When the Candy Girls caught wind of a chocolate therapist in town, we knew this was something we were destined to investigate. Turns out Julie Pech is an author and lecturer living in Denver who has launched a career speaking to groups about the health benefits of chocolate. Additionally, once a month she pairs with local chocolatiers and/or wine makers and hosts a tasting designed to showcase particular pairings between the two. Chocolate? Wine? Sold!
The one we attended was an international affair, with chocolates and wines from countries spanning the globe. The first part of the class focused on fine-tuning our tongues with the international chocolates. We thought we were pretty chocolate savvy, but we admit this was the first time we were encouraged to explain what we were tasting with descriptors like woody, leather, tobacco, olive, pepper, and sour. But once you have that vocab in front of you, it's amazing how those exact flavors can come out. We found the Swiss Lindt had sour notes, the Spanish Valor was infused with a leathery taste, while the Plantation chocolate from Ecuador had a distinct buttery flavor. Our least favorite of the bunch, Green and Black from the UK, managed tobacco, leather, and sour notes. You'd think we were in Bertie Botts territory here. But once we knew what we were looking for, it was hard not to distinguish between the varieties.
Next up: wine! While giddy from all the chocolate, the crowd was clearly ready to get their wine tasting on. The first wine circulated the room while the handmade chocolates were distributed. The featured chocolatier of the evening was downtown Littleton purveyor, Chocolates by Mary Carol. The wines ranged in depth and sweetness and a variety of spice-, fruit-, and nut-infused chocolates served to heighten the flavors. The first wine was a light, refreshing Prosecco and it went great with the dried blueberry and orange infused chocolates that it was paired with. Next we tried a Shiraz, and we found this to be the most difficult wine to pair with. The wine seemed too dry and strong for many of the chocolate flavors, but serendipitously we had some of our Chili Pepper Truffle left when the next wine, a Cabernet Sauvignon, came around and the strong wine and spicy chocolate went perfectly together. This was one of our favorite flavor pairings of the evening. Finally, we tried port alongside caramel, cashew and toffee-filled chocolates. All of these pairings worked well and many agreed that this chocolate and wine combo would make wonderful to finish a nice meal.
One of us wasn't drinking, so we're sure the deliciousness of the chocolates weren't merely a trick of the alcohol. Here are some of our favorites from the evening, all of which are available at Chocolates by Mary Carol.
72% Dark Chocolate Hearts with Orange Glace Rather than just flavor the chocolate with orange liqueur, this chocolate had real bits of sweet orange rind inside, which was a welcome surprise since it made the flavor and texture more exciting and delicious than expected. Paired beautifully with the Prosecco.
Dark Chocolate and Dried Blueberries, dusted with Mayan Cacao The dried blueberries were a sweet contrast to the dark chocolate, and the use of a slightly spicy Mayan cacao really makes this flavor combination soar. Other guests at the tasting gave this rave reviews.
Chili Pepper Truffle Unlike many chili truffles we've tried, this one from Chocolates by Mary Carol seems to have little heat. Instead of a burning sensation, the chili imparts the chocolate with a nice depth and smokiness. Unusual and delicious.
Chocolate embedded with a cinnamon-infused pecan A cinnamon oil was used to coat a batch of pecan halves that were then nestled into dark chocolate. The cinnamon and nut combination worked perfectly with the sweet chocolate, making this another unique pairing.
Be sure to check out Julie's website for more upcoming tastings and events. The July 24th event looks especially tempting with housemade wines from D'Vine paired with handmade Colorado chocolates. Sounds like another perfect evening to us.
-- Liz and Aubrey