A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending industry night at Madame Chocolat in Beverly Hills. It was a chocoholic's dream come true: a wine and chocolate pairing in celebration of National Chocolate Week. That's right, Chocolate Week. Our great country has an entire week dedicated to all things chocolate so naturally, it was a perfect opportunity to taste some of the best.
In my opinion, some of the best chocolate happens to come from legendary chocolatier, Jacque Torres. He works his magic from a larger-than-life chocolate headquarters in Manhattan, making everything from decadent truffles to chocolate-covered Easter peeps to chocolate-covered corn flakes. Considering that it's hard for me to get to New York, I go for the next best thing: Madame Chocolat from chocolatier Hasty Torres. Sound familiar? It should, as the San Gabriel Valley native is Jacque Torres' wife. She's also a USC graduate (go Trojans!) and one of the friendliest foodie folk I've met. To say she's passionate about her craft is a serious understatement because quite simply, Hasty was put on this earth to make chocolate. Her workshop/chocolate shop is the definition of a family affair, as it's run by Hasty with help from her parents; also wonderfully down-to-earth people dedicated to seeing their daughter's dream come true.
Hasty Torres, aka Madame Chocolat, in her shop
Hasty's talent is apparent; after training at Pasadena's Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts and working with Jacque Torres, her extensive knowledge of chocolate is nearly foolproof. Her ingredients are sourced from Belgium, a Mecca for some of the world's best chocolate. All tempering, molding and design is done in-house by Hasty herself, as was the overall design of her shop. Mimicking a traditional French chocolatier, Madame Chocolat's warm, welcoming chocolate shop is painted with five light shades of green and shimmering cream. The contrast between the front of house and the workshop is stark (and purposeful), with the workshop filled with precise instruments meant to produce high-quality, first-class chocolates: stainless steel tables, tempering machines and racks and racks of molding trays.
Hasty's front of house, chocolate display, workshop and dark/milk chocolate tempering stations
Turns out you can cover anything in chocolate: rice krispie treats, peeps, cookies and marshmallows (s'mores!)
Back to chocolate night. We tasted five different types of chocolate, each paired with a wine. White chocolate with chardonnay, a raspberry-filled chocolate with pinot noir, caramel-filled chocolate with merlot, dark chocolate squares with dried fruit and roasted almonds with cabernet and finally, decadent dark chocolate truffles also with cabernet. My details about the final few wine pairings are admittedly fuzzy, as the wine and chocolate tasting became more like a wine and chocolate party. Hasty and her family undoubtedly know how to have a good time, gathering their guests around the workshop's stainless steel tables and liberally passing trays of chocolate and bottles of wine. It was a true extravaganza.
White chocolate with Madame Chocolate's signature logo