The Hot Chocolate Series – Want “S’more”? The Fun & Decadent S’mores Hot Chocolate at Aroma Espresso Bar!

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Eeee, I’m so excited to be making the first Hot Chocolate Series post of 2014!  I promised you all I would try my best to add more goodies to the series this winter so I’m hoping this is just the beginning.  And it couldn’t have come at a better time.  Even though these past few days have been mild, temperatures are going to dip below freezing again which means we need plenty of hot drinks like these to warm us up.  I’m really happy I was able to take these photos and make this post because I actually wanted to have it up and running much earlier, during the holidays (remember how I said I bussed northbound on Avenue Road the Monday after the ice storm in yesterday’s post?  I was en route to the Aroma Espresso Bar near Avenue Road and Wilson hoping to try this hot chocolate and get photos but the whole street was knocked out of power!  Hence the detour.  I ended up rescheduling at the King & Spadina location for these shots a week later.)

Such is life.  Sigh.

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As well, I’ve been so focused and preoccupied with tea for the past few months I haven’t given hot chocolate the love it deserves (that and apple cider.  But that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms.)  There are so many delicious varieties just waiting to be slurped and savoured from cafes and restaurants all across the city but I’ll sheepishly admit it’s been hard steering my attention towards other beverages when all I can think of is what type of tea I want to spoon into my mesh ball when I wake up in the morning!  There’s no reason why I can’t enjoy both though, especially with all the fun flavours and toppings places are experimenting with, like the gorgeous fluffy, chocolately, marshmallowy masterpiece at Aroma Espresso Bar!

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New to the drink menu this winter, Aroma Espresso Bar’s S’mores Hot Chocolate ($4.80 medium) is everything you could want in a hot chocolate drink that screams, “I’m so fab I could be your bff at a posh ski lodge!”  It really does have all the bells and whistles: chunks of Aroma’s creamy milk chocolate melted in steamed milk and melted marshmallows, topped with cocoa, graham cracker crumbs and giant pillow-soft marshmallows!  It is a thing of beauty and it tastes delicious.  The drink is creamy and frothy on top and rich and decadent as you get closer to the bottom where all the melted chocolate has been mixed in.  The giant marshmallows are super soft and the graham cracker crumbs totally elevate the drink, living up to its s’mores name.  And surprisingly enough, it’s not a sugar bomb!  I mean, it’s sweet and everything in it and on it is sweet but the sweetness isn’t overwhelming.  It’s fun and dessert-like without being over the top flavour-wise.

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I’m hoping to get my hands (and tastebuds) on some mint hot chocolate and others this winter (as well as the hot chocolate at Fresh which I’ve tried but never took posted photos of because they didn’t look nice) so we’ll see how the hunt goes!  Cheers and stay warm, everyone!

*****

Aroma Espresso Bar is an Israeli espresso and coffee chain with over 100 locations worldwide.  There are numerous branches in and around Toronto, with shops in Thornhill and Vaughan.  Click here to view the list of Toronto and GTA locations.

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A Power Breakfast of Eggs, Tomatoes, and Creamy Tahini! The Shakshouka at Aroma Espresso Bar

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I really have to hand it to my boyfriend for humouring me while I noshed on my warm, saucy, eggy, tomatoey Shakshouka power breakfast at Aroma Espresso Bar.  He didn’t make faces, he didn’t make gagging noises and he also didn’t make any sarcastic “I’m-so-disgusted” comments at me while I was enjoying my meal.  I know what you’re thinking.  “Look how pretty this dish is, why on earth would anyone make comments about it not tasting good?!  And why would it come from your significant other?!”  Because my boyfriend hates tomatoes.  HATES tomatoes.  With a fiery passion.  I have never met anyone who despises them as much as he does.  Sauce on pizza….hmm, okay.  Anything else he vehemently declines.

