The Aztecs called it the food of the gods. But for modern-day romantics, chocolate is the food of love: a rich, sensual treat no Valentine's Day is complete without. But what some couples may not know is that eating chocolate releases phenylethylamine, a chemical nicknamed the "love drug," to the brain. It's the same chemical that stimulates the euphoric sensation you feel when you express love for each other.
And though chocolate has never been proven to be an aphrodisiac, its reputation will be forever linked with love, which is why you shouldn't have a wedding celebration without it. Luckily, there are many sublime ways to infuse it into your special day.
If your guest list includes a lot of chocolate lovers (and, really, what guest list doesn't?) giving out picture frames or Jordan almonds would be a crime. According to Diane Kron of K Chocolatier in Beverly Hills — once a personal chocolatier to Jackie Kennedy — wedding favors are the sweetest way to incorporate chocolate into your celebration.
"Through the ages, chocolate has been an elixir of love," she said. "Who doesn't love receiving a box?"
Though K Chocolatier is known for decadent chocolate truffles, couples can choose anything from liquor-filled chocolates to chocolate marzipans tucked into a box with a personalized note to guests. Kron created the Minibouquet — miniature rose boxes filled with chocolates — specifically for weddings. In fact, one bride carried a dozen as her wedding bouquet and then tossed the boxes of chocolates to her bridesmaids at the end of the ceremony.
"Everyone loves chocolate," said Alyson Fox of Levine Fox Events in Los Angeles, who said that her clients "are no longer interested in giving anything that isn't edible and special." She noted that elegant boxes of gourmet chocolates such as Jacque Torres Chocolate or Vosges Chocolate are well received at the end of the reception. "Either way, chocolate is a sweet and delicious end to the evening," Fox said.
Desserts are perhaps the simplest way to incorporate chocolate into the celebration, whether it's in the cake or a fondue chocolate fountain. Jonathan Reeves of International Event Co. said that one couple he worked with loved chocolate so much that they created an entire "chocolate garden" where guests could indulge in chocolate-dipped strawberries, cookies and pretzels, all served atop a bed of chocolate-covered raisins.
Tray-passed fine chocolates are always a hit, said Richard Lauter, chef and co-owner of Savore Cuisine and Events in Beverly Hills, who once created a conversation-stirring chocolate truffle display on a naked woman's body. "A simple rustic truffle is perfect on its own," he said, "but today's truffle comes in incredibly complex flavors, such as Marco Paolo Chocolates' tamarind tea with green cardamom; pomegranate with aged balsamic; and mango red chili gelée and dark lime — just to name a few."
Chocolate needn't be limited to sweets, though. It can add a depth and complexity to savory dishes for a sophisticated chocolate-themed dinner.
"For true chocoholics, infusing chocolate into their wedding menu is a great way to reflect who they are," Lauter said. He pointed out that there is a growing trend of salty-savory chocolate dishes such as bacon and chocolate or chilies and chocolate, which can create a mole negro over sweet corn flan or a beef tenderloin dish with a chocolate red wine Bordelaise. It's also popular to pair chocolate with herbs like lavender and saffron, or musky spices such as cardamom, turmeric, chili powder and cinnamon.
Nathaniel Neubauer, owner and executive chef of Contemporary Catering in Encino, has done several chocolate-themed wedding menus with courses such as cocoa-espresso-rubbed New York strip steak skewers; slow-cooked black beans infused with cumin, chocolate and oranges; and a Cuban duck ropa vieja with chocolate. "These days, people have pretty sophisticated palates, so you can get away with more, such as caramelized bacon topping on chocolate cupcakes," he said.
It is possible to overdo the chocolate theme, though. "It can wind up being too much," said Neubauer, who suggested a subtle approach. "If you are passionate about chocolate, great; but just don't overload your guests," he said. If you aren't certain you want a complete chocolate menu, Neubauer advised bringing in subtle elements such as a chocolate martini and dessert, or by
adding a simple dusting of cocoa to a savory dish.
"Another way to infuse chocolate into the menu is by pairing it with a great wine or port," said Lauter, who at one wedding recently served dark chocolate mousse with olive oil and sea salt served on rosemary shortbread crostino, accompanied by tiny cordial glasses full of aged tawny port. "The trick is to serve a port which is sweeter than the chocolate you are pairing it with."
No matter how you serve or present it, use chocolate to inspire "love" among your guests and each other. After all, that's what you're celebrating. "If you don't have chocolate at your wedding," Kron said, "something is missing."