This was my second Recchiuti Taste Project event. The first was the Salt and Chocolate tasting which inspired many dishes and a shopping spree at The Meadow in Portland. The beer tasting was really for my husband who is the alchemist behind the Barely Legal brews. Of course, I enjoy the end product, he enjoys the process and the science. The brewer sharing the “stage” with Michael Recchiuti was Dave McLean of Magnolia Brewery in San Francisco.
We sat down to a plate containing three small cups and a ramekin. The cups each had malt in various stages of roast. The ramekin had one of the toasty malts covered in chocolate, slowly coated until it was equal parts malt and chocolate. Sitting in that with a 64% Valrhona chocolate disc sprinkled with some toasted Maris Otter malt. Barley is such a wonderful grain. It’s complex; it can be sweet, the more you chew it the more sugar you can extract. It gives us everything from barley soup to beer to malted milk balls. So when you think about it, pairing beer with chocolate isn’t odd. People have been drinking malts for decades and that’s just refined barley mixed with some chocolate ice cream!
Dave and Michael took us through the brewing process while we were nibbling on chocolate covered malt and watching a video loop on the wall that showed the brewery in action. The grain being milled, added to the boil, all the way up to pouring pints at the brew pub. The grain, post-mash, is still great for compost or animal feed so they try to get farmers to come take it. I got the impression that’s a challenge in the city. Any farmers out there who want grain and can pick it up may want to contact their local breweries, they may have a rich, healthy feed source!
Up next was wort soda. This probably was crazy-weird to many people, but wasn’t overly complex or unusual to someone who has had unfermented wort a number of times! It was bubbly, cold, malty soda. It was a dark malt so it was almost coffee-like and a little bit bitter (like black coffee). What was crazy-weird was the malt-foam cube marshmallowy thing. It was, let’s say, interesting!
We then moseyed into the kitchen for a little tour and treat. We saw the cooling tunnel that takes the chocolate through a trip at temperatures from 58° to 62° to 71° so it comes out at room temperature. We weren’t waiting for ganache to cure, we got fresh chocolate. Michael had cooked down the hopped wort and added white chocolate — not the crap you get from the mass-produced chocolate factories. Pure, real,un-deodorized El Rey cocoa butter. He coated this mixture with chocolate right in front of our eyes, a beautiful thing. As these set (this only took seconds) we tried the unfermented hopped wort from Oatmeal Stout and Kolsch. Both were obviously headed toward being stellar beers. And then we got to eat the fresh chocolate. This was insanely good. These could never be produced to sell because the high water content of the filling gives it a shelf life of about three days. This was my favorite taste of the day. Rich, creamy, unique… WOW!
Now comes the part that you can enjoy as well. Get a box of Recchiuti chocolates and head to Magnolia brewpub. Time for the chocolate-beer pairings flight!
#1: Blue Bell Bitter with Candied Orange Peel
Who knew? The Maris Otter malt in this beer has a citrusy aspect to it so the orange worked so well! The bitterness matched up and the confection enhanced the orange peel flavor in the beer.
#2: Spud’s Boy IPA with Star Anise and Pink Peppercorn
This was a dud for me. I don’t particularly like IPA and I don’t like anise. The beer quote of the day came from discussing the IPA though. Dave said, “Beer doesn’t have to be pale, yellow and insipid.” YES!
#3: Big Cypress Brown Ale with Burnt Caramel
Both the beer and chocolate are toasty (the burnt caramel is made with sugar that’s been brought to 420°!) The chocolate emphasized the bitterness in the beer that didn’t stand out without chocolate. This was a perfect pairing.
Are you on your way to Magnolia with your black box yet?
We got to try an Imperial Stout out of Dave’s stash that was made in 2007. Imperials really improve with age. Michael made an incredible devil’s food cake with a white chocolate ganache on top. The beer was light in alcohol but rich and caramely with the cake. And then there was the gelée. I’m not a gelée and foam gal. This was also a case of what David and Michael called “illusion of food” because you taste with your eyes first. The appearance affects your expectations. The gelée looked like a little piece of chocolate, it was most definitely not. It was hoppy and bitter and, well, gelée-like. I hate that texture. This was not for me… the cake was though!!
For dessert (heh) we had a float made with malted 64% Valrhona ice cream and Dark Mild beer. Who needs root beer? Glug, glug, mmmmmmmmm. This ice cream… holy my gosh. Seriously, I’ve never had chocolate ice cream that creamy, rich and amazing. When’s that next ice cream social?
I’d say I can’t wait until the next Taste Project event but I don’t have to. I’ll be heading to the Acme Bread and chocolate event in less than two weeks! For those of you who still think you’ve had good chocolate but have never had Recchiuti, you are fooling yourselves. Order some! You will love me forever for it.