Chocolate, cheese and cheer brighten the season

Éclat Chocolate and Birchrun Hills Farm teamed up to host a virtual event pairing chocolate and cheese on Dec. 13. Participants for the sold-out event were provided with curated boxes containing the necessary chocolate and cheese for the pairing.

"The residual sugars in dessert wine and beer pair well with chocolate," said Chef Christopher Curtin of Éclat, "It's the healthy fats in the cheese and chocolate that we are pairing. It's also a great to have a non-alcoholic pairing alternative." Éclat, called the best chocolates in America by Bon Appetite, provided participants with a variety of chocolates selected to compliment the cheeses.

"In Chester County, we are surrounded by artisans," said Curtin explaining his enthusiasm for collaborating with area cheesemakers, distillers and beer brewers. "Sue Miller is amazing and her cheeses are world-class."

Miller, Birchrun Hills Farm's award-winning cheesemaker co-hosted the meeting with Curtin from her small family farm in northern Chester County. She immediately set a friendly tone for the meeting, "The perfect pairing is the one you like."

Many participants opted to expand the pairing with wine, raising glasses of blanc de blanc, champagne and Malbec rosé to their screen. The event was capped at 100 people and completely sold out. Participants viewed Curtin and Miller on screen along with all the other virtual attendees.

"It's a simple cheddar with soft, round buttery notes," said Miller as she introduced the first pairing. It was mated for the evening was the Calvados Caramel with its apple notes evoking a memory from one participant of apple pie with cheese melted on top.

"We inject the caramel into shells using the Belgian technique, then it has to harden," said Curtin as he detailed the steps in the 24- to 36-hour process. He introduced the next pairing with a Porcini Mushroom Parallel bar a nod to Kennett Square, that features the unexpected combination of thyme.

"This Little Chardy is a camembert-style cheese that we named after a cow named Chardy," said Miller as she shared stories of the farm while participants spread the soft cheese across their bars. Happy smiles, multiple thumbs up and comments like "rich" and "luscious" peppered the tasting. "It's a square cheese and the tannins in the rind give it a soft balance like they do in red wine."

"This funky little cheese started out as a mistake," said Miller of Fat Cat, as she described the too-cold vat that produced a very different cheese than intended. After selling out of Fat Cat and having customers demand more, she recreated her "mistake" which was paired with a Bourbon Pecan Cube. One participant noted that tasting Fat Cat with the chocolate brought out the creaminess in the cheese.

Chef Christopher Curtin at ÉCLAT CHOCOLATE in West Chester.

"Truffles originally got their name because the misshapen rolls looked like mushrooms," said Curtin as he showed his softly-rounded Peruvian Nacional Truffle that was pairing with the Red Cat cheese. The Red Cat starts with the same curds as the Fat Cat, but the curds are transformed with a hard cider wash. Said Miller, "We're trying to sway and nudge the flavor profile."

Participants noted that pairing the orange-coated Pumpkin Pie Bon Bon with the Fromage Blanc, "turned the pumpkin truffle into the best pumpkin cheesecake ever."

"My goal in creating the mondiant was to create a flat truffle," said Curtin as introduced the final pairing, a chocolate wafer that filled Craig LeBain with pleasure. The Caramel Mondiant was paired with Birchrun Blue, causing one participant to exclaim, "The caramel brought out the funk in the blue!"

The hosts provided ample time for the audience to ask questions but mainly ended up fielding compliments like "Best Zoom ever" and "Love the stories behind the food."

To put together your own chocolate and cheese tasting, check out Éclat Chocolate and Birchrun Hills Farm online.

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About Karen Myers

Karen Myers lives in Pocopson Township and has written for several local publications. A strong supporter of our community, Karen has served on several non-profit boards, such as Pocopson Elementary PTO, The United Way of Southern Chester County, Chester County Art Association and Tick Tock Early Learning Center. She received her M.B.A. from the University of Delaware and worked in marketing and operations with a focus on banking.

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