How Can I Pair Chocolate With Wine and Other Foods?
Most people would be interested in attending a chocolate tasting party, but what would happen if you paired it with an equally desirable wine? Combining two of the most romantic ingredients, people would jump at the thought of an invitation. Likewise, chocolate can be paired with an assortment of cheeses to entice any pallet. Looking for a lighter combination, chocolate and fruit have a long love affair, yet there are still combinations to be enjoyed and discovered. A chocolate pairing event can occur in a large venue or in the intimacy of your living space.
Most experts suggest that you choose an assortment of intensities in both wine and chocolate. For instance, you might start with a quality white chocolate and then select an array of cocoa percentages ranging from a sweet milk to an ultra bittersweet dark. Likewise, you will want to choose white, rose, and red, sparkling, and dessert wines for your line-up.
Though most pairings tend to be with chocolate and wine, a true chocolate lover will want to branch out to other pairings as well. In this article, we will review basic tips from expert sommeliers as well as suggestions from “Everyday Bob”. By imagining the potential of these pairings, as well as discussing executing an activity, you will be equipped to host a party for one, or for the whole block.
As someone who tastes enough chocolate to boost the national per capita consumption, I would look for any excuse to try new chocolate as well as revisit my favorites. One time, when the chocolate show I normally attend was canceled, I decided to take matters into my own hands and have a chocolate “show” in my home. I invited anyone who wasn’t afraid of a calorie and began my search for distinctive, quality chocolates. I made appropriate signage and score/impression sheets for my guests. It was fun, and tasty, but it was one dimensional. It fell a little flat. How much chocolate can one eat before they blur together and overload sets in? The problem was that there was no contrast of flavors and textures-no chance to shock the taste buds between bites. The following year, I paired the chocolate with Domestic and International cheeses. Some were soft, some pungent, some crumbly, creamy and so forth. The experience was completely different. I still remember that smoked bacon gruyere eaten with the chili dark chocolate.
How Do I Pair Chocolate and Wine?
You can choose a variety of wines and chocolates to display and “go at it”, allowing people to mix and match at random. However, in order to have similar experiences where you can share observations, you will want to pair a specific wine with a particular chocolate. If you decide to serve chocolates that contain additional ingredients, such as fruit and nuts, be mindful of the additional effect on the tasting.
As tempting as it might be to purchase all your favorite candy bars, raid the wine cellar and spread everything on the dining room table, there are some suggestions from the experts to help plan exciting and desirable pairings. This goes for other pairings beyond wine as well. Chocolate can be paired with craft beers, cheeses, and fruits and nuts. That said, at the end of the day, it comes down to personal preferences, which may vary from person to person. Part of the fun is experiencing that discovery with others, engaging in critiques and conversation, and coming to your own conclusions and recommendations.
In presenting your chocolates and wines, there are a couple of options. You can determine your pairs ahead of time based on expert recommendations, or you can make available several bars of chocolate and likewise a variety of wines and allow your guests to mix and match at their will. You should provide some type of “score sheet” so guests can record their impressions and later share and compare notes.
A few recommendations to consider:
- Consult a wine-chocolate pairing suggestion guide
- Make signs for each option
- Taste from light to dark
- Match a less sweet chocolate with a sweeter wine
- Consider other ingredients contained in your chocolate. Chocolate covered goji berries could be paired with a fruity toned red wine. A chocolate containing cashews could be a compliment to a nutty dry white port.
- Encourage your guests to “go slow”
- Create a paper trail. Assume that you are doing research which you will continue to add.
- Provide an assortment of wine glasses and appetizer plates for the chocolate
- Consider asking your guests to bring chocolate or a bottle of wine and consider it a “pot luck”
- Send guests home with a “goodie bag”
How Do I Pair Chocolate With Cheese?
Cheese and chocolate play well together providing a sweet and salty duo. Of course it can get complicated when trying to decide which chocolate to hook up with which cheese. Again, at the end of the day, it is up to the taster to crown the best combination. You can pair like- tastes together or combine contrasting flavors. Do not limit your samples to block cheeses and chocolate bars. Flavored truffles deserve a seat at the table as do soft and spreadable cheeses like goat cheese, cream cheese, and Brie. Hard cheeses such as Parmesan and Asiago will have a hard time melding with your chocolate, so it’s better to save them for another occasion.
Remember that variety and presentation are important as you make selections. Look for cheese with a colorful rind and chocolate with some funky ingredients like black pepper and quinoa. Chocolate can be unwrapped but display the wrapper nearby so participants can explore the ingredient list. Present your chocolate-cheese combination at different heights rather than on a flat surface. As with wine pairing, you will want to develop a comment or score card to record impressions to stimulate conversation, or to replicate favorite pairings later.
As with other combinations, you can pair the duo ahead of time based on expert recommendations or you can allow your guests to mix and match and self-discover as they go along. Plan to make distinguished signage to help identify and make choices, as well as add to the atmosphere.
How Do I Pair Chocolate With Other Ingredients Such as Fruit and Nuts?
Many of today’s chocolate bars contain nuts and fruit. In fact Peanut M & M’s is one of the most popular candies on the market as is the Snickers Bar. Short of making your own bar or bark, another alternative is to mix and match various fruits and nuts at a tasting table. As wonderful as it is alone, chocolate can become one dimensional after a while if it is not contrasted with another food/drink. Fruit is a natural complement to chocolate as it can be sweet as well as citrusy, tart, or even sour. Dried fruit, on the other hand, often has added sugar and is thus much sweeter than fresh fruit. There are so many dried fruits, in an array of colors, imported from all over the world that can be an integral part of your chocolate pairing.
Even though we like our Hershey bar with almonds, there are so many other nuts to consider. Pistachio and fig will always be my go-to chocolate combination but for others it might involve glazed walnuts, blanched almonds, or raw cashews.
In a time when charcuterie platters are all the rage, it’s perfect timing to present a rainbow of colors and tastes of chocolate, fruits, and nuts for guests to investigate unique and personal combinations. They may still reach for the Peanut M&M’s but then again perhaps chocolate with blood orange will win them over.
About THE AUTHOR
Lori has been a Culinary Arts instructor for twenty years. She has taught in the public school setting, at the collegiate level and through adult continuing education as well as running several cooking and baking camps for children. She has participated in several cooking, cake & chocolate contests and has been well recognized. She has raised thousands of dollars for charities using the byline “Saving the World one Cupcake at a Time”. Additionally, she has had several articles regarding food published in various magazines.Read More About Lori Gilmore