A Ghirardelli Intense Dark Experience

by Jenn (eating bender) on October 15, 2012

This weekend was amazing. We traveled to Minnesota to watch two high school friends tie the knot. Including the bride and groom, we were one of three high school sweetheart turned married couples in attendance. There must have been something in the water at Benilde-St. Margaret’s. 😉

But more on that in my next post. Today’s post is about chocolate. Lots and lots of chocolate.

I think this may go down in history as one of the most delicious experiences I’ve had with the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program. When I found out I was chosen for the Ghirardelli Intense Dark chocolate program, my wheels immediately started turning as I pictured all the food and beverage possibilities. I also received some helpful hints from the Ghirardelli website.

What I didn’t expect, however, was what ultimately arrived on my doorstep:

Let’s take a look from another angle, shall we?

From left to right: Twilight Delight, Midnight Reverie, Evening Dream, Sea Salt Soiree, Toffee Interlude, Hazelnut Heaven and Cabernet Matinee (a new variety).

Pure chocolate bliss. In fact, the Ghirardelli team sent me two of each flavor shown above. In other words, my chocolate supply is stocked for the next year. Or at least until next week. After sampling all of these chocolates – what I like to call “research” – I can safely say that in my professional opinion, they are all as smooth as velvet and simply melt-in-your-mouth delicious.

Once I had examined the testing materials, I set out to find a group of willing subjects to participate in a tasting experiment. Wouldn’t you know there were five eager volunteers (myself included)?

Baby Bender did not partake in the beverage tastings, but thought all chocolate was “good.” :)

I was asked to write about my favorite pairing, but since the five of us all had different opinions, I thought I’d share a couple more. Bobby and Mama Bender were big fans of our first experiment which, appropriately enough, involved Cabernet wine and chocolate.

I’m not typically as big of a fan of the berry chocolate combination as I am of, say, sea salt, but this was amazing. The Kokomo Cabernet Sauvignon really brought out the blackberry and blueberry notes in the chocolate and enhanced the pairing. Papa Bender called it a flavor combination that really “makes you think” as you try to discern all the different ingredients.

We also happened to have our dinner with this portion of the tasting. The pizza that paired best with the Cabernet combination is on the left, a concoction of mushrooms, bacon and gruyère cheese brushed with truffle oil and garlic. The other pizza was a bit heartier with tomato sauce, red pepper, olives, mushrooms, spinach and mozzarella.

After dinner, we watched the Northwestern football game and decided to break out what would become my favorite pairing: Sea Salt Soiree and pumpkin beer!

I have to admit that I was biased toward the Sea Salt Soiree from the start, having tried it before and being the salt fiend that I am. But the pumpkin beer brought it to another level. There’s no better way to describe this pairing than “quintessential fall.” The sweet and salty elements in each complemented each other and Papa Bender, who has never loved pumpkin beer, became an official fan. Officially the Sea Salt Soiree is a blend of sweet dark chocolate, slow-roasted almonds and coarse crystals of sea salt.

Speaking of Papa Bender, his favorite chocolate was by far the Hazelnut Heaven.

We went all out with this one and it did not disappoint. Mama Bender has an amazing chocolate martini recipe, and we all agreed that it paired perfectly with this chocolate variety. Who says you can’t pair chocolate with more chocolate? The nuttiness balanced everything out.

Mama Bender’s Chocolate Martini

Ingredients (makes one martini):

  • 1 1/2 ounce chocolate liqueur
  • 1/2 ounce vodka
  • 1 ounce Irish cream liqueur
  • 1 1/2 ounce heavy whipping cream
  • 2 ounces half and half
  • 1 teaspoon chocolate syrup (or, in this case, 1 melted Ghirardelli square)


Drizzle a martini glass with the chocolate syrup or melted chocolate bar. Combine all other ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice and mix until chilled. Pour into martini glass and garnish with piece of chocolate, if desired.


