Definitely a day to cozy up to your couch and drink some hot chocolate. I wish I were back in Amsterdam, where I had the good fortune to meet Kees Raat, master chocolatier and proprietor of the award-winning Metropolitan Deli, a sweets shop dedicated to stretching the chocolate imagination as far as it can go. His hot chocolate, a thick, dark cup that blows away the competition in the land of hot chocolate, is exquisite — almost savory and velvet-textured, caressing your tongue and throat as you take tiny sips.
Unlike Willy Wonka and his slave labor, Raat sources cocoa beans from Cuba directly, seeking sustainable practices and the best quality. He then grinds and cooks down the fermented cocoa beans to make his own chocolate. I’d never seen chocolate making from bean to bar, and it was kind of thrilling, so simple yet so difficult.
The shop sells everything from chocolate letters to cayenne-spicy langues de chat to ice cream (trompe la langue Campari blood orange, stroopwaffel or “nuts and glory”) to cocoa beer to cocoa lotion to poffertje pancakes, cakes, waffles, and waffle cones. And it’s all packed into a tiny, narrow space just off Dam Square that’s filled with delighted customers. He also holds workshops and gives talks on all the troublesome and delightful nuances of the chocolate trade.
But if you’re on your own austerity programme for the new year, might I suggest another treat served up for free at the shop? I’d never publicly endorse this kind of celebration, and I prefer my own nose to remain snowy white, but there’s always the low-cal version of hot chocolate: