Author: Luisa Perkins
•9:14 AM

Generous gifts from friends and Patrick's clients prompted a Hot Cocoa Taste-Off in the quiet days between Christmas and New Year's.
Being quite familiar with the charms and strengths of our everyday standbys, Nesquik and Droste, we made a batch each of Ibarra, Godiva, and Marie Belle. We used milk with each, and blended each in our trusty VitaMix for optimum frothiness and smoothness.
Ibarra is a treat fondly remembered from my childhood. It's from Mexico, and you may be able to find a similar product under the brand name Abuelita. Milky, sweet, with strong cinnamon overtones, this was the kids' favorite.
I've never been a Godiva fan. I like my chocolate either a) American--which to me means homey, milky, and indulgent, See's being my favorite brand in this category; or b) Swiss--refined, less sweet, and smooth as silk. Cailler's Frigor and some Lindt work for me in this regard.
Godiva has always seemed to me to be a very awkward marriage of these two types, the lovely packaging notwithstanding. Sometimes the chocolates are nice, but too often I find them to be shrill flavor combinations housed in brittle couverture: not my idea of an treat. Unfortunately, the Godiva Hot Cocoa did nothing to change my opinion of the brand. It was redolent of powdered marshmallows--nothing more than a tarted up Swiss Miss.
The Marie Belle was the clear winner for me. It was the most like the celestial brews I've had in Paris (at Angelina's) and in Rome (at the Hotel Exedra)--thick, creamy, and to be sweetened at the drinker's discretion. No off flavors polluted its singular charm; it was nothing but good, dark chocolate, through and through. Marie Belle will be the gift that keeps on giving whenever I'm feeling the need for a little warmth in the coming months.
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