Having spent the better part of the week fighting a cold and finding myself in the unenviable predicament of feeling hungry but everything tasting utterly bland and having to force myself to eat so as to keep on living, I was hopeful that the sinus-y clouds would part when that weekend’s Girls About Town meetup at Mindy’s HotChocolate rolled around. Forget the phlegmy coughs and the constant dripping from my nose; I just wanted to be able to taste again!
Winner of the 2012 James Beard Award, I had heard about HotChocolate several times in the past but had never made the trek out to Wicker Park to try it. Although Wicker Park isn’t terribly far from where I live, it’s inconvenient, requiring at least two forms of public transportation to get there. The neighborhood isn’t typically on top my list when deciding where to go, so when my friend Stacy listed the restaurant as an event for her meetup group, I jumped at the chance.
I joined Mindy (my friend, not the owner of the establishment) and six other girls on a cold Sunday morning for an indulgent brunch. I’m not actually a fan of hot chocolate, as most places make it with milk and the idea of drinking milk, perhaps more than the actuality of drinking it, makes my stomach churn. But, I stepped outside my comfort zone and decided I would order one of their famous hot chocolates in a non-dairy version. The Mexican hot chocolate – with dark and milk chocolate with cinnamon and cayenne – sounded the best, but disappointingly they only offer their dark hot chocolate in a soy version. So I ordered that. Not disappointingly, however, it was delicious – a smooth, intensely chocolaty drink that left a wisp of cocoa flavor across my lips whenever I took a sip. The homemade marshmallow was pleasantly chewy and sweet, lacking any of the Styrofoam texture of regular marshmallows. It was, for me, too rich to be something that I could drink every day, but it was perfect for a special treat.
I was surprised to find myself ordering the Biscuits and Gravy for my meal. Biscuits and gravy are not at all a part of my culinary upbringing, nor have I felt drawn to it my adulthood, but the idea of hot buttermilk biscuits was particularly enticing that morning and the lamb sausage that accompanied it piqued my interest. The dish was both incredibly delicious and also not for me. The biscuits were fantastically fluffy and paired nicely with the fried egg that came perched on top. It’s taken me years to appreciate the special unctuousness that is the runny egg yolk; dipping pieces of the buttery biscuits into the fried egg made me glad I had finally left behind the fear of eating eggs anything less than cooked perfectly hard. The lamb sausage, on the other hand, left me cold. I love lamb, but the intense meaty flavor of the lamb was perhaps a bit too much for the time of day or for the application. I’m sure there are people who really enjoy it here, but it just didn’t work for me.
HotChocolate is particularly known for their desserts, which I didn’t get a chance to taste this time around. So full from the hot chocolate and the biscuits, I and the other girls couldn’t even think to pick up a few of the cookies they sell at the front of the restaurant (Bacon chocolate chip? Yum!). I’ll have to come back one day just to try some of their wonderful sounding sweets – the Honey & Chocolate Souffléd Tart will most definitely be mine. I have a feeling it’ll be worth the two busses I take to get there.