Thursday, September 16, 2010

Cheese & Chocolates

A recent blogger evening in the delightful surroundings of La Cave à Fromage in South Kensington was a revelation. Pairing chocolate and cheese Louise, from the Chocolate Consultancy hosted a tasting with Tiago from La Cave to make some interesting connections and a couple of quite amazing pairings.

A lot of people seem to think this is a match that simply cannot work. If your starting point is a couple of Snickers and a chunk of Cathedral City that is undoubtedy true. If, on the other hand, you begin, as we did, with a white goat's milk chocolate made by Askinosie and a bleu de Basque from the French Pyrénees a whole new experience begins. I have never come across a goat's milk chocolate before and though I'm not a particular fan of white chocolate I am a big fan of goat's cheese, so I was really curious to try this. At the first nibble it is lightly goaty, slightly grainy, definitely interesting. Next was a nibble of sweet crumbly creamy blue ewe's cheese. Having sampled the individual tastes it was time to try them together in the same mouthful. They made an interesting combination - the cheese almost sweeter than the chocolate but it was the hint of sour tang from the chocolate that is the last thing in my mouth.

Second combination of the night was the first of three Valrhona chocolates. Jivara is a milk chocolate, 40% cocoa solids with a light barley malt extract flavour - an ultra refined ovaltine. It was paired with that most fabulous of British cheeses, Montgomery cheddar. This elegant pale ivory cheese is made by hand in Somerset with unpasteurised milk and matured for around 11 months. I am always delighted to see it's crumbly fruity self, no matter the context. The chocolate and cheese combined worked really well - I had thought the chocolate might be a touch light but the balance of sweet/salty and smooth/crumbly was very good.

Halfway through and Louise introduces Valrhona Manjari with undisguised delight. It is the chocolate of her epiphany, the one that made her see what a complex thing it could be. First taste for me and her excitement makes a lot of sense. Made from cocoa grown in Madagascar it is citrussy with lime and perfectly roasted. Tiago matches it with tomme brulée. I am a fan of these ewe's milk cheeses and this one is new to me and decidedly special. Matured for 3-4 months before the rind is burnt for an intense flavour, strongest towards the outer edge. The separate elements were great but, as sometimes happens, they didn't go so well together. For me at least it was a touch too smooth but others rated it as their favourite.

Next is definitely the pairing I would choose. The Grenada Chocolate Co make a dark chocolate that comes in at 71% cocoa solids. Grown on the most famous spice island the cocoa trees have taken on their terroir. First chip of this in my mouth and it is all spice and delicate bitterness. The flavour goes through changes as it melts with almost wild peaks and troughs. As cocoa butter melts up to 300 flavour notes are gradually released (for context wine has 10 flavour notes) and with this chocolate I can start to understand. The matching cheese was a deceptively simple colline aux chevre - a goats cheese that is very fresh, ready in 24 hours, very light and sweet. These two together brought a blissed delight. It was a fabulous pairing, chocolate and cheese bolstered each other to make the combination more sweet sweet and more earthy than they are apart.

We ended with a crumbled scatter of Valrhona pure couverture - 100% cocoa. Very dry, chalky, intense and bitter. Though solid in the mouth it is almost powder. It was paired with a gratte-paille soft to runny triple cream cow's milk cheese, all pasteurised milk and double cream for a richly decadent result. I liked them together, the very bitter was good with the ultra creamy, but I wondered what the chocolate would be like with something like stilton. Already I am making new pairings!

The respective expertise of Louise and Tiago combined with their serious passion and considerable imaginations made for an unusual and engrossing night. If you fancy doing this - and I would seriously recommend it - more events will be held at La Cave from October 13. Book through

1 comment:

sheen said...

Great Post! Thanks for sharing such a detailed post.