All in a Day’s Work
People often ask me if I eat chocolate every day. The answer is oh my… yes. The funny thing is that before I started Vosges Haut-Chocolat, I wasn’t particularly a chocolate gal. I always enjoyed chocolate, but I never foretold, that some day it would be an hourly part of my life. When I had finished my culinary training, I was nervous to realize that I didn’t want to work in a restaurant. I struggled – what is my purpose! So while trying to figure out I moved to Dallas to work for my saavy Uncle John Himelfarb. He had just left Neiman Marcus to start his own home decor business and was searching for great chocolates for the holiday gifting season. He put me on the task and I noticed there was nothing I would ever want to eat (filled with preservatives I couldn’t pronounce and no story other than the grandma’s recipe story) and certainly no innovation in the chocolate world. I began experimenting….
Today, chocolate is as essential in my kitchen as salt. It touches sweet and savory dishes. Chocolate is the center of my culinary world. Chocolate is my livelihood. Chocolate is my medium for telling stories.
As Vosges Haut-Chocolat has grown, so has our product line and my work. All this creation requires a lot of tasting as I hone recipes. A few days ago, I brought home an enormous box of samples from the kitchen. Usually, I taste a few things a day but now and then, I need to work through dozens of samples.
I cleared the dining room table, gathered water, crackers, paper and pencil and the evaluation began. One by one, I worked my way through over 20 different chocolates, tiny bites making notes for my tweaks of shell thickness, temper, texture, armoa, etc.
My tasting ritual? I start with light chocolate and lighter flavors and move to more depth and spice. Otherwise, a palate can’t detect subtleties as well. Between bites, I sip water and cleanse my palate with crackers or plain bread. I’m careful to eat strong foods before tasting (first thing in the morning is best). Before each taste, I take a deep breath and put a small piece in my mouth, break it up and raise to my palate on my tongue. I let it rest and coat my tastebuds. It is important to take a deep breath at this point and note of aromas, initial scents and lingering flavors.
If needed, I take a little break. Tasting too many things at once can be a bit like overdosing on perfume samples in a department store. Your senses become fatigued. But like with most things, practice improves your skills. Try it… begin tasting a bit of chocolate every day or a few different chocolates in a flight. You’ll get better at noticing subtleties of aromas each time you taste.