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Chocolate pairings: Innovative entertaining with a sweet twist

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Whether a fancy five-course social event, a laid-back barbecue or a progressive dinner party, what separates average from impressive entertaining is innovative and original ideas. One way to surely catch the attention of your guests while tempting their taste buds is to feature chocolate pairings in your entertaining itinerary.

Fine chocolates add decadence to any event, but they are relatable and broadly enjoyed. Chocolate platters have replaced cheese platters at soirees, but what’s really on trend for 2018 is chocolate pairings. This interactive offering is a conversation starter that will delight guests — the perfect way to conclude a meal with friends or family.

While the idea of chocolate pairings might seem complex, it’s actually quite simple. These tips from the expert chefs who create Kohler Original Recipe Chocolates will make it virtually effortless to pair fine chocolates with beer, wine and spirits so you can impress guests at your next event.

Offer an array of flavors

To ensure you have something for all guests no matter their preferences, opt for a variety of chocolates. Selections from the white, milk and dark chocolate categories offer an array of flavors. Some guests may gravitate to one over others, while other guests may choose to sample all three varieties. Suggest sampling from light to dark to balance the palate.

Pairing 1 suggestion: White chocolate

White chocolate is sweet and buttery, integrated into numerous types of confections, many of which feature fruit. The Kohler Cranberry Terrapin showcases cranberries and white chocolate with its signature smoky caramel. Cranberry and white chocolate are delicate flavors and this piece is crafted so that those flavors balance well and are not overpowered by the smokiness of the caramel.

With that in mind, consider serving with a a stout beer that will bring out that buttery goodness. If selecting a wine pairing, opt for a zinfandel or another variety that won’t overpower those delicate flavors. Spirits can be a nice pairing addition, too. A classic bourbon complements the smoky caramel perfectly.

Pairing 2 suggestion: Milk chocolate

Americans adore milk chocolate and expert chocolatiers can transform this delight into virtually endless tempting flavors. The Kohler Butterscotch Hop is one such example. The smooth, creamy butterscotch filling is enhanced by a custom blend of premium chocolate to elevate this flavor combination. It’s velvety on the tongue with a light finish, plus the beautiful mold impresses the eye.

Milk chocolate is smooth and sweet, and drink pairings should complement that element without overwhelming. A light crisp beer or a refreshing chardonnay brings out the buttery undertones of silky-smooth milk chocolate. If you decide to serve butterscotch, it’s sure to be unique as it’s a pretty rare find in the chocolate world. A honey whiskey is the perfect pair for butterscotch chocolates.

Pairing 3 suggestion: Dark chocolate

Rich and undeniably decadent, dark chocolate is the ideal final pairing to offer guests. The flavors of coffee and dark chocolate are often fused together as they mingle together well. For example, the Kohler Caffé and Cream has dark chocolate coffee ganache with a layer of creamy mascarpone in a dark chocolate shell. This multi-layer chocolate is meticulously crafted and offers a burst of satisfying richness.

A bold, rich beer or heavy ale matches dark chocolate well. A tawny port that isn’t too fruity can be a nice complement to coffee flavors while bringing out the dark chocolate elements. Finally, a sweeter bourbon with a smoky finish pairs nicely with the dark chocolate, which in turn brings out the barrel notes of the spirit.

Serving

You can serve chocolate pairings in a variety of ways. If you prefer to set up a beautiful buffet, you can display chocolates on a platter and place drink pairings nearby, each labeled appropriately. Guests can help themselves at their leisure. You may also opt to serve guests by bringing out each pairing one by one and offering guests their choice of beverage to pair with the featured chocolate. No matter how you choose to serve, it’s bound to be a memorable moment at a fantastic event.

Gastronomy

A Hidden Cavern for Cheese Lovers

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Down the illuminated walkway under Czech crystal chandeliers, past the ornate Chinoiserie banquettes and the bustling activity of the open kitchen, and through a weighty glass door, lies a hidden temple for cheese aficionados. Decked in warm wood furnishings and cool marble, the Caprice cheese cellar at Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong is a decadent home where 25 to 30 cheeses nestle together on a bed of straw amid jars of homemade jam. The history of French cheese can be found in a deep inhalation revealing myriad aromas from earth and mushrooms to flowers to grass.

When it was founded in 2010, the Caprice cheese cellar was the first of its kind in Hong Kong. Today it is perpetually stocked with a collection of cow, sheep and goats’ milk cheeses, almost exclusively unpasteurised. It is believed that unpasteurised, or raw milk, makes the perfect nurturing ground for probiotics. These living tiny allies endlessly evolve, contributing to the unique nuances of the curds – the same cheese could taste different from one day to the next.

 

To ensure cheeses mature properly, a highly-controlled environment to maintain a specific temperature and humidity is essential to create a fine habitat. At Caprice, a team of three are dedicated to keep the cheese vault under 10°C and between 66 and 70 percent moisture level.

Stephane Rabot, Director of Caprice, believes not all cheeses are created equal. To build a gourmet haven with local specialties, Caprice flies in artisanal cheeses from France twice every week. Contrasting with milder-flavoured mass-manufactured cheeses, every handcrafted cheese served not only offers more complexity in taste and variety, but also embraces a story behind each cheese.

Among the mimolette and brillat-savarin rests a noble variety: the comté matured for at least 36 months. Made in wheels and discs, only the premium can continue to mature beyond 24 months, a rare 5 out of 1000 wheels. In hard and flexible texture, the maturing period fills each bite with crispy calcium crystals. Sweet and nutty with notes of dried fruits gives each bite a sharp and long lasting aftertaste.

