Chocolate Decadence

A few weeks ago the college had a “Chocolate Decadence” festival. This event is mostly a chance for the culinary department to show off — chocolate, after all, is the theme. However, the organizers also wanted to offer a 1-hour seminar that would focus on chocolate-based foods and the college-brewed beers that could be paired with them, and a similar seminar pairing chocolate with college-made wines. I was asked to lead the seminar on beer and chocolate, and my counterpart in the wine education program, Britnie Bazylewski, was asked to handle the wine seminar.

Shortly after receiving our Decadence seminar assignments, Britnie and I had a brilliant idea while we were munching on Skittles. (Britnie keeps a supply of Skittles on her desk, which I have to eat if I feel like Skittles, because even if I had a supply of Skittles on my desk, I’d never find them under all the papers.) The brilliant idea, undoubtedly fuelled by Skittles sugar, was that it would be much cooler if we joined forces and offer two identical seminars that would pair both beer and wine with various chocolate dishes. If that wasn’t enough, we also decided that it would be way more fun to present chocolate-based foods rather than straight chocolate.

cocloco1During the weeks leading up to the event, Brewmaster students created six beers to pair with the food. Working with the culinary department, we developed a menu of chocolate-based foods that were perhaps outside the usual range of what you might think as chocolate. And that was the gist of our seminars as well — we knew everyone was going to go home from the festival bursting with chocolate-y ideas of what to serve to guests next weekend, but inevitably it was going to be either chocolate fondue or chocolate cake. We titled our seminars “Going Coco Loco”, and as the name suggests, we wanted people to think outside the box when it came to both chocolate and the wines and beers to serve with them.

Ancho Chili Soup with Cocoa

Ancho Chili Soup with Cocoa

Our first course was Chili Ancho Sopa de Chocolate — a smooth spicy Mexican soup made with blackened ancho chili peppers and enriched with semisweet chocolate. I think a lot of people in the seminar were expecting Britnie to present an icewine — it’s the usual suspect when eating chocolate-based foods; but Britnie instead pulled out a 2012 College Rosé. The sweetness of the Rosé’s residual sugar helped disperse the heat of the spices, and its light body contrasted well with the thick soup. On the beer side, in the first seminar I chose to pair the spicy soup with a Vanilla Cream Ale that had been devised by Teaching Brewery Brewmaster Jon Downing and made by a group of 1st-year Brewmaster students. Like the wine, this beer was on the sweet side, which tamped down the heat of the soup, and the vanilla flavour went well with the cocoa notes like vanilla and chocolate ice cream in the same bowl. In the second seminar, I used the same reasoning but with a bit more oomph, pairing the soup with a Russian Imperial Stout devised and created by 2nd-year student Graham McMullen.

Pulled chicken sliders with Mole Negro

Pulled chicken sliders with Mole Negro

The second course was Pulled Chicken Sliders with Mole Negro — spiced with three types of chili peppers, some garlic, a bit of canela, some almonds and sesame seeds, and of course , some chocolate. For the wine, Britnie picked a 2010 Dean’s List Meritage, a Bordeaux-style with enough body to match the blackened spices. For the first seminar, I chose Chocolate Cherry Schwartzbier, again one of Jon Downing’s recipes that was created by 1st-year students. This sweet beer is normally paired with black forest cake, but I wanted to try it against the black mole sauce, and I think it worked well. For the second seminar, I paired the chicken sliders with 2nd-year student Mark Lewis’s modern take on an ancient Aztec beer recipe, something he calls “Xocolotl”. This big (10%) beer has both sweetness and some fairly significant spicy heat, so matched both the blackened spices and the cocoa in the sliders.

Cocoa-Rubbed Baby Back Ribs

Cocoa-Rubbed Baby Back Ribs

The third course was Cocoa-Rubbed Baby Back Ribs — just what it sounds like: ribs rubbed with a combination of cocoa powder, brown sugar, ancho chili powder, and some spices. Mmmmm! Britnie’s wine was a 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon with lots of tannins for the meaty ribs. My choice of beer at both seminars was 2nd-year student Tanner Hinrichsen’s “Spicy Orange Ale”. Tanner confessed that he is not really a fan of chocolate, so he set out to make a beer that would pair well with chocolate without using chocolate or dark malts. The result is a light amber ale with strong citrussy orange notes and a bit of heat. This and the ribs made for a great combination.

Baba Ghannouj with White Chocolate

Baba Ghannouj with White Chocolate

Our final course was White Chocolate Baba Ghannouj with Spent Grain Crisps — a fairly standard baba ghannouj with the rather unusual addition of some white chocolate. Britnie chose the 2011 Niagara College Semi-Dry Riesling, which had enough acidity to cut through the thick body of the baba ghannouj. I chose another of Jon Downing’s recipes, French Coffee Porter. Although this has very noticeable coffee flavours, those actually come from one of the grains used, French Coffee Press malt. I thought the coffee and white chocolate made a good combination.

Britnie & I going coco-loco.

Britnie & I going coco-loco.

Perhaps the best part of the seminars was that the college was fortunate enough to receive a generous sponsorship from nearby Inniskillin Wines that allowed us to offer the seminars for no cost. Yep, free food and drinks, woo-hoo! Everything tastes better when it’s free.

In the end, everyone went home with some ideas for a chocolate-based dinner that will hopefully colour outside the lines, and Britnie & I were left with the task of coming up with some more great recipe ideas for next year.

If you would like a copy of the recipes for the four dishes served at our seminars, contact me at studentofbeer@gmail.com

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