By Nadine Kam
Chocolate connoisseurs were treated to the decadent experience of sampling premium Oilla and Bonnatt chocolates paired with 12 wines at Neiman Marcus's Mariposa restaurant on April 24.
There's no shortage of food in my life, so I try not to eat too much prior to various food events, but it was a good thing that my friend Candice had the common sense to suggest eating a light dinner before the tasting. If we hadn't done that, we probably would have been in no position to drive home by the end of the evening.
The guest of honor for the evening was award-winning Danish chef and chocolatier, Rasmus Bo Bojeson, who was in town to promote his organic line of chocolate, Oialla, masterfully paired with wine selected by Hawaii’s newest master sommelier Patrick Okubo. Okubo worked at Mariposa before earning his master sommelier title and joining Young's Market (formerly Better Brands).
To start, Bojeson had us crack open a roasted cacao bean to taste his organic Criollo cacao, harvested from wild Amazonian cacao trees, to better appreciate the essence of the unadulterated chocolate. The hull was fairly tough, so we had to bite into it to get at the delicious chocolate nibs inside, which Bojeson said he sprinkles freely on food day through night, on everything from salads to salmon, a combination he especially loves.
Nadine Kam photos
Neiman Marcus's chocolate tasting event at Mariposa started with cracking open a roasted cacao bean and tasting the unadulterated chocolate nibs inside, that go into Oialla's 70 percent Criollo chocolate. It's available in their Epicure department.
The pairings were inspired. The first round had the Oialla chocolate paired with Yangarra Shiraz, McLaren Vale ($26), a dry but fruity bright shiraz, followed by Edmeades Late Harvest Zin 2006 ($16), and fortified Fonseca, Panascal, Port 2008. Of the three, I liked the chocolate best with the Edmeades, with its dessert-like, smooth and elegant concentrated sugar.
From there, we moved to the Bonnatt chocolates, also carried in NM's Epicure section. In the photos, it's easy to imagine devouring the little pieces of chocolate would be easy, but with the intensity of the chocolate and sugar from the wines, it wasn't easy keeping up with Okubo and Janet Candullo of JC Chocolate and Apriori, distributor of fine chocolate.
Usually at such tastings, it's easy to give up glasses to make way for the next batch of wines. Out of 8 glasses, I'll usually end up keeping the two I like. But this time around, I was loathe to give up any of my glasses, especially the tawny ports that work so well with chocolate. Okubo's choices were so novel and inspired, and I tried the various wines with other pieces of chocolate to come up with my own combinations.
There definitely needs to be more chocolate tastings on this level.
Chocolatier Rasmus Bo Bojeson shows boxes of bonbons, his newest offering.
In creating his chocolate, Bojeson said he was fortunate to have a botanist professor friend who retired to South America, who suggested he take a look at Bolivia when he asked if there were wild cacao trees growing anywhere in the world.
In Bolivia, he found trees—some more than 1,000 years old—grown with no cultivation, fertilization, pesticides or cutting, and producing the creamy, fruity, smooth non-bitter chocolate that we tasted in nib form. ("Oialla" is a popular girl's name in Bolivia.)
Fermented and sorted cacao is then sent to Bojeson in Denmark, where it is turned into simple 70 percent chocolate slabs and tablets with organic Brazilian cane sugar as the only additive.
Oialla was recently awarded a gold star at the Great Taste Award 2011, gastronomy’s version of the Oscars. Bojeson was also just awarded “Best in the World” at the Gourmand World Cookbook Award in Paris for his chocolate cookbook "Sans for Chokolade."
Oialla Chocolate Criollo comes in boxes of 10 individually wrapped squares for $30, and 20 squares for $50. Visit www.bojesen.dk/OIALLA for more information.
From cacao bean and nibs to finished, wrapped Oialla chocolate. We were invited to study, smell and snap the chocolate pieces before allowing it to melt on our palates as part of the multi-sensory tasting experience.
Samplings of Bonnatt chocolates, which were paired with an array of red and port wines, as well as pale Ceretto, Moscato d'asti 2010.
Look at the legs on the Albala, Do PX 1985, which started with a white grape aged in oak for 20 years until it obtained a molasses hue, and rich, buttery sweetness. This $39 wine accompanied Bonnat Chuao 75 percent dark chocolate.
The Hungarian Royal Tokaji, 5 Puttonyons 2007 was also a treat, accompanying Bonnat Surabaya 65 percent milk chocolate, both with complimentary creaminess. Noble rot of botrytis dries the grapes to intensify the sweetness.