The art of a complete cheese tasting experience demands further skills beyond the quality of cheeses. In Caprice, diners can expect a knowledgeable team for a personalised sensory journey. The only challenge is to decide between pairing with a drizzle of sweet honey or a yellow wine gelée.

Whether it is a tangy roquefort or a crumbly comté, who can resist?

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Gastronomy

3 Things You Didn’t Know About Chocolate – And Why You Should Care

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As you stand in the chocolate aisle of the grocery store, have you ever stopped to think about the story behind each bar?

Knowing that your choice of chocolate has a positive impact on the farmers who cultivated the cocoa beans can sweeten the entire experience. When choosing your favorite treat, make sure it is one that combines pleasure with purpose. Here are three things you might not know about chocolate, and how each one could impact your decision in the candy aisle:

1. The cocoa industry affects over 5 million small holder cocoa farmers around the world. The majority of cocoa is grown on small farms operated by independent farmers in developing countries in West Africa, Southeast Asia and the Americas. Your choice in the chocolate aisle can go a long way toward supporting these households: DOVE Chocolate partners with CARE, an organization dedicated to fighting global poverty. This partnership powers the development of Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs): savings-led, community-based programs that allow members, such as cocoa farmers and their families, to support each other with low-interest loans and savings plans. The loans help cocoa farming households access capital to improve their farming practices, expand and diversify their businesses, and invest in education and health for their families and enrich their local community.

2. Fifty percent of cocoa farming activities are completed by women, yet women rarely benefit from cocoa-related income. While women play a key role in cocoa farming, many of them do not receive the income benefits they deserve. The VSLA initiative provides women with ways to save money and access small loans. In turn, women in cocoa farming communities can increase productivity on their cocoa farms and even achieve greater equality with their male counterparts. Within the past year, female representation in VSLAs has risen to 80 percent, and many members have increased their initial investments by 58 percent since joining a VSLA.

3. Cocoa is produced by farming households in developing African countries who often lack affordable financial services, according to CARE. Rural Africans have been forced to use whatever high-cost lenders are available in their area. By choosing chocolate that supports VSLA programs, you’re helping women in cocoa growing communities find a safe and community-supported way to access loans and put their money into savings. What’s more, these programs have further evolved with the linkage of many VSLAs and their members to formal Micro-Finance Institutions (MFI). This linkage gives VSLA members opportunities to access more modern financial tools that can increase profitability.

“Today’s consumers are savvy in that they are increasingly conscientious about their impact on the world based on their purchase decisions,” says Leslie Philipsen, Brand Director, DOVE Chocolate. “For example, we are finding that people appreciate knowing that their favorite brands stand behind real commitments to the people who create the products they know and love, and are doing what they can to help them succeed. That’s why we continue to partner with CARE to positively impact thousands of women in the cocoa growing communities of Cote d’Ivoire through the VSLA program.”

“We know when a woman joins a VSLA, her involvement creates ripples of positive change that extend past herself to include the people in her community,” says Marcela Hahn, Executive Director of CARE’s Strategic Partnerships team. “VSLAs are about more than giving women financial opportunities. They are about transformation. We are honored to stand in partnership with DOVE Chocolate, changing the lives of thousands of women and their families in Cote d’Ivoire.”

From now through August 18, DOVE Chocolate will donate $1 to CARE for every purchase of specially marked DOVE Chocolate PROMISES at CVS Pharmacy locations. To learn more about the effort, visit www.dovechocolate.com.

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Gastronomy

5 reasons to snack on strawberries

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The perfect snack needs to check off three boxes: It should be filling enough to get you to your next meal, provide nutrition that fits into your balanced diet, and satisfy cravings, whether sweet or savory. Not an easy task, but juicy California strawberries are up for the challenge.

“Strawberries are an ideal snack because not only do they taste great, they’re also heart-healthy and an anti-inflammatory food,” says Manuel Villacorta, registered dietitian and author of Flat Belly 365. “I love to pair strawberries with yogurt, peanut butter on rice crackers, or cottage cheese. Strawberry smoothies are also a favorite.”

Naturally sweet, yet low in sugar

Many people get the urge to graze around that 3 o’clock slump. By reaching for something that has natural sweetness, you can fulfill that craving without excess calories and sugar. In fact, one serving of eight strawberries has only 50 calories and eight grams of sugar.

Bursting with nutrients

Another reason to love strawberries? “The combination of flavonoids, antioxidants and fiber can help reduce cholesterol levels,” Villacorta says. “Plus, strawberries are full of potassium, which can help manage blood pressure and prevent strokes.” Strawberries don’t stop there; a single serving has more vitamin C than an orange.

Boost your brain

According to a study in the Annals of Neurology, eating strawberries at least twice per week may delay cognitive aging by two and a half years, which includes improvement in memory and motor function. Add in a daily sudoku or crossword puzzle and you’re on your way to a sharper mind!

Great for diabetes management

Nutrient-packed strawberries are a great option for those with diabetes. In fact, the American Diabetes Association lists strawberries as a top superfood for diabetic meal plans. “The anthocyanins found in strawberries may help improve insulin resistance, which means you can regulate blood glucose better,” according to Villacorta.

Snacks anyone will love

Both kids and adults love a good strawberry snack. Try a strawberry oat bar, peanut butter yogurt dipped strawberries, strawberry almond butter snackwich or even strawberry turkey pinwheels to switch things up in your afternoon routine. From quick and kid-friendly to fancy appetizers, visit CaliforniaStrawberries.com for snacks perfect for all ages and occasions.

Snacking can be fun for the whole family with bright colors, simple recipe ideas, unexpected flavor combinations and a little creativity. And if your snacks are full of vital nutrients and health benefits, even better!

What are you waiting for? Pick up some strawberries and get snacking today.

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