New Year’s Resolution…go to the dark side!

Are you a milk chocolate fan? What about your kids? Sometimes that’s all kids want because that’s all they’ve ever really experienced.  Or do they claim they don’t like the bitterness of dark chocolate?  It’s time you all come to the dark side. Why? Because all dark chocolate is NOT the same.  Time to rock the boat and add moving to dark chocolate as a part of your health-related New Year’s resolutions. Yes…it’s good for you!

As Americans, we have not had the privileged exposure to fine chocolate like those in Europe. We all grew up with Hershey and Nestle and it was pretty much all milk chocolate…which doesn’t have much real chocolate in it!  The facts are, chocolate is NOT sweet and it can be expensive. So chocolate makers add loads of sugar, anywhere from 80-90% of the product, and artificial flavorings to make it taste like real chocolate to save money. A Hershey’s® Bar is about 11% cacao (and it is probably because the U.S. FDA REQUIRES a minimum of 10% cacao solids). And Snickers® is less than 2%!  So is it the chocolate or the sugar everyone likes? Eating food high in sugar boosts your odds of tooth decay, heart disease, and diabetes, not to mention weight gain.

10659368_10202660763781212_5334588376119262189_nBy moving over to dark chocolate in 2015, you and your kids can slash sugar intake in a big way!  And dark chocolate has proven health benefits. It’s a superfood!But of course, keep it in moderation. Here are some interesting facts:

  • All dark chocolate is NOT the same. That’s like saying every Cabernet Sauvignon from every vineyard is the same. Each chocolate maker, like a wine maker, is an artist in their own way. They have their own processes, proprietary recipes, use different amounts of quality or low quality ingredients grown in various places in the world under distinct climate conditions and in different soils, blend in flavorings or not etc. With chocolate, even how it is processed (ie: conching) can impact the mouthfeel (smoothness, creaminess), flavor and even perceived bitterness. High quality chocolate makers tend to conche longer…which makes their dark chocolates NOT bitter. In chocolate, you get what you pay for. Try the finer chocolate maker’s products. Even chocolates within a maker will be different. Don’t generalize. Experience everything. You will find the ones you will love!  (ask me!)
  • Look for chocolate labels that say 64%, 72% and other percentages over 60%. The % cacao that you see on chocolate labels basically indicates the % of real chocolate vs sugar. So the higher the %, the darker the chocolate and the less sugar, the more the chocolate flavor…and the healthier it is for you!  If it doesn’t have a percentage…stay away
  • Dark chocolate is natural and nutritious. It contains a decent amount of soluble fiber, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, seleniumBenefits of choc
  • Dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids which are antioxidants that have been shown to lower blood pressure, improve blood flow, and boost overall heart health. There are also studies in cancer, diabetes and many other disease states. Choose chocolate that is at least 70 percent cacao or cocoa to optimize the antioxidant power and health benefits
  • Dark chocolate can have more than five times the flavonoids of an apple
  • Dark chocolate may reduce the risk of a heart attack. Research found that blood platelets clotted more slowly in people who had eaten chocolate than in those who had not. This is significant because when platelets clump, a clot can form, and when the clot blocks a blood vessel, it can lead to a heart attack
  • Some studies suggest that dark chocolate can offset Type 2 diabetes
  • Researchers from the University of Copenhagen found that dark chocolate is far more filling, offering more of a feeling of satiety than its lighter-colored sibling. That is, dark chocolate lessens cravings for sweet, salty, and fatty foods
  • Dark chocolate can boost your mood! It contains several psychoactive chemicals that act as stimulants and mood elevators… and may induce same feelings that love does. Key for stress reduction. Dark chocolate also influences serotonin which may provide an energizing effect. This increased energy may also improve longevity and stamina…which in turn has a perceived effect of increasing libido. It’s also seen to have an effect in Chronic Fatigue Syndromeeca871d11ff47a2735c44fae9ccf3446
  • Women who ate chocolate daily during their pregnancy reported that they were better able to handle stress than mothers-to-be who abstained. Also, a Finnish study found their babies were happier and smiled more
  • Dark chocolate can improve your skins ability for UVA/UVB sun protection (read one of my earlier blogs)
  • Not only will dark chocolate help your body ward off the effects of stress, but may boost your brain power. Researchers from Oxford University and Norway studied chocolate’s long-term effects on the brain by analyzing the diets of more than 2,000 people over age 70. They found that those who consumed flavanol-rich chocolate, wine, or tea scored significantly higher on cognitive tests than those who didn’t

There is so much more to learn about the health benefits of dark chocolate, so stay tuned! Make the commitment today to go to the dark side of chocolate for you and your family.

