Monday, February 11, 2008

Happy and Healthy Valentine - Red Wine and Chocolate!

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, my thoughts always think of chocolate. It’s no secret that I happen to love chocolate and red wine together. In the early years of my wine exploration I learned how to drink dry red wines accompanied with chocolate. A bite of chocolate from one hand and a drink of red wine from the other. And of course, I got hooked.

In moderation, dark chocolate and red wine happens to be good for us, besides being delicious and decadent. Chocolate contains flavonoids, particularly potent antioxidants that possess an ability to clear free radicals and protect against inflammation, which helps in protecting your heart. Red wine contains an abundance of the antioxidant resveratrol, which assists in making our cells healthier.

In the Valley we are fortunate to have Lan Wong and James Boulanger, who moved here from New York and opened a chocolatier boutique named Petits Noirs. Their chocolate creations are not only inspired by the fresh produce grown in the Valley, but also derived from the various complex notes found in the wines produced in the area. With interesting flavors such as thyme, lavender, and clove, it is obvious that their chocolates are a natural accompaniment to Walla Walla wines.

Their variation of the French Mendiant is like experiencing a little chocolate bowl of fruit, nuts and spices. Each morsel is made with solid dark chocolate with the addition of fruit, nuts and spice. Two of my personal favorites are the Calmyrna fig, pistachio Mendiants with fennel seeds and in honor of the Aztecs, for discovering chocolate, are the toasted corn nut dusted with cayenne pepper. I’m telling ya, the corn nuts with just a hint of cayenne is a natural chocolate bite with red wine.

I can’t quite wrap head around red wine for breakfast (I am working on it), but I certainly can get into chocolate marmalade. Petit Noirs chocolate marmalades are inspired by the numerous orchards in the Walla Walla Valley. Their marmalades are made with fresh local fruit and generously combined with bittersweet dark chocolate. It is so delicious spread on croissants or on top of brie or goat cheeses and served on sliced baguettes. My favorite way is with a spoon - - right out of the jar and a glass of red wine on the side! Happy Valentine's Day!

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