Chocolate and Valentine’s Day. It’s a match made in heaven.
And one that goes back to the 19th century. According to the Smithsonian, Richard Cadbury in the 1800s began packaging cocoa butter into heart-shaped boxes. Fast forward to today, and what’s Valentine’s Day without a box of chocolates?
But South Florida celebrity chef Paula DaSilva says, that’s not the only chocolate delicacy that makes for a sweet – and mouthwatering – gift.
While preparing for a special dinner she’ll be hosting in collaboration with chef and TV personality Cat Cora as part of the Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival presented by Capital One (SOBEWFF®), DaSilva discovered a new side to chocolate.
"Chocolate really melds into and works well with savory," says DaSilva, who heads the Burlock Coast restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton in Fort Lauderdale.
DaSilva and Cora will be presenting a lucky group of attendees with a chocolate-themed dinner, featuring dishes made with chocolate.
Just a preview of these creative and surprising dishes: a canapé made from chocolate fried chicken and wasabi honey; chocolate & espresso dusted beef tenderloin and a strawberry white chocolate milk shake.
“Chocolate is such a versatile and unique ingredient,” DaSilva says. “There are so many different layers to it. It’s luxurious and rich. People associate it with romance and comfort. For Valentine’s Day, people often wonder, ‘How can I impress my significant other with something that can surprise them?’ And who doesn’t enjoy a good chocolate?”
For those who’ll be hunting for the perfect box of chocolates (and some wine) for their Valentine, DaSilva recommends pairing dark chocolates with bolder, red wine. One of her personal favorites is the red Zinfandel. For milk chocolates and those including caramel in the mix, she recommends going with something lighter like champagne or Prosecco.
If you’re feeling more adventurous, why not try making a chocolaty treat for that special someone?
DaSilva’s top chocolate dessert picks include a simple molten chocolate lava cake and chocolate budino – a creamy Italian custard-like mousse that can be served warm or cold.
You can also create a chocolate fondue bar. Whip up some chocolate dip or ganache (cream and chocolate) and feature some diced oranges, bananas, pineapples, and of course, classic strawberries on your table.
If you want to get even more creative, you can try your hand at including chocolate in various savory dishes. If spicy is your thing, add chocolate with jalapeño peppers to make a sizzling ceviche. And (you may be surprised to discover) that the classic Mexican mole recipe, calls for chocolate, chili peppers and onions.
“We often just associate chocolate with dessert,” DaSilva says. “But there’s so much more that can be done with it. The chocolate really enhances and changes the profile of the dish.”
DaSilva’s top tip: Make sure you get good quality chocolate. This means finding good boutique candy stores or taking a trip to Whole Foods. DaSilva recommends buying chocolate “pistoles,” a type of chocolate chip.
If you’re an amateur baker (and trying to start small), creating a chocolate dip for strawberries using the trustee Hershey chocolate bar is a great way to start.
To experience a feast for your taste buds, don't forget to buy your tickets for SOBEWFF®, which will take place from Feb. 19-23. FIU alumni, staff and parents may use the codes FIUALUMNI20, FIUSTAFF20 and FIUPARENT20, respectively, to save 20 percent off select events.
All proceeds from the Festival, started by FIU's Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management at Biscayne Bay Campus, benefit the Chaplin School. More than 1,200 students help run the Festival’s 3,200 plus shifts.