By Hope Nelson, Edible DC contributor
Let’s be clear: Any afternoon is vastly improved by beer or chocolate. But pair a craft beer with artisan chocolate and you’ve got a party indeed. So it was no wonder that by 5 p.m. earlier in April, the tasting room at Alexandria’s Port City Brewing was already alive and well, reveling in an across-the-river visit by Undone Chocolate.
On its face, chocolate seems to pair more nicely with wine than with a frosty pint. But take a closer look at the complexities of Port City’s beer lineup – and Undone Chocolate’s treat selection – and a new viewpoint emerges. A Bolivian chocolate with the Essential Pale Ale? Sure! Almond and Himalayan Pink Salt with a Colossal III Heller Bock? Why not?
“Try letting one of the chocolates melt in your mouth before you have a taste of the beer,” another patron tells me as I eye the aforementioned almond-and-Colossal pairing. “You can really absorb the flavors then.”
He’s right – a penny-sized portion of chocolate melted down in no time, and when washed away by the beer, the complexities of both food and beverage sang out in a joyous symphony.
And that’s the point, says Undone Chocolate’s Adam Kavalier.
“We were welcomed by Port City. … When we come into a brewery, just the appreciation for ingredients, for flavor, for food, and for this natural pairing of our foods together,” Kavalier says. “The complexities and the intricacies of different origins, versus different ingredients and styles of beer, (are) tremendous. And they complement each other so well that there’s sort of a natural knack (and) we just really hit it off with brewers.”
And while Port City’s beers ferment away in their casks just outside the tasting room, Undone Chocolate has also brought its operation under one roof, with a home base in the District.
“We do all the roasting, the grinding, the tempering, aging, molding, wrapping of our chocolate bars,” Kavalier says. “So to go from a cocoa bean to a chocolate bar takes nine steps. So by doing all those steps we’re able to control the flavor development to make very consistent and high-quality products.”
But back to the pairings. Undone’s inclusion bars – which feature the likes of almonds, pink salt, and spices – met their match with Port City’s Colossal line, including the newly released Colossal V, but they weren’t the only games in town.
“The Porter’s really chocolaty and rich, so it really stands up well with the Oko (Dominican), which is our darker chocolate,” Kavalier said. And the lighter, more buttery Nicaraguan chocolate made a lovely date with the Tartan, an ale bringing with it a hint of roast caramel.
“It’s so fun to partner with other businesses and do pairings and events like this because it raises people’s awareness of what chocolate is,” Kavalier says. “Chocolate is such a new frontier of food development. I mean, we’ve been around for a year and a half, and the craft chocolate industry is five or ten – at the most – years old, so it’s nice to join with more established food communities.”
Hope Nelson is a tofu-loving food writer who's happiest in the kitchen (or watching college football). She lives in Alexandria, Va., with her husband, Mike, and their cat, Lucky Abigail. Check out her food blog at www.kitchenrecessionista.com or email her any time at firstname.lastname@example.org.