Dish of the Week

The Bomb: Dark Chocolate Ganache, Chocolate Bavarois, Hazelnut  Praline Feuilletine, Coconut Ice Cream & Orange Gastrique

The Cacao bean is one of the oldest and most versatile spices in history with thousands of sweet and savory flavor profiles for a Chef to play with, but when it comes to eating it and satisfying that craving for chocolate that has been around since the Aztec's, your best bet is to go big or go home.  Scientists tell us our attraction to chocolate comes from a chemical reaction to the alkaloids in cocoa solids which produce serotonin and its trigger cousin tryptophane in the brain. Tryptophane is that very neat amino acid thought to regulate mood, appetite, sleep ~ all the stuff which can make or break your day. Sadly, it doesn’t matter if you get there after a virtuous ten mile run or a guilty session at the chocotelier, when tryptophane floods the system with endorphins, it's gonna feel a lot like happiness.

The fact that we mix chocolate with sugar to counteract its natural bitterness also inadvertently contributes to the psycho-chemical reasons we love it, as sugar also acts to slow down our fight or flight impulses. The thing to keep in mind if you plan to use the tryptophane angle to justify a chocolate jones is that it only occurs in cocoa solids. Quality chocolate can be as high as 80% cocoa solids at the top of the  ‘chocolate’ spectrum, but white chocolate, yummy as it may look and taste, actually contains no cocoa solids at all.

When I crave a brief out of body experience from chocolate I want primo bittersweet nibs pulverized into submission, mixed with cream and nuts and fruit. Which is why we invented The Bomb.

The first things Octavio makes is the last you eat: Caramelized Hazelnuts flecked with dark chocolate, rolled with a bit of flour and chilled. This praline feuilletine provides the base for a tower of  vanilla crème frâiche and whipped cream over which he pours  a shiny carapace of 80% dark chocolate ganache. Light meets dark, sweet meets bitter, crunchy meets heavenly soft. It's a chocolate dessert which has everything, even an historical pedigree as we are now using Guittard Chocolate ~ the only remaining San Francisco Chocolate company still family owned.

In summer we love to pair the bomb with the sweetest red berries we can find; in winter citrus is the perfect foil. When Vicki and Bruce Pate dropped off a bag of mixed oranges from Serendipity Farms, Octavio made a gastrique out of them using their tartness to play against the dark and light nuances already going on in the dish. It was a beautiful color. Chef trailed it like lattice work across the plate, connecting the bomb with the final element of this elegant romantic dessert ~ a house-made coconut ice cream.

Octavio has been working on a stellar recipe for coconut ice cream that will be part of our upcoming Oscar Night dinner where each course is inspired by the country of origin of an Oscar Nominee. That dessert will also have compressed pineapple and Kona Coffee mousse as the dessert course is themed to Hawaii, very much the heart of The Descendants.

We couldn't help but wonder how Big O's coconut ice cream would pair with chocolate. In a similar way that the flakes of Maldon Salt on top of the dome serve to extend the complexity of the dark chocolate, the ice cream momentarily stuns the palate, taking your mind away from chocolate altogether, making the return to its luxurious silkiness all the more decadent. It was so good, we decided to put the pairing on our Valentine's Menu.

Like I said, go big or go home.

All text Jil Hales. All photos Jil Hales and Dawid Jaworski (unless otherwise noted).

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