Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Celebration of Celebrations

I know I've been posting about milestones and celebrations lately -- because you know what? Sometimes things are a big deal. And when a big deal comes along -- and we all know they don't come that often -- things have to be special. I hinted a couple of weeks back about being covered in chocolate. Well, there's a good reason.

When special occasions come along that merit not one, but multiple celebrations, the one that ends things off should be a great one. The timing of our celebration was a bit coincidental -- St. Patrick's Day evening -- but the theme was much better than green beer and Catholicism. There was beer, but not much talk of the Irish Saint. Instead, we paired the beer with chocolate. Not fancy wine pairings and tastings here. No wine and cheese platters and fancy muscat grapes. Chocolate treats washed down with beer -- now that's a celebration.

I first heard of this party idea on CBC radio last Valentine's day, when they suggested this as a unique way to celebrate the day. Their version involved getting different bars of quality chocolate, and sampling a square or two with different beers. Each type of chocolate went with a certain type of beer. CBC's special guest beerologist Mirella Amato recommends the following pairings:

white chocolate: English Ales
milk chocolate: dark beers like Guinness, stouts and porters
dark chocolate: fruity beers, high alcohol beers (hello fancy Quebec bottles!)

The first time we tried this chocolate beer idea was in the summer. I'm not a beer person, so I couldn't tell you the names of the beers we tried -- but some were delicious. Coffee and chocolate porters, a really dark Guinness-like stout, those fruity berrylicious intense Quebec beers -- I remember this really yummy dark cheery one! The English ales I couldn't handle at all -- way too bitey. And the chocolate treats? Well, let's see .. Nigella's chocolate cloud cake, milk chocolate chip cookies, whole wheat brown sugar chocolate cookies, white chocolate and fresh raspberry blondies, and truffles! The dark ones rolled in coconut, the milk ones in cocoa powder, and the white ones with added chopped sour cherries. This recipe really helped -- you don't need the margarine. So did this one. And this one...yeah, there was tofu in the blondies!

This time around, we went easy on the white chocolate because it wasn't everyone's favourite, and I played with a silicone chocolate mold that my love bought me for Christmas. We used three different types of dark chocolate: regular semi sweet buttons, Callebaut bitter sweet chips and Lindt 90% chocolate bar (which melted like a dream and poured oh so smoothly!). We filled them with pistachos and honey, cashews and coconut. I think those were the most fun to make. This recipe really helped. Pistachios are ground and then mixed with honey -- so sweet and nutty. The cashews were ground up with the coconut -- no sweetener this time, but it came together with the help of a splash of almond milk. You simply melt chocolate, fill the molds half way and put them in the freezer for a few minutes. Then, pull them out, put your filling in and add more melted chocolate. So easy and fun!

What else? Milk chocolate brownies with cocoa nibs -- crunchy and so chocolately! A repeat of Nigella's cloud cake because that's everyone's favourite. White chocolate chips oatmeal cookies with dried sour cherries and coconut -- a surprising favourite! It's a spin off of this recipe -- the one that made me love butterscotch, and now, white chocolate. A fun and easy treat -- milk chocolate covered pretzel twists. And my personal favourite -- dark chocolate popsicles. If you make anything, make these. Recipe here. I replaced half the water with strong brewed coffee and didn't bother with the whisking for ice cream -- popsicles or rather fudgesicles were much easier.

I urge you have this chocolate beer party. I don't even like beer and it was a blast. It's rainy and cold outside -- what better way to spend the day than plan a party. You don't even need a reason. Good friends are enough. Get chocolated!

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