Sunday, January 16, 2011

It's a Chocolate Tasting!!!

How does that picture grab you? The official winner of our Chocolate Tasting Party....Mr. Lake Champlain, Dark Chocolate, Rum Caramel. Can't you just taste it?!? It was the third chocolate to touch our lips and it was love at first bite. I knew from the reaction of the ladies that we already had our winner.

The chocolate was 54% cocoa - so not super sweet, and the rum caramel was delicate but utterly divine. The best part was when you took a bite and the caramel filling spilled into your mouth while thin whispers of luscious lava drizzled down your chin.....ahhhh..... let's say it all together now.... "whispers of luscious lava drizzling down your chin...." (insert happy face)

Are you there with me in that happy place?

Okay...before I lose you for good here, let's back up for a second to the actual beginning of the party, where Teri made her grand entrance holding not bottles of wine, but a pot of chicken bathing in a savory Mole' sauce.

What's Mole'?

Mole' is a Mexican sauce that may contain up to twenty ingredients, including chili peppers and chocolate, which works to tame the heat of the chili peppers. It is not a chocolate sauce per se' as it is just one of the many ingredients and does not dominate.

For us, it was a wonderful way to stabilize our blood sugar with some protein - chicken style - and integrate the chocolate as well. The sauce was hearty, earthy, spicy, deep, complex, robust, and savory. Oh, and did I mention PHENOMENAL, because it was?! Carrie licked her plate clean and asked for seconds....need I say more?!

This sauce would be a wonderful way to serve leftover turkey after Thanksgiving. Had I posted this right after the party actually happened (early November) you could have used it in 2010, but alas I did not, so 2011 it is!

Once the "meal" portion of our party was complete, the chocolate tasting began. Let me just say that through my many hours of research on this subject, the three "rules" of throwing a chocolate tasting party that surfaced time and time again were:

1. Only taste 6 chocolates at a party.
2. Only serve water with the chocolates.
3. Serve bland bread as your palate cleanser.

I respectfully chose to break all three of these rules and I'll tell you why.

1. If six is great then twelve is perfect.
2. We drink wine at these parties, people!
3. Bland bread is for Lenten season and we hadn't even celebrated Thanksgiving yet, so Easter was clearly a long way away. THIS was a party......about I was serving food.

Also, you may notice that many of the chocolates were wrapped in artfully designed paper, which inspired me to remove each of the covers and paste them to a chocolate colored stock paper and have them laminated as place mats. Brilliant, eh? Came up with THAT idea 14 hours before the party.......crazzzzzzzzy, but super cool!

Ok...Ok....Ok.....Let's talk chocolate!

Speaking of creative wrapping, check out Theo's Spicy Chili Dark Chocolate. Jen and I chose this one mostly because it's cover was "coooool" and the idea of chocolate and chili together just sounded like a party. This little delicacy was fun because upon first bite, you notice a hint of orange flavor and you smile. And then, ever so slowly there's this warmth that arises seemingly out of nowhere. You're not even sure if it's real.....maybe it's all in your head, but as it quickly intensifies there's no denying there's a fire blazing in your mouth, rising from the "ashes" of the creamy chocolate. Once the wonderfully wicked flame dies down, your smile returns...."yum....that was FUN... can we do it again?"

So, if you like a little face flush with your chocolate, Theo's got the bar for you.

The next chocolate was chosen because of it's blissful blue, oceanic vibe and our affection towards blueberries. We found the chocolate to be smooth and tasty and the perpetual stumble into blueberry fields most pleasing to our palates. Most everyone was a fan of Mr. Endangered Species. Of course, it must be noted that he was the first chocolate tasted and as with most of our parties, first "bites" are frequently met with great enthusiasm and high praise, mostly due to the sheer excitement of just being at the party, so......

This next guy made the menu because amidst all the long, arduous hours of research I did for this party, the idea of chocolate dipped bacon surfaced quite often and earned rave reviews across the board. I seriously considered making it "from scratch" until Vosges here told me I didn't have was already done.

Mo's Dark Bacon Bar is the perfect chocolate for your next party - a perfect conversation piece!
Teri was not a fan. She likes her chocolate and her bacon but rejects the merging of the two, and we respect her opinion. The rest of us found it very interesting. It took the idea of chocolate covered pretzels or peanuts to a whole new level. It's chocolate covered salt, people and those two things do go together. Chocolate + Salt + Fat = Flavor. If you do the math, you'll all adds up!

I thought it was delicious and fascinating! Check it out at your local World Market.

You see the tiny bits of bacon in there?

