Wednesday, March 16, 2011

An Evening of Chocolate and Wine at the College Club

By: Jessica Cickay

When I was asked to attend “An Evening of Chocolate and Wine,” one of the classes offered by the Boston Chocolate School at the College Club in the Back Bay, I got a feeling that how to fit eleven Hershey kisses into my mouth or decorate my face with a wine mustache compliments of Two Buck Chuck were probably not part of the lesson plan. Had they been, I probably would’ve been asked to teach. Instead, executive pastry chef and chocolatier Dorian McCarron and wine expert Harry Silverstein led a group of classy ladies through six pieces of chocolate paired with six glasses of wine, showcasing and extolling their expertise for how to buy, how to pair and how to taste the best of the best of the eating and drinking worlds.

After some cocktails and appetizers to transition from the world of savory to sweet, Harry started the night off by discussing the 5 S’s when it comes to wine tasting: see, swirl, smell, sip and savor. I’ve always been good at the sipping part, so tonight I played along and swirled and smelled my way toward releasing my inner wine snob. We started with a 2009 La Serra Moscato from Italy, a white, bubbly wine that’s made “off dry,” or extra sweet. To me, this wine tasted like light, soft liquid gold aka a dangerous drink for a lightweight like me.
Dorian took over next to invite the group to pair the honeysweet Moscato with a piece of Lindt white chocolate. White chocolate is often misunderstood in the chocolate world given its lack of cocoa liquor, but it’s always been smack dab in the center of my sweet radar, so I was ready to dig in. As I thrusted the white chocolate toward my mouth in my ever-so-dainty fashion, Dorian said not to bite, but instead simply place the piece on your tongue and let it melt, allowing its tropical, buttery flavor to invade your senses. This…was…torture. I came into this event not really knowing what to expect, but planning on leaving with chocolate frosting behind my ears, chocolate mousse under my fingernails and pockets full of truffles for the T ride home, but now, here I am placing a square centimeter of white chocolate on my tongue to melt?! It hurt, but in the end it hurt so good – and paired perfectly with Harry’s choice of Moscato, my definite favorite for the evening.
From there, Harry and Dorian worked together to choose wines and chocolates that progressively moved up their respective intensity scales. Our next wine was another “off dry” and bubbly drink, a 2009 Alasia Brachetto also from Italy, that was red, crisp and easy to sip. When paired with an El Ray milk chocolate square, which is made using raw brown cane sugar, you could really taste the chocolate’s deep, caramel finish and creamy, silky texture.

Since I’m all about the alcohol that tastes like juice and the chocolate that can send you going 90mph down Sugar Street without a seatbelt, the next four pairings were much less up my alley, yet Harry and Dorian were able to keep my tastebuds’ attention and teach me some things along the way. We moved onto a 2009 Jam Jar Sweet Shiraz from South Africa and an El Ray Bucane Dark 58.5% cocoa nib of chocolate, and it was easy to see why this robust and spicy wine was paired with what Dorian called an “adult” piece of chocolate, given its smoky and refined flavor. Next was a merlot that was shudder-worthy, in my opinion, and an El Ray Mijao 61% chocolate that was too reminiscent of cocoa scented candle wax for my admittedly unrefined hot fudge sundae-craving palate. Same goes for the cabernet sauvignon and the El Ray Gran Saman 70% dark, as the former had zero notes of fruit and the latter was seriously lacking in the sugar department. Our final pairing was a give-me-your-keys-right-now strength port wine and an El Ray Apamante 73.5% dark, which was oddly savory and super unexciting in this girl’s cookbook.
I certainly appreciated the overall experience and enjoyed “tasting the rainbow,” so to speak, of chocolate and wine, from white to dark, and light to heavy. However, I will say something was missing. The decadence, the indulgence, the pure fancy and even giddiness so often associated with chocolate and wine was simply not there for me during the evening. Harry and Dorian were clear experts in their fields, passionate about their professions and took an otherwise dull night and made it into something a bit more sweet. I understand the concept of making chocolate more “adult”, but just like the class was able to physically pair the food and drink, I believe there’s a better way to balance both the whimsy and refinement of chocolate and wine.

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