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January 16th, 2015 at 9:00 am

hot chocolate Ventura County

Few things that can brighten up a dreary winter day like a cup of steamy, sweet hot chocolate. The art of making cocoa is a time-honored and highly prized skill that has practitioners in almost every corner of the world. However, few, if any, chocolate artistes ply their trade with as much world-renowned fame and skill as those that dwell in the cozy center of Europe’s confectionary heartland: France.

France is where two culinary fans of refined artisanal cuisine were nurtured and raised, but it took a trip across the Atlantic Ocean and a move to Southern California before they could meet and turn their mutual passion into reality. Sabrina and Hugo Barthe opened Chocolatine Tearoom in 2004, and since then their devotion to their customers and their fare have earned them a reputation as some of the finest purveyors of hot chocolate all throughout the Southland.

Rather than use conventional-powered mixed hot chocolate, Hugo takes a page from his childhood, where his mother would melt chunks of chocolate to create a delightful and creamy drink. Today that tradition continues, as he uses real Belgian chocolate melted in steamed milk and combined with vanilla and a bit of sugar. His drink is sought out throughout Ventura and beyond for the taste of Europe it brings to the shores of Southern California.

There are two more varieties of this wondrous nectar of the gods: the “Silken” version that fuses the cocoa into a caffeinated mocha that puts a bit of spring in your step, and “Nana,” which brings a hint of spicy chili and three times as much dark chocolate to the drink, giving even the most sophisticated hot-chocolate connoisseurs a run for their money.

Next time you’re in Thousand Oaks and need a tasty beverage, stop by Chocolatine, 2955 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd.,805-557-0561, www.chocolatine.net and discover for yourself just what real hot chocolate tastes like. You’ll be glad you did.

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