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    Meet the new couple in town — chocolate and whisky

    Last week I came across a rather unique dinner concept for Bangalore – rather than the regular wine-paired dinners, this one paired whisky and chocolate across seven courses of a tasting menu. Conceptualised by Mysore-based artisanal South African chocolatier David Belo, the meal by The Oberoi’s executive chef Amit Wadhawan featured combos like winter vegetables with chocolate, house-cured salmon and panko prawns with chilli chocolate ganache and whisky dressing, sous vide tenderloin with bitter chocolate jus.
    Regular conventional pairings — the food and wine kind — seem all but passé these days. Everyone is looking for newer, more unusual ways of getting diners’ attention and loyalties by tickling their tastebuds in novel and curious ways. And chocolate is a favourite ingredient. Belo, a former bartender turned baker-chocolatier has seen a 270 per cent growth in the last year among his Indian buyers who have taken to single origin dark chocolate, and to him it seemed a natural transition to move to chocolate-inspired dinners. No more is chocolate just a sweet thing for dessert.
    A chat with Belo, who has been working with single origin dark chocolate sourced from Gokarna and Kerala, revealed some interesting insights. His customer base, for instance. “My clientele consists of young trendy fashionable professionals, much more aware of good wine, whisky and good food, and who are constantly looking to educate their palate with new food experiences; as also the mature customer with evolved tastes,” he tells me. Having traversed from trendy hip whisky bars like Boisdale’s whisky bar in London’s Canary Wharf where he bartended while with the London Academy of Bartending to the quiet serenity of Mysore, he has also observed changing trends in the Indian food and beverage space along the way. “There’s been a gradual shift in people’s perceptions in India,” he says. “Dinners like this might be new to India, but chocolate and whisky have been done before in the West for a while. And the adventurous diner here is catching on quickly.”
    I asked Amit Wadhawan, the creative mind behind the night’s menu how easy he found it to create these out-of-the-box menus. “Anything not run-of-the-mill is exciting,” he said, “I did a little research and it wasn’t hard to find ingredients which marry well with chocolate. Chocolate is not, as people think, always sweet, but can be bitter too. In fact, I think venison and chocolate or duck with chocolate would work excellently.” What about takers for these menus? “There will always be takers for good food with an element of surprise,” he says. Belo echoes this. His experiences with trends in food and beverages internationally have thrown up some favourite combos. “Heavily-peated whisky with fresh oysters is popular, especially in Scotland. As is really great wine paired with sourdough bread made with blue cheese and walnuts, which is currently big in the UK. And a good añejo tequila works brilliantly with Mexican food.”
    Sounds like some pairings are made in heaven!

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