A Chocolate Tasting
A chocolate tasting is just like a wine tasting in that you try a bunch of different flavors and talk about what you like and don't. It basically gives you something interesting to do while you relax and get to know each other. It's also a fun double-date if you want to include a few friends.
First off, you're going to need a variety of chocolates. You can find a good assortment at some of your local chocolate shops, sweet shops, and supermarkets, or online at chocolatiers like Rechuitti, Chuao, Scharffen Berger, Godiva, and Ghirardelli. Remember to buy bars or tasting squares - not bon bons, nut clusters, and all that other stuff people wolf down at the holidays. A tasting is all about pure chocolate. Pick up a few bars in the 60% to 85% cacao range, along with some white and milk chocolate. The big chocolatiers also usually have a few unusual flavors, like chile or lavender, which make for some interesting tastes. In the end you should have 5 or 6 different types of chocolate.
What about wine? Ok, now most chocolate snobs think wine should be left out of a tasting, but I disagree. Red wine goes great with chocolate. And even though it may funk up your taste buds just a little, let’s face it, we're not writing for the New York Times here – pleasure before perfection.
After dinner, break the bars up into smallish chunks and arrange them on a few plates. Keep the pieces fairly small, say no bigger than your thumb, so that no one has chocolate overload before the end. You may also want to get some unsalted crackers and water to cleanse your pallets between tastes. Or not. Then light a fire or some candles, and head over to the couch for some low-key tasting and conversation.
Tasting each chocolate has four steps. Don't worry about memorizing them, Ghirardelli was nice enough to make tasting mats that you can download and print using the link over there to the right. Start with the sweeter chocolates (white, milk) and end with the more bitter ones (dark).
Describe the color, gloss, and texture of the broken edges. Does it look shiny or flat? Coarse or fine?
Rub your thumb against the chocolate to warm it up and release the aroma. Bring it to your nose and inhale the scent. Does it smell rich or subtle? Sweet or bitter? Do you smell hints of coffee, wood, nuts, wine, or flowers? Do you recognize any unpleasant smells?
Take a bite and pay attention to its "snap", the sharp or dull sound your chocolate makes when broken. Place the chocolate on the center of your tongue and raise it against the roof of your, rubbing your tongue against it.
Flavor and Finish
Does the flavor change from beginning to end? Is there bitterness in the finish or an aftertaste? Does the sweetness have hints of brown sugar, molasses, honey, caramel, or something else? Do you taste any fruits or nuts?
And that's how you taste chocolate! Use these guidelines however much they feel right for you, just so long as you're having fun.
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