What Would the Gods Say? & Chemistry of Love
Over the course of my life I have encountered a number of pairings frequently associated with chocolate: wine, fruit, meat. However, as I scanned the events for Chocolate & I, New York, I noticed a sake and chocolate pairing.
Excuse me, sake? From what I know about this alcoholic beverage, it usually entails dunking it in a glass of beer and chugging it as quickly as possible (sake bombing, anyone?). My inquisitive nature prompted me to see what this event was all about and hopefully taste some delicious and unexpected combinations between sake and chocolate.
Rick Smith from Sakaya and Lynda Stern from Bond Street Chocolate led this event. The session began with Rick speaking about sake’s history, and made me realize the importance this beverage has had in Japanese culture. It is a “drink from the Gods,” passed through the Imperial Court and only served in religious arenas. I learned that Americans have somehow bastardized sake by often over-heating it to mask poor quality sake. Oh, no wonder sake bombs use extremely hot sake. HA! Then Rick emphasized that Sakaya only sells premium sake and that it can be enjoyed chilled, warm, and even as-is. From the sounds of it, sake should be treated like fine wine… but can it be eaten with chocolate?
Lynda Stern shared that the idea of sake with chocolate presented a conundrum to her. As the two forces joined together, they quickly discovered that some sakes didn’t work AT ALL and some worked very well with each other. Thus, they presented their findings to us:
(1) Dewatsuru Junmai Kimoto (caramel aroma, dry finish) + Toffee
(2) Ume no Yado Yuzu-shu (citrus flavor, light) + Vanilla-infused Milk Chocolate
(3) Ume no Yado Aragoshi Ume-shu (plum flavor, crisp) + Sake-infused Dark Chocolate
The whole crowd was eager to try the pairings, rushing up with little cups and grabbing at morsels of beautifully adorned confections. Personally I enjoyed the second combination the most, and to most that is not surprising. How many times have you tried chocolate plus a citrus fruit? Mmmm…chocolate covered oranges, milk chocolate lemon truffles… though that is not to say sake can only be paired off with fruity sakes. The first sake was delicious, and with the toffee, helped dilute the intensity of it. However, I can also see myself enjoying the sake by itself as well…
SO to answer the question: can sake create delicious pairings with chocolate? Yes, but be forewarned – this might take some extra exploration to find compatible pairings and clearly fruitier sakes work VERY well with chocolate.
I wasn’t planning on going to the other tasting, Chemistry of Love, but there seemed to be a movement of people back and forth between events. I am not a cheese lover (I know, how am I a foodie and not love cheese?), but I decided to see if the pairing between cheese and chocolate would be revolutionary for my taste buds. Rhonda Kave from Roni-Sue’s Chocolates and Anne Saxelby from Saxelby Cheese provided combinations of sweet with savory. They had three pairings:
(1) Roses Chocolate Truffle + Brebis Blanche (sheep’s milk)
(2) Pecan Pie Truffle + Springbrook Tarentaise (cow’s milk)
(3) Spicy Toffee + Constant Bliss (cow’s milk)
You did not need to inquire about what flavors were in the chocolate since they were SO intense. I found myself saying, “Okay that is DEFINITELY pecan” and “Wow I feel like I’m eating silky sweet roses”. The pairing of cheese was very well done, especially with the first pairing. I actually enjoyed eating that cheese with the chocolate. The third pairing had my mouth was going crazy with flavor. OMG this is SPICY. Luckily the cheese cut some of that heat.
Needless to say I experienced flavor combinations I never thought I would with these two different pairings with chocolate: sake and cheese. Clearly chocolate is so versatile which leads me to believe that there is more of the chocolate world to explore. My mouth pleasantly agrees.