Food Conversations: Passport to Global Flavors — Chocolate Exploration!
Going coco for Cocoa!
It’s finally here! Yale Hospitality’s fifth and final Food Conversations event was this past Friday. A much-anticipated event, a lucky group of seventy-five students had the chance to participate in an exclusive chocolate tasting event.
The Zoom event was hosted by Chef Maricel E. Presilla, Ph.D., a culinary historian, chef, and restaurateur. Chef Maricel is a chocolate and cacao expert, and also the founder of the International Institute of Chocolate and Cacao Tasting. In this event, we were given a few awesome tips on how to become pro chocolate tasters ourselves.
First, be sure to smell your chocolate! Your nose is a SUPER important part of taste, and without it, you’ll miss a lot of the chocolate’s flavor profile. Chef Maricel suggests rubbing the chocolate between your fingers while bringing it up to your nose. The heat helps to release some of the smells of the cacao.
Second, be sure to slow down! One of the best parts about chocolate is the magical “melt in your mouth” feeling when the cocoa butter in chocolate melts. This helps to deliver some of the more nuanced flavor notes. So be sure to take your time letting the chocolate’s flavor develop! Savor, don’t munch.
The final tip came as a part of our materials for the tasting event! One of the materials we were given was a chocolate and cacao flavor map. By looking at the flavor map, it actually helps our brain identify exactly what kinds of flavors we’re tasting when!
And now, the most exciting part: trying the chocolates! The tasting kit came with five different varieties and a small container of strawberries.
1. Valrhona Manjari 64% from Madagascar
2. Pacari Lacumbia 70% from Colombia
3. Pacari Raw 70% from Ecuador
4. KahKow Magdalena 68% from Single Estate Nacional, Dominican Republic
5. Kahkow Tireo 68% from Single Estate from D.O. Los Bejucos, Dominican Republic
Each of the different types of chocolate were wildly different. They ranged from tasting of whiskey to caramel, to cherry to honey. Each one was truly an experience. Amongst my Covid pod, we each had vastly different favorites. Personally, my favorite was the Valrhona Manjari as it had a rich and almost silky flavor. However, the Pacari Raw paired best with the fresh taste of the strawberries.
After the chocolate tasting concluded, we jumped right into a Q and A session with Chef Maricel. She gave us a brief history and description of how cacao beans are harvested and developed. Interestingly, ever since the Mayan Civilization, chocolate has existed as a special commodity almost akin to a full-blown currency. Finally, we talked briefly on the health benefits of dark chocolate! It is not only rich in minerals like iron, magnesium, and zinc; but it also contains many antioxidants.
The last part of this amazing experience was that three lucky participants were awarded chocolate opera cakes made by the Yale Bakery! Overall, this was a great time, and probably one of the most fun experiences my Covid pod has had this semester. We truly can’t wait to see what Yale hospitality has in store for next year! (Hint: a lot more is coming your way!)