Recently I caught up with Michael Klug from chocolatier L.A. Burdick to talk — what else — chocolate. Beyond working at Michelin-starred restaurants all over the world, he’s a master chocolatier whose bonbons are some of the best in the country.
“Try this one!” he said, pushing a hazelnut bonbon toward me. “Now this one!” A Kenyan milk chocolate with coffee grinds. Then the Richelieu, a dark chocolate cherry truffle with vanilla and a hint of cumin, garnished with a dried red cherry “cap” like the French cardinal likely wore. We continued like that for a while, with me stuffing my face and Michael giving some great advice:
On Cocoa Percentage
“Would you choose wine based on the percentage of alcohol?” Nope, that’s why 85% cacao or 70% cacao doesn’t mean that much in the scheme of things: Balance is everything.
On Tasting Bonbons
“Eat a bonbon slowly. Let it aerate. Cocoa butter melts at body temperature. It’s more interesting when you can discover the subtleties.”
On Making Ice Cream
“Add chocolate at the end, after you’ve made the base.” That way you won’t get frozen chunks of chocolate but a nice creamy frozen treat.
He also brought out some amazing new bonbons that L.A. Burdick will feature in April: Hand-cut elephants with Marcona almond ears. They’re just about the cutest things I’ve ever seen.
The milk chocolate is filled with orange ganache, but it’s the dark chocolate that steals the show: They’re filled with passionfruit and amarula ganache. Turns out elephants in Africa love marula fruit and eat as much of it as they can get their trunks on (it actually makes them lose their balance and act drunk — even though they’re not!). Amarula liqueur is made from the marula fruit, and Michael thought it was the perfect way to honor the elephant. Five percent of the proceeds from the sales will go toward the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust to protect African elephants.
As I ate more chocolate bonbons than I thought possible, Michael and I started commiserating about the whole chocolate and red wine pairing thing, and after trying his truffle with MacAllan whiskey and pistachio marzipan, I had a revelation: Why do we keep trying to pair things that don’t go together? In Michael’s words, the acidity of wine and chocolate fight each other rather than harmonize.
That’s why he’s helping me put together a comprehensive pairing guide for my book that will include some pretty nifty and new pairings: tea, coffee, and more, as well as new-school classics like whiskey.
I’m super excited about this, since it won’t be the same tired combinations you’ve seen a thousand times.