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ISSUE 120 VOL 9 PUBLISHED 12/1/2006

Craving cocoa? Here's where to indulge

By Kate Sheridan
Contributing Writer
and Kathryn Sederberg
Contributing Writer

Friday, December 1, 2006

Admit it. The last 50 times you visited a café it was in search of coffee. This holiday season, give in to your sweet tooth and order cocoa.

You'd be following the tradition of Aztec kings and of Johnny Depp, who, in the movie "Chocolat," named hot chocolate as his drink of choice.

We reviewed eight different cups of cocoa. So read and find out where to get the best price, the best holiday atmosphere and the best date scene.

Goodbye Blue Monday Price: $1.80 / $2.30

Our first stop was the venerable Goodbye Blue Monday Coffeehouse on Division Street. We loved the atmosphere at Blue Monday. It's the best place to people-watch - where else can you see Carls, Northfield police officers, professors and small children? The eclectic décor attracts all types, and we think it's well worth the walk into town. We found the cocoa smooth and creamy, with a chocolate taste that wasn't overwhelming. Although ready within a minute, "It's not Swiss Miss," said Andrew Nygaard '05, as he prepared our cup.

Blue Monday serves its drinks in signature dark blue mugs and our cocoa came topped with exceptional whipped cream and chocolate drizzle.

James Gang Hideaway Price: $2.20 / $2.50 / $2.80

One block away from Blue Monday is the James Gang Hideaway, a recent addition to the Northfield coffeehouse scene. We were impressed with the colorful and bright atmosphere, as well as the hot chocolate, which is made with Ghirardelli syrup.

The hot chocolate was served in a mug with a peak of whipped cream. This place definitely gets stars for taste - the chocolate was rich and exceeded our expectations.

The Hideaway also gets our highest recommendation as a great place to bring a date in Northfield. In a claustrophobically small town, students often feel like they are under a microscope when with a new love interest. It's called the "Hideaway" for a reason, and there's no better place to cozy up and share a cocoa.

Bittersweet Café and Gathering Place Price: $2.05 / $2.60 / $3.05

Located in the Archer House, not many Oles know about this locale. Barista Maggie Richards '07 agreed with us that hot chocolate is often overlooked among students. "It's mostly kids who order hot chocolate," she said.

As we took our seats, we felt as if we were sitting in a grandmother's kitchen. It was cozy, if a little feminine. However, the hot chocolate itself was not up to par. It was not as chocolaty as the others and needed to be re-stirred to keep the contents from separating.

Caribou Coffee Price $2.30 / $2.55 / $2.80

If the St. Olaf Christmas décor or the Christmas Fest blitz has not yet moved you to sing Christmas carols day and night, go over to Caribou, where snowflake mobiles and red and green decorations will surely do the trick. The cocoa itself is nothing spectacular, but it's not bad either.

Although they have the priciest hot chocolate, we did give Caribou points for the pretty garnish: whipped cream and dark chocolate shavings. There's nothing cozy about holding a paper cup, even though the fireplace and the rustic cabin atmosphere do add a nice touch. Again, this would be a good escape from the confines of campus social life, but at Caribou it's at the price of losing your soul to a coffeehouse chain.

The Ole Store Price: $1.60 / $2.00

What better way to end an afternoon of sledding on Old Main Hill than to meet some friends at the Ole Store for a cup of cocoa? Considering location, taste and price, we would recommend this coffeehouse to anyone in need of a decadent chocolate treat.

Reminiscent of a foamy cappuccino, the whipped cream layer really added to this cup of cocoa. If you like chocolate, this is your best bet. It could have been a bit warmer, but we loved the yummy garnish and the presentation. The Ole Store serves their beverages in attractive white ceramic mugs.

Carleton's Snack Bar Price: $1.31

Add a little excitement to your day by venturing over to the Carleton campus. For a college that keeps its library open until 3 a.m. during finals, we were shocked at the difficulty of finding quality hot beverages. We winced in pain as we pushed the button on the automatic hot cocoa dispenser in the "Snack Bar," the Carleton counterpart to the Cage, which doesn't even offer espresso!

The cocoa was everything we expected from the powder/water mixture that poured out of the spout. After tasting this concoction, we now understand why Carleton considers Blue Monday an extension of their campus. On our way out, we found a thirsty-looking plant that needed the cocoa more than we did.

The Cage Price: $1.50 / $2.25

If you just picked up your copy of the Manitou Messenger from Buntrock Commons, your nearest bet for cocoa is the Cage. Like Caribou, the Cage only serves in paper cups. If your daily routine usually involves coffee, why don't you switch it up?

The Cage hot chocolate is comfortably warm. We think hot chocolate is made to sip, rather than drink, and at this temperature it will warm you on those infamously cold Minnesota mornings.

The Lion's Pause Price: $.50 / $.25 with mug

As we stopped by the Pause, we were disappointed to find that the hot chocolate machine was out of commission for the second time this week. Although an unreliable source for hot chocolate, you can't beat the low price, convenience or late hours.

On previous visits, we've found this hot chocolate a step above the Caf, two or three steps above Carleton's Snack Bar, yet not the quality you'd find with any milk/syrup mixture made by a barista.

Another thing to consider are specialty hot chocolates, offered by some cafes. Goodbye Blue Monday offers a Mexican Hot Chocolate, spiced with cinnamon. The Cage has a seasonal Caramel Hot Chocolate and Caribou offers a White Hot Chocolate. Most locales encourage creativity, so consider adding a shot of raspberry or crème de menthe.

Also, you can usually get discounts for being sustainable, and especially at places like Caribou or the Cage, Santa will move you off the “naughty” list for this year for remembering your travel mug!

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