The Accidental Palate

After nearly ten wonderful years of editing Northwest Palate magazine in Portland OR, I've handed over the reins and am now enjoying the leisurely (not!), ever-changing (and then some) life of a freelance bon vivant. Hope you enjoy these posts, and if you want to reach me, contact ajabine (at) yahoo (dot) com. Cheers! Angie Jabine

Sunday, October 14, 2007

While My Guittard Gently Melts...

One of those good day, bad day things...

I really wanted to take my friend Roberta to the special Chocolate Tea they were holding yesterday (October 13) in the Heathman Hotel's tea court. In spite of all her many obligations (career-woman and single mother of three, etc.), she delighted me by agreeing to come.

The occasion was a Portland visit by cult Bay Area chocolatier Michael Recchiuti. The Heathman adroitly folded him and his cacao into their year-round weekend afternoon teas and added a special chocolate dinner that night for good measure. (He also used the visit to teach a class at In Good Taste Cooking School and generally promote the beauties of genuine chocolate.)

I'd like to say I didn't eat a thing Saturday morning to justify what I was going to devour in the afternoon, but it wouldn't be true. I did burn some calories beforehand by raking up the caramel-smelling katsura leaves on my front lawn. It was the first sunny Saturday in what seemed like weeks and I was feeling silly about dragging Roberta to a dark, crowded dining room to eat on a glorious fall day.

But she arrived at my place, splendidly attired in shades of cocoa, and downtown we went. Even ten minutes early, we found the tea court packed. Within minutes we each had a chocolate martini in hand, made with Valrhona Manjari chocolate and muddled with a couple of leaves of fresh basil. Normally I'm a bit of a snob about dessert-y "martinis." I think they're sort of like putting ruffles on a rugby shirt. But the basil and high-quality chocolate elevated the drink to a higher level of interest.

Shortly after Robert and I clicked our "martini" glasses, we were presented with a little tower of sweet and savory treats. Recchiuti introduced himself as we were humming over our tiny gingerbread cakes with a white chocolate lemon topping. Taking a wild guess, I mispronounced his name ReCHOOtee, when it is ReCOOtee. (I can never get those Italian "c's" to behave for me...) Nice man, though he had lots of meeting and greeting left to do.

Roberta and I worked our way through a few more treats, including chocolate truffle shortbread cookies, chocolate-dipped sesame tuiles, and (in my case, at least) Tahitian vanilla bean marshmallows with cocoa nibs. Also a cocoa nib nougatine shell filled with duck mousse that I can't really recommend. Our happy server came by and suggested, for a second time, that we taste one of the three hot chocolates on offer. Unbelieving our own capacity, we each ordered one. Roberta's hot chocolate featured dark chocolate from different regions. Mine was a hot milk chocolate with burnt caramel to give it a sophisticated edge. I could have been happy with just this drink--warm, sunny day or not.

Less than an hour after sitting down, we were headed out the door (I was parked at an hour meter) but we got waylaid by several chocolate vendors with their samples. I thought it rather nice that an event in honor of one chocolatier featured chocolates from several producers, including Guittard, which was giving out samples of various single-origin chocolates (the near-equivalent of a single-vineyard wine).

In fact, I am sampling the Quevedo Bittersweet as I type this (you should see my keyboard). Its source is Ecuador, it's 65% cacao, and (I quote), "Its extremely dark color foreshadows its powerful but flowery chocolate taste. The intensity of this rarified Forestero varietal produces rich, green forest, tea, and slight nut flavor with a lingering banana and pound cake finish." Hmmm, I didn't get the banana thing, but tea, okay.

Each carrying a handful of little samples (for kids and colleagues--right!), Roberta and I hightailed it to the car, but not in time--there was the $24 parking ticket. Ah, well.

Anyway, if you're in the mood, check out Chocosphere, a Tualatin, OR-based company where you can order just about any of the chocolates I've mentioned and dozens more from around the world.

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