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  • Hot Chocolate Restaurant

    Post #1 - March 24th, 2005, 11:11 pm
    Post #1 - March 24th, 2005, 11:11 pm Post #1 - March 24th, 2005, 11:11 pm
    Went to try Hot Chocolate.

    Started w/mussels done in a green curry, diced red pepper, creamy broth that I’m pretty sure contained coconut milk. Mussels were quite good and fresh, diced red pepper was not necessary except as eye appeal. The creamy curry was very good to dip the piece of crusty bread into.

    Next was Napoleon of Canasta Pardo consisting of crispy phyllo, caramelized apples and a date puree with shards of sharp, rich, moist cheddar cheese. The cheese was heavenly and as I ate, I came to the conclusion that I wanted only the cheese (and some more of that crusty bread). I think next time I will go with the cheese selection.

    Entrée of Kobe Beef. Unless the Gov has relaxed their laws, I did not think that true Japanese Kobe was allowed into the US, so I’ll assume it was Waygu or some American Kobe. Entrée consisted of seared Kobe skirt steak, string potato fries, olive oil roasted grape tomatoes w/a creamy mini cup of a cheese sauce not mentioned on the menu but I’m guessing some sort of gorgonzola. I was fortunate to have Kobe beef in Japan a few times but it was not skirt steak, it just melted in my mouth. The Kobe effect with this dish, a semi tough skirt steak was lost on me. None the less it is a good cut of beef and was even better w/a bit of the cheese sauce on it.

    With all that I only had room to try a small hot chocolate called a Black & Tan which is 1/3 hot fudge and 2/3 medium hot chocolate. Quite tasty, I wish I had room for the Banana, which was graham cracker tuiles layered w/caramelized bananas, roasted banana cream, butterscotch, hot fudge and a “one banana, two banana” surprise.

    Other starters included: Rabbit Rillette, Ruree (puree?) of Asparagus, Chopped Tuna Salad, Roasted Beet & Goat Cheese salad, Mixed Greens Salad.

    Other Entrées included: Brie in Brioche served warm with a salad of seasonal mushrooms, asparagus, and parsley. Tuna Melt sandwich with mayo, wild capers, roasted red peppers, havarti cheese on toasted ciabatta. Chicken and Bacon sandwich w/avocado and honey mustard aioli.

    As you can imagine with Mindy Segal, there are a ton of desserts and many people were ordering just the sweets.

    Don’t sit at the bar if you don’t have to, I found the chairs uncomfortable.

    The only real negative was the fork design. It just never fit well in my hand. First time I’ve ever had problems with utensils!

    Hot Chocolate
    1747 North Damen
    Chicago
    773.489.1747
    I did absolutely nothing and it was everything I thought it could be.
  • Post #2 - May 6th, 2005, 8:32 am
    Post #2 - May 6th, 2005, 8:32 am Post #2 - May 6th, 2005, 8:32 am
    Hot Chocolate is trendy and they're not trying to hide it. They shine like the "it" restaurant and the crowds show it. They have a pedigree and a marketing staff that landed them on Chicago Mag's 20 Best New list (see Mike G's spot-on commentary).

    I had the opportunity to eat way more then my share there recently and I can say that they do a darn good job. The savory dishes are above-average American-contemporary cafe food, nothing I'd particularly go out of my way for. Overall, a solid Bucktown dinner option. But it's the last course that makes Mindy Segal shine. In spite of the hype, these are some of the best desserts I've had in a while in a pretty comfortable setting. For a more detailed account, I've shared my recent blog entry below.

    Best,
    Michael / EC

    EatChicago.net wrote:5,000 Calories at Hot Chocolate

    That special hot-spot excitement has surrounded Mindy Segal's new café Hot Chocolate, since long before it opened. Segal's notable acclaim as a pastry chef combined with a trendy Bucktown location nearly guaranteed writeups in Chicago Magazine and Metromix. Now, the writeups have come and the people are lining up. I usually shy away from the big hotspots until some of the buzz dies down. This time, the promise of some of the best desserts in town took precedence and we chose an early dinner on an off-night.

    Full disclosure: Ms. EC and I had dinner with a couple other friends that night, one of which is a vendor for Hot Chocolate. Also, all four of us are friends with someone working in Hot Chocolate's kitchen. No one knew we would be there, our waiter didn't know us at all, and we didn't receive any special service other than some extra items sent to us from our friend in back.

    Even though we knew dessert was coming eventually, we wound up with quite a bit of savory food. Hot Chocolate carries a seasonal menu of appetizers that we were told changes every couple weeks. We were all surprised by the sweet and gooey cheddar cheese melts and I couldn't get enough of manila clams in a mild curry broth.

