A much-beloved contributor to the iconic Charlottesville food scene, MarieBette Café and Bakery on Rose Hill Drive — along with its sister location Petite MarieBette in Downtown Charlottesville — surely lives up to the hype. While the artisanal French cuisine served at both locations comes with a steep price tag, the quality and atmosphere are unmatched. I highly recommend checking out either storefront, especially while Hot Chocolate Month is here.
MarieBette is certainly abuzz during February — each day of the month, a new hot chocolate flavor is available for purchase, but only for that day. While a small hot chocolate costs $4.50 without any special add-ons, it is well worth a try.
I heard about the famous Hot Chocolate Month last year and finally had the opportunity to check it out this week. I went on two separate occasions and visited both locations to get the full MarieBette experience. Last Wednesday, I visited the MarieBette Café and Bakery — located a mere six-minute drive from central Grounds — for a salted caramel hot chocolate.
Served at the perfect temperature to sip right away, the salted caramel hot chocolate was like none I’d ever had before. I often find that salted caramel can be a bit too salty for my tastes, yet MarieBette’s version had the perfect balance of salty and sweet. The flavor combination of caramel and chocolate was a classic, yet neither flavor overpowered the drink.
I am not a fan of the big, fluffy campfire marshmallows, so I was hesitant to order marshmallows in the hot chocolate, which were available for an additional $1. Needless to say, the MarieBette house-made marshmallows do not compare to the store-bought variety. They were simply divine. Creamy and soft, these marshmallows greatly enhanced the hot chocolate experience, and I highly recommend giving them a try.
When visiting a French bakery it’s only natural to order a croissant. Since my first visit to MarieBette occurred just before closing, they had sold out of almost all pastries save for the plain croissants and a few other breads. The plain croissant — at a price of $3.25 — was beautifully flaky and buttery, complimenting the hot chocolate well. With a smooth outer surface, the croissant still had a crispness when bitten into, and the interior was melt-in-your-mouth soft. Served in a small paper bag, the delicious croissant was easy to eat on the go.
While MarieBette Café and Bakery has a smaller pastry counter than Petite MarieBette, it has more outdoor seating available. With a customer parking lot behind the bakery, a convenient waiting area and large street-view windows, MarieBette has a comfortable and relaxing atmosphere. The kind staff took their time putting together my order and really enhanced my experience — I will certainly be back for more.
Petite MarieBette has shorter opening hours than MarieBette Café and Bakery, and has more of an urban coffee shop vibe. I went a few hours after opening and stood in a long line that moved quickly, with staff efficiently taking and serving orders. Petite MarieBette offers a quaint interior with mint green wall paint and small flower vases at each table. I could absolutely see myself coming to Petite MarieBette for a coffee and croissant to do work on a weekend morning.
I went Saturday and ordered the daily hot chocolate special which was another classic — peppermint. The peppermint flavoring was not overpowering and complimented the rich chocolate very well. Considering MarieBette makes their hot chocolate with ganache — a decadent chocolate glaze — the addition of peppermint added a brightness to the drink and was simply better-tasting than most other peppermint-flavored hot chocolate or coffee I’ve had this winter. This flavor was equally as delicious as the salted caramel and was better than any peppermint hot chocolate I’d previously tried.
Instead of having another croissant at Petite MarieBette, I opted to try a French pastry on my food bucket list — a canelé. Priced at $3 each, the MarieBette canelés are small, bundt-shaped vanilla custard pastries with a slightly crisp, caramelized exterior shell. They are as delicious as they sound. Biting through the thinly crunchy exterior, the interior of the canelé was smooth, soft and airy. Not too sweet and the perfect size for a snack alongside a specialty hot chocolate — I strongly recommend giving canelés a try the next time you visit Petite MarieBette.
Overall, my experience with MarieBette’s Hot Chocolate Month was extremely satisfying. I will surely be back to try more of MarieBette’s unique hot chocolate during the rest of February — including a Love Elixir for Valentine’s Day. If you’ve been curious to check out more of what makes Charlottesville’s food scene as special as it is, look no further than MarieBette Café and Bakery or Petite MarieBette.