Chocolate pairings are having a moment. Once limited to a select few wine bars and fancy chocolate shops, chocolate pairings are popping up everywhere, and they’re becoming more ubiquitous in casual establishments, like your local cheese shop. Even better: some of the best combinations are easy to recreate at home. If you’re not into DIY, not to worry—these five chocolate pairings are just as good when you find them on a menu.
Cheese used to be the go-to choice for pairing with wine, but pairing wine with chocolate is catching on fast. Brix is the first company I’ve heard of that makes chocolate specifically to pair with wine. I recently sampled their smooth dark chocolate, a single-origin from Ghana, which I paired with a 2007 Barros vintage port. The chocolate had enough complexity and flavor intensity to stand up to a strong port, and brought out some interesting orange and berry notes in the wine. But don’t limit yourself to dessert wines when it comes to chocolate pairing. A sauvignon blanc with orange and lemon notes would be delicious with a citrus-tinged chocolate like this one from TCHO.
Recommended for: A small tasting party with friends. Ask each friend to bring one type of chocolate and one type of wine to share with the party.
Yes, eggplant! While it may seem like an unusual food to pair with chocolate, Italian cooks have been using this combination for years. Small, garden-fresh eggplant has a lovely nutty sweetness that pairs perfectly with a medium to dark chocolate. There are quite a few different ways to pair the two, from deep-frying the eggplant and topping it with almonds and chocolate sauce to baking eggplant and chocolate into a cake recipe that originally comes from Franciscan monks. Both recipes work well with an intense cocoa powder or bar chocolate from Callebaut.
Recommended for: A dinner party with adventurous friends.
I first had goat cheese paired with chocolate at a local wine bar, where it was served as part of a cheese plate alongside a small piece of Valrhona chocolate made with 64 percent cacao. The tangy, musty, meadowgrass taste of goat cheese really mellows the bitter, sharper notes of a dark chocolate. Homemade truffles are a delicious way to pair the two tastes. If you can get your hands on fresh chèvre from Cowgirl Creamery and a bar of Green & Black’s organic bittersweet dark chocolate to make your truffles with, you won’t be disappointed. Not the truffle-making sort? Serve a log of chocolate goat cheese from Westfield Farm; it’s especially delicious spread on a baguette or crepe.
Recommended for: Housewarmings and dinner parties. A box of homemade truffles makes an ideal hostess gift.
Coffee and chocolate go hand in hand, but tea is just as delicious a pairing option. Although much of the world’s tea production centers around Asia, it is possible to find teas that are grown in the same areas as cacao, and pairing tea and chocolate from the same (or neighboring) region is an excellent approach. Try pairing a white tea grown in the Hawaiian rainforest with chocolate made from Kona-grown beans. Or head south to Ecuador and pair a 70-percent dark chocolate from the Guayas River floodplain with a ginger-and-citrus infused black tea called guayusa.
Recommended for: A tea party with a twist. Try several different types of organic teas and single-origin chocolates. Pair each tea with a chocolate grown in the same region or country. See if you can taste the similarities in terroir of the tea and chocolate.
Autumn is my favorite time of year for seasonal chocolate pairing. Pears, apples, quince and figs, along with spices like cumin, curry, nutmeg and cinnamon, marry nicely with chocolate. Incorporate these flavors into a fruit and chocolate plate, using bar chocolates with an autumnal spice component. I like sliced pears with Pacari’s Merkén chocolate bar. The pear mellows the spicy cumin and chili in the chocolate, while the spices help bring out the sweetness of the fruit. Green or black figs are another versatile addition to a fall fruit plate. They can be served raw and dipped in a nutmeg-scented chocolate fondue, or poached in port with star anise and served with a bar of cinnamon-spiced Dolfin chocolate.
Recommended for: Holiday parties that need a little spicing up.
Editor’s Note: What are some of your most-loved chocolate pairing combinations? Share your favorites in the comments!
Kate Steffens is a pastry chef, writer, DJ, artist, designer and all-around Renaissance woman. She is a graduate of the California Culinary Academy and the University of Texas at Austin. She runs the rock-and-roll chocolate company, Straight Outta Chocolate. When she's not elbow deep in chocolate, you can find her reading, gardening, working on art projects and listening to old records.