The 8th Annual Great Hot Cocoa War inspired the Christmas spirit in Downtown Norfolk. Stripers Waterside took home the prize for the third year.
The feeling of holiday togetherness coupled with the warm smell of lusciously rich chocolate on the chilly paved sidewalks of Waterside Drive was the setting of this year’s 8th Annual Norfolk Hot Cocoa Festival. Families, couples and friends gathered in the streets and huddled into Selden Market to try each participating location’s delicious hot cocoa. Flavors ranging from the traditional rich chocolate to tres leches to unicorn white chocolate filled the bellies of all. Many small local bakeries, coffee shops and restaurants stacked the competition high for the 2022 line up.
Each tasting of cocoa cost $2 for 4 ounces and was ranked by three different categories. They were judged on a scale from 1 to 5 on presentation, originality and taste for a possible total score of 15. Customers were encouraged to use scoring cards to determine their winner but it was not regulated. From there, enjoyers voted online for their number one favorite.
The previous year’s reigning winner, Stripers Waterside, presented their hot cocoa creations under a hand-made wooden hot cocoa bar. Friendly employees greeted customers with two options. A salted caramel hot chocolate with a caramel drizzle swirl or a peppermint hot chocolate were both available with whip cream and an additional but optional alcoholic shot. The salted caramel flavor was rich with chocolate and offered a memorable taste.
“We decided to offer it spiked, free of additional charge, to up the excitement,” said employee and cocoa booth worker Sarah Raber. This extra bit of effort may be what pushed them to another win this year, but that is a secret they will never tell.
With a short walk down the street, other participating vendors lined the inside of Selden’s Market for Small Business Saturday making most of the competitors easily accessible for tasting. An intriguing but not so popular flavor in the final ratings was presented by CoCo Jam, a small restaurant offering “Caribbean fusion” food. They created a coconut hot chocolate topped with coconut whipped cream and garnished with a pineapple slice. The flavor was definitely different from all of its competitors but lacked a true chocolate flavor.
“It definitely isn’t my favorite. It’s missing the hot chocolate aspect,” said Miranda Lamb, a local. Lamb, along with her husband and friends, tried as many of the competitors’ as possible, but said, “it’s too filling to try every single one. There’s no way I could finish the whole list.” The hint of coconut was subtle and gathered a total of 19 votes out of the 1,346 collected.
Another restaurant, The Stockpot Norfolk had a different idea to draw in customers. By placing an entire small donut-like pound cake atop each tasting cup, they successfully filled many people’s presentation categories with a 5. While their hot chocolate was less than fantastic and overall average in flavor leaving them in seventh place, the donut truly brought the peoples’ interest to their counter.
Other restaurants such as S’mores Amore went the classic route by presenting what they named “Augustus’ Chocolate River Plunge.” Their rich classic hot chocolate alluding to Willy Wonka was ranked fourth overall.
Small, family-owned business Cafe Genevieve also took a peculiar route to create their tasting. They decided to swap out the typical milk and dark chocolate for white chocolate. Topping their imaginative creation with whip cream and rainbow sprinkles, they so delightfully named their cocoa “Unicorn White Chocolate.” While the idea of switching chocolates was a clever idea, many participants found the cocoa to be too sweet, resulting in a cake batter-like flavor.
One of the strongest front runners in the competition was Rich Port Coffee. An adorable little girl at their booth offered customers their take on hot chocolate. Offering a tres leches or “three milk” style of cocoa seemed to win the hearts of many. The flavor was that of warm cinnamon, milk and chocolate. The combination of flavors left many people wanting more than one cup. The creation was not as heavy as the others on the stomach and really gave a tasty take on the traditional hot chocolate. This left them in third place and hopeful for next year’s competition.
With bellies full of warm cocoa and smiling faces, the 8th Annual Norfolk Hot Cocoa Competition came to a week-long end. Many places that were unknown to a lot of the public were given great business opportunities and a fun event for the holiday season.
If you’d like to view the results of the competition or view a full list of competitors, it is available on the visit Norfolk website as well as downtownnorfolk.org.
By Kylea McCarel
For the past seven years, restaurants in downtown Norfolk have participated in the “Great Hot Cocoa War.” This season, the competition, free and open to all ages, began Nov. 19 and lasted through Nov. 26. 14 participating restaurants served their hot cocoa masterpiece for 4 ounce samples, at $2 dollars each.
During the week, I was able to stop in to Lamia’s Crepes to try their sweet creation. Biscoff French Cocoa with cinnamon and nutmeg was the flavor that the company was serving for the competition. The drink also came with a mini chocolate crepe on top.
I had eaten before at Lamia’s Crepes, which is a cute Paris-themed restaurant that serves all different types of crepes in the true French tradition that ranges from savory to sweet. The restaurant offers a unique experience for breakfast, lunch, dinner or just a snack. It also has two locations, one in Downtown Norfolk and the other in Town Center of Virginia Beach. Hot chocolate was served from their Virginia Beach location for the competition.
Along with hot cocoa, Lamia’s Crepes also serves breakfast dishes that you would find at your local brunch place. Since Lamia’s Crepes is a French traditional restaurant, their Biscoff flavor compliments them perfectly. Biscoff chocolate cocoa was the same flavor the restaurant served in the previous year of the “Great Hot Cocoa War” but instead of a crepe, the drink was served with marshmallows, whipped cream and cookies.
I was not able to try the flavor the previous year, but I can say if they were trying to upgrade it, the restaurant did a fantastic job. I enjoyed dipping my chocolate crepe into the warm, sweet, cinnamon-flavored goodness. Although the portion sizes were not very big, I would go back to order it again if the drink was added to the regular menu for the holiday season.
Next year I will be very intrigued to try Lamia’s Crepes new hot cocoa flavor as well as ones from the other participating restaurants.
Lamia’s Crepes came in fifth place at this year’s “Great Hot Cocoa War.” With 121 votes, the restaurant was proud to take home their ranking, even though it wasn’t in the form of a first-place trophy.
I encourage anyone looking for a unique experience and tasty food to visit Lamia’s Crepes, especially to try their award-winning hot cocoa in next year’s “Great Hot Cocoa War.”
By Abby Moyers