Haute Hot Chocolate: Unabashedly Thick, Rich And Indulgent

Liquid dessert? Chocolate drink? Divine indulgence? Whatever it’s called, one thing is certain: hot chocolate is not just for children anymore.

Operators across the nation are targeting the adult market, turning out thick, intensely flavored chocolate drinks created for sophisticated consumers with a soft spot for sweets.

“We did trend research and saw burgeoning interest in chocolate,” says Rob Grady, director of hot beverages for Seattle-based Starbucks, which in January introduced Chantico. “We thought we could add something special to the market.”

Chantico is billed as a “drinkable dessert.” The dense, velvety beverage is served in 6-ounce cups–the smallest beverage the chain dispenses. “We were looking for something premium, authentic and grounded in the roots of chocolate,” says Grady. “And we wanted something that matched the preferences of our consumers: a dark, intense chocolate.”

Au Bon Pain also believes consumers are ready to sip some serious chocolate. The Boston-based chain this year introduced its Choco Bon Loco line as part of a push to upgrade drink offerings.

Two flavors are offered: bittersweet, and spiced, zipped up with chiles and cinnamon. Both are blends of three types of European chocolate, steamed milk and vanilla. The chain, which promotes them as “a crazy chocolate experience,” expects the taste for Choco Bon Loco to continue long after winter ends. “It’s a chocolate drink,” insists Jim Fisher, vice president of marketing for the 230-unit chain. “It’s not hot chocolate.”

Choco Bon Loco targets customers looking for the next new thing. “As we travel around New York City, we see that are becoming popular. We anticipate growth in consumer interest,” Fisher explains.

Chocolate is a universal flavor, one that Max Brenner believes transcends all cultures. “The cliche about everyone loving chocolate really is true,” he says. Later this year, Brenner will open the first Max Brenner Chocolate Bar in New York City; a dozen units already are scattered across the globe, with eight in Australia. Chocolate drinks–straight and gently laced with liqueurs–desserts and pastries will be the menu mainstays.

A WARMING TREND

Long before chains began dressing up hot chocolate, independent operators were melting chocolate for grown-up tastes.

Maury Rubin, owner of New York City’s City Bakery, is so enamored of the winter warmer that he celebrates it with a month-long festival. During February, each day’s menu features a different version of the drink–bourbon hot chocolate, ginger hot chocolate and Love Potion Hot Chocolate among them. An essay contest asks people to weigh in on philosophical issues such as when to eat the marshmallow–before or after the drink is quaffed.

NoMI, the fine-dining restaurant in the Park Hyatt Chicago hotel, warms customers with Haut Chocolate Chaud, a wintertime menu showcasing five hot chocolate drinks.

Aztec Elixir–a blend of dark chocolate, ancho and chipotle chiles, Mexican vanilla and cinnamon served in a margarita glass and garnished with a chocolate-covered marshmallow–is the most popular drink, while Truffles a Trois is the “most aesthetically wow,” according to Alli Engelman, the hotel’s director of marketing and communications.

Haut Chocolate Chaud has been a hit. “People have gone crazy over it,” says Engelman. “It definitely has increased our nonalcoholic business in the lounge.”

Patrons at Chicago’s Angel Food Bakery go crazy over Barthelona hot chocolate. To fully appreciate it, they put down the cup and pick up a spoon.

“We cook it until it is very thick and chocolaty, and serve it with house-made vanilla bean whipped cream,” says Owner Stephanie Samuels, who modeled the drink after those she sampled in Spain.

Samuels imports solid chocolate, heats it with whole milk, and offers the drink in 3 1/2- and 10-ounce sizes.

INFINITE POSSIBILITIES

In San Diego, where the weather nearly always says “summertime,” Chi Chocolat patrons don’t think twice about trying its creamy hot chocolate. Owner Susan Luo serves earthy-rich cups of both milk- and dark-chocolate varieties. She also brews a line of chocolate-spiked espresso drinks.

Dana Taylor Davenport says people in Seattle have been trying “an almost infinite number” of hot chocolate drinks since 1977, when he opened Dilettante Chocolates Cafe & Patisserie. Today, he serves them at the flagship and at four Seattle-area Dilettante Mocha Cafes.

“Chocolate in general appeals on the basis of color and sugar intensity,” explains Davenport, a third-generation chocolatier and president of Dilettante Chocolates. “We want to provide choices.”

Guests can select hot chocolate made from molten chocolate, chocolate truffles mixed with cream or from cocoa. Options exist within each category.

