Chocolate vs. Those Damned ’Ronas

How about some comfort for you while weathering the current situation?

If anything can help you through the struggles induced by these lousy pandemic times of ours, citizen, we’ll suggest that one of those things is chocolate – the ultimate comfort food.

Verve Culture's Mexican Hot Chocolate Gift Set

We recently (although it seems like ages ago, now, doesn’t it?) told you about the good folks of Madhu Chocolate; and have noted that the award-winning SRSLY Chocolate company has teamed with Black Star Co-op to ferment up a delicious choco-inflected brewski; and surely you’re aware of Delysia Chocolatier’s current virtual tasting series that’s brought this city a depth of (sometimes wine-paired!) flavors …?

And of course there are those female artisans of Mia Chocolates in their “sweet little kitchen, tucked away in the green hills of Austin, creating songs in dark chocolate with notes of pure sweet richness.” And longtime choco-guru Miles of Chocolate, whose baked chocolate dessert is a five-time Chronicle Restaurant Poll winner that you can find (if you’re lucky) at Central Market or Whole Foods.

(There’s also something in town called Chocolate Lab – which we got all excited about for a minute, imagining a cocoa-centric version of Willy Wonka’s fabled factory – but it turned out to be just somebody’s brown doggo.)

And you could always get in touch with the gourmand-pleasing crew at Intero. Yes, Intero – that terrific Italian restaurant, helmed by Ian Thurwachter, on Cesar Chavez. Because their pastry chef, Krystal Craig, who chef Ian has the good fortune to be married to? She’s a chocolatier par excellence … and maybe, if the place isn’t too busy, available for custom dessert work.

And occasionally there are notable products from beyond the ATX, too – chocolatey delights that make their way over our office’s transom and turn out to be worth sounding a lipsmacking huzzah about. Here’s three examples right now:

1. MEXICAN HOT CHOCOLATE GIFT SET “Chocoholics are quite discerning when it comes to chocolate,” we’re told. “They know sugary cocoa powders can't compare to the authentic, complex flavors of authentic Mexican hot chocolate.” And, actually, we’ve always opted for the Mexican over the Dutch chocolate when getting our lattes spiked at Epoch – so we concur with this assessment of the south-of-the-border concoction. And when we want to gift friends or family with an impressive manifestation of that tasty truth – like, big-gift them, especially for a birthday or at Christmas time – we’ll be sending them this Mexican Hot Chocolate Gift Set from Verve Culture. This package comes with a generous bag of traditionally made chocolate that’s rich with flavor and subtle with spice, a hand-carved wooden molinillo, and an artisanal Mexican clay jug. No, for real – a big, beautifully sculpted, interiorly glazed, terra cotta jug to serve the hot chocolate from. This is definitely something to surprise your favorite chocoholic darlings with.

2. OATSOME Because we’re not lactose intolerant, but we’re curious, you know? And so we try, every now and then, these so-called soy milks and rice milks and nut milks that are on the market. And they’re pretty good, some of them, tbh. But they’ve all had one thing in common: They don’t taste like milk, really – they taste like soy or rice or whatever nut they’re made from, ultimately, and if they’re extra well made they might have a mouthfeel approximating that of actual milk. Which is fine, if that’s what you’re looking for, right? Chacun son goût, n’est-ce pas? But, now, oat milk? Oat milk is the non-lactose drink we’ve found that’s closest to the real McCoy. And oat milk is also just good in and of itself, is our opinion. And this Oatsome brand is our favorite so far. And (here’s the point) there’s a delicious Oatsome chocolate milk available that’ll put one hell of a big smile on your milk-gulping face. Whether you like it cold or hot, whether your body’s not friendly with animal products or you’ll bloody well enjoy whatever you please in all circumstances, yeah, this stuff may wind up as your best new drinking buddy.

3. DARK CHOCOLATE ALMOND SPREAD If we were Nutella aficionados, we wouldn’t even mention this. Because Nutella aficionados, we’ve learned, are downright rabid about that stuff and won’t tolerate any naysayers, are unlikely to dilute their fervid loyalty to the chocolatey European spread. But we’re not Nutella aficionados, okay? Because we simply … don’t like … the taste of … hazelnuts. We don’t like that taste when it’s stupidly added as an unnecessary “flavoring” to coffee, and we don’t like it when it’s mixed in with chocolate as a sandwich or pastry spread or whatever. What we do like – duh – is chocolate. So, if only there was some kind of choco-spread that used a different nut butter, a spread made from nuts with a flavor that we actually crave, right? Like, say, almonds. Wouldn’t that be great? Wouldn’t we eat that, happily, all the livelong day? Bingo: Broma’s organic Dark Chocolate Almond Spread: To the rescue, for the win, thank-you-very-much! Now, we’re not saying this Broma stuff is the best thing since sliced bread; but it’s one of the best things on sliced bread, tell you what. (Pro tip: Add a little raspberry jam and send your mouth to nirvana.)

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