Food and drink | How to pair chocolate and cheese

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I’m a certified chocoholic. Since moving to the Netherlands, I’ve also become a bit of a cheesehead. And I love the pairings of all sorts of different flavors: chocolate and fruit, or perhaps wine and cheese.

But could chocolate and cheese actually create something beautiful together? I thought there were just some things that couldn’t work… until last weekend’s Origin Chocolate Event opened my eyes (and my palate) to some delicous discoveries.

Wait… what is origin chocolate?

Unlike your typical supermarket chocolate, Origin Chocolate is made out of cocoa beans from one single, specific region. Like coffee beans or grapes for wine, cocoa beans have a flavor that is unique to where they are grown. That signature makes Origin Chocolate the best quality chocolate in the world. Every year, the Origin Chocolate Event brings together producers of these amazing origin chocolates to Amsterdam.

This year, to close the event, chocolatier and pastry chef Kees Raat of Metropolitan Deli and Clay Gordon, chocolate connoisseur and author of Discover Chocolate, together with Betty Koster of Fromagerie L’Amuse (my favorite cheese shop in Amsterdam EVER!), orchestrated a tasting of chocolate and cheese pairings.

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Everything was spectacular! Here’s a list of the combinations Chef Kees, Clay, and Betty put together. Are you adventurous enough to try them yourself?

  • Meringue with a swirl of dark chocolate + truffle Brie
  • Chocolate ganache bonbon with a hint of Chipotle pepper (you can get this at Kees’ shop, Metropolitan Deli of course!) + burrata from Italy with olive oil and a bit of sea salt

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  • Caramelized marshmallow + Saint-Maure, a soft young goat cheese from France
  • Dark chocolate with ginger + aged Dutch Beemster cheese
  • Chocolate covered lemon peel (Chef Kees uses 44% milk chocolate and organic lemon peel from Sicily!) + two year old Gruyere cheese
  • Walnut brownie + Shropshire Blue cheese from the UK
  • Chocolate covered corn flakes, puffed wheat and crisped rice + Roquefort cheese
  • Chocolate mousse and Dominican coffee flavored chocolate + Norwegian cheese gjetost

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Inspired to try pairing chocolate and cheese at home? Here are some do’s and dont’s from the masters themselves, so you can create your own chocolate and cheese pairings.

Chocolatier and pastry chef Kees says:

DO – Buy good chocolate. Like all good meals, everything depends on the quality of the ingredients you use. For pairings, you only need very little amounts of chocolate anyway.

DON’T – Use a chocolate bar for pairings. They’re too hard, and you’ll end up having an awkward moment trying to bite off a chunk. Instead, have fun with different forms of chocolate. Bonbons, mousse, fruit covered in chocolate, or brownies can all work well.

DO – Melt chocolate if you’re going to be having it with wine. Since wine is liquid, turning chocolate into liquid as well can help them mix and mingle better, so you enjoy the flavors more.

Chef Kees even recommends using a hairdryer (!) to gently melt chocolate on a spoon.  Or you could smear melted chocolate on your hand and lick it off after a sip of wine—kind of like a tequila shot, but fancier. I’m so going to try that at my next party.

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Queen of cheese Betty says:

DO – Find a connection between your cheese and chocolate—is it their color? Their origin? Pay special attention to the contrast of texture and flavor. Pair bitter with sweet, and crunchy with soft. So you never get too much of one thing in one bite.

DON’T – Buy supermarket cheese! It’s too hard and salty, and lacks the subtlety and depth of flavor of less commercial cheeses.

DO – Visit a good specialty cheese shop like L’Amuse. People who know the story behind each cheese—from its origin and how it was processed, to its unique flavors and subtle notes—can help you find the perfect pairing. Betty, who owns L’Amuse, is a passionate storyteller when it comes to cheese. I could listen to her talk about cheese for days!

Lastly, they both agreed on one big DO: do think out of the box. And have fun! 

Thank you to Virgi Giunta of Chocoa and Marika van Santvoort of Origin Chocolate Event for your hospitality.

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