Tag Archives: Hot chocolate

Max Brenner – A Chocoholic’s Utopia in New York City (And Beyond)

By Lakshmi:

Last week I had a business meeting in the city and since it was 2:00 pm, a time slot more conducive to a coffee break, the person I was with recommended we head to Max Brenner’s.  I have passed this place a zillion times on my numerous walks on Broadway and even had Siddhi give me a piping syringe filled with chocolate as a gift, but never had set foot here.

Given the weather and the holiday season, the place was packed.  To my right were two huge vats mixing molten white and regular chocolate and to my left was the bar area with a display case of assorted goodies and a woman making and stacking up crepes.  We seated ourselves on the bar stools and then started our oohing and aahing over the dessert menu.  Caramel milk shake or Mexican hot chocolate?  Eat something or simply have a drink?  We both decided on the Mexican hot chocolate.  Within a few minutes we were presented with the most beautiful serving cups (that looked more like gravy pourers – they are called hug mugs!) with a beautiful leaf like design made by the swirl of milk and chocolate on the top.  Our first question – how do you drink from these?  Our waitress told us to cup the utensil with both hands and just drink.  What happened next was not short of divine.  As the perfect blend of chocolate, milk, cinnamon and pepper coated our tongues, we both could not believe that the hot chocolate could be elevated to such a synergistic marriage of flavors.  “Oh my God, this is nothing like the Mexican hot chocolate we have had in other places….How do they do this…You feel the pepper kick without the spiciness…”  We delighted in every last drop, to the point that when the waiter came to take away my cup with a little bit left, I had to stop him.

After lounging here for a few hours, off I went to the Holiday Market at Union Square (featured in a separate post) and when I met up with Siddhi and her friend for dinner, we returned back here to try a meal.

This time, we sat in the dining area and ordered tacos, beer battered onion rings with a sauce that had chocolate, rosemary waffles encasing an arugula mozzarella sandwich and some pita with hummus.  The food was good, but in our opinion not as earth shattering as the chocolate that I had had earlier.  So, needless to say, dessert was a must do.

We decided to go for the fondue.  In a few minutes, we had a beautiful display showcasing a burner to roast marshmallows, three bowls set up over flames with milk chocolate, dark chocolate and caramel and finally strawberries, bananas, cookie and brownie bits.  We ate every morsel in front of us and even asked for spoons to finish the molten chocolate!

If you happen to be in New York City this winter, head over to Max Brenner’s located at 841 Broadway (between 13th and 14th Streets).  Any lover of chocolate will be hard pressed to leave without feeling satiated.

You can read up more on Max Brenner at


Can you have too much dessert and coffee? Not if you are cafe hopping in Vienna.

By Lakshmi:

“Kaffehaus” was the name of a book I picked up many years ago as my armchair culinary journey into the desserts from the classic cafes of Vienna, Prague and Budapest.  Filled with history, pictures and delectable pastries, it became my go to resource for kitchen experiments long before I stepped foot in the city of Vienna.

And when I finally got to the city, the desserts and cafe names were imprinted in my memory, a sort of must do list that I had lusted after for many years.  For the last several years, I have been fortunate enough to head to this city every spring and on each trip at least one afternoon is dedicated to sampling the desserts and coffees this city has become synonymous with.

On my last trip there, an Italian and Indian American (aka a friend and I) teamed up to cover a few cafes pre-dinner and one right after.  The first stop was Cafe Central, an architectural beauty that once housed the stock exchange and now serving as the backdrop for some amazing food and conversation.  As we were waiting to be seated, we took in the sights and smells and quickly recollected that this very location had been a gathering spot for Viennese intellectuals and some renowned world names including Sigmund Freud, Vladimir Lenin and Adolf Hitler.  Additionally, the cafe was supposedly the inspiration for The Chestnut Tree in George Orwell’s novel 1984.   I hate cafes for the mental agony they put you through.  There you are salivating over the most delectable  treats and a cafe hopping experience implies that you simply cannot indulge too much at one place.  I selected a beautiful work of art commonly known as the Dobos Torte with a cup of coffee.   As I slowly savored the torte, trying to identify each flavor in its complex layers, we watched the young and old, the smiling and the intense, the regulars and tourists all unified by their joy at partaking something so delectable.  We talked and laughed about families, spousal tiffs and of course had to make a very serious decision…..which cafe would we we go to next.

Our next stop was Cafe Demel.  We ordered Fragilite and a liqueur laced coffee that sent the taste buds on a different journey.  An extremely fragile dessert (thin layers of nut dough with a light chocolate cream) with a heavier coffee was a perfect combination. This time our conversation centered around work, colleagues and politics.  People watching was of course inherent to the cafe experience and while I was focused on the kaleidoscope of people, my colleague’s focus was on the attractive Viennese women who patronized the cafe:)

Our last stop of the evening occurred close to midnight at the infamous Sacher Cafe, a place I had frequented each year for the Sacher Torte and hot chocolate.  Given that we had just had a long Hungarian dinner (goulash being the lone option for the sole vegetarian) at a small place near Stefanplatz, our stomach did not need another morsel of food.  But, the thought of leaving Vienna without completing an annual tradition did not seem right and so we walked slowly towards the Sacher Cafe and finished our hot chocolate and torte before heading back to the hotel.

The web, friends, food magazines, etc. all herald the Viennese cafe hopping experience as something one must do.  And I am certainly on that bandwagon, albeit fortunate enough to break down this must do culinary journey into bite size pieces spread over several years.  To learn more about these cafes, visit: