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

Leave a comment

DSCN9843

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.

DSCN9840

DSCN9848

DSCN9851

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!

DSCN9856 (2)

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.

DSCN9857

DSCN9845

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.

Advertisements

A Fresh Start for Ate by Ate: Macaron Day TO 2013 & Warming Up with Hot Chocolate & Macarons at La Bamboche

9 Comments
DSCN9597

Creamy hot chocolate and lavender and green tea white sesame macarons at La Bamboche!

I have a lot of explaining to do.  Because I really dropped the ball this time.  I’ll let myself off the hook for the month of December.  I was on-again, off-again and Christmas just swept me off my feet.  There was family, there were friends, there was work (was there EVER work – I was doing paperwork on Christmas eve!), there was my sweetheart and just like that, the month was over.  But the last two months?  I have not been here.  And I should have been.  But it was not happening because life just kept happening.  Things at work became much more hectic and demanding (why, hello there promotion!), I got to travel for the very first time (hello and goodbye, Florida!), I got sick, weekends disappeared before my eyes (if I wasn’t out and about gathering content, I was editing photos and if I wasn’t editing photos, I was sifting through e-mail, and if I wasn’t doing that I was trying to catch up on sleep).  I was utterly exhausted.  I could not keep up anymore.

Forget the clipped pace I was operating on – I hadn’t been to a farmers’ market in weeks, my scrapbook supplies were yearning for attention, and I was literally falling asleep as I was typing on my laptop at 7 in the evening (you don’t even want to know the incoherent gibberish I typed as I dozed off).  When that started happening, I knew I had to stop.  I always took pride in being the best supergirl I could be, balancing everything in life and still feeling happy, fulfilled, and overall, really content.  But things in my life had changed and I needed to be honest with myself about what my limits were, what I could and couldn’t do, and what truly made me happy.  So I took a break.  What the exception of putting together the January and February Food Calendars, blogging and I took a break from one another.  Because if I couldn’t be at my best, I didn’t want to blog at all.  Ate by Ate is my baby and it deserves a lot better than half-hearted, half-ass efforts.

DSCN9622

DSCN9619

There was one day where I ambled around downtown in Baldwin Village and Kensington Market on my own, something I hadn’t done in what felt like ages.  And I actually felt a lump form in my throat and I could feel myself start to get choked up because, even though it was chilly and damp and just a gloomy kind of day, I felt SO GOOD.  I felt free and happy.  And I was reminded of how much I missed it and how important it was for me to actually soak in and enjoy everything as opposed to just robotically moving through it and frantically trying to get something done. 

Maybe it’s spring coming up (yes, it WILL come!), maybe it’s the love and excitement for Macaron Day; I finally feel like I’m ready to be back for real and I am so excited.  Admittedly, things won’t be the same around here.  I won’t be able to post every day like I used to.  But I will be here again full-time and as much as I can and I’m really thankful and appreciative of everyone and all of you who’ve stuck around for me.  THANK YOU x a million!

MacaronDay2013Poster

So, first order of business: Macaron Day Toronto 2013!  If you don’t already know or if you haven’t checked out the Food Calendar listings, Macaron Day TO returns for its sophomore year on Wednesday, March 20th!  Organized by and spearheaded by La Bamboche, the event celebrates macarons worldwide and benefits Red Door Shelter here in Toronto.  You can check out the official website HERE for info on Red Door Shelter and how Macaron Day came to be.  There are some new new participants this year (including my beloved Le Dolci!) and we have a dedicated group of Macaron Day TO ambassadors promoting the cause and event – including me! 

I am SO proud to be a Macaron Day TO ambassador and I will be promoting and sharing all Macaron Day TO content all month long until the 20th, when I’ll be out and about participating in the festivities!  Follow the other girls on Twitter and Facebook (click on the ambassadors link above for blog  and Twitter contact info), follow @MacaronTO on Twitter, and “Like” and keep up with the Macaron Day TO Facebook page for fun photos, news, surveys and more!  Check out Ate by Ate’s journey last year:

DSCN9603

DSCN9621

DSCN9625

If you need some visual cues and suggestions for the day, you’ve come to the right place!  My most recent macaron purchase from La Bamboche included chocolate, espresso, eggnog rum, green tea and white sesame, lavender, caramel sea salt, pistachio, raspberry chocolate ganache, yuzu, and strawberry champagne!  And let’s not forget about their fabulous green tea mango macarons!  My favourites have to be the green tea mango and the strawberry champagne (the adorable minty green one with the little edible silver pearl on top in the photos!) and I’m hoping to try more fab flavours during future visits. 