Then there's Lindt. Lindt's Intense Orange lived up to it's name. I like intense, so when I bit into this bar of Lindt Excellence and got rocked in the mouth by an explosion of orange flavor, I was not prepared, but I was pleased. I'm not sure he's a chocolate you would overindulge in, but he's a wonderful pick-me-up of chocolate citrus flavor that just may soothe that sweet-tooth craving IF you're one of those people who can eat your single serving size of chocolate and walk away satisfied. I believe I speak for Jen when I say that we have never understood or mastered that theory of single serving satisfaction.

Lindt's 85% Cocoa Chocolate is no joke.....IT IS 85% cocoa, and in our humble opinion, should only be consumed when melted down and fused with sugar. WOW! Speaking of that though....I did use this chocolate bar to make tiny flourless chocolate cakes that were so divine it wouldn't surprise me if they served them in heaven.....probably even for breakfast. Pictures and recipes are for another day..........waaaaait for it!

TCHO was a little pricey and we all agreed he wasn't quite worth his flavor in gold. The description on the inside flap boasted a citrus and sour cream experience and it was there, but oh-so mild. It didn't rock any of our boats and it's $7.00 price tag pretty much sank it. However, it did remind me of a chocolate dip I made once that consisted of sour cream, cocoa, and honey. It was a sinfully smooth, mousse-like dip that balanced the depth of the cocoa and the twang of the sour cream was good. This bar reminded me of that dip.....and that dip was cheaper to make.

Chocolove was a disappointment as well, but for different reasons. Cherries & Almond in Dark Chocolate....sounds wonderful, doesn't it?

The question of the moment was, "Where's the cherries....where's the flavor?" This was a chocolate bar with no personality. Forgettable and regrettable.

Look Mr. Chocolove, we don't eat chocolate for our health - as much as we want to believe it is good for us on some level - we eat chocolate, despite it's sugar and despite it's calories because we love, love, love the flavor on our tongues, the smell under our noses, the joy in our hearts, and the bliss in our souls. We consume chocolate purely for the heavenly taste of it, so when you sell us your "Choco-LOVE" you waste our time, our calories, and precious moments of our lives we'll never get back......moments that could have been spent with better chocolate.

Shame on you, Chocolove.

I threw in some Milk Chocolate from Newman's Own and the World Market brand and all the ladies turned up their noses at them. Well that may be girls, but sometimes you need to taste them all side by side - ugly next to next to poor...dirty next to clean - simply to remind yourself how good good can be.

I also brought two white chocolates to the table, much to the ladies chagrin. "White chocolate is NOT chocolate!" they all protested. I made them taste it anyway - see paragraph above. Turns out Michelle and Anne discovered that they sort of liked it. I presented them with Lindt's version of white chocolate and Green and Black's version. Hands down, Green and Black was the favorite. Lindt's was intensely sweet and crushingly sugary, but the Green and Black had a nice, clean, vanilla flavor that came from Madagascar vanilla beans. I really liked the Green and Black, myself.

So, my greatest concern/challenge with throwing this party was striking a balance between tasting twelve different chocolates and not having anyone leave my house feeling sick, guilty, or overindulged. I needed a plan......

Research showed that Gruyere cheese is a wonderful compliment to chocolate, so I bought me a slab of that and then Jen found the perfect missing piece to the puzzle....goat cheese with a cocoa rind, otherwise known as Carr Valley Cocoa Cardona. How cool is that?! It was $23 a pound, but we weren't buying a whole pound, so it really wasn't $23 at all. ;)

Both cheeses were amazing, delicious, and worth every single penny. I served them alongside my interpretation of "bland bread"....gluten-free crackers and water crackers.

Carr Valley Cocoa Cardona
worth every penny...

I didn't stop with cheese and crackers. There was that balance thing that needed to be achieved, remember? We needed more palate cleansers, so I served Asian pears, celery, Granny Smith apples, and toasted pecans and toasted walnuts.

You guessed it...they picked it all clean!

I even served up some frozen applesauce at the halfway mark. (A childhood favorite of mine)

And then there was wine. Carrie brought her personal favorite...Ecco Domani, and we toasted to chocolate and friends with the Gnarly Head.

Another successful and fabulous party if I do say so myself. I wish you all could have been there, but we encourage you to have a little chocolate tasting of your that you know how to do it. Oh, and it was Patty's birthday too! Not a bad way to spend your BIG day, eh?

Explore the wonderful and magical world of chocolate!!


Kate said...

Have you ever tried chocolate covered potato chips? So yum!

And mole . . . . . ahhhhhh, nothing beats a good batch of mole. I like mine over cheese enchiladas or smothering some roasted chicken. Sooooo divine!

Kate said...

PS - Miss Jen, I need to see some venison recipes, please :)

Anonymous said...

"...blissful blue, oceanic vibe" - sheer poetry! We are simply thrilled that Endangered Species Chocolate was part of your evening of chocolate.

I love your approach to chocolate tasting and I'm taking notes for my next chocolate gathering! :)

Sweet Regards,
Monica Erskine
Endangered Species Chocolate

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