The French Twist Cafe

…has ruined me for hot chocolate.

So when I was a kid, I loved Swiss Miss hot chocolate – you know, the packets of cocoa and sugar and whatever that you can mix with hot water. I particularly liked the ones with the little mini marshmallows; I loved chasing them around in the cup and trying to drink them before they dissolved. Suckers always floated to the far side of the mug, too.

Then, when I was a teen, I discovered that Starbucks made hot chocolate with milk. It blew the watery Swiss Miss away. Starbucks hot chocolate was creamy and sweet; they steamed the milk as if for a latte, but then mixed it with sweet chocolate syrup. The richness of the milk won my heart. I now made my hot chocolate at home with hot milk and cocoa mix (nothing but sugar and cocoa in the ingredient list, thank you very much).

But then, along comes the French Twist Cafe.

It’s a tiny little place, tucked away on a side road off the Main Street of historic Sykesville. It’s warm, cozy, and very welcoming, and they make fantastic crepes. I had their autumn special crepe, with applesauce and salted caramel drizzle, and it was delightful; with the seasonal gingerbread chai alongside, I really felt like I was celebrating fall.

autumn apple crepe and gingerbread chai at the French Twist Cafe

But forget all that for a minute and let’s talk about the hot chocolate. I think they call it “chocolat chaud,” which as far as I can tell is just French for “hot chocolate.” I ordered a hot chocolate and watched them steam the milk; then, to my surprise, the only thing that went into the milk was a generous scoop of bittersweet chocolate chips, stirred until melted. I think the lady said the chips were 70% cocoa, which is pretty darn bitter if eaten on its own. And that was it! No syrup, no sugar, no artificial flavorings of any kind.

It was a revelation.

The taste is pure chocolate, rich and creamy with the milk, no cloying syrupy aftertaste. I was amazed. The next time I got Starbucks hot chocolate, it felt far too sweet on my tongue; I missed the uncomplicated simplicity of nothing but bittersweet chocolate and hot milk, whisked together. Thanks a lot, French Twist Cafe; you’ve ruined me for hot chocolate forever.

Guess I’ll just have to go back.

hot chocolate at the French Twist Cafe

Ignore how the drink looks. It looked much prettier when they gave it to me, but I couldn’t resist taking a sip or three before I took a picture.

(They sweeten their whipped cream with honey. Get the honey whipped cream on top. It’s heavenly.)