We were invited to a charity event to raise funds for VSO where a chocolatier would show us the art of making chocolate. Me being the original piggy wiggy, signed up post haste. Well, it's all for a great cause, no?
The chocolatier lady in question was brilliant, originally from France (yes, notice the T Shirt) she had training in the USA and on the continent. She is just brilliant. Did I mention she was brilliant? No? well, she was, her fascinating French American accent was just perfect. You can see small glasses of port in front of her. This is something we drank at the end to enjoy with the final chocolate taste of pure chocolate and Madeira Port wine, it was extraordinary, the combination was breathtaking. Put the chocolate in yout mouth, then leave for one minute.
The melting point of good chocolate is 35 degrees so it will slowly start melting in your mouth. Tilt your head back so that it starts to slowly move from the tongue down the back of your tongue and down your throat. At this time, take a sip of the port (or any other liqueur as you wish). The two flavours will mix. Hot diggity dog. Brilliant stuff. She did say that it's good that you don't smoke, because apparently smoking kills the taste buds. My taste buds belong to a donkey, so that ship has sailed.
Anyway, we were lead into a room which was quite tastefully decorated with orchids. She first gave a nice little overview. Chocolate consists of cocoa butter and cocoa powder. Adding milk makes it white and if not, then it's dark chocolate. Chocolate tastes seriously different depending upon where it is grown. Cuban chocolate has tobacco overtones, chocolate grown in Papua New Guinea has flowery overtones. Wow, I had no idea, I will have to check this out. Then she went on a bit of a rampage on Europe and its silly labelling laws for what is and what isn't chocolate. The fat/butter content is what makes the difference. English chocolates are not chocolates, they are sweet stuff, and that’s as far as she would go. So why are people using fat instead of cocoa butter?
Well, it turns out that cocoa butter is also used in cosmetics. And the best cocoa butter is used there as it's far more remunerative to plonk it into lipstick and other skin creams rather than use in chocolate. So cheaper chocolate is usually made out of animal or vegetable fats or both. So if you are a vegetarian, check the ingredients and she said that almost all fats have animal fats in there. I had an evil chuckle there.
There were eight plates on each table, each plate was numbered and had chocolate wafers, weighing about 10-15 grams each.
She made a game out of it. We had a sheet of paper each where a list of ingredients were listed on the right and then there were eight boxes. So the idea was that we pick up one, smell and sniff it – do a Count Snifferu on it. Then take a bite and taste. Flavours were primary and secondary. So we had to identify which flavours were mixed up.
These were some of the ingredients, cardamom, chilly, basil, lemon, garlic, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, lime, coconut, aniseed, rosemary, lemongrass, cinnamon, etc. Can you just imagine the smorgasbord of tastes and flavours?
So we had vanilla and coconut; nutmeg and cardamom; lavender and lemon; lime and ginger; aniseed and coffee. These were for the light and milk chocolate. Then came the dark chocolates. They contain 71% cocoa. Lemon and basil; raspberry and rosemary; orange and chilli. By this time, I was feeling queasy, too much chocolate, man. Not good for my tummy at all.
Did you know men and kids prefer white or vanilla chocolates, while women prefer dark and complex chocolates? I didn't know that. She said that is what she observes in her shop, but then I prefer dark chocolate. Maybe its my latent feminine tendencies coming out. HA!. Also, guess what? Out of the 40 odd people in the room, only two were men. Go figure.
After each taste, she would ask us to eat a cracker and then drink some water to cleanse the palate and make sure that there is no after effects of the chocolate lingering around in your mouth. It was a brilliant exercise and something that I recommend highly. Next stop for me would be to try to join a chocolate cooking class or something. But here’s a small piece of advice, take it easy, you can really ruin it if you barf after eating too much chocolate. As it so happens, the weekend after that, I got to see Chocolat again. I love this movie. I think chocolate is one of the bestest things in life, but not too much, gives one a tummy ache.