Chocolate and beef? Yes - read on...
Tom Sfetkopoulos, category manager for bakery for Longo’s, has noticed a change in consumer interest in chocolate over the last few years. “It hasn’t been as rapid as the rise in cheese, but there has been a large shift toward higher-end chocolate and now lots more shoppers are curious about the different types and sampling it,” he says. Canadians, in particular, may be more open to new types of chocolate, he says, because of our multi-cultural make-up.
But the rise is also driven by people looking for different ways to entertain friends. Tasting parties — as opposed to sit down dinners — are a relatively easy and affordable option. Consumers are responding enthusiastically to his company’s Origin line, which uses cocoa beans from all over the world to create in-house chocolates. As with wine, each will have a flavour influenced by the soil, humidity, temperature and salt content in the air of the area in which the cocoa beans are grown. “Chocolate made with beans from Ecuador, for example, have a slight whiskey aftertaste,” he explains.
Sfetkopoulos doesn’t necessarily hold with the notion that wine drunk with chocolate must always be as sweet or sweeter, and he advocates an adventurous approach. “So much is about personal preference, so have fun with it. I discovered a few months ago that I love dark chocolate with merlot, simply because I popped some in my mouth while I was drinking a glass.”
He does suggest limiting tasting parties to three varieties, starting with something light, like white chocolate (although it’s technically not chocolate, since it’s made with cocoa fat from the beans, not the beans themselves) then moving into a milk chocolate and finishing off with something with a higher cocoa content that has a stronger, more bitter taste.
Chocolate can also play a role in cooking, adds Sfetkopoulos. “Think about a beef tenderloin with dark chocolate sauce,” he suggests. Another great tip – dip the rim of martini or shot glasses in chocolate before pouring drinks in them. It’s trick he says he’ll use at his New Year’s party. What a sweet way to welcome in 2010!