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May 02, 2006

Going postal: El Bulli's chocolate with wasabi

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There's something special about getting a package in the mail, don't you think?  In our age of instant communication and gratification, we have forgotten what a thrill it can be to wait, to anticipate.  That's why I love receiving packages in the mail, especially when the package contains a cookbook, kitchenware, or food.

The pattern never varies: I'm always at work when Canada Post attempts delivery, so every once in a while I come home to a delivery notification card.  If I'm really lucky, it tells me I can pick up the package after 5:00 PM that day.  If I'm unlucky, I'm stuck waiting until the next afternoon.  The wait is unbearable.

Package in hand, I often play a little game with myself: how long can I wait to open it?  I always fight the urge to open it in the middle of the post office.  With a little discipline, I usually make it back to my office desk.  I don't know that I've ever left a package sealed until I returned home.

I speak from recent experience.  I've developed relationships with a handful of bloggers over the past several months, including the enormously talented Michelle of The Accidental Scientist.  Michelle and I recently arranged a food exchange: I sent her a package of Soma's Mayan hot chocolate, which she discovered in one of our posts, and a tin of Mariage Frères Marco Polo tea, which Rachel loves (Michèle at Oswego Tea blogs about it here and here).  In Toronto, tins are available for sale at Williams-Sonoma and Balzac's Coffee, and it's served at Holt's Café at Holt Renfrew.

In return, Michelle sent me a package filled with many delicious items I will be featuring in upcoming posts, beginning with this one.  It seems appropriate to use an item we received in the mail, given that this is our contribution to the first edition of Canadian Blogging By Post (CBBP), hosted by the talented and entertaining Sam of sweet pleasure.

The theme for the inaugural edition is chocolate, and thanks to El Bulli: 1998-2002 and Michelle, who sent me a big bar of Scharffen Berger 70% dark chocolate, I have the makings of the perfect postable dish: chocolate with wasabi.

Ordinarily, I wouldn't inflict an El Bulli preparation on anyone who hadn't expressed a prior interest, but chocolate with wasabi is so easy I'm making an exception.  The only ingredients are chocolate, wasabi powder, and water, and the most difficult part of the preparation is melting chocolate.  It's a snap.

Given the searing, nose-clearing ability of wasabi, pairing it with chocolate seemed to come with risks.   There’s no need to fear.   The taste of the wasabi in this preparation is so subtle as to be undetectable most of the time.  Perhaps this is due to the assertiveness and complexity of the Scharffen Berger chocolate, perhaps I screwed up.  I don't know.  Nonetheless, the wasabi does add a textural component -- a roughness on the tongue I find quite appealing -- as well as a pale cascading effect on the chocolate itself that is visually striking.

Now comes the tough part: waiting.  Waiting not only to find out to whom I'll be sending the ingredients to make chocolate and wasabi, but also to rediscover yet again the thrill of receiving a mystery by post.

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Comments

Ian

What a neat looking dessert. It looks like it's part of a rock garden. You're really getting your money's worth out of that cookbook, aren't you? Holy smokes.

So, the wasabi provides some texture and only a subtle flavour? Interesting. I would have thought that the wasabi would overpower the chocolate.

Anita

Wasabi chocolate! I wish I lived in Canada...

cath

Absolutely lovely! Wonderful photographs, by the way.

Peter

http://www.lomejordelagastronomia.com/eng/entrevistaleer.asp?key=Ferran%20Adrià
this a link to an article I tripped over about Mr El Bulli
Enjoy

Kaz

And you were disgusted with me at the year end party. Shame on you.

Ivonne

Wasabi and chocolate ... you never fail to amaze and delight! Well done and congratulations on you first post for CBBP.

Here's hoping the mailman brings you something very special indeed!

gastrochick

I have to say that this combination really excites me. I think chocolate goes very well with hot fiery flavors. I've had the good fortune to try chocolate icecream with chilli which is a similar concept.

Bea at La Tartine Gourmande

Ah, so funny. I made wasabi icecream a few days ago. I guess we are on the same wave of length! Great interesting combination. And I know what you mean about packages...I LOVE to get goodies in the mail as well!

verniciousknids

I love the idea of wasabi chocolate...wasabi to battle hayfever and then chocolate to soothe me...Brilliant :D

rob

Ian, after spending that much on a cookbook, you better use it. So I am. I have to admit, I was expecting to be overwhelmed with wasabi when I made it, but that was absolutely not the case.

Anita, I wish you lived in Canada too. I'd love to taste some of the desserts you whip up in your kitchen.

Cath, thanks for the compliments. I must admit that photographing this was very tough. Let's face it, two dimensional objects don't lend themselves easily to photos. To further complicate matters, trying to create the appearance of dimension without melting the chocolate can be tough.

Peter, thanks for the link to the interview. I read Adria's manifesto with great interest, so it's fascinating to see how he's reacting to the fallout of his declaration.

Kaz, I was disgusted with you because you were very, very drunk. Also, eating black forest cake with a side of wasabi is a very different thing. Of course, maybe you're a culinary prodigy and I'm the fool....

Ivonne, thank you, and I can't wait to see what I get in the mail. I'm just as excited to learn who I'll be sending chocolate and wasabi to.

Gastrochick, I agree with you wholeheartedly. It occurs that the Mayan hot chocolate is similar to this dish insofar as it is made with numerous spices, including chillies. The ice cream sounds especially good given the temperature difference too.

Bea, will we get to read about your wasabi ice cream soon? I can't wait to hear how that turned out.

Verniciousknids, I was unaware that wasabi fought hay fever. Perhaps I should bring some to work for a friend whose eyes were as red as stop lights the other day because of it.

sam

Wasabi and chocolate! I would have never thought of that, only Mr. Adria. I saw the decoding Ferran Adria dvd and bumped into his cookbook last week. Saw the ravioli thing and thought of your post. The desserts in his book look amazing. Thanks for continually sharing. I definitely appreciate it.

Michelle

Wow, you can make even the simplest ingredients look very chic and beautiful! I finally made it on the computer today to see what you've been up to and I'm incredibly honored that you used the chocolate I sent you to make something so very cool! And sheesh, thanks for the nice compliments (**blush**). I can't wait to see what you do with the rest of the goodies... I never make it all the way home with my packages either :) Do fill us in on what you get next!

Bron

I experimented with Wasabi Coconut Macaroons for the 2nd Donna Hay event earlier this year, they were a great success.
I also had planned to add chocolate, so after reading this post I'm all inspired to make them again!

Ceendy

Hi Rob and Rachel,

Thank you sOOoO much for the lovely package! It has safely arrived at my home (without my notice!) and I was so happy to delve into the box.
Filled with various kinds of chocolate I never tried, it was very very thoughtful!
I will try making the chocolate with wasabi then post it someday.

Once again, thank you!!!!!!!!

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