Chocolate changed the world after being ripped from the Amazon rainforest and Mesoamerican plains to travel the seven seas, seducing sweet teeth and making chocoholics out of anyone with the means to enjoy it.
A sensuous treat made from the fermented seeds of the evergreen cacao tree, chocolate comes in untold variations and colorful packages. Here in the U.S., milk chocolate reins, a product manufactured by mixing milk, sweeteners, and often other cutting agents with cocoa powder and liquified cacao into a confection that contains as little as 10-50% of real cacao.
Dark chocolate, on the other hand, is sort of like the single-origin coffees of chocolate snobs, coveting the rich, dynamic flavors and luscious textures of the cacao bean, and touting percentages that go up to 90%.
White chocolate, which eschews cocoa solids altogether for a confection that’s heavier on sugar, milk, and cocoa butter, is on the other extreme. A chocolate mostly in name still fighting for respect.
But the heart, as they say, wants what it wants. And seeing as it’s Valentine’s Day, we’ve put together a guide that’s sure to sweeten the mood, helping you surprise your favorite choco-fanatic with pairings to the things they love.
Join us as we learn how and which of your date’s most prized chocolates go best with cigars, dinner, wine, spirits, and coffee.
The Proposed Pairing: Cigars with chocolate, preferably involving dessert and the light of a flickering candle.
The Date: A table-for-two on the patio of a small romantic hideaway you’ve managed to keep secret for too long.
The Perfect Plan: Chocolate mousse or flourless chocolate lava cake with a medium-bodied Room101 Farce cigar, which brings together smokable elements from five different countries. Matt Booth’s top-rated blend, its notes of vanilla and caramel are sure to boost each bite of the dark chocolate dessert in front of you between every puff.
The Proposed Pairing: Wine and chocolate
The Date: Tasting and a light lunch at a vineyard, somewhere out in the country… on a magically splendid, bizarrely unseasonal, sunny February afternoon.
The Proposed Pairing: A savory dinner with a side of chocolate.
The Date: You juked the pre-fixe trap and stayed home to cook your paramour’s favorite meal.
The Perfect Plan: As crazy as it sounds, most savory foods won’t suffer from a splash of chocolate sauce. Mole has been thrilling palates for millenia, as proof. If there’s steak on your plate, go with a demiglace of something on the extreme side, like Valrhona’s Guanaja 70% Bittersweet Dark Chocolate, giving you the complexity of the cacao while not overwhelming your tastebuds with exaggerated sweetness. If you’re making something spice-rich from Southeast Asia, like an Indian or Thai curry, the otherwise cloying notes of a milk chocolate or white chocolate can add an extra dimension to the maelstrom of flavors, their sugary notes lending a new element to the complex whole.
The Proposed Pairing: A nightcap with cigars and chocolate
The Date: It’s somewhat late. There’s a view. And a fully stocked bar. And not a lot of other people.
The Perfect Plan: Talk about love stories. Chocolate and whiskey are made for each other, be it a caramel-filled bonbon with a caramel-accented bourbon, a dark chocolate truffle to rev the spicy kick of a rye, or the chocolate candies known as Chocisky, which are designed to be enjoyed with specific drams of Scotch and Japanese whisky. For the smokes, a mellow Macanudo merges both delicacy and strength, highlighting the assets you love best about your dram of choice.
The Proposed Pairing: Coffee with cigars and chocolate.
The Date: It’s February 15th and you’re still entwined, but still need to get something in your bellies no matter how hard it is to leave bed. A smoke would of course be nice, too.