    In hindsight, our entrees were very good, but blurred by the furious onslaught of dessert. I think I remember eating a wagyu skirt steak sandwich and a bit of halibut and some buttery tallegio in a pastry crust, but my sugar rush clouded my memory. On to the sweets:

    Hot chocolate: Two types: "medium" strength and one that's mixed with espresso. Pretty darn good, maybe not five-bucks-a-cup good, but very rich with strong cocoa flavors. If you like hot chocolate, it should be on your list of "to try". If you don't have a list, start one (also add Angel Food Bakery to it).

    Mini brioche doughnuts: The clear winner for me. Small, warm, sugar-coated, brioche donuts (and their donut holes) with some hot fudge for dipping and some homemade caramel corn. There's nothing to complain about here. I ate one doughnut before I saw the hot fudge and it was still a great little treat. The hot fudge was a perfect example of gilding the lily, but that's what made it so good.

    Milkshakes and brownies: Four small shot glasses of milkshakes with four small slivers of brownies. The brownies are slightly fudgy and slightly sweet. They're the kind of brownies you could easily eat way too many of. They're for sale at the front counter to-go.

    Big Snickers : This looked a slice of a giant Snickers bar. It consisted of very chocolaty mousse and a semi-hard peanut-caramel brittle. Very good.

    Some banana thing: I barely remember this one in the storm of sweets. Bananas and grahams I think. Tasty but I was still staring at the doughnuts.

    We rolled ourselves out, vowing not to eat again for days.

    As a café, Hot Chocolate is a nice addition to Bucktown, a neighborhood that seems overrun with chains lately. The savory foods are comforting and enjoyable. As a dessert bakery and Mindy Segal showcase, it doesn't disappoint in the least. Segal is a pastry chef who understands her ingredients. She knows when to make something really sweet and when to back off and let the other flavors shine.

    In spite of its Chicago Mag hot-spot pedigree, I enjoyed Hot Chocolate. I probably wouldn't make a special trip if I lived far from Bucktown, but it's a nice dining option for that neighborhood with some excellent desserts. I'm told that the place can get packed (reservations not accepted) so I recommend doing what we did and visit on an off-night, preferably during a Bulls playoff game.

    Hot Chocolate is located at 1747 N. Damen (look carefully, it's easy to miss). No reservations (except for very large parties). Valet parking, and they're open for brunch on the weekends.
  • Post #3 - May 9th, 2005, 10:29 pm
    Post #3 - May 9th, 2005, 10:29 pm Post #3 - May 9th, 2005, 10:29 pm
    Just a data point from someone who could not care less about desserts:

    I had a very nice dinner at Hot Chocolate on Saturday evening. Even though we were not booked, and even though the place was packed, my dining companion and I were comfortably situated at the bar, after, oh, about a minute's wait. We each started with the signature Bacardi mojito, and for an appetizer we shared an order of clams & chorizo in saffron broth and a butter lettuce salad. For our mains, we both had the seared lamb loin with fresh fava beans and artichoke hearts. And, we both paired the main with the lovely "Big Fire" Pinot featured.

    To finish, my companion had the carrot cake, and I had the stout & caramel malt.

    Everything was quite good, with the lamb being a real standout.*

    There were no service glitches, whatsoever.

    I will be returning soon. And, often.**

    Regards,
    Erik M.

    * As mains went that evening, at $25 it was twice the price of nearly everything else, but it was an exceptional piece of meat.

    ** If you are a single, straight, and available male, I can tell you that Hot Chocolate is--for the time being, at least--a wonderland.
    Last edited by Erik M. on May 12th, 2005, 7:59 am, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #4 - May 10th, 2005, 8:04 pm
    Post #4 - May 10th, 2005, 8:04 pm Post #4 - May 10th, 2005, 8:04 pm
    I've been to Hot Chocolate twice. The first time was a few weeks ago. I don't remember for sure what I ordered, but I think it was the lamb and the "Chocolate" dessert. I didn't think either was anything special, and at ten dollars the dessert struck me as overpriced for its quality. Actually, though, I'd never been blown away by Mindy Segal's desserts at MK, either the downtown one or MK North.

    The second time was two days ago. I hadn't planned it, but happened to be in the neighborhood. I'd eaten a very large lunch (see the "Ed's Potsticker House" thread for details), so I just ordered soup and dessert. The soup was a potato puree and garlic soup, and had small cubes of potato. It was a perfectly fine soup: I couldn't taste much garlic, but that might have been because my lunch had been loaded with garlic. For dessert, I ordered the stout and caramel milkshake. This was quite interesting and unusual: the stout flavor was very evident, much more so than the caramel. All in all, it was a very good meal, particularly for eleven dollars (not counting tax and tip).
  • Post #5 - May 10th, 2005, 10:45 pm
    Post #5 - May 10th, 2005, 10:45 pm Post #5 - May 10th, 2005, 10:45 pm
    Erik M. wrote:** If you are a single, straight, and available male, I can tell you that Hot Chocolate is--for the time being, at least--a wonderland.

