The Grilled Chocolate Sandwich at the Hot Chocolate Sparrow
It was a chocolate croissant bought in the spring of 1989 from a neighborhood bakery that launched my passion for bread with chocolate. I was living the bachelor life in a New York suburb apartment with three close friends. With an undeniable post-party hankering for my new French discovery, I set off to buy a dozen or so for me and the guys, but it was Sunday morning and the bakery was closed. Wanting to turn my pals on to the magical melding of bread and chocolate, I returned with six large store-bought hard rolls and a one-pound bag of plain M&Ms and set the oven for 350°. Now you might cringe at the thought, but in the spirit of “make the best of what you’ve got” I believe true bread and chocolate lovers are with me on this one. But were hot M&M rolls what came to mind as I crunched into a Sparrow Grilled Chocolate Sandwich? Not exactly. This sandwich, which was eaten with equal enthusiasm, was clearly more refined and much, much better thought out. From the center of warm, crunchy ciabatta, chocolate slowly and ever-so-slightly oozed a rich and perfectly sweet magma, and aside from a little welcomed finger licking, stayed pretty much inside the sandwich. One would think—and some of us have experienced this first hand—that the warm chocolate would turn the grilled bread into a hot, sludgy, sloppy choco-muck-fest. But this sandwich, much like the diner himself, maintains a refined integrity. (Note: for diners under the age of 10 one should assume neatness and integrity go out the window.) Sitting at the counter under a framed print of the Eiffel Tower, my mind flashed back to a more sophisticated memory born in a café in the 7th arrondissement of Paris, which was no coincidence. The Sparrows opened their first candy shop in Eastham in 1989, and a couple of years later added a summer shop in Wellfleet. But in 2003, fueled by their passion for fine French bakeries and French Canadian eateries, the Hot Chocolate Sparrow candy store in Orleans was launched, this time with the addition of an award-winning café, desserts of every indulgence and coffees from around the world. But another thing happened around that time. Having read an article in the New York Times about chocolate sandwiches, shop co-owner Robert Sparrow had an idea, one that wouldn’t make the menu until just last year, when, with the help of his wife and partner Marjorie, the Sparrow Grilled Chocolate Sandwich was born. “Grilling a sandwich loaded with fresh slivers of chocolate and thick swirls of our home-made fudge sauce took a lot of trial and error,” Marjorie explained. “The chocolate would cook through, create a mess, and slop all over the place—that is, until we froze the sandwich first.” The popular sandwich, which sells for a mere $5, is created fresh in-house, frozen, and then taken from the freezer and placed directly onto the sizzling hot grill. Although still very hands-on in the business, Marjorie and Robert recently decided to let their daughter Maya and son Perry take over, and these two seem to embrace the newest chocolatey trends as much as the sweet, time honored classics. Which begs a question...with a grilled chocolate sandwich, so sweet and buttery, so splendidly crunchy, yet delicately supple, why does the Hot Chocolate Sparrow also bother to make a chocolate croissant?
The Hot Chocolate Sparrow
5 Old Colony Way, Orleans
508-240-2230 / hotchocolatesparrow.com
Sunday-Thursday 6:30 AM-7:00 PM. Friday & Saturday 6:30 AM-10 PM. (Sandwiches served 9:00 AM-5:00 PM)