Hot chocolate on cold days

Craig Bero, owner and chef at Pleasant and Main in Housatonic, sips hot chocolate he has just melted over a wood stove outdoors. He takes his in a demitasse cup, he says, because it is rich. His family is Belgian and traditionally makes the kind of hot chocolate a spoon will stand up in, and he learned this recipe in the mountains in Corsica. He grinds his own cocoa powder and whisks in creme fraiche, heavy cream, chunks of chocolate and a dash of vanilla.

Cold weather in the Berkshires brings hot chocolate — milk or dark, thick and smooth. Most local coffee shops will make a steamed-milk hot cocoa, but this is something else again.

Rubi’s Café in Great Barrington offers a ‘chocolate bar’ with a careful selection of chocolate blends, and Chocolate Springs in Lenox makes a rich brew with Joshua Needleman’s own locally made chocolate.

On Route 9 near Notchview, the Old Creamery Co-op in Cummington has made its French hot chocolate in frosty weather for 8 or 10 years, said head baker Peri Kelly.

They melt Callebaut Belgian chocolate into local milk from High Lawn or Maple Line farms, she said. And it can come with real whipped cream, made in house. It surprises her how many people have never tasted cream whipped with a beater before.

“It’s so easy to make,” she said, “and it’s wonderful.”

She recommends the two togther, because the sweet cream cuts the richness of the dark chocolate.

(Winter tipples also come in many adult flavors. At the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, locals and visitors can sip a hot drink in an arm chair by the fire any time the tavern is open, said Shelly Swofford, front desk manager. They offer hot rum, hot toddies, hot cider or mixed drinks and more, and the holiday brings live performers six days a week, from harpists to storytellers. Year-round, local musicians perform most nights in the Lion’s Den.)

In the photo at the top, a cup of hot chocolate sits by the wood stove at Pleasant and Main in Housatonic. (Image courtesy of Pleasant and Main.) They also offer seasonal flavored hot chocolates with natural Berkshire extracts — almond, hazelnut, caramel, orange, raspberry, cherry, peppermint — as well as pairings with sweet crêpes. This exploration first ran in the holiday issue of Berkshire Magazine; my thanks to Anastasia Stanmeyer.

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