This is another special event -- not a regular dinner party -- with A2 My Kitchen Rocks.
Here's how it will work: All attendees will bring two large chocolate bars. One bar will be used for tasting, and the other will be reserved for the prize. We'll break each tasting bar into pieces so it can be shared. This will be a blind tasting, so each entry will be given a letter. Everyone will get to taste all the chocolate and then vote on their top two favorites.
The votes will be tabulated and the winners will get their choice of the chocolate bars saved for the prize. The prize will be graduated, not winner-takes-all. Assuming we have twenty people, first place will get five bars, second place will get four, third place three, fourth place two, and one bar each for fifth through tenth places.
• 7:00 -- Arrive at Bab's
• 7:20 -- Tasting begins
• 7:45 -- Votes due
I will provide paper for note-taking and voting, but please bring your own writing utensil.
Be sure to bring chocolate that can easily be broken into 20 pieces. For example, caramel-filled Ghirardelli squares can't be divided because their filling spills out. Other types of fillings are fine -- except no meat. Ideally your chocolate should not be covered with logos, but we will place the logo facing down if necessary.
If you have severe food allergies to anything that might be in a chocolate bar, you should probably sit this one out.
After the chocolate tasting, some of us may grab dinner somewhere nearby.
Here's some inspiration for how to go about tasting chocolate:
Your palate should be clean. This means that your mouth should not contain residual flavors from a previous meal. If necessary, eat a wedge of apple or piece of bread, since these foods will wipe out all preexisting flavors without imparting their own. After all, chocolate should not taste like lasagna or beef burgundy. Water, especially sparkling water, also works as a palate cleanser.
Make sure that the piece of chocolate is large enough to accommodate the full evolution of the flavor profile. A piece too small may not allow you to detect every subtle nuance as the chocolate slowly melts. The important thing to remember is that flavor notes gradually evolve rather than open in one large presentation. Ideally, the beginning of the length (the time it takes for the chocolate to melt) will be different from the middle and the finish, so it is important to discern how the flavor evolves from beginning to end. 10g should be a minimum starting point.
Never taste cold chocolate. If it is stored in a wine cooler, allow the chocolate to rest at room temperature before tasting. Why? Cold temperatures will hinder your ability to detect the flavor. Some advise even rubbing the chocolate briefly between your fingers to coax out the flavor.
Look at the chocolate. The surface should be free of blemishes, such as white marks (called bloom). Observe the manufacturer's job at molding and tempering. Is the chocolate afflicted with air bubbles, swirling, or an uneven surface (results of settling after molding), or is it clear of such defects? Also, the bar should have a radiant sheen. A matte surface is usually an indication of poor molding but will not affect the flavor. Next, note the color. Chocolate comes in a brown rainbow of multifarious tints, such as pinks, purples, reds, and oranges. Some chocolates may even look black or so dark that at first glance a tint may be indiscernible. But probe further and hold the chocolate at different angles. What do you see?
Smell the chocolate. The aroma is an important component of flavor. Inhaling the fragrance and noting its profile will prime the tongue for the incoming chocolate. It further engages the senses and gives you a chance to compare how similar or different aroma and flavor are.
Break the piece in half. It should resonate with a resounding "SNAP!" and exhibit a fine gradient along the broken edge. If you hear a “THUD” chances are good that either the chocolate was too warm or it was improperly tempered.
Place the chocolate on the tongue and allow it to arrive at body temperature. Let it melt slowly. This step is crucial, for it allows the cocoa butter to distribute evenly in the mouth, thereby muting any astringencies or bitterness of the chocolate. Chewing immediately will release these properties and might offend the palate.
Study the taste and texture. As the chocolate melts, concentrate on the flavors that unfold on the tongue. It is important to notice how the flavor evolves from beginning, middle, to end, and how the flavor exists in the finish (after the chocolate has melted).
Chewing is optional, but do not chew more than three times. Since the cocoa butter has had time to coat the mouth, chewing just may release even more flavor components. Remember, we’re tasting and not eating.
Now the chocolate is nearing its finish. How has the flavor evolved? Is the chocolate bitter? Heavy? Light? Was the texture smooth, creamy, dry, or grainy? Do any changes in texture and flavor occur? Take note of how the chocolate leaves the palate and slips into its finish. Does a strong reminder lingering in your mouth, or does it quickly vanish?