Blogger Kathy of TwoFools in Zurich shares what she has learned about two of her favourite things in a workshop at the Laughing Lemon.
I was dead tired. Another hellish week of deadlines and little dramas had just about done me in. But I was determined to soldier on. Two of my favorite things were waiting for me at the Laughing Lemon kitchen: chocolate and wine.
I like chocolate and I like wine even more. But the two don’t always marry well. I wanted to learn how to make the combination work.
The science and history of Swiss chocolate
I began to perk up as soon as we got to the class. Our hosts, Jack and Silvia, have a gift for hospitality. Jack passed around gougère (yummy, cheese-y little choux pastry puffs), and soon we were introducing ourselves to the other students and chatting away like old friends.
The class began with an introduction to chocolate production, moving from farm to factory, learning along the way that the best varieties come from Venezuela and Brazil.
Next we learned the right way to taste the chocolate, using all five senses: feel the texture of the bar, look at the shine, listen to the snap as you break it, inhale the aroma and, finally, let it melt on your tongue.
Chocolate really is some pretty sexy stuff. So sexy, in fact, that the Church banned it in Switzerland during the 18th century.
That didn’t last long, and soon the Swiss were busy applying their technical and marketing acumen to cacao –– developing chocolate bars, discovering how to combine chocolate and milk (not as easy as you’d think) and marketing the results to various key segments like women and the Swiss military.
Today, chocolate is big science at ETH.
Chocolate and wine pairing
We moved on to the wines, tasting them with chocolate bars so that we could get a direct feel for the pairing.
We learned that matching chocolate and wine means pairing for intensity and sweetness, while also balancing chocolate’s unctuous, mouth-coating quality with the high alcohol or acidity of the wine.
Aha! That’s why port and chocolate work together.
Silvia assured us that she was pairing wine with chocolate bars for educational purposes only. Instead, it’s really all about pairing with dishes that include chocolate as just one of many ingredients (whether sweet or savory). I believe her.
It’s just that I’d be happy with a glass of herbaceous Vino Aromatizzato and a dark 85% cacao bar almost any day of the week.
We could have stopped right there, and I would have felt I’d gotten good value for money. But there was more.
Jack guided us in making chocolate-dipped pralines and then onto the mud-pie fun of finishing chocolate truffles with chocolate glaze. Silvia sent us home later with our creations beautifully wrapped.
This made a great consolation prize for my husband, who had to work that night instead of play.
A four-course chocolate meal
Next up: a four-course dinner, with chocolate in every dish, savory and sweet. The combination of braised wild boar in a sauce finished with 100% cacao chocolate (no sugar!) and the deep black fruit of a Ripasso was heaven. The breaded, fried prawns served with a spicy, white chocolate dipping sauce were pretty damn good too, especially with a vendage tardive (late harvest) Pinot Gris from Alsace.
Feeling tired again –– but much happier –– I declined Silvia’s offer of even more wine and chocolate, and headed for home.
Kathy is an American in Zürich, studying German and French, learning about the food and wines of Switzerland and living the dream with her husband. When not memorising new verb and preposition combinations, or traveling, she’s blogging about the ups, downs and oddities of expat life over at TwoFools in Zurich.