Molten chocolate drinks come in white, milk and dark chocolate varieties. “And once people get used to the choices, they start mixing and matching,” says Davenport. “They’ll ask for two pumps of milk chocolate, one pump of dark chocolate.”

A 3 1/2-ounce Cioccobreve, made with molten chocolate and half-and-half “goes down like silk.”

“It’s a beautiful drink,” boasts Davenport, who is equally proud of his Ciocco Grande, a drink that allows diners to add the molten chocolate of their choice to steaming mugs of milk.

“That’s for people who want to make an extended occasion out of their hot chocolate,” he explains.

Children don’t dawdle over chocolate. But grown-ups, increasingly, are doing just that.

26% Percent of foodservice operations that menu hot chocolate or hot cocoa, with 39% of college and university operators featuring the drinks. (R&I 2003 Menu Census)

All American

Liquid chocolate drinks may be in the news, but plenty of consumers still put their money on traditional hot cocoa.

At Port City Java, hot cocoa is made with premium American dark or white chocolate sauce, whole milk and marshmallow, topped with whipped cream.

The Wilmington, N.C.-based chain also does a big business with Mochaccino, made with premium chocolate sauce, coffee, whole milk and whipped cream.

Approximately 60% of the hot cocoa drinkers choose dark chocolate, and 40% white, according to Port City COO Don Reynolds. Both versions are sold in 12-, 16- and 20-ounce sizes. The smallest of the trio contains 532 calories, but most consumers aren’t concerned.

“We brought out the 20-ounce size four years ago, and got the shock of our lives,” says Reynolds. “I’m still amazed at how many of them we sell.”

Too Haute to Handle

For those who take hot chocolate seriously–very, very seriously–the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City offers what may be the ultimate indulgence.

For its Grand America Chocolat tasting, Executive Pastry Chef Kurtis Baguley has whipped up a tasting of three hot chocolates, each made with an exclusive, super-premium chocolate and served in a porcelain demitasse cup with original designs. Served with a few tea-time treats, the tab for the drinks is $500. Not to worry, though–guests get to take the demitasse cups home.

Here’s the formula Baguley uses: Combine 2 cups half-and-half cream, 1 cup water, 2 1/2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder and half a vanilla bean and heat just to a boil. Turn to a simmer and stir in 3 1/2 oz. each of finely chopped bittersweet chocolate and semisweet chocolate. Stir until smooth. Remove from heat and strain. Reheat gently at service.…

Any Ideas for Vegetarian Fare?

To offer non-meat eaters something more than mashed potatoes, try a multitasking recipe that works as both a tasty side and a satisfying entree.

BUTTERNUT SQUASH WITH CUMIN COUSCOUS

hands-on time: 20 minutes

total time: 50 minutes

serves 6 to 8

1 butternut squash (2 pounds)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large yellow onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 cup canned diced tomatoes

1/3 cup dark or golden raisins

1 32-ounce container vegetable broth

1 15.5-ounce can chickpeas, drained

2 teaspoons kosher salt

11/2 cups couscous

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

1/4 cup (1 ounce) almonds, chopped

Halve and peel the squash. Remove the seeds and cut the squash into 1-inch chunks. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, cayenne, cinnamon, nutmeg, and 1/2 teaspoon of the cumin and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the squash, tomatoes, raisins, broth, chickpeas, and 11/2 teaspoons of the salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Uncover and cook until the squash is tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, bring 11/2 cups water and the remaining cumin and salt to a boil. Stir in the couscous. Cover, remove from heat, and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Divide the couscous among individual bowls and ladle the squash over the top. Sprinkle with the parsley and almonds.

BAKED POLENTA WITH MUSHROOMS AND GORGONZOLA

hands-on time: 30 minutes

total time: 45 minutes

serves 6 to 8

11/2 cups instant polenta

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus more for the dish

1/2 cup (4 ounces) cream cheese

1 cup (4 ounces) crumbled Gorgonzola

4 tablespoons olive oil

11/2 pounds cremini or button mushrooms, stems discarded and caps thinly sliced

1 small shallot, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

Heat oven to 350deg F. Bring 41/2 cups water to a boil. Whisking constantly, slowly add the polenta. Add 11/2 teaspoons of the salt and the butter. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently, for 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the cream cheese and 1/2 cup of the Gorgonzola. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, over medium-high heat, warm 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add half the mushrooms and cook for 6 minutes. Add half the shallot and cook for 2 minutes more. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining oil, mushrooms, and shallot. Season the mushrooms with the pepper, thyme, and the remaining salt. Butter an 8- or 9-inch baking dish or eight 6-ounce ramekins. Stir 2/3 of the mushrooms into the polenta and transfer to the prepared dish or ramekins. Top with the remaining mushrooms and Gorgonzola. Bake, uncovered, until the Gorgonzola has melted, about 15 minutes.

