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Carey Kish

Carey Kish of Mount Desert Island has been adventuring in the woods and mountains of Maine for, well, a long time. If there’s a trail—be it on dirt, rock, snow, water or pavement—he will find it, explore it, and write about it. Carey is a two-time Appalachian Trail thru-hiker, Registered Maine Guide, author of AMC’s Best Day Hikes Along the Maine Coast, editor of the AMC Maine Mountain Guide (10th ed.), and has written a hiking & camping column for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram since 2003. Follow his outdoor travels and musings here, and on Facebook/CareyKish. Let Carey know what you think at MaineOutdoors@aol.com.

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Posted: January 6, 2016

Hot Chocolate 101: When a beer just won’t do for après ski, try a steaming cup of gourmet cocoa  

Written by: Carey Kish

You’re bundled up from helmet to boots against the January cold. Despite layers of synthetics, from insulated jacket and gloves to facemask and goggles, the wind bites and the chill penetrates. No matter, the skiing and riding is great and you’re not about to give in to the weather.

The steeps, the bumps, the trees, they’re all good; you’re feeling good, and you want more.

You could break for lunch, but why deal with the heat-seeking crowds? Let them eat, lounge, call it a day, while you forge on, steeled against the cold and happy as, well, you know.

Something’s got to give eventually. Maybe you’ve outlasted the lifts, you’re just spent, or day’s cold has finally taken its toll. You’ve gotta come into the lodge sometime, so you do, and shed the damp clothing and boots.

You’d love to warm up with a hot chocolate, but figure you’ll get something dispensed from a machine with the push of a button. Tasty maybe, exciting no, and not quite what you had in mind. You pack and head for your favorite après-ski hangout.

A cold January day on the slopes of Shawnee Peak. Carey Kish photo.

A cold January day on the slopes of Shawnee Peak. Carey Kish photo.

Still chilled to the bone, you sidle up to the bar and order up. Not a beer, but a (gulp!) hot chocolate. Your ski pals are shocked; you ignore their mocking and tout the redemptive qualities of hot chocolate. They turn away, but no matter, the steaming hot chocolate arrives and you savor it, sip-by-body-warming-sip.

The problem is, however, that your hot chocolate turns out to be much the same hot water-meets-cocoa powder-meets paper cup variety you just passed up. You sip on, chewing the mini-marshmallows. Your friends turn back and make like they know you again. You put on a happy face, but inside you’re thinking like a chocolate lover, and wondering if there isn’t a better way.

Mmmm, a realy good cup of hot chocolate really hits the spot after a cold day of skiing. Image courtesy acttwomagazine.com.

Mmmm, a really good cup of hot chocolate hits the spot after a cold day of skiing. Image courtesy acttwomagazine.com.

You don’t need much to make really good hot chocolate, from the simple to the sophisticated. This applies whether you’re snuggled up in your condo, ski house or cabin, or trying to explain to your server over the jukebox how to make the latest concoction you’ve read about or dreamed up.

Figure this: Your après-ski pub is a cool place, right? They make a good cocktail—just about anything you ask for—so why can’t they make you a decent hot chocolate? They probably can and will, but like an unusual cocktail, you might have to make a special request and educate your favorite barperson on the desired ingredients.

Riding on a frigid January day at Sunday River. Carey Kish photo.

Riding on a frigid January day at Sunday River. Carey Kish photo.

Hot Chocolate 101: The makings of a really great cup of hot cocoa

Life is all about living well, so why shouldn’t it include the pleasure of a decadent cup of delicious hot chocolate? It can and should, but there’s a few things to know before you start making strange demands on your bartender and wait staff friends. We’ll call it a quick lesson in Hot Chocolate 101. Here goes:

There are different several basic types of chocolate, bitter or unsweetened, bittersweet or dark, semisweet, sweet dark, milk chocolate. All are good, and you probably already know which best suits your sweet tooth.

By the way, did I tell you that chocolate is good for you? Yeah, studies show that it’s rich in antioxidants, the stuff that works against heart disease and cancers. But isn’t chocolate high in fat and sugar? Yeah, so, what’s your point? Beer has its downsides too, but there’s gonna be no giving that up. Repeat after me: Life is short, live well, ski fast and furious, drink (and eat) what you want.

Oh my! A tasty cup of good cocoa is easier to make than you think. Image courtesy amorchocolate.com.

Oh my! A tasty cup of good cocoa is easier to make than you think. Image courtesy amorchocolate.com.

For ingredients you need bar chocolate, a stove and a cup or mug. Nice extras include spices, sweeteners and alcohol. Tools of the hot chocolate trade include a measuring cup, sharp knife, grater, whisk and a couple pots and pans. And whipped cream is always the proper topper in our view.

Take the goods listed above as you like them and experiment, mix and match, heat, stir and pour. What’s the worst that can happen? You produce a batch with light on the caramel but heavy on the peppermint schnapps, wobble around some in a chocolaty haze and pass out on the rug by the fireplace? So what! Remember, repeat after me…

For some real recipes, I recommend a couple of fun books. Try Hot Chocolate: 50 Heavenly Cups of Comfort by Fred Thompson (Harvard Common Press) and you can go most of the ski season and not have the same cup of hot chocolate twice. Hot Chocolate by Michael Turbeck (Ten Speed Press) brings you 60 more flavorful recipes that’ll satisfy the most demanding hot chocolate connoisseur.

Brrrr... plunging down Tight Line at Saddleback one day last January. Carey KIsh photo.

Brrrr… skiing down Tight Line at Saddleback one day last January. Carey KIsh photo.

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