Spending Valentine’s Day with your sweetheart is fantastic, tasting and learning about great chocolates with your sweetheart is even better. While many were eating at restaurants, enjoying romantic dinners at home, or enjoying a concert or sporting event, a group of chocolate novices and enthusiasts met at Olivette Oil in Darien and were educated on the finer points of high-end chocolates by Analiese Paik, trained chef, chocolate aficionado, and Editor of The Fairfield Green Food Guide.
The table was pre-set with five different chocolates, a rating card and a flavor wheel. Normally, the chocolates would have disappeared in a nano-second but the group was instructed to sit and relax. Analiese presented an incredibly detailed and comprehensive overview of the process that converts the bean pods of the Theobroma cacao (“food of the Gods”) tree to chocolate. All of the chocolates that we would sample were from Venezuela and included Bonnat Puerto Caello, Bonnat Chuao, Bonnat Hacienda El Rosario, Pralus Venezuela, and Pralus Chuao.
She next explained how the brain interprets flavor, combining two senses, smell and taste. To prepare the group for the various components of the chocolate, several glasses filled with dried fruits, syrups and spices were passed and each participant was required to guess the ingredient by its aroma. Then the tastings began.
Analiese explained that there were several components to consider in chocolate; look, snap, melt, aroma, taste and length. This was very much like a wine tasting. All of the chocolates easily passed the look and snap tests. The aromas were slightly different, some with more spice, others with more fruits and others with more coffee. Small pieces were next placed on the tongues and the group was instructed to allow each to melt slowly, then inhale slowly so the taste and aromas could trigger additional “flavors.”
Then the “Flavor Wheel” became the group’s best friend. Broken into ten categories, numerous sub-categories and fairly detailed sub-sub-categories, the wheel guided the group in choosing background flavors, and then these were confirmed or modified by again smelling the sample ingredients in the glasses. It was fun to discuss which chocolates delivered floral, fruit, earthy, or spicy components. The last category was similar to wine tastings, the finish…how long did the flavors remain.
It was interesting and educational to taste and experience the different chocolates. The evening was an education in the various aspects of chocolate making and enjoying. Prior to the event I was unaware of the process, the slight nuances and the complexity of high-end chocolates. There will be two additional sessions. On March 24, Analiese will present Francois Pralus Single Origin (organic) chocolates from Tanzania, Ghana, Madagascar, Dominican Republic, and Ecuador and on April 25, she will present a variety of Porcelana chocolates from Peru, Venezuela and Mexico.
If you would like an in-depth understanding and taste some of the world’s best chocolates, sign up and attend one of these sessions. Reservations for the March date can be purchased on the Olivette site at http://www.olivettect.com/events while the April event will be posted shortly.