BY Sheela Prakash
It's sophisticated. It's indulgent. And it really only takes a bar of chocolate (or two).
This one goes out to all those dinner party hosts who are afraid--or just plain resentful--of dessert: You don't need to make soufflés. You don't need to buy a box of pastries. You don't even need to make cookies. You just need to put out a couple bars of dark chocolate.
Never mind that it's almost comically easy. It's also a lovely, thoughtful and--yeah, I'll say it--sophisticated way to end the night. If you do it correctly.
Chocolate is exactly the way chef Marco Canora of Hearth in New York City likes to end a big meal at home, and what he's offering diners at his new wine bar Fifty Paces. His dark chocolate boards are "inspired by my own desire to have something that feels decadent but not sugary and sweet at the end of the meal," he says. At the wine bar, he offers a high-quality dark chocolates presented much like a cheese or charcuterie board, so diners can nibble on them and compare the nuanced flavors while finishing their last sips of wine.
You can do the same thing at home on any night. Here's how to do it right:
Go for the highest quality chocolate you can find, and buy a couple different bars to try. For the most interesting chocolate board, go for dark chocolates with 70% or more cocoa. Grab bars from Valhorna or Scharffen Berger, and also keep an eye out for bars from domestic producers like Amano, Mast Brothers, and Askinosie, just a few of the many smaller chocolatiers making incredible bars these days. Serve the chocolate at room temperature, broken into pieces on a plate, a napkin, a tray, a cutting board, the table, whatever: this is supposed to be easy.
As far as what to drink with your chocolate, there is really no right or wrong. While sweet dessert wines, like Port or Moscato d'Asti, are traditional with chocolate, Canora likes to take an unconventional route and sip something harder. "I am more of a fan of the stronger liquors. Since chocolate is super fatty and rich in the mouth, you need the astringency and strength of a rum or bourbon to clean your palate." Dry wines can also work. Try to choose something either full-bodied and raisin-y like an Amarone (to match the richness of the chocolate), or go to the opposite end of the spectrum with something super lean and high in acid. For example, a Pinot Noir will clean your palate in the same way a rum or bourbon would.
GO ONE STEP FURTHER
Drizzle extra virgin olive oil over some broken pieces of chocolate and sprinkle them with a bit of flaky sea salt. While it may seem like an unlikely match, the olive oil lends a surprising touch of freshness to the rich chocolate, while the salt highlights the chocolates' tang. No flaky sea salt? No problem--the point here is that it's not complicated. As Canora says: "Just break a piece off and have at it."
More from Epicurious:
20 Must-Try Ways to Pair Items You Already Have In Your Pantry