Everyone is familiar with the ice rink at Rockefeller Center, but who knew little rinks were popping up all over the West.  There’s one in Union Square in San Francisco, and even one in little Walnut Creek, CA, just in time for the change of seasons.

But there are no seasons in the Southland, it was 75 degrees outside last Sunday night…. in November.  But in a small outdoor parking lot, I definitely felt transported to a winter place.

Tivoli lights adorned trees , color changing paper globes were strung overhead, and the asphalt of a parking lot had been transformed into a slab of sparkling ice. 

It’s a new holiday tradition in my family to hit the rink in downtown Santa Monica, CA, and I got several friends to head outside, strap on ice skates and enjoy some good ol’ seasonal fun.

Complete with cheesy, guilty-pleasure disco music, a spin on the ice is a flashback for all, recalling embarrassing ten-year-old angst.  Yes, we still try to look cool while flailing wildly just before hitting the ice… hard.  And I believe that wearing the wet patch on my butt is a badge of honor, as it should be for anyone trying to have fun while entertaining the onlookers.  But more than anything, skating makes everyone smile. 

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The rink had been well used over the course of the day (where’s a zamboni when you need one?), but the grooves just added to the challenge. 

Couples skated hand in hand, and children put their parents to shame, whizzing past pell-mell.  There were folks of all ethnicities and ages enjoying the holiday magic, perhaps dreaming of snow… or even temperatures below 60.  Little “pros” twirled in the center, showing off many hours of lessons.  Most of all there was laughter, some nervous, some gleeful.

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What more can you ask from a hot muggy night the week before Thanksgiving?

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Several in our crowd wanted to watch from the safety of the benches, and for them I had a thermos filled with the best hot chocolate you’ll ever taste.  It’s so rich and yummy, it really does stand all on its own as dessert. 

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Even though the skaters didn’t work off many calories, they were welcome to their own cups of the chocolaty goodness… with the added bonus of a shot of Bailey’s Irish cream or homemade kahlua.  Ahh, that’s good stuff.

There is a difference between hot cocoa and hot chocolate. Hot cocoa is made from cocoa powder, and hot chocolate is made from shaved chocolate bars. My recipe uses shaved/grated chocolate.  It’s richer than cocoa, because chocolate bars have a higher cocoa butter content than cocoa powders.  Make it.  You’ll like it.

Hot Chocolate


8 oz. milk chocolate, chopped very fine or grated

4 C. milk

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. vanilla

Pour milk into a heavy bottomed saucepan.  Add in grated chocolate, and heat over medium heat until chocolate begins to melt, whisking often.  Add cinnamon.

When chocolate has reached the desired temperature, remove from heat and whisk in vanilla.

Pour into cups and enjoy!  Makes 6 servings.

(Note:  If you prefer your chocolate with a stronger taste, you may substitute 2oz. semi-sweet chocolate for 2oz. of the milk chocolate.)

There are temporary outdoor skating rinks all around the west, take a look for one in your neighborhood:

http://downtownsm.com/calendar/icerink.html

http://www.unionsquareicerink.com/

http://www.iceskatewalnutcreek.com/

 

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