01 Jun Pairing Artisan Sonoma Cheeses with Volo Chocolates
Pairing cheese and wine is a no-brainer and something I do often. Pairing chocolate with wine is often attempted, but to me rarely works. But take the wine away and you are left with just cheese and chocolate. And they pair surprisingly well together, especially when you pair one of the chocolate bars from Volo Chocolates in Healdsburg with cheeses made in Sonoma as I experienced at a seminar at the Artisan Cheese Festival and recently wrote about in a story for The Chocolate Professor and share here.
Cheese and chocolate provide limitless opportunities for pairing. While cacao is not grown in the continental U.S., chocolate from Sonoma County chocolate maker Volo pairs beautifully with cheeses from Sonoma and adjacent West Marin. Volo’s myriad of flavored bars offers lots of intriguing options for both contrasting and complementing cheese.
According to Jeff and Susan Mall of Volo Chocolate, what cheese and chocolate both have in common is that they are the result of fermentation. Chocolate is made by fermenting the cacao seeds before drying them and then grounding them. Cheese is made from milk that is fermented which helps create the curd.
Even though both cheese and chocolate are fermented, they might seem like an unlikely match. But Jeff explains that fermented foods go well together. Both chocolate and cheese are rich and complex, and their nuanced flavors complement each other. He adds, “The reason they pair well together is that salt loves sweet.” For skeptics he offers an example, “We all know cheesecake with chocolate. The richness of the cheese and the chocolate, it is a classic.”
HOW TO TASTE CHOCOLATE AND CHEESE TOGETHER
When pairing chocolate and cheese together, the couple offer a few tips. Like pairing wine with food, you can pair chocolate and cheese that have a similar flavor profile, such as nutty cheese with nutty chocolate, or you can pair contrasting flavors, such as creamy cheese with a more astringent, bitter chocolate. Most importantly, try different pairings and see what works best for you.
According to Susan, you should take the chocolate in your hand, rub it a little with your thumb, and smell the chocolate. Take a bite and let it float around your taste buds. Let the chocolate melt on your palate. As for the cheese, let it come to room temperature before tasting. Taste the cheese, and then take a bite of the chocolate. Enjoy how the flavors and textures complement or contrast with each other.
5 CHOCOLATE AND CHEESE PAIRINGS
The Volo 73% Dark Chocolate with Candied Orange Peel bar is made with cacao from the region of Lachua in Guatemala which tends to result in chocolate that is bright and fruity. It is a 73% Dark Chocolate topped with house-made candied orange peel. The chocolate is acidic with cherry notes and the candied orange adds a sweet and sour note.
Laura Chenel made goat cheese famous in America after introducing it in the 1970s. The cheese is a fresh goat cheese that is tangy and creamy with bright acidity.
Paired together, it tasted like chocolate cheesecake.
The Volo 62% Dark Milk Chocolate with Olive Oil Roasted Almonds bar is made from cacao sourced from Haiti, which tends to have notes of roasted coffee and toasted nuts. It is 62% Dark Chocolate with caramelized milk and brown butter resulting in a rich and creamy chocolate that has a depth of flavor. The olive oil roasted almonds add to the complexity of the profile.
Cowgirl Creamy has been making organic cow milk cheese since 1997. The Mt Tam cheese, named after the iconic landmark Mount Tamalpais that rises over the San Francisco Bay in Marin County, is an organic triple cream cow’s milk cheese that is rich and creamy.
As a pairing, there is balance between the richness of both the chocolate and the cheese.
The Volo 62% Dark Milk Fig & Hazelnuts bar is made with cacao from Haiti. The hazelnuts are roasted and made into a butter which is added to the chocolate, as well as caramelized milk and brown butter. The chocolate has earthy flavors with some honey-raisin sweetness from the dried figs.
Located in Nicasio Valley in Marin County, Nicasio Valley Cheese Company uses authentic, traditional recipes from the alpine village of their ancestral homeland in Maggia, Switzerland. The Lafranchi family has 1,150 certified acres and more than 400 cows. Foggy Morning is their national award-winning cheese and has been named the Best Fromage Blanc style cheese made in North America. It has a soft creaminess with a fresh sour note.
The pairing of this cheese and chocolate provides a contrast in flavors. The cheese brings fruit notes out of the chocolate while the chocolate mutes the sour note of the cheese.
Sourced from cacao from Haiti, the deep roast chocolate in Volo 70% Dark Cream Chocolate “Caramel Crunch” bar is mixed with cream and salted honeycomb toffee caramel. The chocolate has coffee and caramel notes and a light crunch from the toffee.
Located on the rural coast of Sonoma County, Valley Ford Cheese produces handcrafted, Italian-style artisan cheeses made from 100% organic Jersey cow milk. “Grazin’ Girl” is a Gorgonzola-style cheese that is creamy but potent.
The pairing combines sweet and salty. The earthiness of the chocolate rounds out the intensity of the cheese.
Cacao beans from Haiti are roasted for a rich dark chocolate and then mixed with locally roasted Wolf coffee, cream, and cinnamon. The result is a creamy, rich chocolate with lovely coffee notes.
Located in Point Reyes Station in Marin County, Pont Reyes Farmstead Cheese is a 3rd generation family-owned and women-run business. The Aged Gouda is made from pasteurized, rBST-free cows’ milk and aged for 13+ months. It has a creamy texture with notes of butterscotch and toasted hazelnuts.