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From all-you-can-eat cocoa-driven buffets to Madrid’s favorite late-night pick-me-up, here is our guide to chocoholic heaven. (From the National Geographic book Food Journeys of a Lifetime)|
NO.1 Chocoholic Buffet, Vancouver, Canada
In a setting reminiscent of a European stately home, Sutton Place Hotel’s Fleuri Restaurant plays host to an all-you-can-eat chocolate buffet. The homemade cakes, pastries, and pies, and other goodies are made of premium-quality Schokinag chocolate. Even cocktails and liqueurs are chocolate-themed.
Planning: In the heart of downtown Vancouver, the hotel offers two chocolate-buffet seatings every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evening.
NO.2 Magnolia Bakery, New York City
This cozy little 1950s-style bakery shot to fame when characters from the TV series Sex and the City stopped by for a cupcake-fueled sugar rush. As well as red velvet chocolate cupcakes, the bakery dispenses a rainbow of brightly colored cupcakes, plus banana pudding, cookies, cherry cheesecake, and brownies. The German chocolate cake is a high point.
Planning: Magnolia has four outlets—including the Bleecker Street branch featured in Sex and the City.
NO.3 Max Brenner, New York City
Known for its hot chocolate served in a specially designed hand-warming “hug mug,” the Broadway shop and restaurant offer a mind-boggling array of cacao-based product from chocolate truffle martini and chocolate fondue to Young’s chocolate stout.
Planning: Max Brenner is at 841 Broadway and 141 Second Avenue.
NO.4 Maya Chocolate, Tabasco, Mexico
Here in the likely birthplace of chocolate—the word itself possibly deriving from the Maya xocoatl—taste hot chocolate Maya style: thick, foamy, bittersweet, and flavored with chili peppers. The Spanish conquistadors tempered the bitter brew with sugar, cinnamon, ground almonds, and milk. Try it both ways.
Planning: Comalcalco, Tabasco, has a cacao museum and cacao haciendas.
NO.5 Sachertorte, Vienna, Austria
A chocolate sponge cake, thinly coated by hand with apricot jam and then covered with dark chocolate icing, Sachertorte is named for its 1832 inventor, Franz Sacher. He created the dessert to impress his employer, Klemens Wenzel, Prince von Metternich, gaining fame and fortune for himself. In 1876 his son Eduard opened Vienna’s Hotel Sacher—visit the splendid café or one of Vienna’s four Sacher shops.
Planning: Top your Sachertorte with unsweetened whipped cream and drink it with coffee or champagne.
NO.6 Hot Chocolate, Turin, Italy
In Italy’s chocolate capital, sip a cioccolato caldo. This winter-buster comes very thick, hot, and agreeably bitter, topped generously with whipped cream. Sample bicerin, a layered hot-chocolate-and-espresso drink served in glass cups, available only in Turin, or try giandujotto, a foil-wrapped, chocolate-hazelnut candy.
Planning: Visit in February for the chocolate festival, Cioccola-Tò. Buy a Choco-Pass at the tourist office and get discounts on sweet treats around the city.
NO.7 Valrhona Chocolate, Tain l’Hermitage, France
In wine-making country, on the Rhône’s left bank, visit the home of Valrhona chocolate, favored by many of the world’s leading chocolatiers and chefs. Unusually, the chocolate is made only with natural fat from cocoa butter; no vegetable fat is added. Chocoholics will enjoy the chance to sample or buy at the factory shop, while professional chefs can study at Valrhona’s École du Grand Chocolat, a chocolate-cookery school.
Planning: The factory shop opens daily except Sundays. Explore the medieval city of Tournon, across the river.
NO.8 Chocolate and Churros, Madrid, Spain
Few institutions offer better evidence of Madrid’s insomnia than its perennially popular chocolaterías (also known as churrerías), typically abuzz with late-night revelers from 4 a.m. to breakfast time. Their trademark dish is the churro, a long waffle-like stick of savory fried dough, eaten dunked into very thick bittersweet hot chocolate. Stop in at the venerable Chocolatería San Ginés, an 1894 throwback. Expect entertainingly brusque service, bright lights, and a frenzied atmosphere.
Planning: Chocolatería San Ginés is downtown on Pasadizo San Ginés. It's open all night.
NO.9 Nemesis, River Café, London, England
One of London’s best restaurants and the spawning ground of many a celebrity chef, including Jamie Oliver, the café’s signature dessert is the Chocolate Nemesis cake. Gooey with a slight crust on top, it gains its richness from a staggering quantity of chocolate.
Planning: Chocoholics can join a Chocolate Ecstasy Tour of London.
NO.10 Chocolate Hotel, Bournemouth, England
To eat, breathe, and sleep chocolate, where better to stay than this chocolate-theme hotel? Chocolate-tasting and chocolate-making classes ensure that chocoholics leave satisfied.
Planning: The hotel is on West Cliff, near both beach and downtown. Work up an appetite by walking along the town’s magnificent beach.