“Food of the Gods”
The ancient Mayans considered chocolate as the “food of the gods.” Luckily, today it is a more earthly delight, readily available to us mortals. While about three-fourths of the world’s cacao beans are now produced in Africa, Mexico was the cradle of chocolate civilization. Cacao trees have grown in profusion over the ages in areas of Mexico and Central America. The Aztecs and Mayans figured out how to process cacao beans into a bitter drink believed to possess near-mystical properties.
Spanish conquistadors took note of the fact that Aztec Emperor Montezuma was served this strange brew in cups of pure gold, and that cacao beans were considered so valuable they were used as currency. Sensing their value, explorers carried the beans back to the Old World. Eventually, Europeans added sugar and other refinements to the mix, and one of the most palate-pleasing flavors and enduring culinary sweet spots was born.
A writer could run amok with superlatives when describing chocolate, so let’s just cut to the chase. Chocolate is big business.
This year, the global chocolate market is expected to reach $98.3 billion
This year, the global chocolate market is expected to reach $98.3 billion. This fact should impress foodservice industry bean counters. According to research conducted by the National Confectioners Association, when people are asked to name their favorite flavor, over 50 percent respond with “chocolate.” Consider sweetening your bottom line by taking a bite out of the chocolate pie chart.
The National Restaurant Association What’s Hot 2016 Culinary Forecast lists “house-made and artisan ice creams” and “bite-size mini desserts” as Nos. 1 and 2 in the dessert category. Operators can easily combine the two trends. How about pairing layers of fine quality chocolate ice cream with chocolate cake chunks in tall shot glasses. Garnish the tops with a dollop of whipped cream and chocolate shavings or sprinkles and a perfect raspberry. Tiny teaspoons are also required for this pint-sized trifle.
A pan of economical brownies or chocolate sheet cake can easily be elevated into triple chocolate petit fours. Simply cut into small squares, cover with chocolate ganache and garnish with your logo or monogram in melted white chocolate. Arrange two petit fours on a plate with a small scoop of chocolate ice cream for an easy signature dessert that will delight guests of all ages. For added impact, drizzle hot fudge sauce along the plate rim and add color contrast with mint leaves and a plump strawberry.
Let’s eavesdrop on some impressive chocolate goodies on dessert menus across the nation:
At Iron Chef Michael Symon’s Lola in downtown Cleveland, a fresh take on tiramisu layers sponge cake with mascarpone mousse, milk chocolate ganache and Kahlua gelee. It’s served with cinnamon ice cream.
Tony’s in Houston features a Tuxedo Cake of devil’s food, mascarpone, chocolate mousse and toffee bar topping.
Brennan’s in New Orleans is known for its desserts. The Black Forest Cake is layered with dark chocolate mousse, chocolate ganache and bing cherry ice cream.
Balthazar, the authentic French bistro in New York City offers a Warm Chocolate Cake with white chocolate ice cream and Chocolate Pot de Crème with toasted almond cookies.
Any article devoted to chocolate would be remiss if it did not mention the savory side of chocolate. Most notable, of course, is mole sauce. In Mexican cuisine, mole sauce brings a unique flavor profile and point of difference to many authentic dishes.
Acenar on the River Walk in San Antonio presents grilled Adobo Pork Tenderloin with Mole Guerroro and Mole Verde; and Enchiladas de Mole, chicken-filled tortillas served with Mole de Poblano and Chihuahua cheese.