    I think there's a typo here, Erik -- or did you just forget "graying"? :twisted:
  • Post #6 - May 11th, 2005, 9:49 am
    Post #6 - May 11th, 2005, 9:49 am Post #6 - May 11th, 2005, 9:49 am
    Bob S. wrote:
    Erik M. wrote:** If you are a single, straight, and available male, I can tell you that Hot Chocolate is--for the time being, at least--a wonderland.

    I think there's a typo here, Erik -- or did you just forget "graying"? :twisted:


    If you are intimating that you find/found Hot Chocolate's female patrons to be decidedly, ahem, aged, well, that was certainly not the case on Saturday evening. There were loads of single 20&30-something single females at Hot Chocolate.* And, men were outnumbered nearly 2-1.

    If instead you are intimating that you find/found Hot Chocolate to be a playground for aging, single, straight, and available men, well, that is a unique perspective, Bob, but not one with which I am intimately familar-- being in my early thirties, and all. At any rate, from my seat at the bar, I would say that--on Saturday night, at least--the place belonged to 30-somethings.

    If you meant something entirely different by your statement, Bob, I do wish you would speak up.


    Erik M.

    * Perhaps that is not young enough for you, Bob, in which case, do us all a favour and keep it to yourself. :twisted:
    Last edited by Erik M. on May 12th, 2005, 8:00 am, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #7 - May 11th, 2005, 11:02 am
    Post #7 - May 11th, 2005, 11:02 am Post #7 - May 11th, 2005, 11:02 am
    I will merely say that my graying head and I have not yet been there. :mrgreen: (I looked for a gray emoticon but this was all I could find.)
    Last edited by Bob S. on May 23rd, 2005, 8:51 am, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #8 - May 22nd, 2005, 10:50 pm
    Post #8 - May 22nd, 2005, 10:50 pm Post #8 - May 22nd, 2005, 10:50 pm
    Today, I took my mother to Hot Chocolate for a belated Mother's Day brunch.

    There was a short wait for a table, but we elected to sit at the bar, and where there was no wait at all.*

    My mother ordered the brioche french toast with lemon curd cream and strawberry-rhubarb compote. This plate was accompanied by a pair of sage-flavoured breakfast sausages.

    I ordered the duck rillettes, fried duck egg, and pickled red onion sandwich. The bread for the sandwich was a housemade mini ciabatta loaf. The sandwich was plated with cubed hash-browned potatoes and a few pieces of fresh fruit.

    Both of these items were very enjoyable.


    Regards,
    Erik M.

    * I have always been the happiest with bar seating at Hot Chocolate. At the bar, service is ever-present, the seats are quite comfortable, and there is a good view of the room and the open kitchen.
  • Post #9 - June 26th, 2005, 10:27 am
    Post #9 - June 26th, 2005, 10:27 am Post #9 - June 26th, 2005, 10:27 am
    I had a(nother) very good meal at Hot Chocolate last night.* I started with the "Citrus Cooler," a signature cocktail made with Hangar One Mandarin Blossom Vodka. For my dinner, I took the bruschetta with pan-fried sardines, fresh mozzarella, and sliced beefsteak tomatoes and the fried green tomatoes with housemade buttermilk dressing: the bruschetta had been dressed with a vibrant parsley pesto and a scattering of microgreens; and the slices of fried tomato had been stacked with lightly-dressed leaves of baby Romaine lettuce.

    To finish, I had a poached "doughnut" peach with sour cream custard, fresh berries, and sour cream gelato.

    I have generally seen the menu come into sharper focus over time, and last night's meal was my best one yet. Then again, I am never happier than when I am able to partake of Summer's bounty, and Mindy is working with some fantastic seasonal produce right now.

    Regards,
    Erik M.

    * Once again, the restaurant was mobbed; once again, I was comfortably ensconced at the bar within seconds.
  • Post #10 - August 27th, 2005, 6:22 pm
    Post #10 - August 27th, 2005, 6:22 pm Post #10 - August 27th, 2005, 6:22 pm
    Had lunch today at Hot Chocolate (actually it was brunch, but we got there at 12:30). We started with the hot donuts, which consisted of four tiny, cinnamon and sugar-coated cake donuts, with the teensy-tiny little donut holes cooked separately and perched atop the donuts themselves. Cute, yes, but I can't say I was at all impressed. These were just decent quality fresh donuts, served with some decent raspberry preserves (which didn't really complement the very sugary donuts); nothing special at all. At $5.00 for four mini donuts, I'll regretfully just have to call them a bit of a rip-off.

