Pairing Videri’s darkest chocolate with what Scotch I got
During the whole of a very productive day at work, a fun series of exchanges on Twitter led me to visit the Videri Chocolate Factory in downtown Raleigh again. I was last there buying gifts for Christmas. I needed to return, and their generous offer of free treats was more than enough incentive.
I arrived, collected my treats, ordered a box of different chocolate ganaches, and enjoyed some laughs with the staff. I then moved over to their coffee section for an Americano.
The barista asked what I had purchased, I answered, and she pointed out a lack. “If you like dark chocolate,” she said, “you have to try our Heart of Darkness. It’s 90 percent cocoa.”
The “90 percent cocoa” part would have sold me if the name hadn’t done it already. I had a brief vision of Kurtz getting lost in flavanols. The heart-health! The heart-health!
So I bought one with the coffee and trundled back to the office.
Now as it turns out, most of the chocolate has not made it home with me this evening. In the meantime, I’ve encountered an article about which wines pair best with Girl Scout cookies. Though I can’t quite say exactly why, that seems a bit wrong to me. But in thinking about that I realize I can try pairing the Videri confections with, not wine, but Scotch.
There are problems with this plan. One, I know very little about pairing tastes. Take wine, for instance: I know what I like, but I lack the proper vocabulary and any ability to make a convincing pretense of it to play the sommelier. No, I won’t be tossing off jejune little phrases like “hints of anice with burnt coffee undertones.”
“I like this; it’s kinda earthy and not too sweet” is more my style. That and “It was on sale.”
By the way, depending upon how you say it, “It was on sale” can convey a wide range of opinions, from “surprises in its excellence” to “an uninspiring effort” to “it smells like cat sick.”
The second problem is, I didn’t hatch this plan till all I have left is the one Heart of Darkness chocolate. Why did I just buy the one? I’m struck by the sudden thought that I can wait till tomorrow and get more.
No. I want to do this now. Plus I don’t want to run the risk of absentmindedly consuming the last chocolate without giving it a meaningful end. I owe it to its brothers. This is how to rationalize.
One more problem: This needs to be a useful, practical tasting. I think it goes without saying that the Heart of Darkness, like damn well everything else, will taste divine paired with some rare, high-dollar whisky. I’m sure it’d make interesting reading describing how it goes with a dram aged in authentic Roman-era casks and originating from the kidneys of Sir William Wallace himself, but few of us can afford that. More to the point, I can’t.
That means what’s in the cabinet is what’s in the tasting. So of the single malts, I have, let’s see, a 10-year Ardbeg, a 10-year Laphroaig, a 12-year Glenfiddich, a 12-year Glenlivet, a 15-year Balvenie, and a 16-year Lagavulin.
I’m going to try a shot of the Glenfiddich 12 first, because that was the first Scotch I ever had. Hm. Smooth, mellow, rather subtle now. That’s quite a change from my first sip ever, in which I thought I had poured myself nuclear cough syrup. My palate has matured, I think is the term.
Oh! Right! The chocolate. Let me start over.
Taking a nibble of the Heart of Darkness, I let myself savor it. It is stark and bitter, and I mean that in the best way possible. I love dark chocolate. I don’t want the chocolate to win me over with sweetness and flattery. I want to experience its character, to know it intimately, not superficially. With patience in the pursuit, this chocolate certainly reveals its heart. It is complex, winsome, and dear. This is sitting at the breakfast table with sleep lines, no makeup, and a rumpled shirt giving you a knowing smile.
A shot of Glenfiddich 12 follows. It provides contrast, maybe even vanilla or maybe I’m overthinking it. I’m not sure it’s the complementary taste I want, but I can’t discount the fact that it’s not my favorite Scotch. Besides, it was on sale. As a pair, the chocolate is the more vividly engaging of the two, a high-flying Villiers tethered to an understated, though well-grounded Maturin.
Another nibble of Heart of Darkness. Too much of a nibble, I realize. I must be more attentive to conservation now, so I try to commit these flavor contours to memory. Savoring.
Up next is a shot of the Glenlivet 12, which was the second Scotch I’d ever had, back when I wondered if all Scotches were named Glen like 1970s country singers. It is mild, even a little sweet, though I think I detect hints of peat. So while this is overmatched with the Heart of Darkness, given enough time together I think the two would tease out a friendly partnership.
I test this idea with another shot. I could definitely see them hitting it off, yes.
A smaller nibble. So little left! And here a shot of the Balvenie 15. I’ve always liked the color of this Scotch. It looks like liquid honey. I mean, a less viscous honey. That sounds vaguely unappetizing. Forget it. Anyway, it seems to have a honeyish sweetness to it but also a stronger bite than the two rhinestone dramboys. I’m sure an expert could tell you it’s because of how it’s been aged in what casks for how long.
For my purpose, the Balvenie 15 holds its own with the Heart of Darkness. This Scotch has its own appealing bits of character. I could see these two carrying on like Benedick and Beatrice. I pour another shot. No, they could seem at first to be warring with each other, but underneath all that is a mingling that nears sweet.
And the last of the chocolate, with several Scotches to go. Time to hit the peatier stuff. Here is the Lagavulin 16. Do you know, some reviewers say this stuff tastes like iodine? Pardon me, but who the hell goes around drinking iodine? Such a person is not to be followed for advice, if you ask me.
The Lagavulin is exceptionally smoky, and I like that a lot. Others around me don’t seem to like its “campfire smell” — my wife, kids, even the cat make faces at it. I don’t care.
As a pair with the Heart of Darkness, the Lagavulin 16 brings out an elemental, even primal aspect of the chocolate. OK, I admit, that is the peat talking. Let me try another swig. Peat, repeat. (Is that funny? Probably not. But just now, to me, it was.)
A confession: I don’t really remember the exact taste of the chocolate any more. But I liked it with the Lagavulin. That coupling was more like Brad and Angelina in “Mr. and Mrs. Smith.”
And I’m sure I would like it with the Laphroaig 10, which to me is even smokier. Out of dedication to the process, I’m miming having a full bite of the Videri Heart of Darkness now. And here, a hearty shot of Laphroaig.
Yes, I definitely liked that. Yes, it’s probably good no one saw me doing that.
Oh, and the Ardbeg! More smoke, would taste great with a Heart of Darkness if I had some, take a swig and imagine.
Well, I think the results of this test have proven one thing beyond a doubt: I didn’t plan this well at all. And also, the Videri Heart of Darkness is too small.
It pairs well with Scotch, as I thought. But when you run out, for some reason things start getting a little fuzzy.
The next time I do this I won’t wait till the last piece. Coffee ganache with an Irish coffee? Strawberry anice ganache with, do I have something with burnt coffee undertones? Either way, pretty sure I need coffee.
— Jobangles (@j0bangles) a Raleigh writer and fan. He makes entirely too many literary allusions.