And he’s really on the fence about eggs.  Loves them boiled, hates them runny.  Doesn’t prefer them scrambled, would never order them poached, and is really only into the egg whites.  Sigh.  Sometimes it’s remarkable how our palates are polar opposites in some ways.  But we love each other, we’ve grown so much together and it’s our quirks and eccentricities that make us who we are as individuals and as a couple.  So I really appreciated how he didn’t ask me how I could eat THAT and concentrated on his own sandwich instead.  He’s my honey after all and he just shakes his head amusingly as I eat.

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This Tunisian and Israeli style breakfast is truly a breakfast of champions!  It really packs a protein punch with a ton of contrasting flavours and it’s quite a fun dish to eat.  Aroma’s Shakshouka, a dish of warm tomatoes and tomato sauce with 2 eggs, tahini sauce and a basket of baked-in-house bread, is part of their every day breakfast menu and it’s one of those dishes that warms you up from the inside out.  I know it seems a little odd to be talking about warm dishes in the summer,  but there are those days when it’s real chilly in the morning and you just want something a little on the heartier side for breakfast to get rid of those goosebumps.  Either that or you’re just freezing from the blasting air conditioning.  Either way, it’s a dish that fills you and it’s fun dunking the bread in the tomato sauce, poking the eggs so the yolks run, dipping the bread in the yolks (can you tell I love dipping my bread in egg yolks?), treating the tomato sauce as both a food and somewhat of a soup, and dabbing tahini sauce on everything as you eat.

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I have to say, the tahini sauce REALLY made the dish for me.  Sure, I love my eggs and the bread-dunking is fun, but there is just something so delicious about the creamy nuttiness of their tahini that is unlike any sauce I have ever had and it’s wonderful because it breaks up that acidicity from the tomatoes.  It completely changes the dish and grounds it, keeping it from being too savoury and too tomato heavy.  I mean, I know the dish is meant to be about the eggs and tomatoes, but I think it was a smart move to include the tahini because it prevents the tomatoes from being too overpowering.

And the bread!  So soft and yummy.  I chose their multigrain to accompany my breakfast (it comes with the dish but you get to choose what kind of bread you want when you order) and I was actually taken aback but how much of it there was.  I know it was technically 2 big slices cut in half to make 4, but goodness did it ever look like a mountain in my little basket!

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Over the last year I’ve become such a huge fan of Aroma Espresso Bar.  Several years ago I felt ambivalent about them and it was only because I always feel that way about chains.  Are you really in love with their food or are you only buying into the popularity, the hype?  Do they really deliver on quality and truthfully, is the food good?  And with chains it’s especially touch and go because we all know some locations just do a better job than others.  My mum feels that way about her coffee.  If she dislikes the cup she got, it’s not necessarily a reflection on the company but possibly on the person who made it (sorry!).

I love Aroma’s food and drinks more and more though and I’m finding it so much fun learning about different foods and different cuisines done Aroma style (a Bulgarian Bureka sandwich!  Spanish and Latin American alfajores cookies!  Turkish coffee!) and trying their salads and sandwiches.  I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the smoked salmon sandwich (I just had a half sandwich of this yesterday for my afternoon snack.  Yes, that’s right, I have sandwiches for snacks when I’m super hungry!) and quinoa salad (there’s grilled eggplant in it, YUM!) and we already know I’m a fan of their hot chocolate.

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New locations are popping up all over the place so I’m hoping to add lots of new posts for sandwiches and breakfast and drinks!

*****

Aroma Espresso Bar is an Israeli espresso and coffee chain with over 100 locations worldwide.  There are 8 branches in and around Toronto, with shops in Thornhill and Vaughan.  Click here to view the list of Toronto and GTA locations.

The Hot Chocolate Series – A Warm Milk Mountain and Melted Chocolate Praline Logs at Aroma Espresso Bar

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There’s no better time to drink hot chocolate than when it’s bitterly cold out, and this weekend was downright bone-chilling!  Having lived in Canada all my life, cold winters aren’t anything out of the ordinary but it definitely doesn’t get any easier to bear as the years go by!  I remember growing up with snow up to my thighs, my screen door at home being frozen shut, and walking in the cold and rapidly blinking my eyes so my eyelashes wouldn’t stick together, frozen.  We’ve already been really lucky here in Toronto to have had such a mild winter so far and just a lick of snow, and it figures that I get all gung-ho on my hot chocolate during one of the mildest winters we’ve had in years!  I’m enjoying this Hot Chocolate Series so much though and it’s been so much fun seeing all the different flavours of hot chocolate and the different ways they’re prepared.