*****

La Bamboche serves two locations in Toronto.  One is located at 4 Manor Rd. E., off Yonge St. south of Eglinton Ave. and the other location is at 1712 Avenue Rd., north of Lawrence Ave. East at the corner of Avenue and Fairlawn.

Rich, Decadent, Fudgy, and Frothy – The Beginnings of Hot Chocolate Season! A Delicious Year in Review

Leave a comment

I never leave home without my mittens and knit hat, my breath is starting to come out in round puffs when I’m out (especially in the mornings) and today I actually saw some flurries gently float about outside my window at work.  The crisp, colourful season of fall is far from being over in my book, but there’s no denying that we’re pretty much on the brink of hot chocolate season!  And I am so excited to get the Hot Chocolate Series back up and running after a hot and sweltering summer and so far, a very rainy fall!  I’m hoping to feature more flavoured hot chocolates (mint, candy cane, and even  pumpkin and gingerbread!), more pretty “drink” art (maybe someone can create a snowflake in my hot chocolate for me!), and some decadent white hot chocolate drinks if I can get my hands on some.

Even though I think eating ice cream during winter is more common among folks than drinking hot chocolate in the summer, I’m sure there are some who sip their hot chocolates all year-round.  If you’re one of those someones, this post may not whip your cream much but if you’re the type that sticks to hot chocolate when the weather outside is frightful (or you know, just chilly), you’ll be happy to see this Hot Chocolate Series Year in Review recap!  Just in time to get some great ideas on where to go to get that cup of chocolatey goodness!  Below is a recap of all the hot chocolate drinks that have been featured on Ate by Ate:

And if that’s not enough chocolate for you, the first photo on this post features a delicious dark chocolate hot chocolate from Arepa Cafe on Queen St. West and the peppermint hot chocolate from Fresh is also fantastically fabulous!  I haven’t put up actual posts for these two drinks simply because I don’t have enough photos to warrant a post (not to mention I don’t like the photos I took of my peppermint hot chocolate at Fresh so I’m waiting for the day I can do “re-takes”!  Keep warm and cozy everyone!

The Vegetarian Sandwich Series – Grilled Tofu & Eggplant Panini and Hot Chocolate at Dark Horse Espresso Bar

3 Comments

Sandwiches?  Vegan sandwiches?  At a coffee shop?!  Yes siree.  Bring a book, a magazine, or a friend to the popular java haunt and sit back and relax with some sips and eats.  Dark Horse Espresso Bar, with 3 locations around downtown Toronto, is your one stop coffee shop for sunny laptop and tablet fun, coffee, lattes, summer and winter drinks, sweet treat baked goods, and grilled panini sandwiches.  I’ve sat back with an apple cider and a latte on two separate occasions and with its pretty orchid flowers and beautiful artwork on the walls, it’s a really nice coffee shop to be in.  It’s one of those perfect “oh my goodness, I need to get some work done but staying at home by myself makes me want to stab myself with a pen” spots because it’s airy and open with big communal tables, so it provides the space to be anonymous without being completely alone AND you get to enjoy food and drink while doing it!  

Recently, I’ve been hemming and hawwing about getting some work done at my local library but I’ve been hesitant about going just because the area lacks food options (I’m not kidding, the closest food option is a dot on the 3 km radius map) and we all know we can’t start breaking out the 3-course meals from our kitchen tupperware containers in the middle of the library.  So, Dark Horse poses itself as the more appealing option for a day of web work and after I had my lovely vegan grilled panini sandwich and hot chocolate, it posits itself as very delicious one too!

 

I love how I can go to Dark Horse and ask for cute latte art.  I know, you can get latte art at several other coffee shops in the city but I haven’t been to those yet, so humour me!  I asked for a cute heart in my hot chocolate ($3.09) and I got the most adorable heart/tulip heart shaped flower!  It was unintentionally (or maybe it was intentional on the part of the nice barista…) perfect for spring and if you like foamy hot chocolates, Dark Horse is your spot.  Don’t do what I did though and leave it sitting for too long.  I was so busy snapping photos of it and my sandwich that the foamies stuck to the inside of the mug and while it was kind of funny having to scrape some of the hot chocolate off, it’s not something I would suggest to anyone else. 

