Chocolate & Cheese: A Pairing to Please All Your Senses

By Rainer Burrow

“I don’t like to be gratuitous with chocolate.  I like for it to be meaningful.”  Chef Sarah Langan explained her philosophy on cooking with chocolate to a full tent as she and her assistants gracefully whipped up a 3 course cooking demo on a beautiful Vermont summer day.  The theme for the tasting: chocolate and cheese; what 2 things are easier to love?

Chef Langan is the chef and educator at South End Kitchen in Burlington, Vermont.  South End Kitchen is a café located in Burlington Vermont owned by Lake Champlain Chocolates, a chocolate producer that has been in operation on Lake Champlain since 1983.  Lake Champlaign Chocolates is a top- quality producer, and a true gem in the state of Vermont.  The company uses local Vermont products to make their chocolates, doesn’t add preservatives or additives, are committed to sourcing non-GMO ingredients, and are champions of fair trade.  These factors combine to make high-quality chocolates, which are featured in various ways at South End Kitchen.

For the first course, Chef Langan chose to do a very simple chocolate and cheese pairing using Lake Champlain’s Blue Bandana 70% Guatemala Chocolate and Vermont Creamery’s Bonne Bouche.  Both products are beautiful and intricate on their own, married very well on the palate to completely enhance the flavor experience.  The chocolate was chalky, fruity, and initially sweet with a solid acidity.  The Cheese Was acidic and moldy, mild with a great funk presence.  Eating them together brought me back to Ratatouille swirling colors around his head as he is pairing scraps on the yard of his farm.  Together the acidity and mold went down, the fruit notes really shined through, and both products mellowed out a little bit.  It was an excellent pairing and an excellent start to the demo.

As Chef Langan segued into the second course, she introduced a reflection on how we as humans react to the five tastes (sweet sour salty bitter and umami).  She stated “When you can have all 5 tastes in one dish, you will satisfy yourself.  When your palate is missing one, you will crave more.”  It was with this philosophy in mind that she created her second course, a rustic tart consisting of arugula, pancetta crisps, Vermont Creamery’s Cremont, Fig & honey spread, lemon vinaigrette, and a chocolate emulsion all over a tart dough.  With sweet from the fig and honey, salty from the Cremont and pancetta, bitter form the arugula and chocolate, acidity from Cremont and the vinaigrette, and umami from the pancetta, it was perfectly complete.  I felt distinctly happy and satiated after consuming it.

Finally, for the third course (and dessert), Chef Langan severed a Chocolate Chevre Cheesecake.  It was a beautiful conclusion to the cooking demo: woodsy, tangy, fatty, soft, great in acidity, and rich in chocolate.  Of the three courses, this was definitely my favorite, but I have a sweet tooth and I love chocolate.

I left the tasting feeling educated, satiated, and happy to be alive.  There’s nothing better than great cheese and expert culinary execution.  If the food at South End Kitchen is anything like the tasting, it’s definitely worth a visit.

http://www.lakechamplainchocolates.com/

http://southendkitchenvt.com/

http://www.vermontcreamery.com/

 

 

 

 

Curd to your Mother!

Mother’s Day is just a few days away, and I have been thinking about all the things you can do with cheese to make Mom feel super special. I also am pretty lazy, and spend most of my time selling cheese, so I needed to come up with some ideas that don’t take up too much of my time (Not that my mother isn’t worth all the time in the world – Love you, Mom!). Here are some simple ways to make your mother’s special day a little bit cheesier.

For Breakfast in Bed

This barely takes five minutes, and you can finish it before you’ve had your first cup of coffee.  Slice a baguette, and top it with a dollop of fresh ricotta. Drizzle honey on top and sprinkle with walnuts. Rush it to Mom’s room before she is out of bed (don’t forget the coffee, which will actually pair really nicely). Guaranteed to win you some serious brownie points.

Want to get a bit more intricate?

Go for an omelet.  Eggs are pretty easy, but even easier to jazz up. A good alpine cheese will bring any omelet to a whole new level. Try Challerhocker which will add a mild nuttiness, and spice. Want even more depth? Try Etivaz. This cheese is essentially a super-charged  Gruyere. Throw some fresh spring vegetables in there and call it a day! Mother’s Day!

Moms Love Chocolate

Roquefort and chocolate. Seriously. The nutty and astringent qualities of this sheep’s milk blue goes perfectly with the complex flavors of a dark chocolate. The textural experience is pretty amazing too. Chocolate and cheese, a win for sure.

No matter what you do for Mom this Sunday, we hope her day is extra special!