And don’t forget, giving your sweetie chocolate for Valentine’s Day may show you care for their health as well as their heart!

cropped Lisa press photoLisa Mecray Rogers, award-winning Master Chocolatier and Founder of Luxx Chocolat® xquisite artisan chocolate, ChocoVin Chocolate & Wine Tastings® and Luxx Academy du Chocolat offering classes with adults in mind, Ridgewood resident, recognized as one of 2014 and 2013 Best Chocolatiers & Confectioners in America. Luxx Chocolat offers unique handcrafted works of art. Nothing artificial, no preservatives, not mass produced. Now served at Memoire restaurant in Ridgewood!

www.luxxchocolat.com, luxxchocolat@optonline.net, 201-312-7936

Tasteful Tailgating

picnic basketIs it September already? Yup…here we are at the end of the summer, the kids are back to school, the temperature is starting to dip…and football season has begun! Are you a fan?  Whether you are or not, the game will either be on the tube or you’ll be hanging out with friends and family in a parking lot where beer, burgers, hot dogs, chili, wings and potato salad reign. Or perhaps you’re a fan of the Steeplechase. Had enough of the usual?

Although it may be difficult to replace those popular grilled staples, why not look at the tailgate as if it were a multiple course dinner affair, each course paired with a wine? Here are some ideas to upscale and add to the offerings to make it a more tasteful and fun experience!  And remember, just because it’s getting cooler doesn’t mean white wines are out. Get out your fancy wicker picnic basket and real wine glasses and let’s get something started.

oysters

Oysters on the half shell – Open and clean in advance. Make a mignonette sauce and you’re good to go! White wine vinegar, shallot and black pepper is all it is. Don’t forget the lemon.

The wine – Northeast coast oysters are ideally paired with Sauvignon Blanc from France’s Loire River, most commonly known as Sancerre or Pouilly Fume. The briny and steely nature of these oysters pair nicely with mineral or flinty qualities of a dry white wine. Or how about a Blanc de Blanc champagne?

chili

White Chili – OMG good. Get out your crock pot the day before and throw in uncooked chicken cubes, white canned beans, white corn, chopped Vidalia onion, clove of garlic, package of taco seasoning, green chilies and chicken broth. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Top with sour cream, lime juice, cheddar or Colby-Jack and serve with corn tortilla chips.

The wine – Choose a Chardonnay from Chile. Its bright fruitiness and acidity to cut the creaminess of the chili.

breslin lamb burger

Burgers – Try mini lamb burgers instead! If you’ve ever been to The Breslin in NYC, you know how amazing a lamb burger can be. Keep it simple and fresh. Ask the butcher for American lamb patties. Sea salt on each side, then grill it to medium rare, top it with sliced red onion, a slice of feta cheese, ground black pepper, olive oil and put between toasted ciabatta bun.

The wine – Serve with a good Rioja for dark fruit, spice notes, ripe tannins and good acidity or a full-bodied Beaujolais rosé, with notes of ripe fruit, ranging from juicy watermelon to dark cherry or an earthy and smoky Pinot Noir.

salmon

Cedar-Planked Salmon – The salmon rubbed with olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt, black pepper and fresh thyme and the lovely cedar notes from the plank are amazing. Don’t forget to soak the planks the night before!  Roasted lemons and a garlicky spinach with fennel are nice compliments.

The wine –  An elegant Pinot Noir with a smoky, cedar and cinnamon stick finish

fondue

Fondue party – Go retro and get out those fondue pots and sticks! The possibilities are endless….a Gruyère cheese fondue with artisan multigrain bread cubes, hot oil fondue with cubed beef tenderloin, coconut shrimp or veggies. Then there is chocolate fondue for dessert with marshmallows, cake or fruit! And please, make sure it’s good chocolate like Valrhona (available at Whole Foods).