STEWY WHITE BEANS

hands-on time: 20 minutes

total time: 40 minutes

serves 6 to 8

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 small shallots, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 pound mustard greens or kale, stems removed and leaves sliced into 1-inch strips Juice from 1 lemon

2 teaspoons light brown sugar

1 bay leaf

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 14.5-ounce can vegetable broth

1 28-ounce can whole or diced tomatoes, undrained

1 15-ounce can white beans, drained

11/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-low heat. Add the shallots and cook for 4 minutes. Add the garlic and greens and cook, stirring frequently, until the greens begin to wilt, 3 to 5 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice, the brown sugar, bay leaf, red pepper, broth, and tomatoes and their juices. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer gently until the greens are tender, about 15 minutes. Add the beans and cook for 5 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Season with the salt, black pepper, and (if desired) the remaining lemon juice.

VEGETABLE SHEPHERD’S PIE

hands-on time: 30 minutes

total time: 50 minutes

serves 6 to 8

2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks

1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced

2 parsnips, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick

2 stalks celery, sliced 1/4 inch thick

2 medium fennel bulbs, cut into a 1/2-inch dice

2 cups Brussels sprouts, halved

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 14.5-ounce can vegetable broth

3 cups fresh spinach or torn Swiss chard leaves (optional) Pinch ground nutmeg

Place the sweet potatoes and 1 tablespoon of the salt in a large pot. Add enough cold water to cover. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, over medium-low heat, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. Add the onion and cook for 10 minutes. Add the parsnips, celery, fennel, Brussels sprouts, parsley, pepper, and the remaining salt and toss. Add the broth, increase heat, and simmer until the vegetables are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Add the spinach or Swiss chard (if using) and stir until wilted. Remove from heat. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the vegetables to a casserole or 9-inch pie plate. Drain the potatoes and return to pot. Add the remaining butter and mash until smooth. Spread the mashed potatoes over the vegetables. Set broiler on high. Broil until lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle with the nutmeg.…

Protein Proposals: Wedding Dietary Proteins

The days when athletes and bodybuilders bulked up by drinking a cup of egg whites are not too far-gone. Additionally, vegetarians still rely on textured proteins for meat substitutes. All the same, after the advent of lowcarb/high-protein diets, the variety, quality, and usefulness of protein sources have increased dramatically. While some information about the health benefits of proteins is “tried and true,” the world of protein possibilities is still unclear.

“Whey, soy and milk proteins are very high-quality proteins, yet each is unique,” says Shannon L. Koski, manager of protein applications for a protein supplier. “Whey proteins long have been a popular source of high-quality protein. The flavor is favorable, making it easy to formulate into products.”

“Consumers may not realize the differences in digestion patterns or advantages of different forms of protein, but they do know that protein is a healthy part of the diet and should be consumed,” says Koski.

An article on the Harvard School of Public Health’s website informs that adults need a minimum of 1g of protein for every kilogram of body weight per day to keep from slowly breaking down their own tissues. That equals about 9g of protein for every 20 pounds.

“The Atkins craze heightened awareness of proteins in more mainstream applications,” notes Koski. Indeed, a search on Mintel International’s Global New Products Database (GNPD) for the phrase “’soy protein isolate’ (SPI) or ‘whey protein isolate’” (WPI) on the label, reports that 1,023 new items (new products, new variety/range extensions or new formulations) were introduced in the U.S. alone between May 2003 and May 2006. Of those 1,023 new introductions, 906 contained SPI, 329 included WPI, and 375 had both WPI and SPI.

“As far as specific health attributes associated with proteins, I believe consumers are most aware of the relationship between soy protein and heart health, thanks to the FDA heart health claim,” says Koski. In 1999, the FDA approved a heart health claim for packaging labels that stated: “Diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol that include 25g of soy protein a day may reduce the risk of heart disease.” Originally, the American Heart Association (AHA) also approved this statement.

“The label claims associated with soy proteins are numerous, and have been instrumental in building the market for all types of soy protein-enhanced foods,” says Koski.

New Soy Suggestions

However, in early 2006, the AHA concluded that soy protein has little or no effect on risk factors for heart disease. The “change of heart” came after the AHA analyzed 22 clinical trials and found that large amounts of soy protein in the diet reduced LDL (bad) cholesterol by only 3% and had no effect on HDL (good) cholesterol, nor did soy protein or isoflavones lessen menopause symptoms.

