A Night with Theo Chocolate: Recap

The thing with recap blog posts is that they never do the event justice. If you were at A Night with Theo Chocolate, then I don’t need to tell you that it was a great night. The objective was to provide a fun, educational experience about chocolate – with food, wine and cocktails thrown in for good measure. If smiling faces, empty wine glasses and full stomachs mean anything, I think it means that the night was a success.

Hell, even I had fun. And I can’t remember the last time I organized an event and had time to enjoy it.

The Cocoa Flip

We started the evening with Lauren Mote’s Cocoa Flip, a tantalizing mixture of Vista d’Oro walnut wine, homemade chocolate vermouth, lemon, Lillet, sugar, and a whole egg. I loved it at the trial run, I loved it on event night, and I still love it. In fact, I’ve told her that I’m never ordering anything else at the Refinery. She laughed because she thinks that I’m kidding, but I’m not. I never kid.

Savoury canapes

Guests were treated to two of Mike Carter’s custom canapes: a pork mole incorporating 84% single-origin Theo chocolate from Ghana, and a coffee-crusted lamb on crostini, with fig-fennel-almond-Shiraz glaze. The pork was definitely my favourite, striking a great balance between savoury and spicy.

Story time

Joe Whinney kicked off the evening with a story about how he got started in the chocolate business. Highlights of story time include cocoa pods, a pickup truck, a gun, and two poisonous snakes. Clearly, I’m not doing the story any justice, but trust me, it’s a good one.

Enough! What about the chocolate?

We started the event with the first pairing: Theo Chocolate’s 84% Ghana bar with Farmstead Claus Preisinger Basic. The chocolate is, in a word, kick-ass. It’s robust and confident, deep and dark, and if you met it in a bar it would introduce itself brashly and shake your hand just a little too vigorously and squeeze just a little too hard. It paired really nicely with the Claus Preisinger Basic, which, actually, pairs well with most things that I’ve tried it with.

Note that I’m not going to do the wine tasting notes any justice. I don’t talk about wine in any sort of professional way. If you want that kind of content, go read a wine blog. This one’s good. I like this one, too.

The second pairing was the Theo Chocolate 74% Madagascar bar with Farmstead Marc Tempe Rodelsberg 2004. I don’t know which one I like better: the chocolate or the wine. The chocolate is typical of one from Madagascar, with lots of red fruit and cherry notes, and just a little bit of subtle spice at the finish. The Rodelsberg is a beautiful wine, all fruity and delicate, with a pleasant sort of complexity. Not the kind of complexity that makes me feel like a moron with wine, but an interesting sort that makes me stop and put on my thinking face.

The third pairing was the Theo Chocolate fig, fennel and almond bar, from the 3400 Phinney line, with Farmstead Agricola Marrone Arnies 2007. This bar is sticky and full of interesting textures. The fennel announces itself right off the bat, steps aside for the chocolate to do its thing, and then there’s the crunch of almonds. The finish is all crunchy, crackly fig seeds in your back teeth. I love it. This was an interesting pairing that people either loved or hated. I liked each product individually, but the pairing didn’t quite work for me. Hey, it’s a conversation starter, right?

The final pairing was the Theo Chocolate Jane Goodall 45% milk chocolate bar with Vista d’Oro walnut wine. This bar won a Sofi award at the 2009 New York Fancy Food Show for best organic product. This bar is one of my favourites from Theo. I find most milk chocolate cloying, with an irritating milky aftertaste. The Jane Goodall bar is all butterscotch and caramel, with a clean finish. It’s a thing of beauty, really. This was also my first taste of the much-vaunted Vista d’Oro walnut wine, and it’s also beautiful. The two of them together? Heavenly.

What? There’s more?

Joe kindly brought some selections from the Theo confections line. The mint confection tastes like summer, captured in a bite-sized chocolate morsel. The ghost chile caramel is gooey caramel with a dangerously spicy kick at the finish, and was selected as best confection at the 2009 New York Fancy Food Show. The Madagascar confection is Joe’s favourite, and is a ganache version of the single-origin bar. My favourite of the entire line (and that says a lot) is the burnt sugar: almost smoky, slightly burny, and totally delicious.

Mike Carter also brought out goat cheesecake popsicles dipped in 74% Madagascar chocolate, and milk chocolate creme brulee with hazelnut crunchiness inside.

Seriously? You’re not done yet?

To finish things off right, Joe and Mark (who invited him to the party?) bought a round of bourbon for everyone at the bar. Everyone was excited about the draw for the door prize. One lucky guest won a Chocolate 101 tasting from Xoxolat for her and 14 of her best friends.

On their way out, people helped themselves to chocolate. You know, for the road. It’s hard out there, these means streets of Vancouver. More than a few people opted to take advantage of their prime seating and have dinner at the Refinery.

Thank you!

This event was a success only because I had the support and help of some pretty amazing people. Special thanks to Joe, Lauren and Jeff – you’re all rockstars.

Also, thanks to Karen Hamilton for photographing the event on such late notice – and for not smacking me when I forgot to thank her at the event. Check out Flickr for more of Karen’s great photography from the event.

Thanks to our sponsors:

And last, but certainly not least, thanks to everyone who attended the event. I hope that you had as much fun as I had.

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