Thursday, March 3, 2011

Boston Chocolate School

Yes, there is such a thing! Proclaimed as "Classes No One Wants to Cut" the Boston Chocolate School is "the sweetest education you will ever get".
If that doesn't entice you to enroll in chocolate school stat, well then maybe this post will. I happily accepted an invitation from Adam Klein to enjoy An Evening of Chocolate and Wine at no cost. This evening kicked off a series of classes that are now offered on a bi-weekly basis on the first and third Wednesdays of the month at 7:00pm. The regular cost being $50 for a 60-90 minute course, featuring a six-sample gourmet chocolate and wine pairing.
These classes are held at the College Club of Boston which is actually the oldest women's college club in the United States, situated amongst brownstone homes at 44 Commonwealth Avenue in the Back Bay. It was an experience just to step foot inside this historic Victorian building, which doubles as a social and corporate event location and as some of us were very surprised to learn, a Bed and Breakfast! We even got to explore some of the rooms before class. Revealing old world charms and costing only $75 a night in the current (off-peak) season, it seemed like a steal, especially considering the location.
In addition to a mini tour, students were treated to passed appetizers as we mingled before class. Bruschetta phyllo cups, asparagus tarts and coconut shrimp were among the selections.
There was also a plated spread including fruit, cheese and crackers.
Double doors opened and we were ushered into an adjoining room, the wooden floorboards creaking under a large oriental rug.
Housing a grand piano in one corner and the main attraction front and center, a table set for 20+ with our wines already poured and our chocolates presented before us on place mats. Surrounded by flowering countryside wall murals and light blue ceilings with ornate white molding and a delicate chandelier, we settled in with cameras and notebooks. Eager students we were, but that's pretty obvious given the subject matter. Our class was lead by wine expert Harry Silverstein and Executive Pastry Chef and Chocolatier Dorian McCarron.
We listened to a brief history on wine and chocolate before jumping into the basics. For wine tasting, that would be the 5 S's - See, Swirl, Smell, Sip, Savor.
1) See - color and clarity
2) Swirl - agitate and oxygenate, keep the glass on the table as you do this.
3) Smell - aromas and enhancers
4) Sip - taste, mouth feel, continue to Swirl in between sips, the more chemicals in contact with air the more expressive the wine will be.
5) Savor - reflection, aftertaste, length of persistent taste
For chocolate, that would be the five key ingredients. It was stressed that if there are any other ingredients listed, it's not chocolate.
1) Cocoa Liquor
2) Cocoa Butter
3) Sugar
4) Soy Lecithin
5) Real Vanilla
Fun Fact: The term "Devil's Food" was coined to describe those items that appeared to be but were not legitimate chocolate.
Good to know:
The percentage of cacao associated with each bar is essentially how much of the pure cocoa tree is in there.
We were instructed to snap the chocolate in half before we sampled, noting the sound of the snap which varies in intensity and sound with each type of chocolate. We were also taught to place the chocolate on our tongue and let it melt and to then sip the wine, allowing the chocolate and wine to co-mingle. This allows you to pick up on the complementary flavors of each and note how they pair with one another. We began the tasting with Lindt White Chocolate and a 2009 La Serra Moscato D'Asti, Piedmont, Italy. White chocolate should look smooth and shiny with no specs. Dorian noted the smell is reminiscent of a tropical beach, like Costa Rica. (His ability to pair chocolate smells to locations was uncanny.) Harry explained our wine was not a champagne but a frizante as it is from the village of Piedmont in Italy, noting the translucent straw yellow colors with an off white edge. This wine is considered off dry - meaning it is not quite dry but not quite sweet. The perception of sweetness is there but only a touch, to faint to truly categorize this as a sweet wine.
The same off dry quality was the case with the next pairing, a 2009 Alasia Brachetto D'Acqui, Tuscany, Italy. Both this and the first are considered aperitifs. These wines contain no tannins and are perfect for sipping without food. This slightly frizante red wine with a pinkish hue was paired with a Chocolate Con Leche - 41% cocoa. The chocolates we sampled from here on out is a brand called El Ray - also know as "The King" in Spanish and according to Dorian is the most expensive chocolate to ever exist, the cocoa entirely from Venezuela. The third paring brought a 2009 Jam Jar Sweet Shiraz from South Africa with a 58.5% Bucare Cacao - a milk chocolate with a sweeter smell and roasted characteristics. Here the sweetness of both the wine and chocolate balance each other out, one doesn't overpower or accentuate the the others acidity (wine) or bitterness (chocolate). This was followed by a 2007 Luc Piret Merlot, a dry Merlot from Southern France paired with a 61% Cacao Mijao - a dark chocolate less sweet than the previous. As the cocoa percentage goes up, by default the sugar content goes down. So it only makes sense that higher percentage chocolates will taste more bitter and less sweet. Dorian likes to refer to them as "adult chocolates."The fifth wine was a 2007 Cameron Hughes Lot 184 Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, CA. This is a well made wine that achieves a balanced blend of fruit to acid to tannins. Moving up in cocoa percentage, we're now at 70% pairing with the Cabernet a burly smokey chocolate. Sturdy with espresso and coffee notes, this one takes Dorian on an African safari and one that needs a nice big wine to hold up to it. Last in a long line of wine and chocolate is a N/V Fonseca Bin 26 Port, a strong digestif paired with a 73.5% bold dark chocolate that is sturdy and robust, yet very delicate and refined. The bold chocolate holds up well to the sweetness of the Ruby Port. We learned Ruby Port is aged in used oak barrels, meaning you loose the oak and highlight the grape. This is in contrast to Tawny Ports that are aged in new oak barrels giving them obviously more oaky characteristics and that toffee caramel color. Is that seriously the end? I feel like I have been writing this post forever. I learned so much in class, much more than this post alone contains (believe it or not!)Probably one of the most important personal takeaways is that I like wine more than chocolate. I finished the wines with ease but towards the middle of the tasting could manage only small bites of the chocolate squares. I ended up having leftover bites to take home, which is not a bad thing. This is some rich chocolate. And some good wine. Some of the fellow students/bloggers who were in attendance, photo compliments of Megan. This event makes for a fun weekday outing. Something to break up the routine, a new way to treat yourself, a night out with the girls or maybe even a date night. Chocolate School classes would also make great gifts!