    However, the rest of our meal was really quite good. Mrs. JiLS had the bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich, served on a roll with a side of fresh fruit. Excellent quality bacon, very fresh and flavorful tomato, and high qualilty roll. I had the corned-beef hash, fried egg and sweet pepper sandwich, served on a grilled crusty white bread. This was a real winner, with strongly flavored corned beef "torn" rather than cubed or minced, eggs over hard, peppers steamy but not oversoft and mushy. Yum. And served with about the best cubed-style hash browns I've had, perfectly crisp and brown, tender inside. These were nicely complemented by the coursely ground sea salt provided on the table, with a dainty little spoon. With three small pieces of fresh fruit, this was very satisfying, expertly prepared and a generous portion. The sandwiches, then, were well worth the $10.00 each they were charging, and given the nice quality place settings, cloth napkins, good service and attractive dining room decor, something of a bargain, really.
    JiLS
  • Post #11 - January 27th, 2006, 11:20 pm
    Post #11 - January 27th, 2006, 11:20 pm Post #11 - January 27th, 2006, 11:20 pm
    I ducked out this evening and went to Wicker Park in search of a meal at yet another hot happenin' new place where I had not been before. Del Toro, Bin Wine Cafe, Twig, Lumbar, Asphyxia-- before I even got that far I spotted Hot Chocolate, the precise location of which I had never known before, and right after that spotted an open parking spot on Damen. The gods were telling me where I was going to eat, even if I had fears that a place built around dessert would turn out to be another excursion into oversweetened silliness like the late, eternally-memorialized-by-Mumon Sugar. Especially given the one factoid that I remembered from 6-month-old posts (that it drew a strongly female crowd). Would it be too girly for me?

    In a word, no. The room is done, surprise for a place named Hot Chocolate, in shades of brown which are quite strikingly handsome yet stop just short of making you wonder if your server will be an Oompa-Loompa. Ironically, given my recent excursions down Belgian memory lane, they were showcasing a good number of robust Belgian ales, all the way up to dark ales and Trippels, which it was hard to imagine the Cosmo set drinking. Along with some complimentary salty-sweet popcorn (which brought back a bad experience; I passed on it after the first bite) I started with a dark ale accented with rock candy (a trick for raising alcohol levels without turning it darker) and spices called Smisje:

    Image

    (Incidentally, more proof that the gods intended me to write this post, I was seated right under a ceiling light, practically the only table where one could take decent photos without flash.)

    First course, it turns out, is the same one Sweet Willie had months ago (so much for seasonal cuisine), the mussels in a coconut milk-lemongrass broth. Bright, light and refreshing, the mussels cooked perfectly and tenderly, I liked this a lot. I would have liked it even better in a half portion, or with someone to share it with. But the dessert place passed the seafood fusion test, and ascended to the next level.

    Image

    Second course was less than original (being another dish inspired by Blackbird's slow-roated pork belly) but quite tasty and, it must be said, executed in a way that did not suggest the dating single female was its target audience. It was called, rather preciously, Roast Pork3, and consisted of a brined pork chop, a couple of lush hunks of belly, some cabbage and little potato cubes cooked in bacon grease. They passed the pork with pork fat test, and were back on home turf for dessert.

    Image

    Dessert, well, jeez, too many choices and not enough people at my table to share them with. Mindful of Jim in Logan Square's shame, I passed on the brioche donuts, and likewise couldn't see my way to ordering a dessert AND a hot chocolate or milkshake (though I found it pretty hilarious that the teeny tiny milkshake served in a tall thin cocktail glass comes with a tiny cream pitcher containing the extra milkshake, thus imitating in miniature, for a mere $10, the way a $2.50 milkshake comes in a great big glass plus another pint or two in the metal mixing cup).

    Anyway, I ordered the 66% chocolate mini souffle, with molten center, caramel around it, salty caramel ice cream on top, and a free form Brancusiesque pretzel on top of that. It was... hey, good chocolate, served warm with ice cream on top, how wrong can you go? The most interesting part was the salty caramel ice cream, which did pull off the salty-sweet thing the popcorn had failed at earlier.

    Image

    So. Hot Chocolate. Pretty good minimalist atmosphere, very good service that was friendly, proactive and without 'tude (I also saw two different chefs, one of them Mindy Segal, visiting the floor and checking up at different points); none of the food exactly blew me away but it was all quite creditable, not at all too girly, and considering the fact that I upsold myself to fairly expensive beers, the meal was quite reasonable for what it was (around $65 before tip; as noted, almost $20 of that was two fawncy schmawncy beers).
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  • Post #12 - January 29th, 2006, 12:44 am
    Post #12 - January 29th, 2006, 12:44 am Post #12 - January 29th, 2006, 12:44 am
    Nice post/pics, Mike.

    Over the course of the past year I have become good friends with Mindy Segal so I will limit my remarks to the following:

    1. I like the food and the beverage program at Hot Chocolate enormously and I dine at the restaurant (at my own expense) on a bimonthly basis.

