MADE FOR EACH OTHER – III

It had been quite a while since I had the chance to experiment with pairings. The last time I experimented I paired a Knob Creek Small Batch 100 Proof with Alluvia 100% dark chocolate. You can read more about it here: http://eatsiprepeat.com/made-for-each-other-ii/. In that same post I had expressed a desire of pairing a brandy with the same chocolate. So since I had some solitude and time on hand this last weekend I decided to fulfil the desire to experiment with a cognac that Santa Claus (in the form of my father) got me last Christmas and some of the leftover 100% dark chocolate from my trip to Vietnam in February of last year.

REMY MARTIN VSOP WITH 100% DARK CHOCOLATE

Cognacs are generally more expensive than whiskies and even more so in this part of the world because of all the duties they attract. The Remy Martin VSOP is a cognac both my father and I enjoy from time to time especially after a rich and heavy dinner. For the uninitiated, cognac is nothing but a brandy that hails from the Cognac region of France. It is distilled from grapes which are used for making wines. The kinds of grapes that do not yield drinkable wine but a very dry and acidic variety are distilled into cognac. These varieties of grapes are usually very good for distillation and then subsequent ageing. The distilled spirit known as eau de vie is then aged in oak casks which are made from oak trees from Limousin, France. After this they are blended or married. The term VSOP stands for Very Superior Old Pale which means that the youngest cognac in the blend has to be aged in the oak casks for a minimum of four years. All cognacs from the house of Remy Martin are Fine Champagne cognacs i.e. the cognacs are a blend of distilled spirits or the eau de vie from Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne regions of Cognac, France.

The Remy Martin VSOP, gifted by my father last Christmas.

So much for cognac, now for the result of my experimental pairing. I had had a dinner of baked pork loin with seasonal veggies and was in the perfect mood for a tipple of cognac. I poured the Remy in a cognac snifter and let it sit for a while. I held the glass at the base of my palm, gave it a twirl and gently sniffed in the sweet fruity aromas that the cognac gave off. On sipping I found myself appreciating the sweet and silky spirit which continued to linger on my palate for a while after I had swallowed it down. The time was ripe I felt to bite into the chocolate. As expected from prior experience the chocolate was devoid of any sweetness and creaminess tasting like rich earthy cocoa.

Alluvia 100% dark chocolate .

Upon my second sip of the cognac I found that the elegant spirit tasted silkier and sweeter. More luxurious. The sweet fruity notes seemed to coexist now with a spicy tingle on the palate. I was expecting the profile of the chocolate to now become bitter. On the contrary the previously gritty earthiness gave way to creaminess. Of course when I refer to creaminess I do not mean as creamy as a 55% dark chocolate but use it in a more relative manner. The more I sipped the cognac and bit into the chocolate and let it melt slowly in my mouth I appreciated the chocolate bar’s lack of cocoa butter because I felt that presence of cocoa butter might have contradicted the smooth silkiness of the cognac. Gradually the intense earthy cocoa developed into woodiness with hints of nuttiness.

The Remy Martin VSOP with the Alluvia 10% dark chocolate turned out to be quite an experience.

The experience of the experiment was heightened by Duke Ellington playing in the background and the gripping novel that I was reading. It is in ways like this that one tends to enjoy food and drinks with all of one’s senses primed to receive elements of the external world and let them each affect the mind in a way that it feels like a single memorable experience.

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MADE FOR EACH OTHER – II

If you have read my first post with the same title, by now you are aware that this post has nothing to do with corny things or love matches. In case you have missed out on that you may read it here: http://eatsiprepeat.com/made-for-each-other-i/. In my second post under this title I am going to write about another one of my favourite pairings.

Knob Creek Small Batch 100 Proof Bourbon Whiskey with Alluvia 100% dark chocolate
Although I simply chanced upon it, I later discovered that the combination I wrote about in my previous post was a tried and tested one. Blue cheese indeed pairs very well with heavily smoked Islay single malt whiskies. This one however, was a pairing based completely on my intuition, as a result of which the satisfaction derived this time round was much more.

Unfortunately American whiskies except Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 and Jim Beam are quite difficult to get hold of here in Kolkata which is why I seldom get my hands on quality Bourbon. Earlier this year, while on transit I picked up a bottle of Knob Creek Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey from a duty free store in the Bangkok airport. I had of course read about it before and it had featured on my must try list for quite some time. Thankfully, I wasn’t disappointed at all.

Knob Creek is produced by Beam Suntory in the Jim Beam distillery in Clermont, Kentucky, USA. It is a Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey which means that at least 51% of its mash must be made from corn. The Small Batch 100 Proof, the brand’s primary expression is bottled at 100 proof or 50% ABV or Alcohol by Volume which is higher than the requirement of at least 80 proof or 40% ABV. Of course, at 100 proof it does retain a lot of fieriness but make no mistake it does carry big, bold and traditional flavours and is surprisingly easy to sip. I sensed some nutty and woody aromas in this beautiful amber coloured whiskey. After taking a sip the rich sweetness hit me immediately followed by generous hit of oak and some spiciness. Despite its heat it has a long and smooth finish leaving a warm feeling down the back of the mouth.

Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon Small Batch.

The 100% dark chocolate which goes by the brand name Alluvia originates in Vietnam and how could I not pick up a 100% dark when I spotted one. It is almost devoid of any creaminess and has an extremely rich earthy flavour profile.

Alluvia 100% flanked by the Alluvia 70%.

Having tasted both elements of my pairing on two separate evenings one evening I suddenly hit upon the idea of combining the two. So I invited my younger brother to join me and I poured ourselves a drink each of the Knob Creek and broke out a few chunks of the 100% dark Alluvia. As is the norm for any pairing, the drink must be sipped first. I sipped on the bourbon and slowly let the warmth recede and then I bit into a chunk of the chocolate. The flavours of Knob Creek do linger on your palate for quite some time after you have swallowed it and that completely changed the flavours of the chocolate. They added to the richness and earthy notes and brought out more notes of cocoa and whiff of bitter coffee. After a while when I went back to the whiskey I was pleasantly surprised to note an enriched sweetness to it. The heat and spiciness were definitely more muted than before. With each sip and bite the entire experience only got richer and richer. Thus I continued with the entire process of eating, sipping and repeating until there were no more eats and sips to be repeated and the memorable evening drew to a close.

Another pair that were made for each other!

I know the 100% dark chocolate is probably not everyone’s cup of tea or bite of chocolate but if paired right it can work very well with whiskies similar to Knob Creek Small Batch. One may even consider pairing it with some VSOP brandy or cognac. That reminds me, I do have some of that chocolate left. It is perhaps time to get myself a brandy. You are welcome to buy me one too.

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MADE FOR EACH OTHER – I

I know I know, this corny phrase is often used for couples who are head over heels in love with each other but rest assured I won’t be caught dead writing about that. There are innumerable such combinations from different parts of the world but I would like to share some of my favourite food and drink ‘couples’ who in my humble opinion are ‘made for each other’.

Laphroaig 10 y.o. with Danablu
At the onset let me be clear, the combination of blue cheese and a smoky whisky is quite a popular one and the choice of whisky does not matter to a very large extent but this particular one is my personal favourite and one that I have indulged in most often.
Laphroaig is a single malt whisky hailing from Islay, a Scottish isle and its distillery is right by the coast. The distinction of Laphroaig is that the germination of the barley malt is halted by burning peat, available in abundance on the island, on the level below. The controlled heat from the rising smoke lends the smoky note to the whisky. After the usual processes of mashing and double distillation the spirit is usually aged in American oak barrels and left to age in their cellars for up to 10 years in this case. By the end of its maturation process the smoky spirit has imbibed flavours not only from the oak but from its natural coastal environment as well, giving it a beautiful golden colour and its distinct smokiness, salty-seaweed like taste with a lingering sweetness on the palate.

The distillery on the coast.
Source: laphroaig.com

Coming to the cheese, blue cheese is just a general term for cheese that has cultures of the mold Penicillium added to it, thanks to which, appear the bluish gray veins throughout the cheese. It is usually identified by the bluish veins and its distinct sharp and salty taste with a semi soft texture. Now, I have tasted the Roquefort from France, Gorgonzola from Italy and the Danablu from Denmark and since the latter is the one that is most easily obtainable in gourmet stores in Calcutta it is the one that I have indulged in the most. Here, the Danablu or Danish Blue, is available in well packaged wedges. It is milder than the other blue cheeses and has a whitish edible rind but despite that the distinct sharp and salty taste maybe overwhelming for some. Usually it is served as dessert cheese or as salad dressing.

The most easily available Danish Blue cheese in Calcutta

I had read a lot about pairing good chocolate with good whisky and good wine with good cheese but one day I just happened to chance upon this particular pairing, of course, later I looked up the internet only to discover that I hadn’t quite discovered a revolutionary breakthrough in gastronomy. I was sipping on some Laphroaig and in the same room my father was nibbling on some apricots and Danablu. In between a sip I just took a bit of cheese on a thin cracker and sipped the whisky again and then what happened on my palate was something that I will never be able to forget.

Source: laphroaig.com

The sharp and salty cheese completely changed the whisky. The smoke became mellower and the whisky went down more smoothly with a much sweeter aftertaste with notes of dried fruits. After the whisky, now the soft crumbly cheese began to feel velvety smooth in my mouth. So, I kept repeating this for the next couple of hours savouring and soaking in the magic that was unfolding on my tongue.

The whisky brought out different characters in the cheese and vice versa.

Since that memorable evening, I have returned to enjoy this magical pairing innumerable times because I had begun to believe some things are indeed ‘made for each other’.

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