I wanted to add a little more about my experience at the Fabulous Food Show on Sunday. I went as I normally do for the wine sampling. I was particularly interested in the seminar on chocolate and wine pairing given by Joe Fink of Fantasy Candies and Marianne Franz of the American Wine School. I wasn’t disappointed.
We started with four wines in front of us ranging from a hearty Cameron Hughes Bin 257 Cab Sav, a Warre’s Warrior Special Reserve Port, Warre’s Tawny Port and finally an Osborne PX Sherry. Starting from left to right we paired the Cab with a dark chocolate containing about 72% cocoa. The wine on it’s own was great but pairing it with the exotic richness of the dark chocolate opened up and new level of deep rich berry and added a light caramel finish I didn’t expect. While I’d pair chocolate with just about anything, I hadn’t thought of enjoying it with a Cab, which I generally save for a hearty beef dinner on a cold winter’s night. But that’s why I’m the student, and this is a learning experience.
We moved on to a 65% cocoa and paired that with the Special Reserve Port (alright, I tried some of the 72% with this as well, and it was really good). I’m not really a port drinker; in the past I’d found it to be too sweet, almost cloying, so this was a nice way to open my eyes to the world of port and how it could be served. As Marianne noted, sometimes two sweets together can cut down the sweetness you actually experience. But maybe it was the high I got from all the great chocolate that made me feel so accepting. Either way, I was enjoying the combination of the port and chocolate. Of the two, I found the tawny port much richer, complex when paired with the 65% cocoa sample.
As the tasting went on, I became more interested in what the PX in my last glass would taste like. For years, I’ve had the cliched idea that sherry was something you kept in a cupboard and threw into a crock pot when nothing else was available. I was about to be schooled. I found myself intriqued by the color: a rich, golden brown with thick legs when you swirled it. Thick legs, in this case, is a compliment. The bouquet was of a buttery caramel toffee with a hint of a sweet cigar. Yes, cigar. You know when you smell a waft of a sweet tobacco in the air on a warm summer night? It was like that. When I told my friend Terri (who was also sampling) what I tasted, she looked at me like I was crazy…or needed to be cut off. I was neither. We paired this with with a honey-like milk chocolate and it brought out even more depth of the flavours. Once Terri tried the chocolate and sherry together, she understood what I meant. When I researched a little further, I learned that Pedro Ximenez is actually made from a sweet vinegar made from grapes that have been sun-dried.
We had a great hour of decadence. The best part was we didn’t get kicked out of class.