    2. Mindy is a Pastry Chef by training and an Executive Chef by right, but she is presently filling the additional role of Chef de Cuisine until the new Chef de Cuisine comes on board in February.*

    3. On Sunday evenings, Mindy offers a Five-Course Beer, Cheese, and Chocolate Tasting Menu for $40 p/p. A sample menu looks like this:

    First CourseCheddar & Beer Soup, with Cheddar Biscuits

    Feat. Carr Valley Aged Cheddar (La Valle, WI)

    Beer Pairing: Unibroue Apple Éphémère (Chambly, Canada)

    Second CourseHot Turnovers with Carmelized Turnips and Parsnips

    Feat. Sweet Grass Dairy Green Hill (Thomasville, GA)

    Beer Pairing: Samuel Smith “Winter Welcome” (Yorkshire, England)

    Third CourseDried Fruit Terrine with Endive and Date Vinaigrette

    Feat. Bass Lake Cheese Factory Canasta Pardo (Somerset, WI)

    Beer Pairing: t’Smisje Dubble Ale (Bruges, Belgium)

    Fourth CourseAdrian Plapp Ground Beef Petite Hamburger with Rosemary Chips

    Feat. South Mountain Products Berkshire Blue (Great Barrington, MA)

    Beer Pairing: Celebrator Doppelbock (Aying, Germany)

    Fifth CourseRicotta and Tart Cherry Doughnuts with a “Fudge” Sundae

    Beer Pairing: O’Fallon Chocolate Cherry Ale (O’Fallon, MO)


    4. On Monday, the sixth of February, Unibroue Beer and Scharffen Berger Chocolates will be presenting an exclusive pairing seminar at Hot Chocolate. The event copy reads thusly:

    Beer and Chocolate – A Wickedly Delicious Pairing.

    A uniquely delicious event featuring three dark ales from Unibroue (Chambly, Canada), six hand-crafted chocolates from Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker (Berkeley, CA.), and three dessert creations by Mindy Segal. A representative of Unibroue will describe the products and guide attendees through an informal sensory analysis of the pairings.”

    Tickets for the event are $25 p/p and are available at Hot Chocolate.

    E.M.

    * The new Chef de Cuisine is presently employed at Naha.
  • Post #13 - January 29th, 2006, 11:54 am
    Post #13 - January 29th, 2006, 11:54 am Post #13 - January 29th, 2006, 11:54 am
    HI,

    Interestingly, I was invited to a beer and chocolate tasting a few weeks ago at Hopleaf. While I am not too hot about beer, I was interested to learn how one could offset the other. Unfortunately I had to cancel due to unexpected guests.

    I tried to find the notice, the chocolatier was local and the beer was from a micro-brewery in Wisconsin. They plan another one, I think at Hopleaf, on February 12th roughly.

    I never heard of beer-chocolate pairings until just recently and now it has been twice.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
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  • Post #14 - January 29th, 2006, 11:40 pm
    Post #14 - January 29th, 2006, 11:40 pm Post #14 - January 29th, 2006, 11:40 pm
    I've only been to Hot Chocolate once but it was a very impressive experience for me. 5 of the 6 dessert items we tried were out-of-this-world good and the 6th was completely respectable. And, I have never had a cup of hot chocolate as good as the one I had there back in October. I mean, I still think about it all the time.

    I went to Hot Chocolate a bit skeptically but came away a fan and look forward to getting back there.

    =R=
    Another beer before happy hour to put me in the mood for drinkin', uh huh huh, oh, forget thinkin' --Beaver Nelson

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  • Post #15 - February 9th, 2006, 11:24 am
    Post #15 - February 9th, 2006, 11:24 am Post #15 - February 9th, 2006, 11:24 am
    I'm so sorry to have to miss both of the beer and chocolate events. I first learned of how tasty they could be together serendipitously: while in school I was moving mid-day, so I rewarded/bribed my movers with chocolate donuts and coffee for one group of friends, beer for the other. I was hot, hungry, thirsty, too lazy to make a fresh pot of coffee, the beer was cold, so voila! Even at sub-gourmet levels, beer and chocolate bring out the best in each other.
  • Post #16 - February 9th, 2006, 1:39 pm
    Post #16 - February 9th, 2006, 1:39 pm Post #16 - February 9th, 2006, 1:39 pm
    My favorite beer on Earth ever, the Goose Island stout aged in old Jim Beam kegs, had distinct chocolate overtones that were among the many complexities that won me over. I miss it tremendously.
  • Post #17 - February 9th, 2006, 10:12 pm
    Post #17 - February 9th, 2006, 10:12 pm Post #17 - February 9th, 2006, 10:12 pm
    Bob S. wrote:My favorite beer on Earth ever, the Goose Island stout aged in old Jim Beam kegs, had distinct chocolate overtones that were among the many complexities that won me over. I miss it tremendously.

    You owe it to yourself to go to the next (Fourth Annual) Festival of Barrel Aged Beer. The last one was November 2005 at Goose Island Wrigleyville. Dozens and dozens of bourbon barrel stouts, plenty of Belgian-style ales, and some downright unclassifiable brews. Now that the Real Ale Festival is no longer, the FOBAB is probably my favorite beer event in Chicago.

