Tuesday, 28 October 2008

A palatable truth

I've always liked to think that my palate is fairly discerning, at least when it comes to wine. For example, I can taste (and usually smell) the difference between a Pinot Noir and a Cabernet Sauvignon, or a Merlot and a Syrah (Shiraz). And I've been privileged to have have drunk some incredible wines in my time. The moment that always stands out for me - and which probably was one of those "epiphany" moments - was reverently sipping a Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese in the drawing room of Von Buhl Estate back in early 1997 and just being lost for words.

On the other hand, I think my palate is fairly robust as well. For example, I regularly use tabasco as a condiment, I love hot Indian food, I love pickled foods, and I also love nibbling on bone-dry Nairn's Scottish oat cakes. On their own.

My new recent discovery, however, is chocolate with 99% cocoa:

I must say, I've never cared for chocolate that much and have never really had a sweet tooth either. I usually much prefer cheese - and especially Stilton.

However, the prospect of eating chocolate with "99% cacao" seemed like an experiment worth trying. As dark chocolates go, you can't get much darker than that. Truly hardcore stuff. On the pack, consumers are advised that they should first try chocolate with 70% cocoa, then some with 85%, before trying the 99%. But I just went in at the top.

It certainly is an acquired taste. I almost gagged when I bit off the first piece. However, after successively breaking off little bits of the chocolate for about a week or so, I finally started appreciating it. You have to let the chocolate almost melt on your tongue, as it were. Behind the astringency and bitter tannins, you gradually detect lovely, delicate fruit flavours. It's an educative experience, I would say. A small piece is nice with coffee, and I can imagine it would go well with red wine, too. Come to think of it, the similarities with wine are uncanny.

Even better though: it's apparently good for me as well. Consumed in moderation, all those antioxidants it contains supposedly help to lower blood pressure, plus the seratonins also help to give me a dose of the old happy gas, even when its dull and dreary outside. Fantastic!

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