Their hot chocolate is very mild and foamy in taste and texture.  It’s not a fudgy type of chocolate taste, nor is is straight up cocoa powder in taste either.  It’s airy and light and if I had to compare it to something, I’d say that it tastes more like an unsweetened mousse that’s been air whipped into a hot chocolate drink.  For those who don’t like it sickly sweet and just want something that tastes more natural and light as opposed to rich and decadent, this is what you want.

I’ve had my eye on their vegan sandwich for months and months and it has taken me so long to finally get to it, but it was worth the wait because I really enjoyed it!  While I would have loved a big, stacked vegan sandwich baguette style or just a thicker sandwich in general, the vegan sandwich delivers in flavour on all counts and it’s hard to be hard on a panini sandwich based on its thickness; a panini is, essentially, a flattened grilled, toasted sandwich.  Dark Horse serves up a number of grilled panini sandwiches during the day (come after 11am and they’ll all be ready), with both meat and vegetarian options ranging from $6-$7.  These include grilled cheese, hot salami, turkey, and avocado and asparagus in addition to the vegan sandwich. 

The vegan sandwich is filled with a mix of firm tofu, grilled eggplant, roasted red peppers, avocado, and a coriander pesto spread.  I was totally expecting a run-of-the-mill grilled vegetable sandwich but what I got was an out-of-this-world warm, savoury, slightly spicy, ginger taste that emanated throughout the entire sandwich.  It took me completely by surprise and I found myself enjoying the sandwich more and more with every bite.  The bread was fantastic in texture with crunchy, grainy bits that had tiny pockets of savoury saltiness to it and the tofu wedges were perfect because they were firm without being rubbery and it fed off of the coriander pesto and grilled vegetables, absorbing their flavours while still retaining its own, well, tofu-ness. 

The bread and the spread totally did it for me and I had flavours in this sandwich that I had never come across before in other sandwiches and for that, it makes it unique.  Do I wish panini sandwiches in general were bigger and less flattened?  Sure.  But I’m more happy with the fact that it tasted great and that it was something I could see myself having again.  After all the dishes and things I’ve had in my life, especially since I started Ate by Ate, I’ve come across things that have been not-so-great and at the very least, forgettable, but this was a sandwich that I truly savoured and liked.          

*****

Dark Horse Espresso Bar serves 3 locations in downtown Toronto:

  1. 215 Spadina Ave. (nearest intersection is Queen St. West and Spadina, about a block or two north of Queen on the east side of Spadina)
  2. 682 Queen St. East (located in the Riverside neighbourhood, west of Broadview Ave.)
  3. 684 Queen St. West (located at Euclid Ave. on the north side of Queen)  

A Chocolatey Kind of Morning – Hot Chocolate & A Chocolate Ganache Kiss at L’Espresso Bar Mercurio

2 Comments

While almost everyone is continuing to ransack the grocery stores, drug stores, and candy shops for discounted chocolates and candies (you know who you are), the bombardment of red, pink, and heart printed paraphernalia has come and gone for yet another year.  What hasn’t saluted us goodbye though is our passion for chocolate and the frostiness of winter, which has managed to give us a few nasty surprises over the past two weekends!  How do we remedy the stubborness of winter sleet and snow then?  With chocolate, of course!  The heart-shaped boxes of bon-bons might be gone (or being plucked off the shelves by chocolate bargain hunters as we speak), but in its place now are chocolate bunnies and chocolate Easter eggs, so the presence of chocolate is going to remain at the forefront of our seasonal celebrations for quite some time still. 

I love my chocolate in the form of hot chocolate and chocolate cookies best and L’Espresso Bar Mercurio gave me what I like to call, my “chocolate morning”: a cup of frothy hot chocolate and a rich, fudgy, melt-in-your mouth chocolate ganache kiss!  After walking past this lovely cafe and espresso bar more times than I can remember (I admit, I am on Bloor Street A LOT), I finally came here for a sip and nibble one morning and now I can’t stop daydreaming about what I would eat my next time here!  I’ve wanted to come here for so long and I’ve always loved the air of sweetness and romance I’ve felt from it.  It’s a place that exudes fancy without actually being over the top fancy pants.  L’Espresso Bar Mercurio, located at 321 Bloor Street West, is a bright and fresh brunch and lunch cafe and espresso bar with enough coffee, loose leaf tea, lattes, and warm and cold drinks to quench the thirstiest of sippers. 

