My first foray into alcohol was cider. After that I quickly moved on, and ultimately stayed with, Port for a good number of years. Similarly my first introduction to dark chocolate was Lindt. Twenty five years ago we didn’t have much choice in this country than that overly commercial chocolate maker and perhaps Green & Blacks who laterly sold their soul. Like with many things, the finer pleasures in life take some searching. We have try cider to appreciate the port and we have to try Lindt to appreciate Valrhona, Mast Brothers, Duffy, Marou or whomever your chocolate maker of choice is.
I still have a love affair with port, but port no longer loves me. I haven’t tried any since she left me broken, bruised and with a sore head.
Just like the hint of the perfume a former lover used to adorn herself with can set your mind wondering, the taste of port can remind you of those whimsical, uncomplicated days. Even more tantalising is not being given the full perfume experience, she’s no longer there and the sent has past and the memory fades.
These Fig & Port Pralines from Cocoa Red are the chocolate version of that fleeting glimpse into past happiness. Made with Quinta do Noval port, these pralines are soft, delicate and sumptuous They’re sophisticated despite my unsophisticated desire to eat them like a child devours chocolate buttons. But a child doesn’t enjoy the flavour. They enjoy the sugar rush. These pralines offer a truly adult experience – an intense satisfaction for the moment your teeth descend up on them, pushing the outer layer of 38% Bolivian milk chocolate up towards your nose as if the gorgeous aromas were bursting to be released and the port flavour to become apparent. It is this flavour that is as confident, elegant and as desirable as you could wish for.
The requisite praline ‘crunch’ is there too. But just as with the port flavours, its careful, considered and delicate. Whilst the almond present in the praliné, feuilletine base supports the initial port flavour and leads you into a silky, smooth finish.
No part of the experience is wasted. The chocolate cloth is tailored perfectly and the end result is something stunning, especially as the fig just nudges it off course at the very end just as you expected the direct and perfect melt to continue down the same sumptuous path.