This bowl was passed around three times, each one with a different chocolate sample.

After Dark at the Exploratorium – Pairings: Chocolate, part 1

February 12, 2016

by — Posted in Food Spots

I love chocolate — it is definitely one of my favorite foods, especially dark chocolate. I also love the Exploratorium — it is a playground that caters to my nerdiness. So when I learned that the Exploratorium was having an evening focused on chocolate, I knew I had to be there.

The Exploratorium is a science museum on the Embarcadero in San Francisco that’s filled with super cool hands-on exhibits that make learning science concepts fun and engaging. It’s one of those places where I could spend hours walking around and playing with all of the displays, fascinated by how everything works. The Exploratorium started holding After Dark events for adults on Thursday nights, which feature special presentations and add alcohol to the science fun. Every second Thursday is their Pairings presentation, where they talk about food — and this month’s theme was chocolate.

I know, you’re thinking, “Rica, this isn’t a restaurant! Why are you writing about this?” Because I’m a nerd (as in, I got married on pi day – 3.1415), and I love food (hence this blog). Therefore, Chocolate + Exploratorium = Awesomeness. And I must write about awesomeness. QED.

We attended a talk by the “Chocolate Sourcerer” of Dandelion Chocolate, a chocolate manufacturer based in San Francisco who makes their products from bean to bar using cacao and sugar that they source from various places around the world. It was quite fascinating to learn about their process of choosing cacao sources, harvesting and preparing the beans to create their delicious chocolate bars.

What made this talk even better was that we also got to sample a few chocolate items! I’ve never been to one of these Pairing presentations before, but one of the presenters explained that normally there’s one food tasting and one drink tasting at these events. This one was a little different. We had the one drink tasting, but we also had a savory dish, a dessert, and a few pieces of chocolate.

The savory dish was a chicken mole, which was prepared with three types of chilis. It had a very bold flavor, and I could definitely feel the heat from the chilis. The dish was delicious but I’m glad that it was only a sample. It might also be because I had dinner before this presentation (also chocolate-themed!) but the mole felt very heavy due to its strong taste and while the spice wasn’t unbearably hot, it was certainly strong, so I was only able to eat a few bites. My husband loves spicy food and chocolate, so he enjoyed the mole a lot.

Our savory and sweet chocolate samples.
Our savory and sweet chocolate samples.

The dessert was a chocolate mousse with cocoa nibs and a little whipped cream on top. The mousse was light and I liked that I could taste more of the chocolate rather than sugar. The nibs were great because they added more of the bitter flavor that dark chocolate has, which I love, and it also helped to vary the texture of the dessert and give it more substance as I bit into it. Very well made dessert.

A taste of locally brewed chocolate porter
A taste of locally brewed chocolate porter

The beer was a chocolate porter brewed locally by the Marin Brewing Co., which I actually liked despite the fact that I am not a huge beer fan.  It didn’t feel as heavy as dark beers tend to be for me, and I could taste the chocolate notes – which proves the statement that chocolate makes everything better.

Then we tasted a few chocolate bars from several countries: Venezuela, Dominican Republic, and Madagascar. Dandelion uses only two ingredients in their products — cocoa and sugar — and they use the same 70% chocolate / 30% sugar mixture in their bars. However, it was fascinating to find that even though the chocolate bars were prepared the exact same way, they all tasted different because of the bean’s origins.

This bowl was passed around three times, each time with a different chocolate sample.
This bowl was passed around three times, each time with a different chocolate sample.

Dandelion’s products are all single-origin, which means each bar only has cacao that came from one specific country. Since the flavors that come from the cacao beans can vary based on the weather each country experiences at any given time, you can buy the same bar from Dandelion Chocolates multiple times over the years and experience different flavors.

I had such a fun time learning about chocolate – so much fun that I ended up checking out the Dandelion Chocolates website to see what classes they have. They not only do tours and classes at their factory, but they even have week-long chocolate trips to cacao plants!

For those of you in the Bay Area, I highly recommend attending these After Dark nights, especially the Pairings.  I’m planning to go back for the Cheese one in May, and if it’s just as good as this chocolate one, there may be another post about it!

Stay tuned for part 2 of this post – the pre-presentation dinner.  This delicious meal was also chocolate themed!

Exploratorium
Pier 15 (Embarcadero at Green St.)
San Francisco, CA 94111
http://www.exploratorium.edu

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