate—more precisely, hot cocoa, made with cocoa power—might just be my favorite: thinner, with restrained sweetness and a hint of cinnamon, its milk steamed into foam with a sweet little picture of a heart. Sit down at the cafe and savor the foodie geek vibes.
» What else to get: Focaccia from the market (try the olive/onion).
The Hipster: Coffee Labs Roasters (Tarrytown) chops up a hefty two-pound Chef’s Tablet of Mast Brothers dark chocolate (from the package: “tasting notes: red wine, plum, tobacco”), mixes it with the milk of your choice and organic sugar, and steams and whisks it into a fabulous froth that stops short of being too thick or too sweet.
» What else to get: A bag of Nicaraguan or El Salvadorian beans roasted right there by the tables.
Honorable Mention: To Murray's Ice Cream (Harrison) for a sort of hot chocolate affogato (ice cream in hot chocolate), with the suggested ice cream flavor of green mint…To Cafe 72 (Tuckahoe) for bittersweet hot chocolate "gently perfumed by cinnamon and vanilla, topped with whipped cream and cinnamon."…To the Port Chester Paleteria Fernandez for champurrado, a Mexican hot chocolate made with corn flour…To Lilli Pilli Health Bar (White Plains) for cacao bean hot chocolate made with raw cacao and espresso.
» What else to get: Coffee ice cubes at Cafe 72. ‘Tis not the season for ice, but the stash of plastic cups filled with ice cubes made out of coffee just adds to this place’s quirky charm. The P & J bites also have a mysterious allure.
Legume Gourmet Market Opens in Mamaroneck
Turkish food fans will be delighted that Turkish Meze has opened a store across the street, offering not only produce and packaged goods but soups, bagels, wraps, and delicious appetizers and desserts from the restaurant, with plans for a salad bar, fresh-squeezed juice, and coffee with warm milk—all within shouting distance of the train. (After a decade of trying to find a consistent cup of coffee near that station—well, let's just say there's a reason I invested in a French press and a travel mug.) But don't stop at bagels and baklava—explore the shelves. You'll find pide bread and simit ("Turkish bagel"), a dairy section with cheeses including kashaval, kasseri, and smoked sulguni, and stuffed grape leaves and Moroccan sardines facing off with sour cherry and fig preserves. A freezer holds not only phyllo dough but yufka, including pre-cut triangles for making sigara borek, and packaged cheese and spinach pies. Revel in 14 choices of Turkish delight, including mastic, double-roasted pistachio, and hazelnut, or try something different, like white Turkish cotton candy. Better yet, prepare a cup of very good instant salep (a traditional drink made with milk and ground orchid tubers) and take that to the train, or bring home stacking kettles and try your hand at Turkish tea.
Westchester’s Best Juices, Smoothies, and Raw Foods
Damn you, little pigs in blankets at the mall. Spring break is calling, and it wants your figure back. If your resolution includes detox and you're ready to take a flying leap over low fat, whole grain, even vegetarian, into downright rabbit food, and by that I mean raw—excuse me, live, living—several places can help you out with that in relatively palatable fashion. (Let's also talk mostly raw—we're not purists here.)
Lilli Pilli Health Bar: If "gourmet" applies to juicing, it's here, with blends venturing beyond the ordinary. A virtual pharmacopeia of bottled juices is made by cold pressing, said to yield more nutrients: try Refresh, a sweet combo of pineapple, bok choy, apple, and mint, or Replenish, a crisp mix of coconut water, cucumber, pineapple, and Himalayan salt. Mint chlorophyll water might be just the thing after a workout; smoothies include a popular Key Lime Pie. For a healthy milk moustache, get the flavorful Cashew Mylk: raw organic cashews, ultra-filtered water, cinnamon, vanilla, and agave. (The cacao version is a bit chalky, as tends to happen with raw cacao.) They also have a cafe menu and more seats than most juice joints.
Andy's Pure Food welcomes you with a spread of raw (and cooked) dishes, juices, and vegan smoothies, and this wonderful sight: a pile of young coconuts, straw-ready so you can sip your coconut water right from the source. The coconut shake combines the water and meat with optional fruit or cacao (throw in some stevia). Raw dishes include chopped veggie blends, spicy almond sauce, chia pudding, and vegan cheesecake. But for true raw decadence, get the ChocAlive! truffles.
O2 Live Food Café offers the best in destination juicing—it's part of Yellow Monkey Village, which includes an antique store, yoga studio, and boutique. The cafe serves salads and gently warmed "hot live food," including spring rolls and a flatbread pizza. Of the bottled juices, I enjoyed Red Radiance Liver Purifier (strawberry, beet, apple) and Almond Envy (almond, cinnamon, nutmeg, and dates). Like the places above, they can set you up with a juice cleanse.
Boutique bottled juices go for almost $10 a pop. Will prices soon rival movie admission? On to the chains...
Red Mango is the place for smoothies: stevia sweetened and dairy free, or yogurt based with live probiotics. Boosts include green tea acai and dark chocolate mate. Non-dairy Berry Medley Hibiscus’ hit of lychee can transport you out of our locale for a few moments. Small sizes ($4.45) and kids' smoothies ($3.75) are a plus.
Starbucks' Evolution Fresh cold-pressed juices are surprisingly good. Super Green ($4.95) won our taste test, with orange/mango/apple/pineapple/raspberry preceding a painless wallop of spirulina/chlorella/wheatgrass/barley grass/dulse (points for seaweed). But can you really go in and pass up your latte? Buy a juice too and stash it in the fridge.
Robeks in New Rochelle keeps things fresh with seasonal drinks, currently featuring kiwi, parsley, and grapes. My regular favorites are Evergreen and Passionfruit Cove. But I was dismayed to learn that Passionfruit Cove contains sherbet, listed in the printed menu but not on the big menu overhead. In fact, almost all fruit drinks contain yogurt or sherbet, and you have to pay an extra 50 cents for them to leave it out. Snacks include Stacy's Pita Chips—I get parmesan/garlic to round out the liquid meal (and if that's what gets you through the door, go for it).
We haven't even mentioned Mrs. Green's and Whole Foods. Add some of these stops to your usual route and you might just find yourself glowing before Valentine's Day.