My next assignment task was to create a chocolate dessert and match it with a wine from a restaurant menu. We are very lucky to have a wonderful restaurant, Potager, just down the road. They serve our estate coffee, Wirui Estate, and I pop in regularly to check supply and of course eat. Recently I had mentioned to them that the coffee worked well as a cold brew and this would probably suit their espresso martinis. This prompted me to consider the espresso martini as a match for my chocolate based dessert. That idea then morphed into a visual matching of both dessert and drink served in martini glasses. With this in mind I decided upon a chocolate mousse with a white chocolate mousse crema to reflect the look of the martini.
I’ve used a very traditional chocolate mousse recipe from www.goodfood.com.au which combined only couverture chocolate, eggs and sugar. Making the mousse is really quite easy as long as a few rules are followed. I broke the couverture into even pieces and placed them in a glass bowl over a simmering pan of water and left it there for a few minutes to melt. The recipe had stated the chocolate should not be stirred so I obeyed these instructions, waited for the chocolate to melt. I then put the eggs and sugar in the mixer and beat it well until it was thick and creamy. This aeration (McGee 2004, p.557) of the egg and sugar locked in air bubbles adding to the lightness of the mousse. In a clean bowl with a clean whisk I then beat the egg whites until soft peaks formed and then very gently mixed all three elements together. According to McGee (2004), if mixing the whites into a mousse there is no value in beating egg whites beyond the soft peak stage to incorporate the foam. The completed mousse was then scooped into martini glasses leaving about a centimetre clear at the top for the ‘crema’. I then covered the glasses with cling film and put them in the fridge.
When I tasted the mousse I realised that I had either slightly overheated it or a little steam had affected the melting chocolate. As a result there were very fine lumps of chocolate throughout the mousse. The steam had probably reacted with the sugar in the chocolate, binding it together. If I had realised this earlier I could have mixed in a little butter or cream into the melted chocolate to release those lumps and it would have had a smoother result.
Next came the white chocolate mousse for the crema effect using a recipe by Philip Johnson from Ecco Bistro in Brisbane. This was a completely different process, the white chocolate which is much lower in cocoa butter and higher in sugar was melted by placing it into the heated cream mixture. Gelatine was used to set the mousse. I had always been slightly afraid of using gelatine leaves until I saw a simple demonstration a few years ago where the chef placed the leaves into a bowl of cold water and ice cubes for a few minutes. The leaves need to be soaked in cold water to allow them to ‘absorb moisture and dissolve readily’ (McGee 2004, pp.205-209). After soaking they were squeezed to remove the excess moisture from the leaves and dropped into the warm cream mix and stirred. While the mousse was cooling, before it set completely, I spooned some onto the top of the chocolate mousse creating the crema effect.
The chocolate mousse was made, the guests were invited and I had a plan for pairing. My initial thought was the espresso martini but I wanted to compare it with a dessert wine. I decided to talk to the restaurant crew to gain their input. When I arrived at the restaurant the staff were outside discussing the new crop of vegetables. I asked for advice on the pairing with a chocolate dessert and was greeted with dismay from the gardener who then recommended a sparkling shiraz. I was left wondering why the gardener had more to say about matching than the chefs but discovered he had been a master of wine at another well-known restaurant. Peter, the owner of Potager, recommended and gave me a bottle the NV Allsaints Muscat from Rutherglen, Victoria. This is on their wine list and recommended to accompany their chocolate based desserts. I also had a bottle of Ironbark Hill Vineyard Liquer Shiraz which gave us a wider range for comparison.
The matching of food and wine in the past, according to Montanari, had the aim of ‘reaching an ideal point of balance’. It was based on ‘the theory of four conditions (cold, hot, dry, wet)’ (2012, p.151) where now we look for shared flavours or contrasting elements for refreshment. I found the approach of Arnone and Simonetti-Bryan and their ‘Seven C’s of Pairing’ to be a useful approach (2013, pp.5-6) and then selected eight criteria for scoring the aspects of the drinks. These were aroma, acidity, sweetness, mouthfeel, aftertaste, matching, complementing and preferred beverage.
The main meal was a vegetable paella with lightly baked ocean trout with a salsa verde drizzle. Then followed the chocolate mousse. The reactions to the mousse were very positive as seen on a simple hedonic scale. The guests enjoyed the fine lumps as they thought it gave a nice texture to the dessert. I did confess that it was a mistake.
The espresso martini was fresh, it cut through the richness of the mousse with a hint of bitterness that complemented the chocolate. One guest thought it was a “mocha rush” and another a “match made in heaven”. In terms of the Seven C’s we felt it was ‘Complementing’ as the chocolate and coffee attributes created ‘a bridge’ leading to a ‘Two-Way Pairing” enhancing both food and wine (Arnone & Simonetti-Bryan 2013, p5).
