Chocolate works magic in vegetarian cuisine. Cacao Barry recently partnered with Matthew Ravenscroft, chef of the lovely Rosalinda, his new Mexican vegetarian restaurant, to host a Cacao Collective Flavour Dinner honouring Chocolate and Corn.
Rosalinda itself has an unusual long and winding floor plan, which offers quiet booths for two, and larger booths for four or more, as well as large tables for groups. In fact, nothing about Rosalinda is conventional. In bursts of brilliance, Ravenscroft added the magic of chocolate to enhance his inventive vegetarian cuisine, and caringly paired a wine with each dish. I had the privilege of joining some of the cities most creative young chefs in a unique tasting experience at Rosalinda, and with each complex dish I ate, my admiration grew.
Cacao Barry, an international company that has been a purveyor of chocolate to the trade since 1842, is renowned for the purity and quality of its chocolate from crops harvested in exotic cacao growing countries. Spanish conquistadors “discovered” chocolate centuries ago in Central and South America. It remains the world’s favourite flavour. It is enjoyed in every conceivable way from classic cakes, cookies and pies to chocolate-covered ants, chocolate-covered strawberries and chocolate-covered ice cream. It survived the trendy 70s pastime of body painting. But the respect chocolate is given at Rosalinda by Ravenscroft’s presentations is chocolate reaching a most profound level.
Enriched and mellowed by Equateur 76% chocolate, there is a bit of heat in an appetizer that features Ontario Beets, Chimichurri, Sesame, and Anise. The perfect escort on the plate is a crispy, tasty Ciccarone. Adamo Legacy Pet Nat, fizzy and fruity is an interesting pairing.
Chocolate Mushroom Taco
A dark chocolate taco lies flat on the plate, ready to enfold its sumptuous topping of wild mushrooms, chanterelles, wild blueberries, crunchy shards of charred jalapeno and a thoughtful sauce of pear pico de gallo. The wine pairing offered is Domino de Punctum Leguas Orange (skin contact) wine.
Mole Negro & Sunchokes
This is the dish that my casual census of table mates elicited the most “Wow”, and I agree. Using Rugoso 71% chocolate for the Mole sauce, sunchokes are baked to tenderness and partnered with corn pico, and plantain-white bean puree. A fine pairing is Austrian Meinklang Blaufrankisch.
Ravenscroft creates a fabulous dessert using Esmeralda 74% chocolate combined with a corn product to produce a lush frozen chocolate pudding with Jackfruit Granita and broken chunks of Meringue. With this, we go to Pearl Morrissette Metis Rouge Pinot Noir.
We love a dinner that ends with two desserts – could be that the chef couldn’t decide which to serve, and offered both. A luscious empanada with ice cream made with Guayaquil 64% chocolate, and a sprinkling of pomegranate, hazelnuts, and morita. A fitting ending is a shot of Bartenders Mezcal.
In the spirit of frankness, I am not a vegetarian and have not even dabbled with the idea. However, the dishes presented this evening allowed me to peek into a whole new and delicious flavour spectrum that I have never experienced before. And there is nothing more exciting for a food writer/lover than this.
Sara Waxman is an award-winning restaurant critic, best-selling cookbook author, food and travel journalist and has eaten her way through much of the free world for four decades, while writing about it in books, newspapers and magazines. She is the Editor in Chief of DINE and Destinations magazine.