Lindsey Becker

In Chicago, Ada Street's dramatic chocolate toast has a drizzle of Tuscan olive oil and sea salt sprinkled over dark chocolate ganache.

Decadence Done Right

As dessert headliner or beverage ingredient, chocolate can satisfy desires for savory or sweet.

Of all the holidays, Valentine’s Day is perhaps the most indulgent, especially when it comes to decadent desserts. Lately, mixologists and chefs have introduced chocolate into every daypart, on beverage to pastry lists.

At COYA, a Peruvian restaurant in Miami and London, the Algarrobina in the Tropics is a signature cold brew served at brunch. The bittersweet combination of pisco, coffee, coconut cream, grated Peruvian chocolate, and algarrobina—a syrup made from the fruit of the black carob tree found in northern Peru—has resonated with diners.

Similarly, Summer Schott, executive pastry chef at Cameron Mitchell Restaurants, uses Bitter Truth Chocolate Bitters for “a chocolate mole undertone” in the Rum Punch, which also includes Don Pancho 8 Year Rum, Orchard Apricot liqueur, and Ancho Reyes Chili liquor. Available at the company’s Ocean Prime locations, it is made with fresh orange juice and, despite what sounds like a disparity of ingredients, Schott says it “portrays how chocolate does not always have to be the main flavor, but can subtly add to a dish or drink.”

The chocolate in the Kona Steak Rub, developed by Rich Friedrich, culinary director for PJW Restaurant Group, is also not as pronounced as other ingredients, which include coffee, dry mustard, and grated Pecorino. At The ChopHouse, which is located in Gibbsboro, New Jersey, the rub is the key ingredient that yields earthy tones and a crusty, dark char in the sirloin.

Similarly, Zac Young, executive pastry chef of David Burke Group, says, “I like to think of chocolate as a technical ingredient. I know if I use a little white chocolate in my whipped cream, the cocoa butter in it will act as a stabilizer.”

As far as sweets go, he says, “I’ve recently been using chocolate in a supporting role. Although I make many chocolate-centric desserts, I also love using chocolate as an accent ingredient.” This is why one of his most popular concoctions at David Burke Fishtail in New York City is “The Big Apple Mousse,” a Mascarpone mousse and apple compote molded into the shape of an apple, then dipped into a Valrhona Dulcey chocolate glaze—white chocolate roasted so the sugars and milk solids caramelize.

While the Rattlesnake Club in Detroit touts many chocolate-hued desserts, its trademark, created by executive chef Chris Franz, is white chocolate fashioned into ravioli and stuffed with dark chocolate mousse. An equally dramatic presentation is the dark chocolate ganache spread on toast points, then drizzled with high-quality Tuscan olive oil, and dotted with sea salt at Ada Street in Chicago. Chef-owner Michael Kornick says, “We use high-quality chocolate that is never heated over the melting point, fresh whipping cream, and Tuscan virgin olive oil. It’s beautifully savory and sweet.”