Life by Chocolate

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Last night's Witches of Eastwick Meet Le Chocolat soiree at Littleton's the Melting Pot was a lesson in how decadent food doesn't necessarily have to kill you. Julie Pech (pictured), the self-proclaimed Chocolate Therapist, was at hand to discuss the various health benefits of chocolate (yes, you read that right).

Chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, is perhaps the most unfairly maligned food on the planet. It has more antioxidants by weight than any other food on the planet (13,120 units per 100 grams -- blueberries, by comparison, have 2,400 units per 100 grams, and Brussels sprouts 980). Milk chocolate is a close second with 6,740 units per 100 grams. Chocolate can also thin your blood and release endorphins. What's not to love?

The evening consisted of a first-course cheese fondue extravaganza, a second course of shrimp, teriyaki sirloin, filet mignon, chicken breast and ravioli, and then the much-anticipated chocolate "potion" portion. Servers brought out three pots of chocolate: a milk chocolate, a dark chocolate (50 percent cacao, which is the active healthy ingredient in chocolate) and a very dark, organic chocolate (75 percent cacao). With these different chocolate mixtures, participants blended a variety of spices, oils, dried fruits, nuts, you name it. The mixtures Pech suggested were as follows:

Milk chocolate with kiwi (vitamins C, A and E, respiratory assistance properties), ginger (digestive aid, headache relief, anti-inflammatory) and lime juice (antibiotic effects, Vitamin C).

Milk chocolate with dried blueberries (fiber, potassium, potent in vitamins and antioxidants), cinnamon (blood cleanser, increase blood vessel functioning, weight-loss aid) and pecans (rich in good fats, potassium, zinc and fiber).

The milk chocolate was served with a Moscato wine -- milk chocolate also pairs well with merlot and certain ports.

Dark chocolate (50 percent) with strawberries (vitamin C and calcium, beneficial for immune systems), vanilla (tension soother and stress reliever, as well as a weight-loss stimulant) and acai powder (very high in antioxidants, essential fatty acids and proteins).

Dark chocolate (50 percent) with almonds (protein, fiber, calcium and vitamin E), dried orange peel (digestive aid, antioxidants, lowers cholesterol) and cinnamon.

The 50-percent-cacao dark chocolate was paired with a pinot noir; dark chocolate also goes well with cabernets, bordeaux and beaujolais.

Dark chocolate (75 percent) with orange (vitamin C, cardiovascular protection, fiber) espresso (reduction in Parkinsons and colon cancer, pain reliever) and mint (digestive aid, decongestant, pain reliever).

Dark chocolate (75 percent) with dried cherries (fiber, low on glycemic index), hemp seeds (essential fatty acids, high in protein) and chili powder (lowers blood pressure, reduces cholesterol and speeds metabolism).

The 75-percent-cacao dark chocolate was paired with a cabernet.

Most of the spices were provided by Westword Best Of winner (2005: Best Spices West of the Platte; 2007: Best Store on Littleton's Main Street) Savory Spice Shop; owner Janet Johnson was sitting next to me and helpfully answered my questions about her goods. A warning for lovers of the culinary arts everywhere: Once you taste Savory Spice's powdered ginger or cinnamon, you will be utterly ruined for the King Soopers spice section.

But here's the best news of all: the Melting Pot's Cindy Code, who coordinated the event, is hoping to make Julie Pech's chocolate nights a monthly shindig. Call her at 303-715-0333 for more information. -- Amber Taufen

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