I hosted a super-fun and oh-so-lekker (lekker = tasty, in Dutch) chocolate tasting party yesterday for 8 of my nearest and dearest. I posted this picture on Facebook and a couple of people asked about how I did it, so figured I'd write and share the choco-love.
Each of the four courses paired a chocolate bonbon, with a complimentary pastille (round disc of chocolate) and a beverage (tea, white wine, red wine and coffee). In between the chocolate courses, I served a palate-cleansing appetizer and some water (plain and spa - made with lemons, limes, cucumbers and fresh mint). Here's the gang in the kitchen, waiting for the party to begin.
And the pastilles and bonbons lined up and ready to go.
Close up of the stars of the show, the bonbons. Top left - a caramel "cupje" (little cup, in Dutch), with caramel in a milk chocolate cup, topped with white chocolate. Top right - a fruity bonbon, topped with lavender. Bottom left - dark chocolate around ground espresso beans and bottom right - a Bailey's filling topped with a cookie, covered in milk chocolate, drizzled with white and dark chocolates.
My table settings were pretty basic. I don't have enough nice-looking serving pieces for a party of more than about 6, so I used what I had (and no, it didn't all match - my apologies to Martha Stewart).
Here's how I served the courses:
Course 1 - cupjes, with a pastille featuring the same chocolate used in the little caramel-flavored chocolate on the top of the bonbon (approximately 33% cacao). Served with a light tasting organic earl green tea.
Palate cleanser #1 - a smear of chevre cheese and a slice of roasted red pepper on a melba toast cracker (to roast a red pepper, simply coat a red pepper in olive oil, bake at 350 until the skin begins to blacken, the strip the skin and slice), served with cucumber slices and plain water
Course 2 - the fruit bonbons, with a slightly darker chocolate pastille (approximately 50% cacao) and a lovely, light and fruity South African chardonnay.
Palate cleanser #2 - I wanted my guests to retain some of the fruit taste for the next course, so I served "spa water" (a carafe of water with slices of cucumber, lemon, lime and mint - refrigerated for approximately 2 hours before serving)
Course 3 - the coffee bonbons, with a much darker chocolate pastille (approximately 75% cacao) and a wonderful aleatico from Italy. The wine in this course was a huge hit and did an awesome job complimenting the bitterness of the dark chocolates and espresso beans in this course.
Palate cleanser #3 - At this point, after all the sweetness, I figured guests would need a bigger break, so I offered a pasta salad, with lots of veggies, olive oil and feta cheese. The salt and oil did a great job mopping up the bitterness and heaviness of the wine and chocolate in this course.
Course 4 - the Baileys bonbon, no pastille this time, with a good, easy-to-drink Ethiopian coffee. Definitely the perfect way to end the tasting!
Some things to consider, if you'd like to give this a go (and I think you should!):
- If you're going to do this, go all out. Source quality ingredients and find an expert to help you pair the tastings. I know that's totally easy for me to say, sitting 12 miles from the Belgian border (land of awesome chocolate!), but still.... almost any major city (and many smaller ones now) have chocolatiers who can help you put this party together in a way your guest will appreciate!
- At the beginning of each course, introduce what you'll be serving and how you prefer to taste. For example, with course #3, I let my guests know that I prefer to take a sip of the wine, then a bite of the pastille and end with the bonbon. They don't have to taste that way, of course, but go ahead and give your advice.
- That said, make sure you taste your pairings prior to your party. Do a "dry run" a few weeks ahead of your event. Darn. What a shame to have to taste more chocolate ;)
- Don't feel like you need to be perfect! More than anything, these parties should be fun!! For everyone. That includes you, the host.
If you give this a try, please check back in and let me know how it goes!