Great Chefs know that Chocolate is a passion shared by children and adults alike, and for some, is the worlds greatest temptress. At ISA staffing we place Chefs in private homes to prepare not only nutritious and beautiful meals, but they must also know how to provide a delectable healthy dessert for our clients. One of my memorable meals involved chocolate with a poem describing exotic swooning recited between tastings, a most enjoyable event held in Paris by an amazing Chef who loved chocolate.
TIP – dark chocolate is key in using benefits of the cacao bean for your healthy eating habits. A new study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry compared the detailed cocoa antioxidant contents of commercially available chocolate and cocoa-containing products.
The use of chocolate has been proven as a cure for emotional stress from clinical trials (according to Mercola.com). About an ounce and a half of dark chocolate a day for two weeks was found to reduce levels of stress hormones. There is growing scientific evidence that antioxidants and other beneficial substances in dark chocolate may reduce risk factors of heart disease and other physical imbalances. Some believe that only raw chocolate is the way to go, but not all chocolates are created equal.
There is connoisseurship involved with chocolate, and an unending array of recipes and books available for your exploration. Countries compete over who manufactures the best with coveted awards handed out inspiring new trends. There are several chocolate museums and annual events held worldwide you can find online. Visit Los Angeles Luxury Chocolate Salon for details on chocolate tastings. Discover, Savor, & Taste Some of the Finest Chocolatiers & Wines in Southern California, or go to the Pasadena Center to purchase tickets for this annual Event many Chefs attend to learn what’s new (or just to indulge) in October 2010.
Restaurants like Gloria Felix’s Reservoir (in Silver Lake, great food) feature The Chocolate Plate dessert which includes molten chocolate and peanut butter cake, a milk chocolate caramel pot de crème, a vanilla strawberry compote with an iced mocha, a chocolate sorbet and chocolate hazelnut crisp, all to indulge your cocoa craving. Beware, you’ll go back for more.
Their other great desserts come from Cake Monkey which ships overnight in Gift Boxes, and offers customized desserts for special occasions, weddings, or a sweet box to give guests filled with goodies.
Another of my favorites is M Cafe. The letter M in M Café de Chaya stands for macrobiotic, a dietary approach of Japanese origins. As many of our vegan clients know, you don’t have to be macrobiotic to enjoy the food. It’s great. Chef SHIGEFUMI TACHIBE is one of the best. His French-Asian Fusion inspired menu is wonderful in all Chaya restaurants.
Tachibe launched M Cafe because he couldn’t find flavors and ingredients refined enough for his pallet so he became a Macrobiotic Chef to suit his dietary leanings. Desserts are macrobiotic based so there are no eggs, dairy, or refined cane sugar in them. Everything is prepared with Organic, Whole Food Ingredients and natural grain sweeteners. Open morning thru evening in three locations for your cravings of Breakfast Cakes & Pastries.
Chocolate can be quite addicting and sugar can alter peoples metabolic process, so use wisdom in consuming this potent delight.
I like to keep chocolate bars in the refrigerator to break into squares, served with Tea, Meals, Tastings, or desserts as a treat readily available. Everyone enjoys a bite of it. Kate Hepburn had some daily she swore was the reason for her longevity and good humor. Bring some to work and offer it around sharing its endless charm. If you’re not into chocolate buy it for someone else, it makes for a wonderful spontaneous guilty pleasure gift
A great guide to chocolate is the book Chocolate French containing fifty chocolate recipes from the world’s top Chefs and Chocolatiers. You can pre order the new edition on Amazon so check them both out. A foreword by Bernard Poussin of Debauve & Gallais describes recipes from exotic world-class locales such as San Francisco Lulu and Le Zinc, Brisbane’s Bruno Table, and New Orleans’ Broussards, to Chicago’s French Pastry School, Napa’s Bouchon, and Paris’ Jean Paul Hevin and Le Cordon Blue. Chocolate French introduces you to an entirely new language of taste. The current trend has gone towards Chocolate Tasting Events.
If you’re serious about Chocolate, below are some detailed TIPS for having an event you may wish to create for your Employer or their favorite charity, or start a tasting community with your friends and family. Once you start with this you’ll see it take off. One of the benefits of supporting Chocolate Tasting Events is that it prompts people to learn more about good quality chocolate and Fair Trade practices many chocolatiers now actively support.
Everything you need to get started with Chocolate Tasting in your community is here, or send our blog to a friend who might be interested to host one. Humans have called it Food Of The Gods for millenniums, films and books about it’s historical inspiration abound.
BEFORE TASTINGS – It’s best not to be starving, since you might be craving the chocolate for the wrong reason! Also best not to be overly full as high-percentage chocolate can quickly get too much for the stomach. Ideally perhaps a few hours after you have last eaten, and without any strong flavors in your mouth.
BREAKING AND SMELLING CHOCOLATE – Before you actually taste the chocolate, note how it breaks when you snap it. Chocolate should not be too brittle (it might be too cold if it is) but also not too soft – a quiet snapping noise is perfect. Also smell the freshly broken piece, noting any unusual aromas. You can often already tell good chocolate at this point.
SIZE OF PIECES – The piece you eat should not be too small – this is important in order to let the flavors fill your mouth (like wine tasting). However, the higher the percentage of cocoa, the smaller the piece should be, as it is generally harder to eat chocolate with a high cocoa content. For 70%, a square inch of average-sized bar should be about right, for 45% you might want up to double that, for 100% at most half.
TASTING – When tasting you should let the chocolate dissolve a little bit first and wait for first impressions. A good bar will often have a striking first impression, after a few seconds at most. Then chew the piece (except for very high percentages such as 99% or 100%) and make sure ALL the flavors permeate your whole mouth. Sometimes it is best to close one’s eyes to concentrate entirely on tasting, but talking to others – after a short period of initial silence – who are tasting the same chocolate at the same time can be helpful to identify flavors one cannot place. Oohs and Aaaaahs are allowed!
KEEP A TASTING BOOK OF NOTES WITH DATES AND EVENTS. It is always helpful to note down one’s tasting experience for future reference. Things to note should definitely include:
(a) Any flavors encountered. Bitterness and sweetness are the coarsest categories, but good chocolate will exhibit flavors such as those of various fruits, nuts, mushrooms, smoke, wood, tobacco, caramel, vanilla, spices and licorice, while extraordinary chocolate might reveal completely unexpected and complex flavors on top of this. Altogether 300 different flavors have been identified in chocolate! If possible one should also note down when they were tasted (e.g. as a first impression, during or after chewing, during the finish, or in the aftertaste),
(b) The texture (e.g. dry, brittle, fatty, oily, smooth, soft),
(c) The finish (did the flavors disappear quickly or gradually), and
(d) The aftertaste (how long after swallowing the last remnants did you still have the taste in your mouth? Further things to note are the aroma (smell) and snap. Of course the percentage of cocoa solids, the origin of the cocoa, the manufacturer and the name of the bar are essential, but also look out for any indication of the bean (sub-)type used, added ingredients or special treatments of the cocoa.
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