Thursday, March 26, 2009

Chocolate Appreciation 101 @ Heavenly Chocolates

It's 4am and I'm enjoying a nice bit of hot chocolate. I've been a fan of chocolate all my life. I grew up in Batangas which is tablea land, and in my godmother's yard there used to be a cacao tree. Imported chocolate bars weren't as readily available back in those days before globalization, and my mother used to limit after-meal chocolate to one-square rations. I guess she figured my brother and I were hyper enough without the theobromine rush. Back in those days I thought that the Goya Fun Factory actually existed and the big dream was to dive into the chocolate pool. Of course after seeing the fate of Augustus Gloop in "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory", my enthusiasm was tempered a little.

I learned to temper chocolate in culinary school. We worked with white, milk, and dark Callebaut couverture. That's when I decided I wasn't going to be a chocolatier, because it broke my heart when tiny bits of chocolate got left on the utensils and in the piping bags and stuff. I wanted to eat it all!

And so when I got the invitation to Benjie Pedro's "Chocolate Appreciation 101" at his shop Heavenly Chocolates. I was in it for the chocolate tasting. I wasn't uninitiated, and I knew all about the history of cocoa, the different bean varieties, cacao harvesting, the many stages of chocolate processing and all that.

That's what I thought. Little did I know that I was about to have my mind blown.

The session begins like an AA meeting "I'm Benjie Pedro, and I'm a chocoholic," and then Benjie took us on a journey peppered with fun trivia, candid revelations and personal anecdotes from travels around the world chasing the food of the gods. What was very new to me was single origin chocolate. Like fine wine from grapes grown with care, these chocolates were just as luxurious and unique. Ghana (mostly Forastero beans) was smooth and gentle, with notes of coffee. Madagascar (Criollo) had hints of citrus, with a fruity finish. My favorite was the Ecuador (Arriba a different variety of Forastero), very dark and bold, not for the timid. Benjie's passion for chocolate is infectious. He treats chocolate with both the sophistication of a wine connoisseur and the playfulness of a kid in...well, a chocolate store.

Benjie had us sample some Sachi Nama chocolates. Nama is all the rage these days and the reason is obvious. I have not tried Royce's, but many of those in the know say they prefer Sachi. He also has some other tricks up his sleeve. One of the offerings at Havenly Chocolates is penne with chocolate sauce. The dish was good though not quite mind-blowing. It's still well worth a try for anyone who has never had chocolate in a savory dish. The chocolate-coated potato chips were a treat, as was the chocolate fondue (choose your single-origin to go with it). Benjie is all for challenging the senses; he got us to try something in development and not yet on the menu.

I'm looking forward to going back to Heavenly chocolates tomorrow. Benjie says he has some new single-origins: Mexico and Bolivia.

Chocolate Appreciation 101
March 28th at 2PM and 6PM. For details, please call the shop at 666-22-08 or email Benjie Pedro at benjaminvpedro@yahoo.com.

Heavenly Chocolates
127 Roces Avenue (near corner Tomas Morato), Quezon City.
Telephone: (63 2) 666-22-08



Photo by Azrael Coladilla.

Sarah, Benjie Pedro, me, Steph. Photo by Azrael Coladilla.
Sarah, Benjie Pedro, me, and Steph. Photo by Azrael Coladilla.


Photo by Azrael Coladilla.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Yasmin (Almond & The Hazelnut) said...

I'm like you - I just can't bear to let a smidgen go uneaten! Sounds amazing... I had a similar experience with single origin chocolates in Sydney where I di an interview of a Belgian-trained Flipina living in Sydney - we hit it off immediately (and I didn't befriend them just for the chocolates, in case you were wondering!) It's amazing the different flavours you detect and the depth and structure they can contain. I wish Benji was doing another class...

4:11 AM  
Blogger JB said...

HI Yasmin! Thanks for dropping by. Benjie does the session at least once a month. Will make sure to let you know when the May Schedule comes out :-)

11:17 AM  

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