Savor: Chocolate Decadence

BY Emily Brown and Emily Russell

For 3 000 years since the Aztecs and Mayans first brewed cacao beans into frothy chocolate drinks (to both these ancient civilizations cacao was associated with the gods and goddesses of fertility) chocolate has been held in high regard all over the world. Passion obsession devotion fascination and addiction are all words that come to mind when the topic is chocolate. Indeed for many a box of chocolates is an expression of love on Valentine’s Day. (Hint hint.)

Decadent desserts that utilize chocolate as the main ingredient can be found in eateries around the globe. Here on the Azalea Coast three restaurants — Port City Chop House Rafaella and Bento Box — have honed in on our collective passion.

Mile High Chocolate Suicide Cake

Matthew Kahrs executive chef at Port City Chop House (1981 Eastwood Road) knows that a great dessert is essential to an enjoyable dining experience. Port City’s Mile High Chocolate Suicide Cake is impressive enough to stop hungry patrons in their tracks. “It catches people’s eyes ” says Kahrs. At first glance towering high above any regular-sized slice of cake the Mile High Chocolate Suicide Cake looks intimidating. But after one bite caution subsides and delicious delirium takes over.

The three layer chocolate dessert is served with a rich fudge icing nestled between each of its layers. A cappuccino pecan ice cream truffle rolled and prepared in-house is presented alongside the cake. The dessert is large enough to feed two maybe even three diners. But after the first forkful people question their generous instincts.

The Mile High Chocolate Suicide Cake is heavy. Literally. Kahrs says if he were to put a full cake on the scale it would likely weigh well over five pounds. But you won’t hear anyone at Port City Chop House complaining about the weight of this mountain of chocolate decadence. The cake is large because people just can’t get enough. On several occasions the staff at Port City Chop House has tried to incorporate new chocolate desserts into their menu. But each time regular customers demand to have the popular (read: addicting) Mile High Chocolate Suicide Cake reinstated. “It is by far our most popular dessert ” says Kahrs.

Moon Mountain

Rafaella (6722 Wrightsville Avenue) has been serving up fine Italian food in Wilmington for 18 months. Though they have quickly staked their claim as one of the tastiest pasta houses in town it’s advisable not to forget about their other forte.

An impressive list of desserts is posted on a board near the restaurant’s entrance. Included is a sweet treat called Moon Mountain. Owner Julie Kablouti says that when she hears the phrase “decadent chocolate desserts ” it’s a Moon Mountain that comes to mind. This unique name is derived from the delicious dessert’s resemblance to the surface of the moon but beyond that it’s not so simple to define.

“When considering the dessert’s texture and flavor for me nothing else will do. But it’s difficult to accurately describe a Moon Mountain ” Kablouti says. “It doesn’t exactly take the form of a cake and isn’t entirely a mousse either.” Instead a Moon Mountain is more like a truffle — cream coffee liqueur dark chocolate and hazelnuts are just a few of the ingredients that make it melt in your mouth. The dessert isn’t huge but is sweet and creamy enough for two people to split. Kablouti says that the emphasis of a Moon Mountain “isn’t on quantity but quality.”

When considering chocolate recipes to implement at Rafaella Kablouti recognizes that finding a successful balance between presentation and flavor is the key. “The dessert has to look amazing yes but the taste must stand up to its looks.” Kablouti never considers fat or calories when picking out desserts for Rafaella (reason enough to book a table) and when diners are looking for the perfect way to end their meal she doesn’t hesitate to suggest a Moon Mountain.

Chocolate Potstickers

Chef Lee Grossman owner of The Bento Box is equally enthusiastic about chocolate’s possibilities. “Chocolate is universal ” he explains. “Everybody really comprehends chocolate. It appeals to the child in all of us.”

The urbane yet relaxed Bento Box might seem like a strange place to find your inner child but Chef Grossman’s chocolate potstickers are every bit as sweet and relaxing as those lazy days of summers past. Made from the best dark Belgian chocolate available Grossman’s bite-sized potsticker is all creamy chocolate perfection on the inside enclosed in a wonton wrapper and served with caramel dipping sauce. The potsticker’s incredible richness makes a single bite-sized piece the perfect finish to a meal of fabulous sushi.

“Chocolate’s my favorite thing ” Grossman says. “I like to have a powerful finish. An Asian place is the last type of restaurant you’re going to go to and think you’ll have a memorable dessert but when you leave here we want you to be thinking about it tomorrow.”

As you can see there’s more to chocolate than Whitman’s samplers and foil-wrapped roses. Chocolate has a history of fascination and veneration nearly as old as civilization itself. This Valentine’s Day explore the depths of this dessert staple with that special someone — and discover all over again how sweet your sweetheart really is.