Contest: Tasting Chocolate 101

April 18, 2014

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Yum, A CONTEST!

 

Would you like to try Dulcey, Bahibe and Araguani, the new Grand Crus chocolate bars from Valrhona? You’re in luck, the Swiss chocolate maker is offering all three to my readers. And if you’d like to invite friends to share in your good fortune, you’ll want to discover the in and outs of chocolate tasting revealed in the book Passion Chocolat (in French) from Geneviève Grandbois on which I collaborated and which I’m also offering to a lucky winner!

 

GRAND PRIZE

 

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To enter, you just need to:

Comment below by identifying which new chocolate has won me over in the past year (you’ll find the answer in this post because, ya know, writers like to be read).

• Get an extra chance to win by sharing this post on Facebook or Twitter, with a cc to @lynnefaubert so I’m notified.

* The contest is open to residents of Canada only. Contest ends April 30, 2014.

Good luck!

 

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Let’s face it: no kid ever needed a lesson to learn how to bite into chocolate, then let it melt in her mouth as piggishly as possible. But when it comes to fine chocolate, like wine, it’s worth learning the golden rules of “professional” tasting.

For the launch of its new tasting and baking chocolate bars, Swiss chocolate maker Valrhona invited the media to a gourmet event at Patrice Pâtissier, the new go-to address from Montreal’s great pastry chef Patrice Demers. Journalists and bloggers were treated to several sweet bites from Demers and his team, plus a short “class” on chocolate tasting from Valrhona—a technique I’m quite familiar with since the book Passion Chocolat devotes an entire section to it. In short, like the journalists that day, you want to capitalize on all five of your senses to appreciate the fine qualities of any chocolate:

1. First you look

Chocolate should be shiny. A white film on the surface signals defective cristallization (melting) or deficient storage.

 

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2. Then you smell

Bring the chocolate to your nose and breathe in the surprisingly intense cocoa aromas. If you’ve a good nose, you should be able to detect some notes (fruit, tobacco, wood, etc.) the same way you do in wine.

 

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3. Fondle away!

Gently stroke the chocolate, turn it upside down, appreciate its silkiness. The faster the chocolate melts in your hand, the more cocoa butter it probably contains, which is a good sign.

4. Listen now…

Go for broke! You want to break the chocolate bar or tasting square to listen to the sound it makes, which should be neat and snappy. A muted sound from a dark chocolate does not bode well…

 

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5. Okay, now taste…

To taste is not to bite. You want to let good chocolate melt in your mouth so it can reveal its aromas, also like wine. You may be surprised to find its lingering aftertaste differ from its original bouquet. Herein lies the complexity of a Grand Cru…

 

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As inspiration for its media tasting, Valrhona presented its new lineup of 16 Grand Crus in their new packaging, quite pretty indeed and very informative. Finally a packaging that says it all! You’ll find:

The origin of the chocolate: Ecuador, Dominican Republic, Madagascar, etc. are identified much like coffee and wine have been doing for so long;

• The Flavour profile of chocolate: powerful, tannic, woodsy, floral, etc.

• And the cocoa percentage.

A QR code provided on the back of packagings can be scanned using a smart phone, directing chocolate fans towards the corresponding page on the Valrhona website where recipes, tips, baking techniques and pro advice are provided. Even more exciting maybe, several chocolates are now available in large baking bars or drops, including my new favourite discovered this past year: Dulcey! Yes, I confess, this dark chocolate lover has melted for the new blond in town…

 

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In its media premiere, one of the mignardises created by Patrice Demers, to be savoured with a good coffee maybe? Love the presention on its bed of cocoa nibs.

 

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Chocolate and roasted banana petit chou, topped with a sugared dough to add crunch. Stunning!

 

Where? What? How much?

Where: Specialty food stores

What: 16 Grands Crus Valrhona for tasting, 6 Grands Crus and a cocoa powder for baking

How much: $6.49 for tasting Grands Crus; $6.99 for Grands Crus with ingredients (cocoa nibs, candied orange, crunchy pearls and pecans); $14.99 for 250 g/8.8 oz Baking Bars

* Photographs by FrancoFoodie or courtesy of Valrhona

 

 

Addresses: Big in Japan

April 15, 2014

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I can thank the recent election for the opportunity at last to drag kiddo to a Japanese fast-food joint I’ve been dying to try for, what, 4 years? When my son’s school was turned into a polling station for the day, I took a chance and treated him to a lunch on Montreal’s Main at Big in Japan.

 

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It seems that Big in Japan took over the digs of defunct Pistol club, according to buddy Gildas Meneu from Voir magazine. Formica tables with their stools welded to the ground provide the typical fast-food look, while red-leather banquettes in the back, beyond the open kitchen, scream retro lounge kitsch. The menu reflects the current Japanese tavern or izakaya trend that is storming Montreal. In fact, not too long ago, I blogged here about a very enjoyable evening at Old Montreal’s Kyo Restaurant. Big in Japan swings more grungy, with its lunch soundtrack devoted to the likes of Elvis and Dirty Dancing. Kiddo was dancing in his seat all through.

 

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The lunch with its ramen soups, fried foods and budda dogs serves up basic fare. Kiddo asked for fried chicken, while the waiter recommended the tuna tataki, a lunch crowd favourite or so I was told. In a show of typical misplaced humour, I asked the waiter if the fried chicken sandwich was their take on a McChicken. I got raised eyebrows and smile-free service for the remainder of the lunch…

 

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Without warning, a bowl of miso soup landed in front of me. Kiddo was so famished he claimed ownership. When your son slurps a whole bowl of miso soup with bits of floating tofu and arugula, you just sit and watch with a feeling of total achievement. I did get to taste 1-2 spoonfuls and, while the soup looks fairly nondescript in its melamine bowl, it was both delicate and savoury.

 

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The kid’s sandwich looked nothing like a McChicken, oh surprise (not!), with its big chunks of chicken, what looked like Japanese kewpie mayo and homemade kimchi in a big submarine-style bread. My son ate the chicken and bread, rejected the spicy kimchi and ignored the edamame salad. The chicken was declared spicy but good. Mom ate part of the salad, also good though a bit too salty.

 

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My tataki was served in a large bowl, accompanied by a huge serving of arugula salad on a bed of sticky rice. The more-than-generous portion of fish proved deliciously spicy and I inhaled all. My son even took a bite and declared his approval. Yessir, his 2nd foray into the world of raw fish, after the crudo at Impasto.

We decided to forego the desserts, which I’m told are delicious, for a quick stop at Juliette & Chocolat nearby. With any luck, it’s only a matter of time before I can report on them, since I brought back a chicken fried sandwich for Monsieur who approved heartily. So dragging my whole family back to Big in Japan for a more lavish late dinner may be in the cards. Unless I can sell them on Izakaya, Biiru or Kazu, Montreal’s old and new Japanese addresses. Itadakimasu.

 

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Where? When? How much?

Where: 3723 Saint-Laurent Blvd., on the corner of Pine Avenue

When: Monday thru Friday from 11am to 3am (but lunch ends at 3pm); Saturday and Sunday from 4pm to 3am also

How much: $35 for 2 at lunch, including tax and tip, no booze

Info: biginjapan.ca, 514-847-2222

 

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