The Accidental Locavore was invited to what on the surface seemed to be an unusual combination – a tasting of cheese and chocolate at the French Cheese Board. I thought it was going to be a casual thing, that there would be cheeses and chocolates to taste and I could fit it in before going off to a DeGustibus class at Macy’s. Of course, that wasn’t the case and it looked like a very informative program that I missed because of the time constraints.
However, Julien (merci beaucoup!) snuck me off to the kitchen and we did a speed-tasting so I could get a sense of the pairings (and possibilities). There were five pairings using chocolate from Raaka, a “virgin” chocolate maker in Red Hook, Brooklyn. It started off easily, with a coconut milk chocolate (take note, all you vegans out there) and a whipped cheese, le Fromage Fouetté from Brittany (to follow along with the photo, start in the top right corner). They were surprisingly compatible, with the chocolate bringing out the sweetness and freshness of the whipped cheese. There was also a nice contrast between the snap of the chocolate and the creaminess of the cheese.
The second one was a Madagascar chocolate with a Mimolette. Julien cautioned me to break up the Mimolette, as the cheese-to-chocolate ratio was a little lopsided. I was glad that I did, because I was still eating two very distinct flavors. This was my least favorite pairing; the strong chocolate (75% cacao) and the stronger Mimolette. And unlike the first pairing there wasn’t much difference in the textures. Essentially, one just cancelled out the other.
After that, there was what I thought might be the weirdest, most difficult pairing – chocolate with sea salt meeting Epoisses (one of the great runny, stinky cheeses) – but they were surprisingly good together. The Epoisses was perfect, smooth and runny and the little bit of saltiness in the cheese and chocolate brought out the sweetness of both.
My favorite pairing was the next one, bourbon barrel-aged cocoa bean chocolate and a Bleu d’Auvergne. This blue cheese is milder and creamier than its Roquefort cousin. Both cheese and chocolate brought out the best in each other – you got all the undernotes of the chocolate along with all the subtleties of the blue – wonderful!
The last one was designed to be the closer, a dessert combo. It was a chocolate with vanilla roobios (a sort of tea) and a new-to-me cheese, Ossau-Iraty, a fairly firm sheep’s milk cheese from the Western Pyrénées. Flaky and mild, the cheese and chocolate brought out the sweetness in both and a taste of toasted marshmallow (in this case, not a bad thing) from the chocolate.
While I lost my initial skepticism about pairing cheese with chocolate (they actually work nicely together), I don’t know that I would ever serve them. Personally, I’d much rather have a cheese course (my favorite dessert in France) and then if there was room, some chocolate dessert. It’s like pain au chocolat – again, I much prefer the components separately (hot chocolate and a croissant) than together. Would you serve the two together?