    Have you tried Train Wreck of Flavor from Flossmoor Station? It’s a blend of their barley wine and brown ale, with toasted oats and molasses, aged in a Jack Daniels barrel. One of the best of that genre, a really excellent beer. I don’t know if it’s still available but it wouldn’t hurt to call.

    Illinois Craft Brewers Guild
    http://www.illinoisbeer.com/
    Website will probably have information on the next Festival of Barrel Aged Beer.

    Flossmoor Station Restaurant and Brewery
    1035 Sterling Av
    (at Metra Electric Flossmoor stop)
    Flossmoor IL
    708-957-BREW
  • Post #18 - February 10th, 2006, 11:15 pm
    Post #18 - February 10th, 2006, 11:15 pm Post #18 - February 10th, 2006, 11:15 pm
    Bob S. wrote:My favorite beer on Earth ever, the Goose Island stout aged in old Jim Beam kegs, had distinct chocolate overtones that were among the many complexities that won me over. I miss it tremendously.


    It's fabulous...... I still have two sitting in my fridge, just hasn't felt like the right time to drink them.

    I can't wait till next November or so for the next batch.
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  • Post #19 - September 27th, 2006, 9:43 pm
    Post #19 - September 27th, 2006, 9:43 pm Post #19 - September 27th, 2006, 9:43 pm
    Looks like the wife and I might be the first negative post in this thread.

    Living a couple blocks north of Hot Chocolate, we decided to get a Restaurant .com certificate and try them out (despite our norm of generally avoiding such hipster joints). We started with the mussels in curry. The curry sauce was excellent and the mussels quite plentiful. However, the mussels were neither plump nor fresh.
    ImageImage
    Our main entree was a brined pork chop with spaetzle. There was some kind of thin, dark sauce on the chop and spaetzle that had good flavors but was extremely salty (and we're not highly sensitive to high salting). The chop was a nice cut of meat, but was overdone and somewhat dry.

    We also got the Lamb sausage and Kase Cheese on flatbread with arugula. Although very tasty, there was a total of about 1 inch of thumb thick sausage and a smear of cheese which made it way overpriced. You can see on the right that this half of the sandwich included 2 small slices of sausage.
    ImageImage

    Fortunately, the dessert was an improvement. We got the Chocolate cake and shake, which was 3 stacked brownies with a lovely minty creme in between each, some more chocolate drizzled on the plate and a 4 oz chocolate mint shake.
    Image

    I guess you could say that all our problems were in the execution, but given that all 3 of our pre-desert dishes were unsatisfactory, it's difficult to justify going back.

    We can however confirm Erik M's comments about the high single female ratio. We were there at 7 on a Wednesday. There were about 5 couples, a big group of 4 couples, then about 5 groups of 3-6 females. There were no solo or groups of males.
  • Post #20 - September 28th, 2006, 12:44 pm
    Post #20 - September 28th, 2006, 12:44 pm Post #20 - September 28th, 2006, 12:44 pm
    I agree on the mussels. Very nice sauce, but scrawny on the inside. They have to give you 20 of them because each is so small. They are literally the size of popcorn shrimp.
  • Post #21 - September 28th, 2006, 4:50 pm
    Post #21 - September 28th, 2006, 4:50 pm Post #21 - September 28th, 2006, 4:50 pm
    had the "chef table" in the back twice last month for brunches. a 10-top that spilled into the surrounding 6 top for a total of 16, and last weekend another 8 top.

    the first brunch, Mindy personally came out and greeted us, making sure both tables were served and happy. the second brunch had proper service and expeditious food coupled with the sickening rich hot chocolates.

    this place really can do no wrong for us and is the only place i'll miss in wicker park.

    quiche almost as good as Sweet Thang's:
    Image

    yet another version of brioche french toast... is BFT the next flourless molten chocolate cake?
    Image
  • Post #22 - September 29th, 2006, 9:28 am
    Post #22 - September 29th, 2006, 9:28 am Post #22 - September 29th, 2006, 9:28 am
    We had dinner here last night. Overall - very good. We got there aroudn 6 and there was no one in the room. By the time we left, maybe 20 people. A couple of couples, but mostly single women for "girls night out".

    Cold Chocolate martini - really delicious and rich chocolate flavor.

    Husband's Sidecar - Sour, Sweet, Boozy

    The appetizers didn't wow us, so we opted to share the cheese "calzone" baked in warm brioche with Lemon-Thyme Pesto. This was lovely - crusty, buttery brioche, filled with a tangy semisoft cheese served over broccoli and red peppers in a Lemon Thyme Pesto. It just worked. (It was salty though)

    My husband had the Kobe style skirt steak - ordered rare and delivered VERY rare. It was great, well seasoned. Loved the gruyere toast that came with it (On a thin slice of ciabatta - I will make this at home)

    I had the Pasta - pappardelle, which i sam a sucker for, with "Lamb bolgnese" well - there was no tomato - but the dish was wonderfully lamby - well seasoned and rich.

