Cover image: 2 beans chocolate assortment © Kaori Mahajan for WhereNYC
As we took our seats at the tasting table, self-described chocolate critic and the evening’s host at the 2 beans wine & chocolate pairing, Clay Gordon, quoted Deepak Chopra: “Instead of thinking outside the box, get rid of the box.”
With a Prosecco in hand and eyeing at the array of chocolates and bottles of wine ready to pair, this would be an evening of pushing boundaries.
A recent arrival on the high end New York coffee scene, gourmet chocolate purveyors 2 beans has become one of the city’s top contenders, expanding beyond its Park Avenue flagship store to Columbus Circle and the Upper Westside. Among the notable artisanal chocolates available at 2 beans, personal favorites include, Chocolat Moderne’s exquisite caramels, and Christopher Elbow’s amazing truffles and Fleur de Sel salted caramel.
Both a café and chocolate boutique selling between 50 and 70 brands, this evening, 2 beans transformed into a quirky, tasting lounge inviting guests to an ultimate chocolate experience on its second floor. The chocolate and wine pairing event challenged our senses and wowed our palettes, with each new combination. With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, the event was the perfect showcase of how to celebrate with a little luxury and imagination.
Professional chocolate critic, Clay Gordon, whose career began more than 20 years ago, went on to start his first website chocophile.com and later wrote Discover Chocolate. He is the founder of the Chocolate Life community and has hosted numerous trade expos including last year’s The Big Chocolate Show at the Waterfront in Hell’s Kitchen.
This evening, there were many delightful surprises during the course of our tasting adventure but most surprisingly was the white chocolate, which Clay said should never be underestimated. It, according to him, is a great “flavor vehicle” that can take bold ingredients. British chocolatier Rococo’s white chocolate cardamon bar was a showstopper.
Imagine the creamiest, most delicious unctuous Indian matai with a blast of nutty spice. It also paired beautifully with an acidic Tablands Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand which cut the sweet richness. The evening’s other winning pair included Italian Amedei milk chocolate served with a glass of Rosalba rosé. The spiciness of the rosé made a perfect foil to sweet, creamy chocolate.
When asked about how he came up with these seemingly unorthodox pairings, his answer was surprising. Often, he said that people tend to stick with predictable combinations when pairing, but according to Clay, relying on conventional wisdom may close the doors to other possibilities. Pushing boundaries is Clay’s speciality, but he follows a few guidelines when marrying wine with chocolate.
First, there are no right or wrong combinations. Taste is subjective, and he encourages us to experiment. Second, wines like chocolate differ by region and year produced. So one kind of Pinot Noir might go well with a certain dark artisanal chocolate, but the year, production process and ingredients have an effect on taste. The order of tasting wine and chocolate also determines flavor and aroma, which we discovered by alternating chocolate and wine sipping. And finally, both wines and chocolate invoke taste memory often related to childhood, which also influences what one tastes.
Inspired by artist Josef Albers‘ contrasting images technique, Clay found that certain white wines (and not always red) really complement dark chocolate because the two contrast rather than compete with each other. Similarly to pairing prosecco, cava or beer with Indian cuisine, the same contrast works with chocolate, and even Clay attests that certain beers like pale ales can also complement it.
Finally, the more cocoa in chocolate does not mean more bitter. When comparing François Pralus Fortissima- a blend of 80% versus Marou’s single origin dark chocolate at 76% cocao, the first was far smoother and less bitter than the latter.
Although pairing the two with oaky, deep red Primitivo and Rioja wines may have been a small step too far for a sensitive palette, they both carried the chocolate with a long finish.
For the adventurous, 2 beans also served squares of Indian-inspired caramel burfi with chickpea flour and silver leaf by BitterSweet NYC, which went the best with the rosé.
The event finished with luxurious, passion fruit-flavored heart-shaped carmels “The Lover” by Chocolat Moderne, the perfect Valentine’s Day gift. For more information on upcoming events and promotions, visit 2 beans Coffee and Chocolate.