It all started out innocently enough. I was talking to someone about dark chocolate and they asked me what sake would go with it.
Maybe nigori, I thought? Although I'd had it before with chocolatey desserts, I hadn't tried it with bar chocolate. So I told him I'd check and get back to him. Which is how I ended up at Shinwazen catching up with the wonderful Markus and Yuko and buying a bottle of Kikusui Gorohachi nigori.
I had some dark chocolate at home, thanks to my Cocoa Runners subscription, and stopped by the supermarket to get some chocolate cake, chocolate mousse, chocolate ice cream and praline-filled chocolate sticks. Might as well do my due diligence and check them all...
So we sat down on a Saturday night with my new Hario cool carafe, the nigori and all the many forms of chocolate. We tried the nigori by itself first - it had a lovely chalky aroma, intense and very like amazake (or cold rice pudding to David). There was a lovely lactic acidity that lingered past the sweetness, tangy with hints of orange and a really substantial mouthfeel.
- Chocolate mousse We started off with this as it's what I've had nigori with before. The mousse wasn't quite as nice as I'd hoped, it had an odd caramel sweetness, but it was intense. Surprisingly, it didn't affect the balance of nigori that much and the sake still delivered a nice hit of acidity. I thought they went well together, with the coating of mousse on the tongue being washed by the nigori, although the lactic notes were slightly blunted. David thought the nigori was more drinkable with the mousse, made smoother by the creamy texture, but felt it lost something and the aftertaste was shorter.
- Chocolate ice cream This did affect the balance of the nigori, resulting in a sharp acidic bite that was almost unpleasant. David also noted more acidity, maybe because the tongue was less coated than with the mousse. We tried with some slightly melted ice cream and that did make it better. We also tried them in the mouth together which worked very well. Potential for pouring some sake over the ice cream and letting them melt together...
- Chocolate cake The cake I got was quite dry so there was no coating of the tongue, although the flavour did linger a bit longer than we thought. It also brought out the acidity in the nigori, but not nearly as much as the ice cream - not the worst but not the best either. It didn't affect the balance of the sake.
- Dark chocolate Next up was a lovely 65% dark chocolate bar, made by Mirzam from Indian chocolate. It was our favourite from the Cocoa Runners December batch. Nutty and floral, with a hint of orange, I was really hoping it would go well with the bar. Unfortunately, it didn't. Having both the chocolate and sake in the mouth at the same time intensified the acidity to an unpleasant level, and also made the alcohol more prominent. Having the sake immediately after letting the chocolate melt in the mouth was better, but the acidity was still prominent and the lactic acidity and sweetness were missing. David was more of a fan, saying the flavours didn't meld but still went well together, with taste of chocolate lingering in the mouth.
- Praline Again, it didn't really work with the sake and praline in the mouth at the same time, but it wasn't as bad as the dark chocolate bar. Still acidic, but a bit creamier. David agreed that it worked better than the bar. Trying the nigori after letting the praline melt in mouth was surprisingly good, with more of the creaminess and lactic notes coming through, and more sweetness although it was still overall more acidic and tart. David thought it had a wider range of flavour than the bar, and thought the flavours played off each other similar to with the ice cream. He also thought it rounded the nigori out a little and made it more drinkable.
We tasted the sake again to see if it had warmed or otherwise changed in taste, but after some water we confirmed that it tasted far less acidic than with any of the chocolate items. I checked the temperature and it was up to 16°C. The flavours had melded a little, making it smoother and the alcohol less prominent. It was better than straight out of the fridge. (The serving suggestion on the label is on the rocks or chilled.)
Thinking and talking about it (as we decided there was no point putting what remained of the 300 ml bottle back and we may as well finish it) we both agreed that it could go well with a dark chocolate truffle, especially with the butter, sugar and cream to complement the nigori's sweetness. One with a mousse filling might work well, and it would make a nice small but luxurious after-dinner treat.
So - in the interests of science, you understand - we drew up a shortlist for round 2: chocolate truffles, fudge brownie, a hot gooey chocolate dessert (think Death By Chocolate) and some rice pudding. Maybe chocolate milk. I'll keep you posted.