Saturday, February 03, 2007

"Sacrificing" one's Palate for Chocolate

Just when I thought I might have put decadence behind me, the irrepressible Ted Coonfield, pictured here at the head of the table, invites me to a chocolate tasting (pictured here and below).

Ted has his fingers into everything including chocolate. And now he’s been taking an on-line chocolate-making, appreciation course.

So here we are, a few of Ted’s friends, invited over to hear what he has learned and to put our palates through their cocoa paces.

Ted is one of those bigger-than-life sorts. His voice is a mix of the lingering drawl of a transplanted Oklahoman, which he is, and the éclat of unfettered exuberance. It’s hard to get Ted down with a pen, but a broad brush sweeps over food, wine, old pick-up trucks (he has a restored ’53 Chevy), life on any farm, hippy lore, and good times in general.

And just when you think you have figured him out, he surprises you…again. After last night’s meticulously planned and graciously executed chocolate tasting/feast, he showed off an intriguing side table he had crafted from a wine barrel. And yes, he knew the vintage of the wine.

Anyway, back to the chocolate tasting.

Ted invited each of us to recount chocolate stories before we got into the tasting. Several were as rich and tasty as the morsels before us. Interestingly, many had more to do with chocolate smells than chocolate flavors. A refugee from the Bay Area invoked Ghirardelli Square, not the place, but the savory aroma of it.

Ted then led us through a chocolate multiple-choice quiz. What does M & M stand for. and who was the Tootsie Roll named for and which holiday results in the greatest chocolate consumption?

Then the real fun began. Nine of us pondered the virtues of 28 morsels of chocolate served in five “flights” (with plenty of water in between),

Lindt Extra Fine Dark Chocolate , Dagoba New Moon, Vairhona Le Noir Amer-Dark Bittersweet, Green & Black Organic Dark Chocolate, Santander Dark Chocolate Single Origin, Sharffen Berger Semi-Sweet Dark, Blanxart Chocolate Negro….

The chunks originated in places as diverse as Peru, Spain and Belgium.

We compared smells, textures, “initial tastes,” “meltability” and flavors (bitterness, sweetness, sourness and acidity).

At times a single morsel would collect wildly different opinions. One person’s “yuk” was another’s “divine!”

Strange to say, but after “Flight #4,” I could see why, day in and day out, people might be paid to do something like this.

But for one evening, this was a wild ride of cocoa exploration.

Just so the results of the evening’s careful deliberations won’t be wasted on the chosen few around Ted’s table, here’s the consensus favorite: Baratti & Milano Cioccolato Extra Fondante Amaro, which can be found at Zupan’s. (By the way, Ted recommends Barbur Foods for the best all-around chocolate selection. And, as a bonus, chocolate taster Mike Ponder recommends Barbur’s $3 Lebanese pizza.)

It is now the “morning after.” I did manage to get some sleep, though Ted warned us that our chocolate tasting, which began at 8:30 p.m. could keep us up. And yes, I am slightly hung over. I think it will be a while before I crave chocolate, even Baratti & Milano Cioccolato Extra Fondante Amaro.

But don’t hold me to it.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chocolate from around the world at Culture Night! Thank you for the idea!


11:00 AM  

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