A series dedicated to drinks wouldn’t be the same without a drink from Aroma Espresso Bar.  Aroma, with its numerous locations in and around the city, is a coffee shop, espresso bar, brunch spot, and lunch café all in one.  Hailing from Israel, Aroma has taken the international coffee world by storm since its first shop opened in 1994.  Since then, they’ve opened locations in Europe, Asia, the United States, and all across Toronto and the GTA.  With its bold red, white, and black colour scheme and decor (the squishy red swivel chairs are my favourite!), Aroma serves up sweets (alfajore cookie sandwiches, orange coconut cake, sweet croissants), brunch (their Power Breakfast is one I really want to try with the eggs, salad, and different cheeses), soups and sandwiches, and so many different hot and cold drinks you could fill an olympic pool with them all!

Even though I’m not a coffee drinker, there are so many drinks from Aroma I would love to try such as their chai latte, ice aroma float, ice lemon mint, and their orchid latte.  I tried their hot chocolate first and boy oh boy was it ever delicious and all sorts of fabulous!  Their hot chocolate is being promoted as one of the drinks on their winter drink menu alongside classics such as apple cider and unique standouts like the orchid latte.  There are three types of hot chocolate in medium and large sizes: regular, white, and marshmallow and although a part of me was all up in arms over the marshmallow, I stuck to the regular because it looked so gorgeous on the promo banner.  And it was indeed beautiful, both in appearance and in taste.

I love having drinks in actual cafés and staying there to drink them because there’s a much greater chance of enjoying the drink in an actual mug, cup, or glass as opposed to the ho-hum paper cup.  The Aroma hot chocolate is served in a lovely glass mug on white saucer dish with a stir spoon and a chocolate to nibble on.  This is a winter drink in all its glory.  It’s frothy, it’s pure white when you get it, and with the exception of the powdered cocoa on top, all you see is chocolate chunks peeking through the glass at the very bottom with a mountain of creamy white on top.  It’s like having a giant snowy mountain of snow on chocolate cabin logs and it screams winter warmth.

And you read right: chocolate chunks and chocolate logs.  Aroma prepares their hot chocolate in such a cool way by placing the chocolate at the bottom and filling the mug with warm milk and froth up at the top so the solid chocolate can melt into the drink, into a chocolatey whirlpool of deliciousness.

That’s where the stir spoon comes in!  If you don’t want to slosh any liquid out, take a few sips first.  Then you gently press the chocolate at the bottom with the spoon to break it down a bit and you gently start to stir the chocolate around, melting it as you go.  But the most decadent way of going about it is pressing down on the chocolate, stirring it just a tad, then lifting the spoon out with the rich, half-melted chocolate still on the it and eating it.  Oh my goodness is it ever amazing!  It was rich, creamy, and thick with the most amazing nuttiness to it.  It wasn’t until I went back on Aroma’s website to check the hot chocolate description that it all made sense: chocolate praline!  That’s where the nuttiness was coming from!  The chocolate eventually becomes one with the milk to form one very smooth, incredibly yummy hot chocolate.

This hot chocolate is one of my favourites and I just love the sleek, clean presentation to it and most of all, the different levels of deliciousness.  It’s a situation where it’s totally acceptable playing with your food and drink!  I loved it to pieces and it makes me even more excited to try their other hot drinks later on this winter.  It’s a killer hot chocolate that would satisfy any and every chocolate lover out there.

*****

Aroma Espresso Bar is an Israeli espresso and coffee chain with over 100 locations worldwide.  There are 8 branches in and around Toronto, with shops in Thornhill and Vaughan.  Click here to view the list of Toronto and GTA locations.