Not only are we both big nerds, but Dori and I are also big chocolate and wine lovers. I mean, most people of good taste and breeding are, but I know there are some strange folk out there who don't find either of these things appealing. How do they live with themselves?
I'm also a big fan of the Living Social facility at 918 F Street where I have participated in a lot of classes over the past year. Sadly, Living Social is closing the building next month (since they appear to be hemorrhaging money), so I have been trying to make sure I take any last chance opportunities to visit.
When I saw on the Living Social website they were offering a chocolate caramel and wine tasting class--I immediately called up Dorilyn and asked if she wanted to do it with me. She's no fool, so last week we headed downtown (on a uncharacteristically warm February day) to indulge in some wine, chocolate, and caramel.
The "class" was led by the owner and founder of Chouquette Chocolates in Bethesda, Sarah Dwyer. I use quotation marks because it wasn't really a class-we didn't do anything except drink wine, eat chocolate caramels, and listen and watch Sarah Dwyer as she explained how she came to open a chocolate shop and demonstrated how the caramels are made. It was all actually really interesting and she had lots of entertaining stories about her time in Paris studying at Le Cordon Bleu. She also shared some stories about how she came to develop the more unusual flavors of her caramels.
The other wine pairing class I attended involved cookies and wine and was a little more in-depth with explanations of the wines and why certain flavors are brought out by certain types of wine. With the chocolate caramels, it was more "this is all delicious so eat, drink, and enjoy." Both approaches are fine with me--as long as I get wine and chocolate I am happy.
Clockwise starting from the upper left: vanilla sea salt caramel paired with Prosecco, rosemary lemon caramel paired with a Sauvignon Blanc, raspberry caramel paired with a Pinot Noir, and last but not least, a balsamic caramel paired with Shiraz.
Inside the raspberry caramel!
My favorite of the caramels was actually the balsamic one. The savoriness of the balsamic paired beautifully with the sweetness and saltiness of the chocolate and caramel. And it also went very well with the robust red wine. But let's be honest: everything was delicious and went well with everything else.
Other than eating all the yummy chocolates and getting a bit tipsy off the wine, the other highlight of the experience was seeing how the chocolate caramels are made. The chocolate is first poured into molds...but then immediately poured out so only a shell of chocolate is left covering the mold's three sides. After hardening a bit, the caramel is poured inside the mold and chocolate is again poured over it all. After everything sets, you pop out a completed chocolate-covered caramel!
This is only one of the possible ways of making caramels, some companies (like Lindt truffles) makes two sides of the truffle, put the filling in the middle, and then join them together. This creates a seam that runs around the truffle. Others fill the entire mold with chocolate right off the bat and then use a small tube to inject caramel and fillings into the middle. I think the method used by Sarah Dwyer at Chouquette is actually the most elegant way to do it: there are no seams or holes in the chocolates.
Oh, and because Dorilyn and I are crazy for chocolate, we decided to grab some hot chocolate at Coco Sala across the street from the Living Social building. I tried the hot chocolate flight...
From left to right: dark hot chocolate, salted caramel hot chocolate, and peanut butter hot chocolate. I couldn't possibly pick a favorite.
My next chocolate adventure? A chocolate walking tour of Georgetown. It's not scheduled yet, but the Groupon is purchased and I am already licking my lips in anticipation....