However, consumers should not “harden their hearts” to consuming soy proteins. Many other studies including the INTERMAP study, a cross-sectional epidemiological study of 4,680 persons, aged 40 to 59, from four countries, reported that vegetable protein intake was inversely related to blood pressure. In other words, as reported in the January 2006 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, “these results consistent with recommendations that a diet high in vegetable products be a part of a healthy lifestyle for prevention of high blood pressure and related diseases.”

“Soy protein has been found to have many biologically active benefits,” says Koski.

Proteins seem to play an important role in many emerging health arenas. For instance, foods with higher protein contents are more favorable in terms of glycemic load. It has been established that the addition of protein will generally reduce the Glycemic Index (GI) of the meal. Additionally, a high-protein diet induces sustained reductions in appetite. “It can appeal to consumers who may not prefer dairy proteins.”

Nuts also provide a high source of protein and a complete package of benefits, which include fiber and mono-and poly-unsaturated fatty acids. The FDA approves the following statement for nuts: “Eating a diet that includes 1oz. of nuts daily can reduce your risk of heart disease.”

Protein Functionality

Although health is generally the topic taking up most of the attention, manufacturers also are choosing to add proteins for functionality. “In ready-to-drink beverages, milk and soy proteins can add viscosity and mouthfeel without adding unnecessary fat,” says Koski. Additionally, soy proteins can bind water and act as emulsifiers in meat injection applications.

Whey proteins have a desirable combination of hydrophobicity and hydrophilicity, letting them serve as emulsifiers that coat fat globules and prevent coalescence. When the protein is denatured, the hydrophobic groups in the interior become exposed, and the protein can stabilize emulsions. Additionally, milk proteins have a bland flavor profile and creamy white appearance, making them ideal for milky beverages and shakes.

Microparticulated protein products (made from whey protein or milk and egg protein) are tiny, spherical particles, which can provide a creamy mouthfeel similar to fats. Although not suitable for use in fried foods, these fat replacers provide 1Kcal/g to 4Kcal/g. For example, 1g of protein-based fat mimetics can replace 3g of fat in cream, according to information found on the website www.caloriecontrolcouncil.org. Protein blends combining animal or vegetable protein, gums, food starch, and water are used in frozen desserts and baked goods as fat mimetics. Articles from the International Journal of Food Science and Technology report that a combination of protein, starches, and hydrocolloids may have synergistic effects for lowering fat and retaining textural characteristics of the products.

Now that the low-carbohydrate phenomenon has passed, protein is more useful than ever. Consumers are more aware of the health benefits of protein, and manufacturers can view proteins as a useful tool for emulsification, fat-reduction, and texturization.…

Chewing The Fat: A Guide To Fats: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly.

During this launch period, 16-year-old Austin K., of California, Md., bit into a cream-filled pastry that practically oozed fat. Austin joked that the rich dessert was “a heart attack wrapped in plastic.” But it tasted so good! Should he have trashed the treat?

The abundance of information about fats, trans fats, and lowfat diets in the news and in ads is enough to give teens like Austin a big fat headache. What’s the real story? Is it OK to eat fats, or should you steer clear completely?

Fats: Oh No or OK?

“Your body needs fats to be healthy,” explains Roberta Anding, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and a registered dietitian at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston. As a matter of fact, some fats are good; they give your body energy and help it absorb nutrients such as vitamins A, D, E, and K. As you might guess, other fats are not so good. Eat too much of those and not only will you find it tougher to fit into your jeans, but you could also be paving the way to heart disease, obesity, and even cancer.

So if, like Austin, you treat yourself to a fatty food today, skip the guilt trip–but know your limits. Teens should keep fat intake to between 25 percent and 35 percent of total daily calories, according to the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. One gram of fat equals 9 calories. If you typically consume 2,000 calories per day, then you need between 56 and 78 grams of fat. (You might need fewer calories if you don’t get much physical activity, more if you exercise a lot.)

Choose Wisely

The key to sorting through confusion about fat is to learn about the different kinds and to make smart decisions about which ones to consume. That surprises Kathleen L., 14, of Oaks, Pa. “I’ve never thought about fats as a good thing,” says Kathleen, who is studying nutrition in her cooking class at school. The three main types of fatty acids have different effects on levels of cholesterol. Cholesterol is a fatty substance in the blood and tissues of the body. Although cholesterol is important for your health, it can sometimes pose health problems.