The other chocolate varieties – Twilight Delight, Midnight Reverie, Evening Dream and Toffee Interlude – had their own amazing attributes. Twilight Delight and Midnight Reverie were the most “intense” dark chocolates at 72% and 86% cacao respectively. Toffee Interlude had a caramelized quality that paired well with a cup of coffee. And Evening Dream was the perfect accompaniment to a celebratory glass of champagne when Bobby and I purchased our dream home. Today marks the last day of the inspection period and I’m happy to report that all went wonderfully. We are inching ever closer to our closing date!

Big thanks to Ghirardelli and Foodbuzz for the opportunity. It was a chocolatey dream come true.


This post is brought to you by Ghirardelli Intense Dark™ Chocolate.


1 natalie @ will jog for food October 15, 2012 at 12:53 pm

Yummy! I would be partial to the sea salt too :)
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2 Jenn (eating bender) October 16, 2012 at 1:20 pm

So delicious! :)

3 Shannon October 15, 2012 at 1:14 pm

that is one delicious pairing :) YUM.
Shannon recently posted..Amica 19.7 BostonMy Profile

4 Jenn (eating bender) October 16, 2012 at 1:29 pm

Twas delightful! :)

5 Erica October 15, 2012 at 1:49 pm

Their chocolate is amazing!! This was the perfect pairings test. Football chocolate and beer? Best combo!!
Erica recently posted..Boone Hall Pumpkin PatchMy Profile

6 Jenn (eating bender) October 16, 2012 at 1:21 pm

I couldn’t agree more!

7 Cara (Twinthusiast) October 15, 2012 at 2:10 pm

I have many requests for Mama Bender over Thanksgiving…;) Looks like a delicious taste test – I especially like the pairings.
Cara (Twinthusiast) recently posted..All Things PumpkinMy Profile

8 Jenn (eating bender) October 16, 2012 at 1:25 pm

It promises to be a delicious visit! Maybe we’ll have to whip out the risotto on Friday, too. :)

9 Susan October 15, 2012 at 3:01 pm

Oh man – I need to find a way for Ghirardelli to mail me something. Sooo jealous!! Speaking of Ghirardelli chocolate, I bought a huge box of their brownies from Costco and they are AMAZING. Now I feel like I need to go eat some chocolate. :)

10 Jenn (eating bender) October 16, 2012 at 1:27 pm

Wish you were here to have some chocolate! I’d send you some but at this point they are all half-eaten in this house, haha. :) I LOVE those brownies. So good!

11 Kristie October 15, 2012 at 3:59 pm

Man, your parents have so much skill – all your talk of Papa Bender’s culinary creations, and now this chocolate martini from Mama Bender?! Love the creative pairing with the chocolates.

Hoping everything goes smoothly in these days before your closing date!

12 Jenn (eating bender) October 16, 2012 at 1:27 pm

Come visit and we’ll all cook for you! :)

13 BroccoliHut October 15, 2012 at 7:10 pm

Oh, yum! That berry-chocolate flavor sounds so interesting. Great post!

14 Jenn (eating bender) October 16, 2012 at 1:27 pm

It was definitely a new twist and very tasty!

15 Kelly @ Kelly the Culinarian October 16, 2012 at 11:06 am

How do I get in on this?!

16 Jenn (eating bender) October 16, 2012 at 1:28 pm

Haha! I would totally ship you some of mine but at this point all wrappers are open and half-eaten in my house! 😉

17 Mo October 17, 2012 at 8:04 pm

Not sure if you’ve ever been, but the outlet mall in Pleasant Prairie Wi has a Ghirardelli store where you can get a bag for a set price no matter how many individually wrapped squares you can fit into it . . . so, you see 10 year girls stuffing the bag, big burly guys who think they’ve got the physics down and slide the squares in like engineers – it’s hilarious. We lovingly refer to it as “the chocolate game”. So many weekends in the fall, we say, let’s go play the chocolate game – aka shopping at the outlet mall!

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