The wine – Wow…too many twists and turns here.  Pair the Gruyère cheese fondue with an off-dry Riesling or Chenin Blanc and the beef tenderloin fondue with Tempranillo, Malbec or Cabernet Sauvignon. It also depends if you have a dipping sauce so pair to the dominant flavor. For a dark chocolate fondue dipped with nutmeg-sprinkled orange slices, biscotti or banana bread, try an Argentinian Malbec with notes of clove, cinnamon, nutmeg and anise.

Luxx Chocolat Contemporary Collection

Chocolate mini-bar – Have a nice array of chocolaty treats! Try an artisan chocolate and wine flight of 3 chocolates paired perfectly with 3 types of wine. Or perhaps griddle pan Belgian waffles. Yes! Waffles made right on the BBQ. Drizzle them with dark chocolate caramel sauce made with Grand Marnier or chocolate-covered drunken strawberries (cognac or champagne soaked before dipping) with whipped cream or cinnamon Belgian waffles with a bourbon and banana caramel sauce and dark chocolate shavings. Oh, I could go on and on!

The wine – The answer here is that it all depends. Depends on the flavors and aromas of all elements of the decadent dish, the percentage cacao, the type of chocolate…etd. Have fun and experiment or ask someone in the know.

Tailgating fare doesn’t have to be the usual! Mix it up and make it an experience involving finer flavors! It’s a winning combination.

Lisa Mecray Rogers, award-winning Master Chocolatier and Founder of Luxx Chocolat® xquisite artisan chocolate, ChocoVin Chocolate & Wine Tastings® and Luxx Academy du Chocolat offering classes with adults in mind, Ridgewood resident, recognized as one of 2014 and 2013 Best Chocolatiers & Confectioners in America. Luxx Chocolat offers unique handcrafted works of art. Nothing artificial, no preservatives, not mass produced.

www.luxxchocolat.com, luxxchocolat@optonline.net, 201-312-7936

Like fairy tales? Not when it comes to wine or chocolate… Fairy tales Dispelled Part One

fairy-tales-002

Just when you think you have a good handle on something, surprise! Well, it’s time to dispel some common tales and partial truths associated with wine and chocolate. And since there are SO many, this is only the first part you’ll be reading. Knowledge is the key to better experiences and offering proper guidance to your family members. And you’ll also look even more brilliant at your next event or dinner party.

Better wines are sealed with a cork?

CorksNot necessarily. Screw capped wines can age just as well as a cork. And times are changing. Traditional cork is becoming a limited natural supply and has ongoing quality issues which impacts the ability to preserve wines from the negative effects of oxygenation on aging and wine preservation and even cork spoilage. Many wineries have been experimenting with plastic and plant-based polymer alternatives and screw caps and can attest that quality control is much easier and in many situations can improve wine aging. The use of these alternatives though are associated with cheap wine, right?

That image started to change about a decade ago, when commercial winemakers in New Zealand and Australia started using the enclosures much more widely for all kinds of wine, including some higher-end bottles. The fact is, screw caps have topped bottles from some of the world’s best wineries for about a decade, and even the most reputable wine critics openly acknowledge that there’s nothing wrong with sealing a wine bottle with a screw cap in lieu of a cork. New Zealand is leading the wine industry with the majority of wineries converting from cork to cap. Wineries in Australia, Spain, South Africa, South America, Canada, the U.S. and France are all testing the capping trend as well.

But even with many advantages over cork, expanded cap adoption really comes down to wine industry marketing reservations due to wine drinkers’ attachment to the pomp and circumstance of opening a bottle elegantly with a cork screw. What matters is what’s in the bottle, no?

Wine critics are always right?

winesnobWine criticism is a very particular thing. Everyone has a different palate although some wine reviewers may have fallen in line with your particular taste on an occasion or two. In order to be exactly in step with a wine critic, your expectations from any particular bottle of wine need to be shared. How do you really know you share the same taste? Our noses, mouths and brains vary in performance from one individual to the next. What it comes down to is learning what traits you like in different types of wines and to trust your palate. Ultimately, you are the one that counts.

