Dandelion Chocolate


Last week my husband and I were in San Francisco. When I travel, I like to check out the dairy-free fare available in other cities. As far as I can tell, San Francisco is ahead of the curve when it comes to dairy-free options that don’t leave you feeling deprived. Case in point: Dandelion Chocolate.

Dandelion specializes in small-batch chocolate, and these folks are serious about chocolate. Of course, everyone is serious about everything in San Francisco — it’s actually kind of annoying. For instance, I went to Philz Coffee, very popular in SF, and found out they have about a hundred different kinds of coffee bean blends but no espresso drinks. So you can’t even get a latte. And they make you feel inferior if you want a latte, like that’s not the “right” way to drink coffee, man.

Dandelion is similarly preachy. Next to the chocolate samples there’s a sign that says “How to Taste Chocolate” and lists four steps you’re supposed to follow, as if it were a wine tasting. I’ve been tasting chocolate my whole life, thank you. I did not read the sign and proceeded to pop those chocolate bits into my mouth willy-nilly.

Chocolate bars with varying levels of cacao.

Preachiness aside, Dandelion makes some fantastic chocolate. Their chocolate bars are awesome, but what got me really excited was the hot chocolate, something that us dairy-free folks usually can’t have. Dandelion can make any of their hot chocolate drinks with almond milk.

I ordered the Mission Hot Chocolate, “our spicy take on the Mesoamerican original with Madagascar chocolate and almonds.” As you can see in the photo below, it’s topped with little bits of chili pepper and a homemade marshmallow. Usually I think marshmallows in hot chocolate are overkill, but holy moly, theirs was so good that I never want another hot chocolate without one.

In the background are s’mores. They torch them before serving.

You’ll also notice that the cup comes with a holster containing a small ginger cookie. The cookie itself didn’t blow my mind, but a cookie holster? How adorable is that? It’s these details that stay with you long after the hot chocolate and the cookie are gone.

The hot chocolate itself was rich, decadent, and spicy indeed. As the marshmallow melted, it made the drink thicker and creamier, so that the experience of drinking it changed over time. It was a complex and deeply satisfying beverage that warmed both my belly and my soul. I wished I had been sipping it outside on a cold winter’s night, warming my gloved hands on that cute-as-hell cup.

DANDELION CHOCOLATE, 740 Valencia St., San Francisco, CA 94110 (factory & café)

DANDELION CHOCOLATE, One Ferry Building, San Francisco, CA 94111 (stall only)




Progresso Tomato Basil Soup


It’s that time of year when I start eating a lot of soup. Of course, homemade is the best, but I like to keep a few canned soups on hand for those days when I don’t have the energy to cook.

I love a smooth, tangy tomato soup. Many have dairy in them, so I’m always on the lookout for ones that don’t. Progresso Tomato Basil is dairy-free and I was excited to try it, since their Chickarina soup is one of my favorites.


Unfortunately, this tomato basil soup was a huge disappointment. It’s a beautiful red color, but has a thin, watery consistency. And it’s way too sweet. I don’t understand why any soup should have sugar in it; soup should be strictly savory, in my opinion. This one tastes like ketchup.

To quote my favorite movie, Goodfellas, “I ordered some spaghetti with marinara sauce, and I got egg noodles and ketchup.” Nothing should ever taste like ketchup — except ketchup. And even that’s questionable.

So where can you find a good dairy-free tomato soup? They serve a fantastic freshly-made one at Tender Greens, a healthy California chain that focuses on sustainable ingredients and will soon be opening locations in New York and Boston. Their roasted tomato soup is vegan, and it’s delicious and easy on the eyes with a drizzle of basil oil floating on top.

In the meantime, stay away from Progresso’s tomato soup and always check the label on canned soups to see if there’s sugar added. If it’s the second or third ingredient listed, you can bet it’s going to be too sweet.

Know of any great canned dairy-free soups? Please share in the comments!


Dairy-Free Hot Chocolate


As the weather gets chilly (even in Southern California) and Christmas approaches, I start wanting hot chocolate. One of my fondest winter memories is of a blizzard we had in upstate New York, when my college friends and I played in the snow, then made hot chocolate by simmering whole milk and Hershey’s cocoa powder on the stove.

If you order hot chocolate in a restaurant or coffee shop, it’s most likely made with cow’s milk. But I just found and tested a simple and outrageously delicious hot chocolate recipe that uses coconut milk instead, so I can now make dairy-free hot chocolate at home. Hallelujah!

Here’s what I love about this hot chocolate:

  • It’s thick and creamy, not watery like instant hot chocolate.
  • The chocolate flavor is intense enough to balance the coconut flavor of the milk. (Even my husband liked it, and he hates coconut.)
  • It’s not too sweet, and just the right amount of bitter.

The recipe, which I found on the New York Times website, originally called for a meringue topping, but I omitted that part because I’m lazy. Besides, this hot chocolate is so decadent, you really don’t need to gild the lily. Although I am thinking about adding some Frangelico or Kahlua to it next time…

For this recipe, I used Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa Powder, Kara Coconut Milk, and Ghirardelli Bittersweet Chocolate Chips.


Dairy-Free Hot Chocolate Recipe

Adapted from a recipe by Melissa Clark.

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
13 to 15 ounces full-fat coconut milk
¼ cup brown sugar
Pinch salt
1 ounce bittersweet chocolate chips (about 1/4 cup)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pour 1/3 cup boiling water into a heat-proof measuring cup. Stir in cocoa powder until it dissolves.

In a saucepan, combine coconut milk, brown sugar, and salt. Simmer, stirring, until sugar is dissolved, about 2 minutes. Whisk in hot cocoa and chocolate chips until smooth. Stir in vanilla. Makes 2 to 4 servings.