At parties, I would say, "I'm an artist," said Chef Eric Johnson. "In what medium?" they would ask.
"In chocolate," I'd reply.
They would make a funny face and turn away!
But last evening at a private residence in Potomac, Maryland, a small but enthusiastic group wasn't looking away.
They were nibbling chocolates, and sipping beers ... and smiling. It was a beer with chocolate tasting, the fulfillment of a charity silent auction bid.
Chocolatier Eric had brought his 'art'— chocolates from his Krishon Chocolate Company. I had brought beers from Clipper City Brewing. We paired 5 beers to 5 of his chocolates, and one beer to Manchego cheese.
Eric and I had first met at a Sweet Charity fundraiser in March. As the event wound down, I mentioned how I thought that chocolate and beer could pair well. He nodded enthusiastically, told me to wait, and ran back out to his car, where he had already packed up his wares. He returned with several of his truffles.
We tasted them with Clipper City Brewing's Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale and Peg Leg Imperial Stout; and we marveled. Last night was the first time, since, that the two of us had worked together.
He talked of his company, Krishon Chocolates (named for the Ellis Island respelling of his Czech family name), and of his products: handmade, organic, free trade ... and perishably, wonderfully fresh. I've been accused of being an enthusiastic partisan for beer, but Eric is most definitely a passionate advocate for chocolate!
As a starter, Small Craft Warning was paired with Manchego cheese.
Then, Eric opened his cooler, and out came the chocolates. And we tasted.
Oxford Raspberry Wheat was paired with his white chocolate bark, studded with cacao beans.
Peg Leg Imperial Stout, Eric paired with bittersweet truffles, probably the most 'expected' pairing with the dark chocolate flavors to be found in the beer. One of our hosts thought that the beer would be a wonderful base for a bouillabaisse!
Stout is one thing ... but an I.P.A. with chocolate? Eric served his ginger chocolate truffle with the Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale, mating the truffle's herbal heat with the hop aromatics of the beer. It was in my opinion, a simply stunning pairing.
Next up was the Below Decks Barleywine, 2007 vintage. Its toffee/caramel flavors, sherry overtones, and evident alcoholic warmth were Eric's reasons for serving his cinnamon truffle.
We finished in grandly complex style. Hang Ten Weizen Dopplebock was paired with Milk Chocolate Truffles studded with cacao beans. One gleeful participant was heard to murmur, "Why do I ever need to eat anything else?"