    For dessert we shared the chocolate - 64% - the warm souffle (yeah, i know) but i really wanted the salt caramel ice cream that came with it. It was great. Rich chocolate in a chocolate tart crust. Homemade caramel swirled around it.

    It was $120 with tax and tip. We had the restaurant.com cert.

    All in all, I agree, someone in the kitchen has a heavy hand with the salt. Not enough to not go again. Great food, great meal, great drinks.
  • Post #23 - December 6th, 2006, 3:32 pm
    Post #23 - December 6th, 2006, 3:32 pm Post #23 - December 6th, 2006, 3:32 pm
    Because it's chocolate! I am in my early 20's and that's exactly why I wanted to visit. I'd recommend it as a great date spot - the guys will enjoy the food, girls will be impressed by the desserts. Not that it's highly romantic, it's too cramped to be that.

    I have highly enjoyed everything I've had at Hot Chocolate so far, especially the chocolate tart. For something a little more unusual, the banana dessert was also fantastic. All of the desserts are creative, melding unusual ideas and combinations with the tastes we love.

    Their lamb was also tender and flavorful.
  • Post #24 - February 18th, 2007, 11:33 pm
    Post #24 - February 18th, 2007, 11:33 pm Post #24 - February 18th, 2007, 11:33 pm
    Image

    Some months back we had just sat down to eat at Hot Chocolate when the power to a chunk of Bucktown went out. They offered to make us anything that didn't require cooking-- presumably that would have included many of the desserts-- but we decided to bail anyway and return another day. The kids have long kept in memory the idea of a restaurant made entirely of chocolate (even as they suspected that the walls were just painted that color) and so we finally returned Saturday night.

    Almost as if the staff had read this post of mine, they gave us the last table in the house (the almost-kitchen table, with the view above) with the proviso that we'd be out in time for a reservation 90 minutes later. (Hey, we ordered and ate fast enough, they took an extra five minutes to get us done and out the door.)

    Disappointingly, given hungry kids, there was no little starter. Pleasingly, the brandade appetizer was richly flavored and warm and pleased three out of four of us (the fourth just ate the bread it went on). A beet salad was a hit, my spinach salad with bacon and egg was not especially memorable. Mac and cheese with gruyere was a surprise smash with the youngest, a burger with a Jury's-like char was much liked by the older one (nothing girly about this place, as I've observed before), while my cassoulet had positive sides (flavorful meats) and negative sides (it was assembled, not baked together, so the beans were kind of bland; and it came served to overflowing in a ridiculous rectangular dish which ejected ingredients onto the table every time you tried to spoon something from it).

    (Curious note, the first time Mindy Segal went by, she glanced at our table as if about to ask us how everything was, except we didn't have anything to eat yet. I expected her to come back and ask later but she never did, even as she passed by several times. If you're going to be an iconically recognizable (red pigtails) name chef, you can't just float through your restaurant preoccupied, I tend to think. It's just not how the game is played these days.)

    Now on to chocolate, to which all else was prelude in the kids' minds. Milkshakes for the kids, "shake and cake" (a vanilla shake and a densely flavorful chocolate cake) for her, pumpkin ravioli filled with warm butterscotch for me (first one was delightful, five more delivered diminishing returns, and I was soon trading them all over the table for tastes of others' delights). Subjectively, the desserts were wonderful, objectively, you could have a milkshake every night for a month at Muskie's or Superdawg for what the dessert course cost. Only the cake, and maybe that first bite of my ravioli, was entirely worth it. Well, to me. To the kids, it was worth every penny of my money.
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  • Post #25 - March 18th, 2007, 11:11 pm
    Post #25 - March 18th, 2007, 11:11 pm Post #25 - March 18th, 2007, 11:11 pm
    Went to Scylla for dinner (I'll post on that later) and decided to go down the street for dessert at Hot Chocolate since I've always wanted to go. Maybe my expectations were too high (like an Oscar winning, rave reviewed movie that you see too late), but I was totally underwhelmed by our desserts.

    Our waiter thankfully dissuaded me from ordering the Lebanese wine (sue me, I thought it would be interesting to order a wine from Lebanon). Instead I went with the Hahn Merlot which was leaps and bounds above the other (he brought out a sip on the Massaya from Lebanon just so I could try it). He suggested the apple dessert because he doesn't like chocolate (what? shouldn't love of chocolate be a requirement for someone at this restaurant?). I wouldn't entertain the thought of anything but chocolate so I ordered the Chocolate (64%) which was described as a warm chocolate souffle with salted caramel ice cream and pretzel. Mr. FIG ordered the apples (can't remember the details other than it had cake, ice cream and mulled cider components). First off, the souffle was not a souffle. Does anyone else get frustrated by chefs misuse of terms? It was more like a warm chocolate tart - the crust on such tart was overcooked and the chocolate just wasn't very chocolately (no complexity, no rich chocolate flavor). The "pretzel" was more like an extremely salty chow mein noodle and the salted caramel ice cream was good on texture, but overpoweringly salty. The caramel sauce was the only part of the dish I can say I really enjoyed. Even if I don't really like a dessert I usually finish it, after all it's generally sweet and fat filled. This I didn't finish. I actually left chocolate on the plate! Mr. FIG enjoyed his ice cream and found the rest passable, but nothing was outstanding.

