Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A night of chocolate and wine

Delicious wines with fabulous chocolates!


Last Wednesday, a friend and I were lucky enough to be invited to an evening of chocolate and wine parings at Piece, Love and Chocolate. It was a night I won't forget. What I absolutely loved, aside from all the wonderful flavors I experienced, was meeting so many passionate and warm people. It made me realize that I need to focus more on these kinds of experiences and less on upsetting ones. I wrote an all too personal blog post, one I sort of figured I wouldn't actually submit, about one of those annoying situations that sometimes happens online. It was cathartic, but there's no need to share. I bring it up, because I've learned over the years that my every thought need not be heard. Sometimes it's good enough to write it, get some satisfaction and then store it away, so that nobody can see it. In these and all situations, it helps if you have people around you who can love and support you.


Now, on to better things.



The event started with an intelligent lecture on how chocolate affects the senses, including how it affects brain chemistry. There's no doubt that chocolate makes us feel good. There are three areas of the brain that are stimulated when we eat it. Of course, the centers of the brain associated with pleasure are activated after eating chocolate, but, in addition to that, both the motor cortex and the prefrontal cortex are as well. The prefrontal cortex is the same area of the brain associated with learning but also with the development of addiction. Chocolate also increases serotonin levels in the brain, especially in those who tend to have certain kinds of depression e.g., SADS or atypical depression. LeeAnn, a clinical sexologist, explained how all the senses can be involved with taste. After the very interesting discussion about the senses, a nice warm hand towel was handed to each of us, and Sarah took over the lecture. Sarah is the chef at Piece, Love and Chocolate, and this lady knows chocolate! 

A cocoa pod-where it all starts.


I'm always impressed to meet anyone who knows all about chocolate--the history, the details of the chocolate making process and the properties of the yummy stuff. There is so much to know! There are certain areas in the world that employ unethical methods to gather and process cocoa beans, so it's important to know the origin of chocolate too. Here's a quick little video about that:



Sarah took us on an enchanting little journey filled with mouth-watering desserts, delightful wines and enjoyable conversation. I had a hard time being patient, because everything looked so tempting! I wanted to dive right in, but I was glad I waited, because Sarah had much to say about how and why the different wines were paired with specific sweets. What was most interesting to me about that aspect was learning more thoroughly about how the taste buds work. Most of us know that different areas of the tongue have different receptors that respond more or less to the four different flavors: sour, sweet, bitter and salt. Pairing a wine that stimulates the same receptors as the dessert can enhance the experience, but pairing a wine that stimulates a different area of the tongue can also be a good match, depending on how much the general flavors are alike. Of course, a few of the desserts stimulated two different parts of the tongue without any added help. Probably the best example of this is the dark salted liquid caramel nugget of goodness by Piece, Love and Chocolate. Holy cocoa bean! I can see why this is a best seller. Flavor explodes all over your mouth in a wonderful contrast of salty sweetness. There is an equal blast of different textures as well with a hard outer shell, liquid caramel and crunchy salt on top. We were told that the best way to eat it is to bite the gorgeous little dark chocolate ball in half, take some salt and sprinkle it on the caramel in the remaining half and pop that into your mouth just as you are finishing the first half. Mmmm That was a good suggestion.

Salted caramel and other yummy chocolates at Piece, Love and Chocolate


As we moved through bite after bite of so many incredible chocolate works of art, I came upon my favorite, and I think a few others agreed based on the yummy noises floating about the room. It was the Raspbeverly cake, a flourless chocolate extravaganza with both a texture and flavor that people associate with "killer" chocolate. My oh my was that dense little square of indulgence something else. That's the stuff I dream about when it comes to chocolate. Woooaaa. It was good! I'm not even a huge fan of raspberry and chocolate, but this was sheer perfection on a plate. I bet I would like their plain flourless chocolate cake as well, and I can't wait to try it! 

Oooooo that little raspberry chocolate square was absolutely amazing!

I won't go into each piece of chocolate we tried, but I will mention a few more stand-outs. There was the PLC sesame cut ganache with a very strong sesame flavor that blended well with chocolate, A PLC basil cut ganache that had quite a punch of basil flavor, the chocolate Linzer torte, a chocolate bar made with goat milk that had a wonderful little kick of tang at the finish, a creamy white chocolate cheesecake, various truffles and a lovely little lemon square with a chocolate crust. Before getting to the end of my plate, I hit maximum chocolate capacity and had to stop. Fortunately, I was sent home with a doggy bag.

Getting ready for some taste tests.

I am hoping to participate in some of the other classes that Piece, Love and Chocolate offers. They have a wonderful selection of classes available. There's another class just like the one I mentioned taking place on March 7th: Chocolate Lab for Lovers... of Sensual Chocolate & Wine 



Check out www.chocolateforbreakfast.com for more info on this.


I will save the details for another time, but I was very fortunate to be able to meet Sue Ann Gleason, founder of Chocolate for Breakfast, again. We sat next to each other at the event, and I am so thrilled to announce that she is coming out with her own cluster and bar! More details on that to come, of course, but I will say that this chocolate is about as far from boring, one-dimensional chocolate as anyone can get. I don't think I've ever had a taste of chocolate so intriguing with perfectly combined hints of bitterness and sweetness and lingering notes of spice from the cinnamon dusting. I predict much success with this collaboration between MC2 confections and Chocolate for Breakfast. If all goes well, the products will be available at Piece, Love and Chocolate in the near future. Big smile!






A friend of mine just sent me the link to this article about chocolate, which I thought was fitting and ties in nicely to my chocolate obsession lately. 

2 comments:

  1. Hi Lize,

    I'm a University of Washington track athlete and Public Health major. In order to graduate from the major we are to complete a project having to do with something in the health realm. Being a distance runner and extremely interested in nutrition, I have chosen eating disorders in female athletes (more specifically distance runners) as my topic of choice. I wasn't sure what the best way to contact you would be, but I would love to speak with you on your experiences, how you view eating disorders in collegiate athletics, what you believe should be done, prevention etc. Please let me know if you would be interested!

    Thanks!

    Nikki

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hello Nikki, I would definitely be interested!

    Thank you so much for thinking of me for your project.

    My email address is lizefb@aol.com

    ReplyDelete

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