‘Tis the season! Chocolate Stars USA shared treats with us that will make your holidays bright, happy and create special memories that last longer than your mother-in-law stays this Christmas. Or Chanukkah. Or whichever holiday you choose to celebrate or ignore at your leisure.
And speaking of leisurely time, we found a new way to enjoy it: chocolate and alcohol.
We used to think we could only have one or the other but we were wrong. You can have both, as Carolina from Chocolate Stars USA taught us at her wine and chocolate pairing seminar.
Carolina paired three hand-selected Frederic Blondeel chocolates with a white wine, a French Brandy, and a French Cognac proving that not all chocolate is created equal. Say goodbye to a quick buy at the supermarket checkout. A gourmet chocolate must be selected like a fine wine. And there’s no better way to get that point across than by pairing good chocolate and good wine together.
Our first pairing was a milk chocolate, 49%, from Madagascar. The caramel, honey notes of the chocolate blended beautifully with the crisp, fruity New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. It was light enough to have as a snack and decadent enough to serve as part of a dessert course after a Christmas dinner.
The second pairing was a French Brandy and a Dark Madagascar chocolate, 65%. The sharp, fruity notes of the chocolate paired well with the smooth, peaty notes of the brandy.
Carolina pointed out that when going for a dark chocolate from Madagascar, not to go higher than 65% as the percentage on the box doesn’t always indicate a better tasting dark chocolate. “The flavor changes after 65 percent,” she explains. “And depending on the area where the chocolate comes from, you may not like that change.”
But, you might ask, isn’t all chocolate just chocolate? Chocolate can be milk, dark, and super dark and that’s that, right?
Going back to how chocolate is like wine, where the cocoa beans are grown has a lot to do with the finished chocolate, kind of like how a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand might be fruity, but a Sauvignon Blanc from France has a slight lime zestiness, and a hint of freshly mowed grass (in a good way).
Chocolate is the same. As many people know the ratio of ingredients has a lot to do with the final chocolate flavor, but what happens to the cocoa beans before the ratio is induced means everything. Consider the area of the world before you dive into a deep chocolate. Madagascar produces a more acidic product, making the darker chocolate less palate friendly than something from, for example, Africa or Vietnam, where the chocolate tends to be earthier and nutty.
Our final pairing was an 80% dark chocolate from Vietnam paired with a French Cognac that had hints of vanilla and spice. Carolina described the chocolate as “intense” with a spicy, nutty flavor and a hint of vanilla that, when paired with cognac, somehow became almost a caramel flavor, making the floral cognac sweeter and the chocolate bolder. Perfect for after dinner or a nice little treat.
Frederic Blondeel chocolate is available at Rustic Stuff and online at ChocolateStarsUSA.com. Stock up for holiday gifts, but be sure to purchase a few for yourself- and hide them. They’re the perfect break from holiday madness… or Tuesday afternoon.