Chocolate...there really isn't a more perfect food; it's like gold, it has a universal appeal.
Vosges, Fauchon, Maribelle, La Milka, Dove, Hershey's, La Maison du Chocolat, Godiva, Lindt may come to mind when you think of sampling chocolate.
Have you ever had a food-related expression of excitement like the one Meg Ryan had in When Harry Met Sally? A really good chocolate bite can make me close my eyes and moan. I will definitely spend the rest of my life trying to eat more chocolate! Et toi?
There is such pleasure in enjoying chocolate. At the end of a bad day, a little chocolate can set me right again. I think most people can have chocolate everyday at any time of the day!
My favorite thing to eat in the world is a chocolate soufflé. Commander's Palace in New Orleans has a chocolate soufflé they keep a secret! It's not even on the menu; you've got to ask for it. The best I've ever had was in Rome at the Lord Byron Hotel. A chocolate soufflé so amazing I smile and salivate just thinking about it.
Each of my five senses came alive when I ate that soufflé and I've never forgotten it. You can tell good chocolate from the look of it; chocolate should be gleaming. The taste and feel of it in your mouth should: melt, snap, and have a strong chocolaty smell. Voulez-vous chocolat?
When I think of hot chocolate, Marie Antoinette comes to mind. During the 1700s, chocolate was primarily consumed as a beverage. It wasn't hot cocoa she was drinking, but hot chocolate. She hated taking medicines and suggested taking them with the hot chocolate she was used to drinking in Vienna. Brilliant idea -- but the heat would make the taste and smell of the medicine worse! The Queen had her chemist make a coin shape pistole; her favorite was almond milk.
There is a big difference between hot cocoa and hot chocolate, the primary difference being that hot cocoa is made with cocoa powder (which doesn't have the fat of cocoa butter), and hot chocolate is made from melted chocolate bars mixed with cream. Hot chocolate was enjoyed mostly by the rich upper class because it was extremely expensive. What did the lower class drink...? Coffee!
The French court also introduced chocolate as an aphrodisiac. Madame du Barry (Louis XV's lover) encouraged her men to drink chocolate in order to keep up with her. Then there was Venice's Casanova (known as the world's greatest lover), who was known to use chocolate with champagne to seduce the ladies. Ooh la la!
The history of chocolate is vast! Beginning in the Amazon then many cultures and people claiming chocolate as their discovery and making it better than before: Mayas, Aztecs, Columbus, Italians, Austrians, Spanish, and Swiss...
Many movies have been made with chocolate as the theme! Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Chocolat, Like Water for Chocolate, and Consuming Passions are each delicious in their own way.
Did you know there is such a thing as a chocolate sommelier like they have for wine!?! As with wine, chocolate is all about origin. Knowing where one's chocolate comes from matters just like knowing where olive oil, coffee, wine, and cheese come from. Terroir (a French word for a sense of place) matters in chocolate too.
I'm sure when you buy wine, you're not looking at the label to select by the percentage of alcohol. It's about the taste! Chocolate and wine go together like peanut butter and jelly! It's magic!
A smart way to discover chocolate would be to sample it in a tasting kit. One of the most fun food adventures I've ever had was the selection of our wedding cake. I think a chocolate sampling party would be a blast! I enjoy seeing my daughter developing her decisive chocolate palate. She prefers milk chocolate, not surprising to me because she adores chocolate milk (what child doesn't)!
As with anything you put in your mouth, you listen to your palate. It's not about the percentage or origin; chocolate is a gourmet food with grand history for us to love and share. Chocolate is a never-ending taste test that gives us pleasure and as a bonus, lowers blood pressure. What better reason do you need!
This Valentine's Day fall in love...with chocolate!!!
And how about you? Do you have a favorite chocolate treat or recipe or chocolate destination to share?