Phillip Minton M.D.

Chocolate Food Pairings

In chocolate on March 28, 2012 at 2:07 am

Chocolate Pairings with Food and Drinks
The concept of food pairing involves comparing the relative positives and negatives of the tastes, textures and aromas of various types of foods and beverages to optimize their pairing. For example, given a choice of pairing popcorn or avocado with chocolate, most people would choose popcorn as the better compliment to the taste, texture and aroma of chocolate.

When considering which foods and beverages go best with chocolate, we can simplify this task by focusing on the type of chocolate that is the most commonly available of the healthy chocolate species – retail dark chocolate. This kind of chocolate has a moderately rich favor and texture and is of a moderately dark brown or reddish-brown color. It is a little sweet as well.

We must recognize that various types of chocolate have such different qualities and characteristics that they may each pair best with different foods and drinks. Our primary subject, dark chocolate, seems to have a rich, earthy, almost coffee-like flavor at the fore, with bitter the next most prominent taste. There is usually a hint or more of sweetness as well, and sometimes a further hint of vanilla, since this is a common additive to enhance and compliment the flavor.

Thoughts as to what foods and drink go well with dark chocolate can logically start with those flavors naturally inherent in the confection itself. A beverage that often seems to compliment chocolate is dark tea or coffee, particularly if they are smooth and not bitter varieties of those beverages. Next, anything with a nutty or vanilla flavor will suit. Other complimentary tastes include the full spectrum of mild to moderately sweet foods and drinks.

Another hint at which flavors pair well with dark chocolate can be ascertained from the research done by chocolate confectioners. Taking note of what they choose to pair with dark chocolate reveals that nuts are thought to be a great compliment in both taste and texture. Almonds, hazelnuts, and pecans are some of the common choices.

Citrus fruits are one of the all-time favorites. Particularly when dried, the rind and flesh of orange, or simply its oil, tastes great with dark chocolate. Another winner is salt. Although we often get far more salt in our diet than is healthy, dark chocolate purveyors of sea-salted chocolate have met with rave reviews. Another winner is chile peppers. Hot spicy chilis the ancient “hot cocoa” drink recipes of the ancient Aztecs and Totenacs, while satisfying the taste for “spicy” foods among the modern population. These popular parings in our modern world serve to illustrate that salty, sweet and tangy foods are all great options for pairing with chocolate.

Sweet Pairings
Many sweet foods and drinks can be paired with chocolate, but if the chocolate is itself on the sweeter side, the pairing may not be pleasant to everyone. Commonly enjoyed sweet pairings are mint and caramel.

Salty Pairings
Salty foods are found by many to be a foil to the often intense sweetness of many chocolaty confections and drinks. However, foods that are both greasy and salty may clash with the chocolate’s richness. Popular salty foods that pair well with chocolate include salted soft pretzels, salty roasted nuts and seeds (pumpkin, for example) and salted popcorn.

Tangy Pairings
Tangy foods, most commonly tangy fruits, do well with chocolate’s sweetness. Tangy tastes that pair well with chocolate, especially sweeter versions of chocolate, include tart apples, sour citrus fruits, blackberries, mango, strawberry, raspberry and grapes.

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