“A large iced skinny hazelnut macchiato, with an extra shot, light ice, and extra whip.” Really. Whatever happened to just a nice hot chocolate? In search of simplicity, I attempted to find the best hot chocolate in Carmel.
I first ventured over to the Barnyard to try a hot cocoa at both Lafayette Bakery and Pieces of Heaven. At Lafayette, where one can find the sweetest people and tempting treats, the chocolat chaud is smooth and creamy amounting to a small classic cup of steaming chocolate for $2.25.
The cocoa at Pieces of Heaven, on the other hand, is a better deal for $2.00 and is very sweet and rich. It can definitely be compared to a European hot chocolate, which for those of you who have never had one is basically pure melted chocolate.
I then visited Ocean Avenue to try The Carmel Coffee House, Carmel Bakery and Il Fornaio.
While the whipped cream at Carmel Coffee House is pleasant, the actual hot chocolate is a little weak for $3.00 as all the flavor falls to the bottom pretty quickly. Style points can be given to the $2.95 cocoa at Carmel Bakery for being perfectly topped off with whipped cream, and in general, the drink is not super rich but has a delightfully deep flavor to it. However, I have to say that out of these three, I most enjoyed the hot chocolate at Il Fornaio, which has amazing whipped cream, and it is a great balance of chocolate and cream that is not sickly sweet in the slightest for the fair price of $2.59.
I tested the popular Carmel Valley Coffee Roasting Company last, and found the hands-down best whipped cream of all—obviously the most important part! The $2.75 drink itself is very delicious and chocolaty, with an overall flavor that is light and frothy.
I would recommend any one of these shops, but I do have to make one final note. Next time you are on a quest to find the perfect hot chocolate, add a dash of cinnamon and do not skip the whipped cream. It makes all the difference.