Walk into Mindy’s HotChocolate and you’ll find yourself transported into Chicago’s most famous pastry mecca. Before you even set your eyes on the restaurant’s chic industrial interior, you’ll catch yourself ogling a display case filled with deliciously crumbly cookies. James Beard Award winner and owner Mindy Segal is a Windy City institution, and we’re always excited to witness her fierce, urban creativity here in the wilds of Western Montana. To give you a taste of why we ask her back again and again, we had a short chat with the famous pastry chef.
PAWS UP: What’s your personal favorite menu item at Mindy’s HotChocolate?
CHEF MINDY SEGAL: Believe it or not, I love the hot chocolate ICED! My favorite is my most popular flavor, which is the “medium.” Hot chocolate served over ice with a shot of whiskey. Trust me, it’s the most adult chocolate milk you’ll ever drink!
PAWS UP: In a competitive food town like Chicago, what makes Mindy’s HotChocolate successful after so many years?
SEGAL: My team and I are always working on our craft and we are always changing and upgrading the menu to make it special for our guests. I also think that because I’m at my restaurant at some point every day, I stay connected with my guests and my staff.
PAWS UP: What inspires you?
SEGAL: For sure, the seasons (obviously), the farmers market and, above all, vintage plate ware (of all types)!
PAWS UP: How many times have you been to Paws Up?
SEGAL: I believe 6? Not sure—I stopped counting because I never want it to end!
PAWS UP: What do you like about it?
SEGAL: First of all, the scenery is absolutely breathtaking and a 180-degree shift from Chicago! And the staff is amazing and I always look forward to going back and seeing them.
PAWS UP: How do you keep the Montana spirit alive once you return home to Chicago?
SEGAL: I try to go hiking around the Chicago area to stay one with nature. My husband and I enjoy camping and fly-fishing, which of course is the spirit of the Blackfoot River!
PAWS UP: Can you describe the qualities of the perfect s’more?
SEGAL: A great graham cracker (we make our own), the PERFECT toasted marshmallow (I like a charred crust and a soft interior) and an elevated chocolate creation. We use toffee chocolate brittle; the added crunch and salt adds a nice balance to the sweet marshmallow. Not to mention, texture, texture, texture!!
And if your sweet tooth likes the idea of that, be sure to join us for Cookbook Live: Cookie Love, August 10–16, when Segal will be at Paws Up serving s’mores just the way YOU like them. Campfires were invented for just such an occasion.