chocolate lab

Adventures with Chocolate

Chocolate obviously makes a great sweet treat, but who knew it went so well with savory?

By Kellee Katagi

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Every now and then, there’s a headline I can really get behind. Like this recent gem from Boston magazine: “Study: Chocolate May Keep Your Heart Safe.” Or this keeper, found on the Forbes website: “Chocolate Has Some Scientifically Proven Health Benefits.” Any article that justifies my daily chocolate habit is fine with me.

So was the news of a restaurant that recently opened here in my hometown of Denver, delectably named Chocolate Lab. Phil Simonson, the genius behind the new eatery with the tagline “Combining art and science in chocolate,” is a master not only at the usual treats and truffles but also at unexpectedly delicious combinations of sweet and savory. I would have never dreamed of topping honey-chili-glazed brussels sprouts with cocoa nibs and shredded mizithra cheese, but I’m sure thankful Simonson did!

My taste buds are also in love with a few of his other creations, including: medjool dates with Grand Cru gruyere and milk chocolate, wrapped in bacon and flavored with chocolate balsamic; and slow-roasted pork with bourbon-chocolate barbecue sauce.

I’m not naïve enough to think I can recreate these exact dishes at home, but they did inspire me to be more adventurous about incorporating chocolate into…well, just about everything. To start: I got myself some cocoa nibs and have taken to sprinkling them on veggies, salads, yogurt, meats and more. Next, I plan to play with mixing powdered cocoa into marinades and sauces.

And finally, I’m going to take a cue from Simonson and include not just fruits but also veggies for dipping the next time I melt chocolate or have a chocolate fountain. Ever try dunking a white onion in dark chocolate? I have—and I’m better for it.

Kellee Katagi has spent most of her 20-plus-year writing and editing career covering fitness, nutrition and travel. She’s also never turned down an offer for a chocolate bar.

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