A warning: This is no ordinary chocolate!
Here's a store that will influence what you think about your chocolate
The invitation seemed innocent enough: Spend the evening with our friends Doug and Susan Stein sampling chocolate. Little did my husband Mark and I suspect that we would be eating some of the most exotic and decadent chocolate in the world.
Cacao Drink Chocolate was our destination; the chocolate shop was hopping on the recent Saturday night of our expedition. Doug and Susan are long-time patrons of Cacao and enjoyed sharing this gourmet treat with us.
'Cacao is sort of a chocolate museum,' Doug explained. 'They have chocolate from all over the world. They will explain anything you want to know about the chocolate-making process. I think you will really enjoy it.'
'Chocolate shrine' may be a better description. What Powell's is to books, Cacao is to chocolate. Owners Jesse Manis and Aubrey Lindley make it their mission to search the world over for the finest and most unique chocolate to share with their customers.
One step inside the store and you are greeted by the slightly intoxicating fragrance of chocolate and the gentle buzz of conversation from clusters of people seated, sipping drinking chocolate or nibbling bars of the decadent confection.
Everyone has a somewhat euphoric look on his or her face. There is just something about indulging in chocolate that puts one in a pleasant, optimistic mood.
Jesse explained that the shelves of chocolate bars lining the walls were from all corners of the globe. I spied beautifully wrapped confections from France, Italy, South America, Switzerland, Belgium, as well as from around the United States. There were literally hundreds of stacks of beautifully wrapped premium solid chocolate bars from which to choose. Far too many options for me!
'Chocolate,' Jesse explained, 'is the next new artisan food. You will see small chocolate producers popping up all across the nation with great tasting, unique chocolates.'
Jesse led us to a display case full of handmade chocolates that gave a whole new meaning to the phrase 'eye candy.' These chocolates were so beautifully decorated they were almost too pretty to eat - almost. The four of us split a fig-and- fennel-flavored chocolate and a burnt-sugar chocolate and a dainty piece of olive oil chocolate. Made without butter or cream to accommodate the vegan chocolate lover, this had an amazing flavor that I am still relishing two weeks later.
In my opinion, the crème de al crème was Cacao's drinking chocolate. Actually liquid chocolate, Cacao usually has three house varieties available at any time. The night we were there, our options were their 'Revoli,' a 72 percent dark chocolate; a cinnamon- infused blend of Venezuelan and lighter dark chocolates; and a spicy concoction of 72 percent dark chocolate infused with cayenne, smoked paprika and ginger, quieted with a splash of coconut milk.
The four of us chose the spicy chocolate and after a few sips, we slipped into the cozy euphoric cocoon the other patrons were enjoying. What a way to take the chill out of winter!
Cacao is something you have to experience for yourself. Halloween next week presents a perfect opportunity.
Get the regular ol' candy for the trick-or-treaters, but treat yourself to a decadent nibble from Cacao. Build a nice fire, sip a little coffee or tea (or red wine, as it is purported to go well with chocolate …) and enjoy the parade of ghouls and goblins at your door.
This week's recipe is for Chocolate Pate, a perfect dessert for fall and the upcoming holiday season. To tailor the recipe to your preference of chocolate, ask our friends at Cacao for suggestions of which chocolates to use.
Cacao is located at 414 S.W. 13th Ave. The phone number is 503-241-0656. Visit the Web site at www.cacaodrinkchocolate.com .
Chocolate Pate with Fresh Plum Sauce
Makes 10-12 servings
1 pound best-quality bittersweet chocolate or 12 ounces semisweet plus 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
¾ cup ruby port
¾ cup chopped unsalted macadamia nuts or almonds
½ cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 ½ cups chopped plums (about 1 pound) or pitted cherries
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup ruby port
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons sifted powdered sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Prepare the pate: Line a 9x5-inch loaf pan with parchment paper or foil; set aside. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over low heat. Add the wine and whisk to blend. Remove from the heat and stir in the nuts. Cool to room temperature.
Whip the cream until soft peaks form. Gently fold the chocolate mixture into the whipped cream.
Pour into lined loaf pan, cover and refrigerate overnight or at least three hours. (The pate can be made up to five days in advance.)
Prepare the sauce: Melt the butter in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the plums and sauté until the plums begin to soften, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the sugar and cook until the sugar begins to caramelize, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the wine and simmer over low heat until slightly thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the nutmeg. (The sauce can be prepared and refrigerated up to 24 hours in advance. Serve at room temperature.)
Prepare the topping: Whip the cream until soft peaks form. Sprinkle in the sugar and vanilla and whip just to blend.
To serve: Use a warm knife to slice the pate into ½ inch slices. Top each serving with plum sauce and whipped cream.
From Secrets from a Caterer's Kitchen by Nicole Aloni.
To Make Sustainable:
Substitute hazelnuts or walnuts for the macadamia nuts.
If plums or cherries are out of season, substitute frozen or dried cherries or cranberries for the plums.
Barb Randall welcomes your questions and research suggestions. She can be reached at 503-635-8811 or by e-mail at brandall@lakeoswe