Sweet wines pair best with chocolate?

cropped 90s beautySweet dessert, sweeter wine? Why? Forget those who think this is the only way to go. Remember, it’s about your palate, not a narrow-minded view on what makes a great experience. Please…no…  Don’t get caught in the sweet trap as it will limit your chocolate and wine pairing pleasure! Dessert wines, like Sauternes and Ports can make way for too much sweet going on. Occasionally a nice Port and a very dark high percentage and more bitter chocolate, ok. But how often do you really drink dessert wines? Your goal should be to compliment or provide a nice contrast with the actual flavors that exist in the many wines you enjoy normally…like smokiness, pepper, black berry, earth, cherry, honey etc. and not to overpower or compete on a sweetness level. It should be about flavors, scents and aromas! Note though that not every wine does go with chocolate, especially very dry tannic wines, so we’ll be discussing those principles as we go forward. It’s not a simple as it appears.

Stay tuned for the next fairy tale installment of wine and chocolate!

cropped Lisa press photoLisa Mecray Rogers, award-winning Master Chocolatier and Founder of Luxx Chocolat® xquisite artisan chocolate, ChocoVin Chocolate & Wine Tastings® and Luxx Academy du Chocolat offering classes with adults in mind, Ridgewood resident, recognized as one of 2014 and 2013 Best Chocolatiers & Confectioners in America. Luxx Chocolat offers unique handcrafted works of art. Nothing artificial, no preservatives, not mass produced.

www.luxxchocolat.com, luxxchocolat@optonline.net, 201-312-7936

“Women cannot live on chocolate alone. That’s why there’s wine”

wine-dark-chocolateOh, the decadence, the satisfaction and the pure joy that wine and chocolate can bring to our lives. Held high in admiration for centuries, these glorious substances stemmed from Mother Nature. They were deemed as gifts from the ancient Gods and prized for having special powers, offering medicinal properties, health benefits and even having a role in religious and fertility ceremonies and, of course, inspiring love and passion. There were many goddesses and gods connected to chocolate and wine around the world. The most well-known for chocolate being the Mayan Goddess Ixcacao, the God Ek-chuah and the major Gods of wine, Greek Dionysus and Roman Bacchus, the wine party God. We still highly revere the power of chocolate and wine today and perhaps worship them in our own way.

Did you know…?

  • The beginnings of chocolate are now believed to date back over 3,000 years with the Olmecs in Central America, not the Mayans
  • Cacao, meaning “God food”, was worshipped by the Olmecs, Mayans and Aztecs for its mystical and aphrodisiac properties. Chocolate is made from beans grown in pods on a cacao tree
  • Aztec emperor Montezuma, who had over 600 wives in his harem, is reputed to have consumed fifty golden goblets of chocolate a day to enhance his abilities
  • Casanova is even said to have indulged in chocolate before seducing his women
  • Cacao was so highly prized, the Aztecs used it as currency
  • The first solid chocolate bar was introduced in 1847 by a British chocolate company called Fry’s. Up until then, chocolate was consumed as a drink often mixed with spice, vanilla and honey
  • Wine is our most ancient alcoholic drink, perhaps dating back 10,000 years, and it still is held in high esteem
  • Wine is said to have saved growing populations from the diseases caused by bad water
  • In ancient Greece, a dinner host would take the first sip of wine to assure guests the wine was not poisoned, hence the phrase “drinking to one’s health”
  • “Toasting” started in ancient Rome when the Romans continued the Greek tradition but started dropping a piece of toasted bread into each wine glass to temper undesirable tastes or excessive acidity
  • Early Roman women were forbidden to drink wine, and a husband who found his wife drinking was at liberty to kill her. Both the Egyptians and Romans believed that women who drank were promiscuous and adulterers
  • An Italian study argues that women who drink two glasses of wine a day have better sex than those who don’t drink at all

But even though wine and chocolate have been associated with excess, they don’t have to be guilty pleasures. Today we know, in fact, that both dark chocolate and red wine have magical qualities as they contain vital antioxidants that, in moderation, may help prevent cancer, heart disease and other illnesses. We will explore these and other health benefits throughout the summer!

Cheers!

cropped Lisa press photoLisa Mecray Rogers, award-winning Master Chocolatier and Founder of Luxx Chocolat® xquisite artisan chocolate, ChocoVin Chocolate & Wine Tastings® and Luxx Academy du Chocolat offering classes with adults in mind, Ridgewood resident, recognized as one of 2014 and 2013 Best Chocolatiers & Confectioners in America. Luxx Chocolat offers unique handcrafted works of art. Nothing artificial, no preservatives, not mass produced.

www.luxxchocolat.com, luxxchocolat@optonline.net, 201-312-7936

 

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