Mmm…Chocolate

by The Gilded Fork

by Jennifer L. Iannolo

Forget love…I’d rather fall in chocolate!
— Anonymous

When people think of chocolate, they typically envision sweet treats wrapped in pretty boxes and bows. However, chocolate is quite a versatile ingredient, and surprisingly to some, can appear at table in a savory sauce as an accompaniment to meat.

Appropos of the holiday of lovers, chocolate has earned its sexiest reputation when mixed with chili peppers in the famed Mexican mole (pronounced MOH-lay) sauce. The unsweetened chocolate and its accompanying chilis are considered to be potent aphrodisiacs, and are served over turkey in one particular ceremonial dish. (I suppose that means they have sex and go right to sleep?)

For a clearer understanding of chocolate’s savory uses, take a look at what Chef Donna, our guru of technique, is whipping up At the Stove.

And for something on the sweet side, see what Chef Charlie Palmer has to say on the subject of dessert in Behind the Toque.

Perhaps reading is more your style. Our Bookshelf has some interesting choices for chocolate lovers in search of sinful delights.

And lastly, for some musings about the sexy side of this month’s tasty treat, take a gander at my newest article, For the Love of Chocolate.

Culinary Adventures

Are you ready for the ultimate chocolate lover’s indulgence? Our fellow gastronomes at Gourmet on Tour are offering a custom-designed “Chocolate Weekend in Paris.” The entire trip will be tailor-made to suit your tastes, and given the range of decadent choices below, this is not an experience to be missed. (If you go, we want to know all about it!)

During your stay, you will join culinary guide David Lebovitz, author of The Great Book of Chocolate and Ripe For Dessert, for an exhilarating day in the culinary mecca of Paris. The entire day will be devoted exclusively to satisfying your sweet, buttery cravings and chocolate fantasies. Formerly the pastry chef at Chez Panisse, and an expert on the chocolate shops and bakeries of Paris, David will treat you to a day featuring the best of what Paris has to offer.

You’ll swoon over French pastries, steaming coffee, and rich hot chocolate at elegant tea salons. Set out on foot to discover the best pastry and chocolate shops in the world, located along the winding streets of Paris. Spend your morning criss-crossing the Left Bank, stopping everywhere from the very chic Richart (renowned for their exquisite modern chocolates) to the rustic Poilâne bakery (where people stand in queue for the flakiest apple tarts and most scrumptious pain au levain in the world). You’ll also get a peek at their underground wood-fired oven.

Then visit a former pharmacy, now a chocolate shop, which prescribed chocolate as a remedy in the early 1800’s, and a professional baker’s shop where you can stock up on French chocolates, Breton caramels, fleur de sel, and fragrant vanilla beans.

Wander through an open-air market (one of the glories of visiting Paris!), and shop to your heart’s delight among the stalls of beautiful produce, herbs, and olive oils.

Your senses will be titillated as you peruse the shelves of the grandest culinary supermarket in Paris, featuring extraordinary ingredients from all over the world. You will be mesmerized by the aisles of fascinating chocolates, unusual sugars, stunning produce, hand-harvested salts, pristine seafood, and a myriad of exotic baking ingredients — all under one roof!

Visit the atelier of Paris’ premier chocolate sculptor, and sample the best croissants in the city. Browse at the fascinating shops and markets as you flâne along, taking in everything from striking Japanese household goods to classic French bistro dinnerware and modern kitchen gadgets from the best designers in Europe.

Lunch at a classic French bistro, at an elaborate multi-course meal, or a simple café as the Parisians do. Afterward, visit more of the finest pastry shops, then shop the restaurant supply stores of Les Halles, where you can purchase all sorts of fabulous gourmet cookware, hard-to-find pastry supplies, shiny slabs of chocolate, and magnificent heavy-duty copper cookware at very reasonable prices.

Each one-day tour lasts 6 blissful hours.The price of 990 Euro per person includes the following delicacies:

— Two nights at a 4-Star luxury boutique hotel in central Paris
— Daily breakfast
— One-day chocolate food lovers’ tour including lunch and tastings with your personal guide

For more information, visit them online. Happy travels, and know that we are very, very jealous.

Gastronomic Games

If you’d like to add a gourmet twist to “Family Game Night,” try ChocolateSmarts, a new game produced by SmartsCo. From testing your fundamental knowledge of chocolate facts (Does cocoa liqueur contain alcohol?) to questioning your hip-ness to “Cocoa Culture” (Who consumed 50 cups of chocolate a day to improve his sexual prowess?), this game, according to its founder, is “Guaranteed to increase the wisdom and pleasure of chocolate lovers.” Hint: You can find the answer to the sexy chocolate question in my article above.

SmartsCo also offers FoodSmarts, WineSmarts, and SexSmarts, and each comes with an extensive guide to pleasures of all kinds. Go ahead, you know you want to. www.smartsco.com.

Food for Thought

– Chocolate contains phenyl ethylamine (PEA), a natural substance that is reputed to stimulate the same reaction in the body as falling in love. (I guess that explains the quote above.)

– The melting point of cocoa butter is just below the human body temperature — explaining why it literally melts in your mouth.

– The largest box of chocolates ever made was a Frango mint chocolates box weighing 3,226 lbs. created by Marshall Field’s, Chicago, Illinois, USA on November 14, 2002. The box contained 90,090 individual chocolates.

– American men say they would rather receive chocolate than flowers on Valentine’s Day, especially those over the age of 50. Sixty-eight percent of men age 50 or older say they would prefer receiving chocolate over flowers from their sweetheart on Valentine’s Day, while just 22% said they would rather have the flowers.

– The first “chocolate box” was introduced by Richard Cadbury in 1868, when he decorated a candy box with a painting of his young daughter holding a kitten in her arms. Cadbury also invented the first Valentine’s Day candy box.

– Chocolate is America’s favorite flavor. A recent survey revealed that 52% of U.S. adults said they like chocolate best. The second favorite flavor was a tie (at 12% each) between berry flavors and vanilla.

– Sixty-five percent of American chocolate eaters prefer milk chocolate.

Sources: www.bitoffun.com, www.chocolateusa.org

Photo: Kelly Cline

Jennifer Iannolo is the founder and editor-in-chief of Gastronomic Meditations™.

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