  1. Great recap! You really captured a lot of the lesson. My notes were a mess :)

  2. The class sounds more intensive than I would've thought. So much info!

  3. Great re-cap! I'm looking forward to sharing some more good eats with you tonight!

  4. So so fun getting to see everyone! I have to say, I'm the total opposite, I finished most of my chocolate but left lots of wine. Especially the port, that one was intense.

  5. Ha - love the final glass photo. You got so many of the key details in this post. I totally took bad notes!

  6. Whaaat?! A school of chocolate! I'd be the head of the class, yum.

  7. Lots of wine, chocolate, and cheese in one night? That's amazing.

  8. I like wine more than chocolate, too!

  9. Best recap! You really covered everything!

  10. I can't believe you were able to finish all of your wine!!

  11. well that looks like a fun chocolate course but I think i would have a a hard time concentrating with all that chocolate nearby

  12. Now thats a class I would never mind doing homework for! Ha. Thank you for sharing the fun facts (devils food, who knew!) and your takeaways aka you like wine more than choc :) So fun!

  13. GREAT review!! Definitely makes me want to take the class!

  14. Ok... I want all of that!!! haha! Looks amazing!

    Sparrow & Urchin

  15. do you work out?

    is it wrong that i want to partake in this and fail so i can re-take?


  16. Wow what an amazing experience! The chocolate & wine tasting especially sounds like so much fun!

  17. Oh my goodness, this is definitely the best possible school... yum! So jealous reading all about it!

  18. Mmm this makes me want Chocolate right now. This was a really informative post!! I love all the information, and that place is gorgeous. I never new it was a B&B and such a great price!

    So great to see you last night!! I really wanted to use that as my post title which was one of the motivations for me to get it done so fast hahah!

  19. wow! what a great event! and only $75/night- what a steal!

  20. Mmmm, I wish I could have attended. I was too busy living it up in Disney. ;) Next chocolate event, I'm in! Looks like it was delicious.