Bakers Journal

The new face of chocolate

April 13, 2012
By Darren Johns

When you think of chocolate or cacao proper you can’t help but visualize a brown or black rectangular, boring shape.

When you think of chocolate or cacao proper you can’t help but visualize a brown or black rectangular, boring shape. However, the possibilities really start to unfold when you consider its new sexy status over the last five years in the wine world. Premium cacao can be matched to wine, cheese and food now to a level that wasn’t possible before. Origine, or terroir, applies to cacao exactly as it does to wine, and the language of cacao is somewhat similar. We use descriptors like intensity, herbaceous floral, fruity. This is due to increased availability from agents shipping from South America and Africa, which have increased chocolate’s visibility tenfold. The climb is still upward, and we don’t expect it to slow for some time.

When pairing wine and chocolate, look for a balance in the strength, depth and finish of your selections.  


When working with a sommelier to pair wine and cacao, our language is often parallel. We look and taste for strength, depth, finish and all the nuances of complexity so that wine and chocolate are in balance. The flavour profile of a meal has traditionally followed an amuse bouche/entrée/dessert pattern. This profile follows a neutral (salad), defined (beef/redwine/blue cheese demi-glace), then sweet (high sugar ratio) pattern. But what if we could tinker with that cycle and possibly make the combined profile stronger or more dynamic as a whole? A rich, Angus steak and a Gorgonzola demi is only hindered by a cloyingly sweet dessert. Add a 75 per cent criollo cacao chocolate in balance with that red, and I guarantee a stronger, more visceral memory of that meal. Too sweet a dessert will throw off a bold Malbec or Cabernet Sauvignon instantly. Why shorten the pleasure of that $65 vino for 50 cents worth of sugar? Dessert wines are available, but they aren’t for everyone, ergo most will continue dessert with the chosen red of the meal to the finish for lack of a different choice. Not a good compromise, but options are available, and they are intriguing. Let’s take a closer look.


What if we could taper that contrast down and still enjoy the finish of the Malbec?

A full-bodied Venezuelan Occumare dark cacao with goat cheese would make a smooth transition between the courses. Seared Halibut would need a cacao with a less bold profile. Depending on the cacao flavour profile it may need no filling at all. Pasta rich in garlic or herbs would suit a 54 per cent dark with an espresso filling. It’s all about synergy.

We now have access to single- or rare-source cacao with individual but completely dynamic flavour profiles. No chemical additives, just pure, uncut cacao. Dining is about synergy of the palette. This, in a cacao pod, is the new face of chocolate.

Buon Appetito!!

Darren Johns is a chocolatier / consultant who owns Mercury Chocolates, an innovative company in Port Hope featuring origine cacao from South America, Madagascar and Africa. The company’s products include pairing / dessert options for any vintage wine. For more information visit or call 905-396-7758.

Print this page


Stories continue below