Unsaturated fats, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, don’t raise cholesterol levels. Some studies suggest that unsaturated fats might help lower LDL cholesterol.

Saturated fats raise the amount of harmful cholesterol (LDL) in the blood. This type of cholesterol clogs arteries and can increase the risk of developing heart disease.

Trans fats raise LDL cholesterol levels, possibly even more than saturated fats do. Trans fats also tend to lower the healthy kind of cholesterol (HDL). Nutrition officials say there is no safe amount of trans fats–avoid them as much as possible.

Plan Ahead

It’s not always easy for teens to be smart and choosy about fats, especially when a busy schedule leaves no time to eat well. Skipping meals may lead to an intense desire for fatty foods, says Jean Antonello, the author of Naturally Thin Kids. “Kids [who] crave double cheeseburgers because of excessive hunger are probably not interested in watching the type of fat they are taking in.”

“Eat as healthy as possible when you’re at home and friends aren’t around,” suggests Robert Kowalski, the author of The New 8-Week Cholesterol Cure. “Before you go out to a party, have a handful of grapes or trail mix. You’ll be less likely to eat too much of the high-fat foods that are often served.”

It might seem like too big a hassle to eat healthily, but the effort pays off. “Heart disease starts in childhood and expresses itself in adulthood,” says Anding. (For more on this killer, read “Breaking the Heart” on page 26.) “Filling up with saturated or trans fats puts sludge in the arteries that contribute to heart disease. Nobody puts sludge in their car’s gas tank and expects good performance. Our bodies work the same way.”

FAT FINDER

A look at the fats in your favorite foods

UNSATURATED FATS

OK amount: At least 36 grams, or two-thirds of total daily fat intake

Mostly in oils from plants. Polyunsaturated fats are in nuts, corn, soybeans, and their oils. Fish such as salmon and tuna contain polyunsaturated fats as well as omega-3 fatty acids, which protect against heart disease. Monounsaturated fats are present in canola oil, olive oil, peanut oil, avocados, and almonds.

SATURATED FATS

OK amount: Less than 26 grams, or one-third of total daily fat intake

Occur mostly in animal products, such as meat, butter, cream, cheeses, and other dairy products made from whole milk. Saturated fats are also found in tropical oils such as coconut oil and palm kernel oil.

TRANS FATS

No acceptable amount

Found in many kinds of margarine, crackers, baked goods, and other foods made with or fried in partially hydrogenated oils (such as French fries and store-bought cookies)

JUST THE FACTS

You can easily determine a food’s fat content by reading the Nutrition Facts label. Since Jan. 1, 2006, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has required food manufacturers to list trans fat alongside total fat and saturated fat. But beware: Manufacturers are allowed to add half a gram of trans fat per serving to their foods and still boast “zero trans fats.”

“Look at the ingredient list,” advises nutrition expert Robert Kowalski. “If ‘partially hydrogenated oil’ is listed, assume … half a gram has been added.”

“Choose the food you like that has the lowest amounts of saturated fat and trans fat listed on its label,” advises dietitian Roberta Anding.

LOOK AT FATS

This macaroni and cheese seem healthy enough. With 12 grams of fat and 3 grams of saturated fat, it appears acceptable for a teen’s diet. But watch out! See those 3 grams of trans fat? That’s 3 too many!

THE BIG PICTURE The bottom of the label shows how the fats above fit into daily totals.

Discuss

* Are fats good or bad for you? (Both. Your body needs some fat for energy, help in absorbing nutrients, and other processes. But the wrong kinds of fats can predispose you to heart disease, obesity, or cancer.)

* If you typically consume 2,400 calories per day, what should your fat intake be? (Between 600 and 840 of your daily calories should come from fat; that’s about 67 to 93 grams of fat.)

* You’re deciding between two snacks: a candy bar or a bag of peanuts. How can you make a healthy choice? (Answers will vary but may include the following: Compare the fat content on each product’s label, look at the ingredient list for sources of unhealthy fat, estimate your fat total for that day and how much you can “spare. “‘)

Do

Ask a local dietitian to speak to your class. He or she can provide more information about the differences between various fats, the good and harm they can do, and the foods in which they are found. Have the dietitian suggest ways in which students can replace the unhealthy fats in their diets. Bring in a recipe for a high-fat treat, like fudge brownies or nachos with the works, and ask the speaker to modify its fat content to be healthier. Then make the treat for the class (or ask for a volunteer to do so) so students can see how tasty healthy food can be!…