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Dreamy, Decadent, Daring Chocolate

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Americans don’t typically serve cheese for dessert, and chocolate is hardly considered anything but—though that’s not stopping us from insisting you try the two together, immediately.

Despite their different mealtime roles, chocolate and cheese have plenty in common. Terroir, for example, is a major component of both cheese and cacao beans, from which chocolate is produced. Artisan chocolate bar packaging almost always denotes origin, since the beans’ homeland can influence flavor: Chocolate from Peru is often bitter and fruity, while chocolate from Venezuela is known for its caramel notes. Terroir is also observed in cheese, with subtle local influences imparting a sense of place to individual wheels and wedges. Mountain-style cheeses wouldn’t be their complex, sweet selves if the cows that provided their milk hadn’t eaten high-altitude summer wildflowers and grasses.

As both foods show such distinctive flavor profiles, it makes sense that pairing the two might produce some phenomenal partnerships. But don’t go into it blindly, advises Gail Ambrosius, a chocolatier based in Madison, Wisconsin. Hit the books—or the Internet, at the very least, she recommends. Ambrosius believes you should “understand chocolate” before attempting to pair it with cheese. Armed with a little knowledge about which flavors are generally attributed to which types and origins of chocolate, you can then let your taste buds take the lead. “Chocolate can have many notes,” Ambrosius says. “You want to make harmonious pairings where the chocolate brings out more flavor of the cheese, and vice versa.”

In general, stick with dark chocolate when pairing with cheese. “Because dark chocolate does not have a lot of sugar or milk solids, you can taste more true flavors,” Ambrosius says. More nuances means more pairing options, and thus, greater compatibility with cheese. (That’s not to say milk chocolate can’t work, however; check out the first of these four pairings for proof.)

Which Do I Eat First?
It depends on the pairing, and your taste buds; there aren’t any rules, since everyone’s different. As you might do when pairing cheese and booze, nibble a bit of cheese, then try the chocolate, and then switch it up in the opposite order. While you’re at it, why not eat them both at the same time, too? Experiment. Keep in mind that you’ll only need a small piece of chocolate to taste alongside your cheese—both are exceptionally flavor-dense treats.

FOUR STAR PAIRINGS

Coach Farm Triple Cream + Naive Milk Chocolate Papua New Guinea
Hello, chocolate cheesecake. The silken, creamy paste of Coach Farm’s Triple Cream snuggles right up to this luxurious chocolate. Meanwhile, the bright tang of goat’s milk in the cheese wipes the palate clean between saccharine nibbles of candy. If you can’t find Naive chocolate, your favorite milk chocolate bar should still work beautifully.

Coach Farm Triple Cream and Naive Milk Chocolate Papua New Guinea

Beemster Extra Aged + Gail Ambrosius Caramels
This pairing is, essentially, caramel on caramel. Beemster’s Extra Aged Gouda is famous for its sweet, butterscotch notes, which are mirrored by this salted, dark chocolate-covered confection. Even more delightful are the crystallized amino acids in the cheese, which mimic the crunchy grains of fleur de sel atop each caramel.

Beemster Extra Aged and Gail Ambrosius Caramels

Sartori Balsamic BellaVitano + Mast Brothers Stumptown Coffee Chocolate
Sartori’s original, nutty BellaVitano bathed in balsamic vinegar is a sweet complement to this bold, tobacco-noted dark chocolate from Brooklyn. Separately, the cheese and chocolate each boast strong flavors. Together, they coax out each other’s fruity undertones. Think black coffee and nut bread— it’s like having cheese and chocolate for breakfast.

Sartori Balsamic BellaVitano and Mast Brothers Stumptown Coffee Chocolate

Jasper Hill Farm Bayley Hazen Blue + Fine & Raw Mesquite
Chocolate-noted Bayley Hazen Blue is sharp enough in flavor to compete with this dark, earthy bar, which tastes remarkably like a chocolate-coated espresso bean. The salty creaminess of the cheese easily slices through the bar’s bitterness. The cheese’s blue veining gives the match an extra kick of spice.

Jasper Hill Farm Bayley Hazen Blue and Fine & Raw Mesquite

 

Which Do I Eat First?

It depends on the pairing, and your taste buds; there aren’t any rules, since everyone’s different. As you might do when pairing cheese and booze, nibble a bit of cheese, then try the chocolate, and then switch it up in the opposite order. While you’re at it, why not eat them both at the same time, too? Experiment. Keep in mind that you’ll only need a small piece of chocolate to taste alongside your cheese—both are exceptionally flavor-dense treats.

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