         

Sandwiched between the ROM (Royal Ontario Museum) and the Bata Shoe Museum in the University of Toronto neighbourhood, Mercurio’s is the perfect place to have brunch with the girl friends, a light business meeting lunch, and/or a warm drink and dessert with a friend.  With it’s fresh colour palette of white, gray, and green, it’s a lovely coffee date destination that affords casualness with that extra bit of fancy thrown in.  The cafe and espresso bar has big windows, allowing for ample natural light to stream in (perfect for us budding food photographers!) and in the spring and summer, a pretty patio off to the side for that little bit of privacy and romance (let’s not forget from where the name of the cafe is derived!).

Mercurio has a number of different menus to suit all sorts of appetites and tastes: a weekday breakfast menu, a weekend brunch menu, an everyday lunch menu, a vegetarian and vegan menu, and a huge menu of loose leaf teas, coffee drinks, and more.  In addition, the dessert selection is out of this world!  Pies, tarts, tortes, cakes, shortbread, giant cookies, homemade doughnuts, biscotti, dessert croissants, and sweet gluten-free options.  The cafe is both takeout and dine-in, which is great for those who want to quickly hop in for a quick coffee and pastry to go, and for those who want to sit back and relax for a sit-down meal.  As an added bonus, all food items come with a 20% student discount (yes, that most certainly includes university and college students!) with valid student ID.  Given its proximity to the University of Toronto, it makes perfect sense.

Their menus are located right by the front door, allowing everyone the opportunity to ponder their food choices even before being seated.  Conversely, you can also walk in, grab an available table first, and then hem and haw.  The eatery is bar service only, which means that everything is ordered and paid for up at the cash.  Servers and staff bring your food and tea to your table, but there are no menus to flip through and order from when you’re seated.  All of that is done up at the front, which I quite like because it reduces the amount time it takes to flag down a server to order, for the bill, and so on.  

My chocolate morning was comprised of a small hot chocolate (120z, $3.20) and a sweet little chocolate ganache kiss dessert.  In a word, my hot chocolate was frothy.  The chocolate was placed at the bottom of the cup to warm up and melt while hot, frothy milk was poured on top.  The hot chocolate was light and milky without being watery and perfectly chocolatey without being overly sweet, artificial, or overpowering.  It was simple and delicious.

My hot chocolate was totally and completely enhanced by my chocolate ganache kiss.  A thick layer of rich, smooth, and creamy ganache was sandwiched between two soft chocolate cookies.  It was so incredibly good.  So fudgy and so soft; the texture was bang on.  The cookies weren’t hard or crispy and the ganache wasn’t runny, mushy, or overly thick.  Together with the hot chocolate, it was wonderful.  You would think it would end up being chocolate overload (I know, such a thing does exist!), but they balanced each other perfectly.  The chocolate ganache kiss lended a full-bodied richness to the hot chocolate while the hot chocolate lended an airiness.

I am so excited about trying their loose leaf teas and a number of their breakfast and lunch items.  Trust that I will get around to attacking their breakfast sandwiches, vegetarian and vegan items, and other desserts!  In the meantime, I will happily reminisce over my sweet chocolate morning. 

*****

L’Espresso Bar Mercurio is located at 321 Bloor Street West at the corner of St. George Street right across from St. George subway station.  It is sandwiched between the ROM and the Bata Shoe Museum (the shoe museum is literally just steps away) and it is an espresso bar, dessert cafe, and brunch and lunch spot all in one.  They are open 7 days a week from 7am-11pm from Monday-Friday, 10am-4pm on Saturdays and Sundays.  They also offer weekend brunch.    

The Hot Chocolate Series – Cozy and Comfy Couches & Raspberry Hot Chocolates at Coffee Zone

3 Comments

There’s nothing like stumbling on a cute and cozy coffee shop on a wet and rainy day, especially when said coffee shop has flavoured hot chocolate!  When I first came up with the idea of starting the Hot Chocolate Series, I admit, I envisioned falling snowflakes, mittened hands, and sun bouncing off sparkly white snow.  I didn’t exactly anticipate walking around in slightly wet socks, and shaking excess water off my umbrella and dodging puddles in the middle of January.  I’m not a fan of frostbite either, but let’s be honest, the not-so-winter-wonderland type of weather has put a damper on my wintry white hot chocolate fairy tale.  Luckily for me, our beloved city has some very delicious hot chocolate to make up for that!  Introducing, the raspberry hot chocolate from Coffee Zone on Carlton Street! 