The muscat tended towards ‘Matching’ (Arnone & Simonetti-Bryan 2013, p.5) as the similarities were more in richness and mouthfeel. When the glass was viewed before tasting it showed legs, or streaks down the glass indicating a higher alcohol level, along with an autumnal, attractive colour. The higher alcohol level can add to the texture of the wine which Harrington assesses along with food texture when matching food and wine (2005). The spicy, smooth nose led us into the wonderful viscosity of the wine, matching the velvety texture of the mousse.
The shiraz also had legs, was a dark, stormy colour but did not display anything significant in the nose. As Shepherd referred to Robert Parker’s description the wine was too powerful for the mousse and displayed stronger tannins and a long aftertaste (2012 p.212).
The methodology used for the pairing could very loosely be called ‘preference testing’ within the scope of Subjective Sensory Evaluation (Fuller 2016, p. 240). The panel members certainly represented the target market of the local restaurant (Fuller 2016, p. 240), a mix of locals and short stay tourists, and all couples who enjoyed food and wine and finding interesting places to eat. We first of all used the hedonic scale to assess the mousse alone and then tasted each beverage in combination with the mousse. When considering Dornenburg’s writings we had followed his rules of thinking regionally, being guided by our senses and looking for a balance of flavours (2006, p.24).
The final result was mixed as three diners, all women, preferred the espresso martini and three, all men, preferred the muscat. All diners loved the look of the martini with the mousse so I felt that my experiment was successful. We were very responsible in our consumption of alcohol as we shared the drinks for the tasting process so did not over-imbibe. The most enjoyable outcome was the fun we had in the process, lots of laughter, good company and a memorable meal.
200g couverture chocolate
6 large free range eggs, separated
100g caster sugar
Place a glass bowl over a saucepan of water and bring to boil. Make sure the bowl isn’t in contact with the water. Add chocolate pieces and remove from heat. Allow chocolate to melt, without stirring.
Place egg yolks and sugar in an electric mixer and whisk for 5 minutes until the mixture is pale and creamy and doubled in volume. Combine with the chocolate.
Beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold gently through the chocolate mixture in two batches.
Pour into individual glasses and cover with cling film. Refrigerate for one hour until set.
White Chocolate Mousse
300 ml cream (whipping)
1 vanilla bean scraped
200g white chocolate couverture – shaved
3 egg yolks
1 gelatine leaf, soaked in ice water
300 ml whipped cream
Put cream, vanilla bean and seeds into saucepan over medium heat and bring to the boil.
Pour into heat proof bowl, stir in chocolate and whisk in egg yolks.
Put over pan of simmering water.
Cook, stirring 15-20 minutes until thickens and coats the back of the spoon, do not boil.
Remove and transfer to cool bowl. Stir in gelatine, cool to room temperature.
When cool, gently fold in whipping cream. Pour into moulds and refrigerate overnight
30 ml Wirui Estate cold brew
30 ml Kahlua
50 ml vodka
Place all ingredients over ice in cocktail shaker, shake well for about 20 to 30 seconds, strain into glass.
Matching and Seven C’s of Pairing (Arnone & Simonetti-Bryan 2006, pp.5-6)
Arnone, K & Simonetti-Bryan, J 2013, Pairing with the masters, a definitive guide to food and wine”, Delmar, Cengage Learning, New York.
Dornenburg, A 2006, ‘Food and beverage pairing 101’, in A Dornenburg & K Page (eds.) What to drink with what you eat, Bulfinch Press, New York, viewed May 15, 2018,
Fuller, G 2016, New food product development, from concept to marketplace, 3rd edn, Chapman & Hall/CRC, viewed May 15, 2018,
Harrington, R J 2005, ‘The wine and food pairing process: using culinary and sensory perspectives’, Journal of Culinary Science & Technology, Vol.4, No. 1, pp.101-112, viewed May 24, 2018,
Johnson, P 2006, Classic Ecco, Murdoch Books Pty. Limited, Millers Point, Sydney.
McGee, H 2004, McGee on food and cooking, an encyclopedia of kitchen science, history and culture, Hodder & Stoughton, Croydon UK.
Montanari, M 2012, Let the Meatballs Rest : And Other Stories About Food and Culture, Columbia University Press, New York, viewed May 23, 2018,
Shepherd, G M 2012, Neurogastronomy: How the Brain Creates Flavor and Why It Matters, Columbia University Press. New York.