Saturday, September 5, 2015

A Memorable Night With Norman Love And His Chocolates

I was recently invited to a chocolate and wine pairing with one of the most celebrated chocolatiers: Norman Love. The memorable evening took place at the Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams store in the Design District and began with specially prepared hors d'oeuvres from Ni.Do. Caffe & Mozzarella Bar, who kicked off the intimate affair with a special touch that helped prepare our palates for the sweet feast about to occur.


Norman Love always had a passion for chocolate, and thus began to learn the craft of pastry-making in France.  Shortly thereafter, Love served as executive pastry chef for many luxury resorts, including The Beverly Hills Hotel and The Ritz-Carlton. He told us stories of his time at The Ritz and how he opened 30 hotel and resort pastry kitchens during his 13 years in the position, in both international and domestic locales such as Boston, Dubai and Bali.

Norman Love

However, the passion for creating handcrafted chocolates continued to grow in Love's heart - even as he appeared on the 39-part series "Baking with Julia" and authored four books.  After receiving numerous awards and recognitions, including being named one of the country's top 10 pastry chefs by Chocolatier and Pastry Art and Design magazine in 1996 and 1997, and leading the U.S. team to a bronze medal in the biennial Coup du Monde de la Patisserie (World Cup of Pastry) competition in Lyons, France, he decided to leave the corporate world and began a new chapter in his life. The celebrated pastry chef founded Norman Love Confections in Fort Myers, Florida in 2001, blending a master's appreciation of the sensuous with the art of the chef to create unbelievable chocolates reserved for those who expect nothing less than perfection.

The setup for the affair at Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams

I was in awe as I sampled each and every bite of the 15 chocolate delights Love presented to us.  As I listened to his memories of his time in Washington D.C., when he was selected as one of 18 chefs who made a birthday cake at the 150th Smithsonian Anniversary Celebration, my mind wandered to the decadent and luxurious experience my taste buds were embarking on, savoring only the freshest and finest ingredients in each piece of chocolate.

The anticipation is always so exciting...

Love guided us through this journey, advising us to close our eyes and taste each piece of pure chocolate first, then take a sip of the exceptionally paired wine from Hundred Acre Wine Group. The first pairing consisted of  34% White Chocolate and a fresh and vibrant Layer Cake Chardonnay.  After the pure beginning, we went on to indulge in a White Chocolate Lemon Bar, a buttery baked streusel wrapped in tart lemon cream with 34% white chocolate and vanilla. We finished the pairing with a Lemon Pound Cake, prepared with the same chocolate, and topped with fresh lemon icing.

34% White Chocolate

Temporarily transfixed in utter joy, the next pairing was just as sensual and satisfying as the last, filling our senses with pleasure as we followed the same ritual, allowing each texture and intense taste of the 70% Dominican Black to coat our palate before putting the glass to our lips for a sip of Cherry Pie Pinot Noir. The smooth and silky dark chocolate complemented the deep and concentrated richness of the pinot noir, balancing the ripe red fruit aromas in perfect harmony.  I couldn't help but wonder if there was a correlation between chocolate and ecstasy after experiencing Love's St. Domingue Chocolate Mousse.

70% Dominican Black

Course Three continued toying with our senses, this time exposing them to the 74% Peru Black, tasting of black tea, licorice, pepper, vanilla and woody notes.  Chris Radomski, the Co-Proprietor of Hundred Acre Wine Group who presented the wine pairings to us, explained how the Layer Cake Malbec from Argentina was the ideal partner for this Peruvian gem. I found its rich earth notes and brooding black fruit stood its ground with the cocoa creation, allowing us to taste its splendor in elegant abandon. The end result? A marriage made in heaven in each bite and sip of the Peru Chocolate Mousse Love made for us and the wine.

74% Peru Black

Chris Radomski

While our heads were reeling and our hearts were beating in anticipation, the next plate was served with the beautifully presented fourth course of chocolate and wine pairings. This time, in front of us sat a 61% Espresso Truffle, enticing us with its alluring aroma and addicting qualities. The bittersweet, dark roasted expresso beans were steeped into sweet cream, capturing the true essence of this masterpiece. Its flavor was enhanced by the blend that graced our glasses: Layer Cake Sea of Stones. This Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Petit Verdot blend was extremely dense and concentrated, dark in color, and its aromas and flavors lingered in our mouths long after it was gone, taunting us to sip some more.  The seduction wouldn't end there though. It was followed by an Espresso Crunch, another Love creation made with milk chocolate cake, vanilla cream, coffee mousse and espresso crumbs.

61% Espresso Truffle

The final pairing, the climax if you will, came in the form of 88% Venezuelan Black; deep cacao notes tickling our tongue with coffee, licorice and black tea notes. It only seemed right that it would be paired with If You See Kay, another versatile blend, dominated by a mocha flavor and a powerful finish. Their chemistry wouldn't stop at just a mere bite so we completed the multiple happy endings with a Chocolate Almond Cake, made with a decadent 88% Venezuelan ganache.

88% Venezuelan Black

That was the end. I had to take a deep breath and replay this memorable affair for a few moments in my mind before getting up from the table. I knew it wouldn't happen again, not quite to this extent, but that was OK. I had lived the Norman Love experience for one evening, and that would carry me for a lifetime.

Till we meet again...

For more information on Norman Love Confections, and to learn about all of their products and seasonal holiday flavors, visit their website.

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