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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

No. 79: Mexican Hot Chocolate at La Oaxaqueña

Posted By on Wed, Jan 26, 2011 at 6:00 PM

click to enlarge La Oaxaqueña's Mexican hot chocolate, $4.25 for a pitcher that easily serves three. - JOHN BIRDSALL
  • John Birdsall
  • La Oaxaqueña's Mexican hot chocolate, $4.25 for a pitcher that easily serves three.

SFoodie's countdown of the 92 best things to eat and drink in San Francisco, 2011 edition.

click to enlarge sf_92.jpg

The champurrado here has its fans. It's sweet and hot ― kept that way in an insulated five-gallon coffee server from which you help yourself ― thickened old school with rice flour, not cornstarch, which gives it a nice, claggy weight. The cooks flavor it with the ubiquitous Mexican sweet chocolate, Ibarra. Good, but not nearly as good as La Oaxaqueña's hot chocolate. That's made from blocks of Oaxacan chocolate the owner, Albino Carreno, hauls back from either Oaxaca City or Ocotlán, sources of other ingredients for the restaurant (chapulines, dark mole paste).

The 20-pound blocks of cacao de Oaxaca get pulverized in La Oaxaqueña's kitchen, mixed with ground almonds and cinnamon. It's dissolved in milk to order, then heated and frothed with the steam wand of the espresso machine ― not the brooding, bittersweet sort of chocolate you sip like strong coffee, but something light and milky, all cinnamon perfume and a delicious toffee sweetness we suspect comes from the raw sugar in the cacao block. For an extra 35 cents you can get it spiked with guajillo chile powder ― invigorating in the way that makes the insides of your lips sting, except that it blots out the subtler taste of caramelized sugars that weave through this chocolate like embroidery.

La Oaxaqueña: 2128 Mission (at 17th St.), 621-5446.

Dishes in our series so far:

92: Goat tacos from El Norteño

91: Faux shark's fin soup at Benu

90: Esperpento's alcachofas a la plancha

89: Poco Dolce's olive oil chocolate bar

88: Decantr's chicken-liver mousseline

87: Outerlands' levain bread

86: Fraîche's frozen yogurt

85: Gyro King's spinach pie

84: Tandoori fish from Lahore Karahi

83: Braised oxtail and daikon from Namu

82: Golden Gate Bakery's custard tart

81: Commonwealth's cured foie gras with umeboshi purée

80: Star Stream's Liège-style waffle

Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie. Contact me at John.Birdsall@SFWeekly.com

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