What better way to experience Florida then than with some relatively recent native Floridians and two of the most fantastic people Claire and Richard. Their love of Sarasota quickly rubbed off on me and I can see why this area has such a strong pull on families of all ages. There are award winning restaurants everywhere and so many impressive museums and theatres. I spent some time in the Florida Studio Theatre and it felt like I had been transported to a magical place, and I didn’t even see a show!
Between the beaches and all of the above there are some great little neighourhoods filled with cafes and stores where you can take a wonder. St. Armands Circle is one. Right next to Lido Key with its beautiful perfect white sand, St. Armands is a large circle lined with stores, restaurants, cafes and quite a few sweet shops including Kilwins.
This is my second Kilwins (last time was in Baltimore) and even though they have the same name, this was a very different place. Instead of several hot chocolate options (Kilwins Baltimore had a great sea salt caramel hot chocolate) they had just two, a classic hot chocolate and a drinking chocolate. The young man who took my order raved about their hot chocolate. He told me to wait a few minutes because he needed to prepare it from scratch. I stood waiting on the side, watching another man making not one but 4 different flavoured fudges on large tables at the front of the store while a handful of customers licking their icecreams (Kilwins has incredible icecream) looked on while drooling. Any samples of fudge disappeared before the plate had even been placed on the table. If you like anything with sugar as the main ingredient you will be more than satisfied here. Chocolates, caramels, hard candies, you name it, they had it.
My hot chocolate was presented in a small paper espresso cup, 3/4 filled with liquid dark chocolate, topped with a tiny dollop of whipped cream and shavings of dark chocolate. The whole drink lasted only about 3 sips, which at 10.30pm after a delicious dinner at Crab and Fin just down the road was really all I needed or wanted. If it had been earlier in the day three sips would have been too little. But it was delicious, not too sweet, not too rich or bitter, just right.
After a long weekend in Sarasota I can see what draws people of all ages here (not everyone has silver hair!). On a 10 minute walk with Claire and her puppy Shannon, we walked passed an alligator sunning itself next to the path and walked under a branch where a large and absolutely stunning bald eagle had perched, staring at us as we stared back at him in awe. I think if I had seen a manatee (quite common) and/or a dolphin (also very common) this might have even pushed me to start trying to convince my parents to retire in Florida. Maybe next year.
Verdict: Kilwin’s miniature hot chocolate is a treat. Once again, Kilwins does not disappoint. Kilwins, 312 John Ringling Blv at St Armands Circle, Sarasota, Florida, USA