bananas on the wall


M and I fancy ourselves hip to the coffee scene.  Side note: I don’t drink coffee.  I’ve never been able to palete the stuff, all inky and bitter.  It’s peculiar then, that I average 5 cups of strong black tea a day, hold the sugar and milk, s’il vous plait.  C’est un mystère.

Long story short, M’s love – actually let’s call it a passion- for coffee has lead us on a year long tour of the best coffee shops New England has to offer.  Naturally, we made a priority of hunting down the first few establishments to make it to Paris in its “coffee revolution”, as M refers to it.  We were searching for the cool and the crafty.  Those with artisan beans, resplendent glass coffee maker thingies (which M knows all the names of, that fancy guy) and a well-tiled floor.

Well, ask Paris and you shall receive.  We listened to the summer of love next to hanging bananas at coolest, teeniest Boot Café.  We sipped beet juice and discovered the world’s best iced tea (thé vert with ginger, lime, and mint) at Blackburn.  We read the world news with Bruce Lee, over crunchy avocado toast (with more ginger, chives, poached egg and paprika) and smooth yogurt (topped liberally with housemade granola, diced pears, and apricot compote) at Fragments, blues rock record spinning.  There was a refreshing and beautiful bowl of greek yogurt, cold brew and beakers of cold water alongside some friendly fellow tourists, honeymooning across Europe at Cotume Café.  An early morning at Strada gifted us with quiet, excellent caffeination.

The best thing about Parisian coffee shops?  Your cup is your rent check, and as long as you’ve got something to sip, you’re welcome to stay.  Relax, recharge, enjoy.  C’est la vie Parisienne…

a whole lot o’ hot cocoa


There’s a lovely little place in Fox Point that I’ve written about time and time again, where the folks feel like family and the walls, works of art.  It’s a favorite of PVD’s most instafamous, out-of-towner coffee connoisseurs searching for the perfect cup, and an adorable grandpa/grandson combo who’s adorable avocado toast-sharing ritual I’ve witnessed on several occasions now.  Well, that sounded stalker-y.  Let’s move on.

For the past 2 years, this lovely little place, also known as The Shop, has held a rather wonderful event during the first few weeks of the new year.  Hot Cocoa Fest, as they call it, brings a different artisanal hot chocolate flavor to The Shop each week for PVD’s tasting pleasure.  At the end of the ‘fest’, the community votes for its favorite flavor, which then wins a spot on The Shop’s winter menu for the remaining months.  Yay hot cocoa, yay democracy, yay trying new things!

Because I’m a huge fan of wintertime treats, homemade marshmallows*, and things that involve checklists, I decided to take this year’s Hot Cocoa Fest into my own hands.  Making the whole operation a lot more official, my sweet friend Melissa (the one looking just darling in the Elmer Fudd hat below) actually bought me a gift certificate-good for 8 hot cocoas- on which she gel-penned the complete list of flavors for my checking-off enjoyment.  Behold:

I’d like to share the results here, as they stand, before spring really springs and my opinion of assorted flavors of warm winter beverages becomes even more irrelevant than it already is.  If you happen to be interested…

Peanut Butter Cup: Wow. The Fest started out with a bang.  PB Cup, as I affectionately referred to it throughout the duration of the hot cocoa-a-thon, was by far one of my favorites.  It didn’t taste like straight up peanut butter the way I thought it might, no, it was truly a peanut butter cup somehow magically infused into the hot chocolate.  As a recent pb cub convert who used to trade her Halloween Reese’s for anything she could get her hands on, I can confidently say this hot cocoa was fantastic. 4 stars.

Dulce De Leche: The dulce de leche brought it back to the classics.  Though very delicious on its own, in comparison to every other flavor being offered throughout, this guy just didn’t stand up to the competition.  A very chocolatey hot chocolate.  So yeah.  Good, but, ya know, 2 stars.  Moving on…


Banana: Another favorite, and another display of pure sorcery on the part of those Shop baristas!  I was afraid it might taste like banana laffy taffy soaking in the bottom of an otherwise perfect cup of cocoa, but boy was I wrong.  The banana flavor was subtle and trailing.  The experience was much more reminiscent of a banana/nutella marriage (i.e. more nutty, less sweet), and I mean that as a MAJOR compliment.  4 stars.

Cranberry Nut: The pattern seemed to be one week on, one week off.  Though tasty, the cranberry nut seemed to lack well, cranberries and nuts.  I may have had my expectations set a bit too high for this one, as Cape Cod trail mix happens to be one of my favorite snacks, but the extreme subtlety of flavor left me pretty darn disappointed.  1 star.


Peppermint Stick: Confession time: I missed this one!  Woops!  BUT, I did seek out friends for their opinion (as well as interrogating the owner for his opinion of the cult classic the following week), and the general response seemed to be this: If you like peppermint patties, this hot cocoa is for you.

Raspberry: Yum.  I drank this one fast.  I should have savored the flavor a bit more, but was walking up Wickenden with my mom on a chilly day and the warm goodness in my tummy just felt too good to syphon.  Plus, they were out of ‘mallows that day, so the barista (Hi John!) decorated our cocoas with pretty little hearts and that kind of ingestible art is truly irresistible, am I right? 3 stars.


*Kettle Corn*: Oh boy.  Be prepared because things are about to get weird over here.  The kettle corn hot chocolate (pictured at the top of this post in all of its sweet, salty, smooth, crunchy glory) was what my grandma would call “really somethin’ else”.  Melissa and I met for a study date (what up, Whole Dancer program?!), and kept interrupting each other to discuss the sheer awesomeness that was taking place in our mugs.  It demanded our undivided attention.  The kettle corn, made locally by Biggest Little Popcorn Company, was buttery delicious bomb diggity on its own, but topping The Shop’s expert hot cocoa (mallow on the side), the two became a truly 5-star treat.  Bravo.

PB & J:  Or, PBJ, as I prefer to call it, did not disappoint.  While not quite an act of pb&j-sandwich-in-a-hot-chocolate magic like its pb cup and banana predecessors, the PB & J hot cocoa certainly did not disappoint.  It was much sweeter than the others- in a good way.  A total throwback to last week childhood, where the wholesome sammy sat secondary in my diet only to the prized grilled cheese.  Delightfully delicious. 3 stars.

And with that, I challenge you, Shop Wizards, to concoct for me a grilled cheese hot cocoa…IMG_9255

*It’s worth noting that the marshmallows are marketed as being ‘optional’ but I consider them completely necessary and worthy of their 50-cent (2 quarters, not the rapper) up charge.  Those bad boys are totally scrumptious.

Special thanks to Melissa for sponsoring my artisan hot cocoa habit, and to Michael for indulging my weekly trips to The Shop!  You guys rock.