December 22, 2008

Hot McChocolate

Before taking you down the culinary journey that is today's food review, I would like to take a not-so-brief paragraph to mention that I've recently finished my undergraduate degree at Syracuse University. Not that I'm bragging, mind you. I only want to point out that in addition to my lifelong love of flavor and everyman eye toward food, I can now add a real-life college education to the list of traits that qualify me as a food critic. So read on, secure in the knowledge that this reviewer has received the stamp of approval from a fully accredited post-secondary institution! (That stamp didn't have anything to do with my food reviews, but we need not mind that.)

I've spent my last two blog posts reviewing coffee. But what about all of you out there whose palates reject java? What about those of you shivering in the bitter cold who just don't like bitter drinks -- those of you who need something sweet, like hot chocolate?

There is a big bad world of hot chocolate out there, and you need guidance. Well, fear not. I'm going to tackle the issue by taking on one of the newest and most perplexing hot chocolates: McDonald's.

And it is perplexing. McDonald's hot chocolate has some sort of a "McCafe" branding. It includes cappuccino, mocha and other fancy coffee-and-milk drinks that you usually buy in Starbucks. Plus it comes in a fancy dressed-up paper cup with a robust lid.

We'll come back to that lid in a bit. First, let's describe the hot chocolate that's inside the cup. It's sweet. Really sweet. So sweet that it leaves you wanting a bottle of water to alternate with sips of the hot cocoa. So sweet that I'm just going to say it again: it's sweet.

On top of that super-sweet hot chocolate is a big layer of whipped cream topped with drizzles of chocolate syrup. And here's where the lid comes in. Why are there chocolate syrup drizzles on a beverage that's served with a lid? The drizzles are used to improve the presentation of a drink or dessert, not to add any real flavor. This drink is already on sweet overload, so they're doubly superfluous.

Plus, there is far too much whipped cream for a lidded drink. The fun of whipped cream on hot chocolate is leaving it on top while you burrow your lips down to sip the beverage, thereby leaving you with a whipped cream mustache. But with a lid, you don't get that chance. It filters out all the whipped cream, leaving you wishing you could look like Santa with a whipped-cream Burt Reynolds-inspired mustache.

On top of those problems, the hot chocolate is apparently only available in medium. At least that's what the worker who waited on me said: "It's only in medium, I guess."

She was staring at her touchscreen looking surprised that there is no large hot chocolate. Just like I'm staring at my computer screen now, perplexed at the thought. Maybe a large cup of hot McChocolate is enough sweetness and sugar to blast you immediately into type II diabetes.

The drink might be sweet, but I'm not sweet on it. One spork out of five. McDonald's hot chocolate isn't big, but it is bad.

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