The first block on Carlton St. just off of Yonge has been developing into quite the foodie haven.  The area may not be the haute couture of gourmet dining, but it does have its gems.  First, we have The Sushi Shop on the south side of Carlton right beside the eastbound College subway station entrance and exit.  Then we witnessed the partial transformation of Maple Leaf Gardens into the 80 000+ square feet* food and grocery mecca that is Loblaws late last year, complete with cheese wheel wall and designer cupcake wall.  Finally, we bid farewll to 2011 and rang in 2012 with the opening of a brand new Bulk Barn store in December just a hop, step, skip away from the corner of Carlton and Yonge; bakers and cooks in the downtown core rejoice!  Coffee Zone sits right in the middle of it all and for the life of me, I don’t know why I didn’t notice it before!

I’ve been in and around the area countless times thanks to my many trips to Allan Gardens over the years and the cozy spot never even flitted across my field of vision.  How embarrassing!  Leave it to me to suddenly look up and see the hot chocolate menu board through the window on a random rainy winter day though! 

Coffee Zone is a comfy coffee shop and lunch cafe that serves sandwiches, desserts and pastries, and plenty of coffee, tea, and hot chocolate drinks.  And I mean plenty!  Aside from the hot apple ciders, london fogs, chai lattes, and cappuccinos, they have a slew of iced coffee drinks and flavoured cafe lattes.  There are 10 – count ’em  10 – flavours of cafe lattes!  Flavours include vanilla, cinnamon, chocolate, mint, strawberry, raspberry, irish cream, butterscotch, caramel, and hazelnut.  Not only do they have 10 flavours of cafe lattes, they also have a number of different espresso drinks such as red eyes, single and double espressos, espresso macchiatos, and espresso con panna.  The variety of drinks alone would make any coffee lover wiggle with glee.

The cafe is open and spacious with huge windows looking out onto the street and the colours, furniture, and decor scream warm and welcoming.  The chairs are painted in bright and cheery floral, butterfly, and polka dot prints, the walls are of a warm moss green, plushy armchairs and couches adorn both sides of the cafe, and a mini fireplace beckons you to curl up and enjoy a hot cocoa.  If you love flavoured hot chocolate, you will adore Coffee Zone’s hot chocolate menu.  Much like the cafe latte selection, there are multiple flavours – and sizes – to choose from: mint, vanilla, irish cream, strawberry, raspberry, cinnamon, and marshmallow.  A full menu of flavoured hot chocolate and comfy couches with a cute little fireplace?  I was sold!

I chose the raspberry hot chocolate ($2.49, small) and opted for a little bit of whipped cream on top at no extra charge.  I plopped onto one of the squishy couches and made myself at home while I waited for my fruit hot chocolate and when it was ready, I was presented with the most adorable, fluffy, frothy raspberry hot chocolate!  The whipped cream sat on top like a puffy cloud with powdered cocoa and frothy raspberry pink edges.  It was like Jigglypuff wrapped in cotton candy, in hot chocolate form!  It was fluffy and cute and it tasted delightful.

The moment the whipped cream, hot chocolate, and raspberry flavour hit my tastebuds, I let out a happy, “Mmm, this is so good!!”  The raspberry flavour was bang on and it was strong, in a good way.  It didn’t overwhelm the chocolate but it was plenty strong and present enough for you to know the raspberry was there.  With drinks, there’s nothing worse than ordering a flavoured one only to taste it and be disappointed by the complete lack of flavour.  It was fruity and sweet and the flavour was unmistakeable.  The hot chocolate wasn’t scalding (thank god) and the whipped cream didn’t melt away and disappear which I really appreciated.  If I had to give it a fixer-upper, I would make it just a touch thicker, but other than that it was beyond delicious.  I couldn’t believe the coffee shop, with its huge menu of drinks, had been under my nose all this time and I’m very much looking forward to trying a few other flavours of hot chocolate.  Thanks to my realization, that wet and rainy day proved to be a great day after all. 

*****

Coffee Zone is located at 30 Carlton St., just east of Yonge on the north side of Carlton.  It is steps away from College subway station and sits just west of the new Loblaws in old Maple Leaf Gardens.

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

2 Comments

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.