    I asked our waiter if anyone ever questioned the souffle description and he admitted that sometime they do and that it used to have quotes around it, but he said most people accept it. Am I the only one who thinks this is a dumbing down of the restaurant-going public? I know that Mindy Segal knows the difference between a souffle and a tart and I'm disappointed that her menu misleads her guests. We were happy with our server and tipped him as such so he gave us some "goodies" to take home (I haven't tried them yet so "goodies" remains in quotes until I do.)
  • Post #26 - March 19th, 2007, 7:20 am
    Post #26 - March 19th, 2007, 7:20 am Post #26 - March 19th, 2007, 7:20 am
    figmolly wrote:Went to Scylla

    I asked our waiter if anyone ever questioned the souffle description and he admitted that sometime they do and that it used to have quotes around it, but he said most people accept it.

    Figmolly,

    Your souffle sounds the perfect dessert to accompany Cotes du Rhone's med-rare braised lamb shank. :)

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    Sauce on the side, always, implied, axiomatic..........never a doubt, BBQ sauce without.

    Low & Slow
  • Post #27 - March 19th, 2007, 1:22 pm
    Post #27 - March 19th, 2007, 1:22 pm Post #27 - March 19th, 2007, 1:22 pm
    Wow, I'm shocked you didn't like the "souffle."
    I thought it was absolutely fantastic. Must be an issue of personal tastes, after all, people love a wide range of chocolates. This was exactly what I was hoping for when I first ordered it, and I have recommended it to others since.
  • Post #28 - March 19th, 2007, 3:16 pm
    Post #28 - March 19th, 2007, 3:16 pm Post #28 - March 19th, 2007, 3:16 pm
    Congratulations to Mindy Segal for her nomination for a James Beard Award as Best Pastry Chef 2007.
  • Post #29 - March 20th, 2007, 10:45 pm
    Post #29 - March 20th, 2007, 10:45 pm Post #29 - March 20th, 2007, 10:45 pm
    papua2001mk wrote:Wow, I'm shocked you didn't like the "souffle."
    I thought it was absolutely fantastic. Must be an issue of personal tastes,


    Obviously people have different tastes, but I usually like all chocolate. The crust was overcooked...and I was just really disappointed that it wasn't souffle. I checked an online menu that described the dish as a warm chocolate souffle tart which would have been more accurate. Or, if, as the waiter mentioned was previously done, the souffle description was in quotes.
  • Post #30 - May 3rd, 2007, 5:54 pm
    Post #30 - May 3rd, 2007, 5:54 pm Post #30 - May 3rd, 2007, 5:54 pm
    I've been to Hot Chocolate before for dessert (after a dinner at Spring), and have wanted to try some of their more savory offerings for a while. Actually, sadly, it has been a couple years. Well, I was sick of waiting. It was the weekend of my birthday and I dragged poor bf up and down while I shopped at boutiques this past Saturday. We cooled our heels waiting for the restaurant to open for dinner by having a couple beers at Darwins, which we were disappointed at though the staff was perfectly friendly and nice. The beer selection just wasn't that special. They had just opened and it was Saturday, I ordered the Woodchuck Pear Draft Cider and was told it was the last one.

    Then we arrived at Hot Chocolate around 5:45 or so, and the restaurant was only 1/3 full. By the time we left, it was packed. Started out with a beer and salad for him and a lemonade with vodka topped with lambic (forgot the "name" they gave this) and cauliflower au gratin for me. He let me eat his goat cheese and I stole his bread to soak up the sauce of the cauliflower. I liked the cauliflower dish because I happen to love cauliflower, and it was perfectly fine, but not amazing. The salad was a typical salad.

    Image
    Image

    Then came the good stuff: his cheese plate, and my cheese in brioche. His cheese plate was amazing- all based on the waiter's suggestions on what were the best 3 cheeses available and he was right on. For once, a place that isn't stingy on the accompanients of the cheese, so that we had more then enough choice of what to enjoy with the cheese.

    The cheese in brioche was sinful gooey warm goodness, though I wish I could have had more sides to balance out that richness since the veggies underneath were also swimming in the oilyness of the dish. I ate half of it and took the other half home where it warmed up wonderfully for another meal.

    Image Wonderful cheese plate

    Image Cheese in Brioche: before

    Image Cheese in Brioche: open

    Dessert was naturally wonderful, we chose a banana trio which included an ice cream sandwich, caramalized original, and bread pudding. We both thought it was a perfect light ending to the meal.

    Image Banana Trio

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