Monday, October 3, 2011

Chocolate to the Third! - A progressive chocolate tasting



a) NO!
b) Maybe?
c) Okay, twist my arm.
d) None of the above

My answer:  d) None of the above.

I was able to barely contain my YES when the good people at Foodbuzz asked me, as part of the Tastemaker program, if they could send me three Ghirardelli Intense Dark chocolate varieties in exchange for me doing a tasting with various foods and beverages.

The Intense Dark chocolates were new to me, though Ghirardelli has been my mass-produced chocolate of choice for years.  When they first arrived though, I didn't have the greatest expectations.

Chocolate bars from the majority of my experiences are waxy.  Arriving with a completely melted and almost-hot "cold" pack, I had even worse expectations for the Ghirardelli bars.  Wanting to give them the benefit of the doubt, I laid them out carefully on my granite counter waiting for them to be rejuvenated and firmed up by the cool surface. When I could wait no longer, I tried each one solo.  No waxy mouth-feel, melting perfectly on my tongue, I was pleasantly surprised.  The individually wrapped squares that were included in the shipment weren't so lucky.  Fraught with "bloom," no doubt having to do with their encounter with the heat, the squares served their purpose as treats for my kids.   The bars, however proceeded to go on a culinary journey with me.

As usual, I applied the Cook What You've Got philosophy and looked around to see what I had to start the journey.  Tiny, sugar-bomb strawberries still available at local stands here in Northern CA, were sitting sweetly in the fridge.  They and the Twilight Delight (72%) variety chocolate bar were amazing as solo acts, but they paired up to become fabulous when served over leftover crepes from our weekend breakfast.  Transformed into a simple sauce, the intense coffee-like flavor in the Twilight Delight (which I loved) was tempered when melted with equal parts heavy cream. 

Our Midnight Reverie (86%) tasting began with a recommended pairing with gourmet marshmallows.  Short of selling out on my own concept and going to a local boutique and buying gourmet marshmallows, I looked in my pantry and found two store-brand, stale marshmallows.  While I wouldn't recommend that pairing, the chocolate certainly elevated the shoddy mallows.  The chocolate all alone with nothing but a glass of Scott Harvey Syrah was a festival of dark chocolate covered cherry goodness. The final few ounces were chopped and folded into the brownies we made on the fly for our Improv Food & Wine Pairing. Adding just the right note of "darkness," they kept the brownies from being overly sweet.

Sea Salt Soiree was hands down the family favorite.  We got a full bar as well as the aforementioned less fortunate squares.  The boys were just shy of a fist-fight over who would get the last wrapped square. Though we could have joined in, we decided to keep our tasting a little more refined. I vamped on a recommended pairing of candied orange peel or dried cherries by using the only interesting dried fruit I had on hand - candied ginger.  We had a bottle of Cline Family cellars Nancy's Cuvee sparkling wine chilled so we decided to see how all these elements would play together.  The delicious balance of salt, sweet and warm, roasted nuttiness of this chocolate variety was more harmonious with the spice of the sweet ginger than the drier, less sweet sparkling wine.  But always seeking peace in the world, we decided to try them all together.  The salty-sweet chocolate coated ginger bite was amped up by the effervescence of the wine to create a perfect, not-too-sweet ending to the evening.

So thank you Ghirardelli for helping me boost my creativity by using your products and to Foodbuzz for giving me the opportunity to try something new.

Print Page Copyright 2011 Christi Flaherty, Cook What You've Got

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