Lucky 7: Chocolate Festival Goodies

Every year, for the last seven, I’ve had the distinct pleasure to presenting beverage and chocolate pairing sessions at the venerable Oregon Chocolate Festival. With my hat off to the founder and brilliant colleague, Karolina, it was this year – the 7th anniversary for me – that just transpired, deliciously.

A few of the delicious DAGOBA chocolate we featured at the fest sessions.

As promised to my sold out Saturday session and my fabulous Sunday guests, here’s the menu we savored.

Openers, both sessions:

ScharffenBerger Unsweetened and Bittersweet chocolate squares

I hadn’t thought to offer this as a warm up to the pairing menu before; so this year, I did. Wow. What a way to welcome chocolate to the chops! These two in specific are quite astringent and eye-opening. They aren’t designed to be snackers – and they aren’t. It was enlightening to taste them with my guests, to reset and refresh what exactly bittersweet and unsweetened chocolates taste like, to keep their profile in mind when using them in cooking.

Main Menu Saturday:

Main Menu Sunday:

  • Harney & Sons Soho Flavored Black Tea paired with DAGBOA Lavender Blue chocolate (59% cocoa) and coconut slivers
  • Momokawa Organic Junmai Ginjo Sake paired with DAGOBA White Chocolate Raspberry Mint (0% cocoa) & DAGOBA Ginger Lime chocolate (37% cocoa)
  • Standing Stone Brewing Company Milk Chocolate Ale paired with DAGOBA Milk chocolate (37% cocoa)

It was the first year there was an alcohol free beverage in the mix. When I went to the DAGOBA showroom in Ashland to secure the chocolates, Jill (showroom manager + most excellent colleague) reminded me they carry plenty of chocolate AND other complementary goodies. As a tea drinker, I bought a tin of this tea, took it home, tried it and decided that it would be in the menu.

Is this a great (crazy) crew, or what!!??

What a fun surprise the final menu is for me, every year. I want to provide guests with unique flavor mixes and ideas. To that end, I believe I was successful.

The guests make the party – thanks to everyone who joined me. Apologies to the folks we turned away on Saturday (100 seats were full before we started!). Please come again next year – earlier, as well you can join us on Sundays. There are sometimes available seats then.

I’ll wrap with BIG THANKS to my venerable and unflagging chocolate partner, DAGOBA. From the first year where, 20 minutes before  my session I was combing the floor, asking people I’d never met before if they’d like me to feature their chocolate, they’ve generously given.

Enjoy tastings and pairings, mixing and matching as you and your taste buds find fun. Props to my crew who helped me taste in advance, helping the winners this year rise to the menu, letting the not-so-hot test pairings quietly disappear.

See you next year ~

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Creating Believers: Beer & Chocolate Tastings

“I used to be a beer racist, but you changed me.” – April A

Ninkasi’s Believer Red has long been a beer that makes me smile. Yes, it’s delicious. More importantly I really like the philosophy around the name: Believer.

We all want to believe in something and last night I made believers of new beer & chocolate tasters. April’s quote, my host of last nights event, nails it: remove your prejudice and simply fall into the possibilities.

Beer: Just Add Chocolate to pair.

Beer: Just Add Chocolate to pair.

As part of the annual Oregon Chocolate Festival, I deliver lively & tasty “Beer & ____” sessions each year. This year – my 5th year doing so – I also introduced what I dubbed the ClassPort. Everyone who attended all three of my tasting sessions over the course of the Friday – Sunday weekend event was eligible to win a complimentary private beer & chocolate tasting; they got their ClassPort stamped at each class.

Three people dedicated themselves to the task (!) and I ended up giving away 3 sessions. Why not!? They made the time and participated, I love engaged guests, and it’s fun all the way around.

Last night I delivered the first of the three private tastings to 8 game and mostly unfamiliar-to-this-concept folks. Suffice to say minds were changed!

Here’s what I find are 3 of the consistent surprises when people put beer and chocolate together.

