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Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Best Hot Chocolate (Ever)... And Dana's Cheesecake

Sadly, this post will only entice those of you who are not in or near Eugene, but it will give you the idea to go and find your own best hot chocolate!

Cocoa is an important part of life in our home, in no small part thanks to my son Thomas.  Tom is a connoisseur of many things...  Herbal teas, biscuits and gravy and, obviously, hot cocoa.  For homemade hot chocolate, Thomas swears by Ghirardelli sweetened cocoa powder.  I agree.  But it's not just the kind of chocolate that you use, the milk plays a huge role in quality cocoa.  1%?  Are you kidding?  2%?  I suppose, if you are really pushing it, 2% will work.  However, for the best cocoa, it's got to be whole milk.  Trust me, if you are making your hot chocolate with some sort of water-hydrated powder, or even the much vaunted 2%, you are missing out on what this delicious beverage is all about.

What about other flavorings?  Mexican hot chocolate - your basic hot cocoa with the addition of a bit of cinnamon - creates a deliciously warming concoction, perfect for perking up any winter's morning.  Of course, there are countless syrups from companies such as Torani that will take your drink up a notch.  Peppermint and almond are our favorites, with vanilla syrup a close runner-up.  The key is to avoid over-sweetening the steaming mug with the syrup.

And then, the key question...  Marshmallows or whipped cream?  Why not both?!?!

Here in Eugene, the best hot cocoa is found, hands down, at Dana's Cheesecake at the Saturday Market.  In addition to (of course) truly fabulous cheesecake, the friendly, family-run and staffed Dana's is home to heavenly German Chocolate Cake and...  THE BEST HOT CHOCOLATE EVER.  Yes, email etiquette minions, that was in all caps, meaning that it was shouted...  loudly.  You see, there is simply no other way to say it.  Dana's hot cocoa is creamy...  So creamy, in fact, that I once asked if it was made with half and half (nope, whole milk).  It is chocolatey.  Not just kind of milk-chocolatey...  this is the real deal.  And the tall crown of whipped cream that tops the drink is cool.  Why is that important?  Because nothing is better than taking a sip of the piping hot chocolate through this cold cloud of cream.

I know, it's wrong to steal photos from other publications...
This one came from the Eugene Weekly.  I had to use it, though,
because this is the lady who served me my hot cocoa this
very morning.  Colleen Bauman is the wife of the
eponymous Dana of Dana's Cheesecake, and after you've
been served by her, you couldn't possibly have a bad day.
So, if you are ever in Eugene...  On a Saturday...  Head to Dana's Cheesecake at the Saturday Market.  Certainly, have some cheesecake, which is truly like no other.  Creamy and tangy, but just sweet enough, with a marvelous, buttery crumb crust.  That's the vanilla version, but there's also chocolate, butterscotch and turtle...  oh my!  The Seven Layer bars are not to be missed, either...  You know how I feel about desserts...  I like homemade best, but Dana's is certainly up to that standard.  In fact, I wouldn't bother making a German Chocolate Cake myself...  Dana's has it down.  And, by all means, have some hot chocolate, too!

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