CHOCOLATE IS quite the potent ingredient, posing as the good boy from down the road when it’s pretty much the devil’s advocate. No, I am not talking calorie woes.
CHOCOLATE IS quite the potent ingredient, posing as the good boy from down the road when it’s pretty much the devil’s advocate. No, I am not talking calorie woes. Those are from eating poor chocolate, the type that is made affordable by being doused with sugar, milk proteins, etc. Sure, a bar of something milky, sweet and crackly is nice every now and then, but that’s not what chocolate is all about.
Trouble is that the chocolate we see is of the sweet (or somewhat sweet) kind. None of us have really dabbled with chocolate in its pure (or purer) form: cocoa. Which is why we have never really understood its true depth. All those studies that talk about how chocolate enhances your happiness quotient or is healthy for you are actually referring to dark cocoa-rich chocolate. Here are some of my observations about chocolate in recent times. Hope they help you get some of the good stuff and then treat it the right way:
l Marou is a big name in the world of chocolates. Vietnamese in origin, it has been brought to India by House of Mandara. Given the rarity of cocoa from that part of the world, it isn’t cheap, but with 80% or more cocoa content, it is chocolate at its purest. The little sugar that is there brings roundness, as well as retention to the flavours. Pair it with a lush PX Sherry and you will know why dark chocolate is always better. And if you must experiment, try a dry Argentinian Malbec or a rich Shiraz from Australia and you will open up a new realm of pairing possibilities.
l Valrhona is another powerhouse in the cocoa-bean sourcing world. As you can tell by now, people obsess a lot over where the cocoa bean comes from, but just the source isn’t important, as how it’s treated after sourcing is also crucial. Also, these can further be adapted into desserts. I know many a home-baked (pardon the pun) chocolatier, who use a slab of anything brown from their local supermarket to create a gateaux. And then there are chefs like Kishi Arora, who chiefly use Valrhona. As always, the proof is in the pudding or cake or mousse…
l Three-star Michelin chef Heinz Winkler—the youngest German chef to have been awarded his third star back in the early Eighties when he was all of 32 years old—is perhaps the only chef who made me a chocolate sauce to go with a steak, which I truly admired. Mostly, I find it revolting. In fact, trying to painfully pair it with a dry red wine makes me almost dry-retch. But Winkler made a cocoa-rich glaze, which was flavourful without being sickeningly overpowering. It even had sugar, but wasn’t sweet. And it paired fantastically with my St Emilion Grand Cru. Local reserve wines from houses like KRSMA, Charosa or Fratelli could work too.
l Sweet (milk) chocolate isn’t always bad. It’s easier to like, for one. Dark chocolate is more of an acquired taste. All Things Chocolate, a local player, has understood this and is bringing some very affordable and delectable bars to the market (with the most refreshing packaging ever). It flirts with the dark type, but understands its limited appeal. In the meantime, its other chocolates are well worthy of a good (Port) pairing as well. In fact, chocolate, caramel and coffee-based desserts are best paired with dark fortified wines. So reserve the white dessert wines (Icewines and Late Harvests) for a fruitier meal-end and bring out Ruby Ports to go with these.
l Never let good chocolate melt and then re-freeze it. It spoils the aromas and flavour. Just like good wine, good chocolate is fragile.
l You can eat chocolate everyday. Just try and stick to the low-sugar (high-cocoa) stuff. It definitely delivers a high and, yet, it isn’t addictive—not any more than nicotine or, worse yet, caffeine.
So much for the food of gods. Next time you are looking for a midnight binge snack and feel like eating chocolate, try and eat the right one and you will feel less guilty going back to bed.
The writer is a sommelier