Over the Christmas holiday, I went to visit my family in Estonia, a small, quiet country in Northeastern Europe. They've lived there since October, so by the time I got there at the end of December, they were all settled in and ready to show me around.
One of the little places we visited was a Hot Chocolate Restaurant that was down a back alley:
And had this on the back door:
Inside, we all had some of the most decadent hot chocolate we had ever tasted in our lives. Noah got one that was laced with ice-cream.
But this layered beauty of "Vanilla-Sea-Salt-Honey-Cocoa" was my own special treat. I was in awe. Who knew that honey and chocolate could go together? How did it have all of those layers? Was that steamed milk foam and whipped cream I was tasting? If it hadn't been my last day in Estonia, I am positive that I would have paid 3.50€ multiple times just trying to figure out the secrets of this rich, drinkable dream. (This first one was a gift from Mom - or was she just trying to increase my addiction to cocoa?)
Since, however, it was my last day, my pocketbook is happy to announce that I did not squander its contents on European melted chocolate confections, but instead on ample amounts of American possibilities for Stateside reproduction.
With a little creativity, I began trying to make my own version:
I melted dark chocolate chunks with a little bit of boiling water and some vanilla.
I drizzled a tall glass with honey and sprinkled it with kosher salt.
In went the melted chocolate, followed by a few ounces of steamed milk thanks to my espresso machine.
Finally, I topped it with homemade whipped cream (well, technically, I used half and half...which, yes, you can whip) and sprinkled it with a little cocoa.
Voila! My attempt at Estonian Cocoa.
It wasn't quite as decadent - or quite as hot as it should have been to be a perfect match. Turns out, making a perfect cup of cocoa with milk foam on top takes years of practice. Maybe thousands of times of steaming milk and melting chocolate to really get it perfect.
And that's alright with me - because imperfect cocoa made with a desire to create, experiment and learn is still amazing.
And learning that imperfect can still be delicious is more amazing still.
So here's to a new year full of learning and trying and doing and being and failing - and enjoying growing up and making life delicious, even with all its imperfections.