  1. Most people have never even thought of putting beer and chocolate together, never mind attended an actual planned tasting event. The element of Surprise & Delight is on my side!
  2. The tasting first of the beer alone, then the chocolate alone, then the two together is a good pattern for the S & D factor. “Wow! Who Knew? Really??” are all rallying exclamations from guests.
  3. Since beer is so incredibly diverse, it’s easy to blow minds multiple times with however many courses you choose to feature. I planned 3 last night (menu below).

The next time you think of beer, think of chocolate.

The next time you think of chocolate, think of beer.

Then invite some friends over and make some new believers out of them.

Oh – and Ninkasi beers, by the way, make great choices. I’ve featured them many a’time with success. Choose the beers and chocolates you like, mix and match, and simply have fun exploring.

Discovery awaits!

Menu:

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2016 Oregon Chocolate Festival Recap: Beer & Chocolate &…

First of all, THANK YOU to all the super engaged and fun flavor loving guests at the very recent 12th annual Oregon Chocolate Festival, Ashland Hills, Ashland OR.The organizers moved it to a roomier venue – and in my opinion, with great success. Way more room and opportunity for everyone to fully get around

Elegant tasting-ready room at OCF 2016, Ashland Hills

Elegant tasting-ready room at OCF 2016, Ashland Hills

and mingle. The previous venue is now too small for this ever-growing destination event.

It marked my fifth year presenting at this yummy Theobroma cacao saturated festival. Each year I’ve given lively & tasty beer and chocolate tastings. We’ve gone from a room that’ll seat 30ish to a tent that seats 45/50ish to (now) a roomy room for 80+.

When people started coming in, 30 minutes before the sessions started, I knew we were in store for more incredible crowds of enthusiasts. I’m happy to report, every single person who was our guest at all three of the sessions was a pure pleasure to have in the room! I especially liked the multi generational families with offspring of varying ages.

With 22+ Friday night, 80 – 100+ Saturday afternoon, and 80 – 100 Sunday, it was a packed crazy good time had by all. Can’t wait to return next year! I’m always humbled by guests who return to my sessions on purpose – so a special thanks to them all.

Russ, Ginger & Stacy - revved up for the 2016 OCF

Russ, Ginger & Stacy – revved up for the 2016 OCF

The sessions ran smooth in large part thanks to my exceptional (not exaggerating here) crew, starting with my second in command for the weekend, Russ. He’s a service professional, kept it all going, gave directions to the hotel staff (who are always fantastic too!), and made my job easy. Hats off to my colleague and occasional assistant Stacy, equally competent, sharp and guest focused. The hotel staff & crew, management and security hired – all of them were smiling, helpful and fun to work in delicious harmony with and for.

So – what’d we have, you may be asking? Good question! Let me whet your whistle with the menus we served. I encourage you to try this at home:

Friday / Always a Classic: Beer + Chocolate Pairing & Tasting

  • Standing Stone* Chocolate Stout with chocolate gingerbread cookies & Dagoba** Lemonberry Zest chocolate.
  • Barleywine* with shortbread cocoa sticks with Xocolatl** fondue + red raisins
  • Milk & Honey* with Scharffen Berger Coconut Macadamia fudge

Saturday / Together Forever: Beer, Wine & Chocolate Tasting

  • Barleywine* + Weisingers Syrah with barleywine poached Bosc pears drizzled with unsweetened** fondue and Rogue Creamery Flora Nelle blue
  • Chocolate Beer* + Weisingers Sauvignon Blanc with citrus cookies and mandarin oranges

Sunday / Better All The Time: Beer, Chocolate & Cheese Tasting

  • Noble Stout* with more Coconut Macadamia fudge + Scharffen Berger sea salt pistachio fudge and unsweetened coconut shavings
  • Twin Plunge Double IPA* with Orange** chocolate, mandarin oranges, and rustic french bread crostini topped with Rogue Creamery Cacow Belle cheese & either lemon orange marmalade or cherry citrus jam
  • Milk & Honey* with Milk chocolate** and water crackers topped with soft chevre, dusted with Drinking chocolate powder**

Hungry yet?

Good.

I’ll post recipes tomorrow.

*Standing Stone Brewing Company beers

**Dagoba Organic Chocolates

 

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