Tuesday, February 9, 2010

"I Never Met a Chocolate I Didn't Like" - How to Eat & Enjoy Chocolate

Well, I suppose if I'm being totally honest, that's not exactly true. I am not a huge fan of truffles or boxes of chocolates because I don't like creamy centers or certain fruits and nuts mixed with my chocolates. I am a big fan, however, of solid chocolates. I used to eat only milk chocolate, but since dark chocolate has become so popular I have noticed that I actually prefer it because it has a finer quality and taste. I usually only eat white chocolate if it is made with coconut. As far as big name brands go, I think See's and Godiva are my favorites. Locally, my highend favorite is Madame Chocolate on Canon Drive in BH. Their hot chocolate rivals any cafe in Paris and their solid bars are not only to die for, but make beautiful and tasty gifts. My everyday favorite is Edelweiss in BH or at the Brentwood Country Mart. Their chocolate covered marshmallows taste decadent without feeling like you consumed a million calories in fat. Given that we are coming upon the biggest chocolate holiday of the year, Valentine's Day, I thought it was high time to uncover the proper way to eat as well as enjoy chocolate. Here are my top fave tips for doing it the right way!

Eat chocolate in moderation. Whether a chocolate fanatic or a dabbler who only indulges on special holidays, chocolate is best enjoyed in moderation. It is very rich and high in calories and can take a toll on your waistline. Chocolate can also be quite expensive and burn a hole in your pocket, especially if purchasing the finest quality. However, dark chocolate, enjoyed in small amounts, has been found to have several health benefits from lowering heart disease to lowering cholesterol and high blood pressure. Chocolate comes from the cocao plant and contains many of the flavonoids and antioxidants that are found in dark vegetables.

Educate yourself on the extensive varieties. Chocolate is a delicacy that comes in many varieties from the best milk chocolate, to the finest quality dark chocolate and sweetest white chocolate. An experienced chocolate connoisseur seeks only Swiss made chocolates as they are held to a higher standard than American chocolates. Dark chocolate comes in a range of intensity from 45% to 100% cocao content. It is advised to start at the low end and work your way up. The higher the intensity the more bitter the chocolate will taste. 100% intensity has absolutely no sugar content at all and is extremely bitter and unpleasant tasting. Good chocolates start at 68% cocao content. White chocolate has a delicious, creamy sweet flavor because there is no added cocao at all, instead cocao butter is used. Bottom line - if you're going to splurge, do it with whichever brand or variety strikes your fancy!

Take time to savor the flavor. Chocolate is to be experienced slowly and with pleasure. Begin the process by cleansing your palate. A drink of warm water will do the trick. This will enable your taste buds to really appreciate the chocolate. Because of the solid nature of chocolate, if it is chewed and quickly swallowed the flavors will be missed. As a result, chocolate is best enjoyed when allowed to linger in the mouth and melt before swallowing. This enables the maximum amount of flavor to be consumed by the palate. As with wine, chocolate differs in taste and quality depending on the subtle flavors that have been added which can range from a mixture of fruits, herbs or spices. Take the time to discern the many ingredients to determine which flavors most suit you.

Delve into the guilty pleasure. Chocolate is one of the six foods of love. The chemicals, phenylethylamine and serotonin, in chocolate stimulate the pleasure points of the brain. Chocolate is soft to the touch and provides a sensuous feeling in the mouth. Give it all the attention it deserves. For maximum enjoyment, clear away the distractions, close your eyes and internalize each piece.

Wipe up your mess. As good as chocolate tastes, it can also be a complete mess. When eating chocolate desserts or candies, make sure to have an ample supply of napkins or wipes nearby to clean up after yourself. At a restaurant, remember to use the inside of your cloth napkin (a) to avoid a big stain on the visible part of the napkin and (b) to avoid accidentally smearing chocolate onto your face instead of wiping it off. Finally, beware of smiling for the camera or getting close with your significant other after diving into a big bite of chocolate. Take a swish of water to clean things up a bit before you say "cheese" or lean in for a big kiss!

All this talk about chocolate has got me jonesing for a piece. Now, where did I hide my secret stash???

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