The Fancy Cheese You Should Be Pairing With Dark Chocolate

Both cheese and dark chocolate are known for pairing well with wine, and both are considered essential elements to include in a thoughtfully executed charcuterie board — although not necessarily together. But seriously, why not together?

Indeed, thanks to the role of fermentation in their respective manufacturing, both feature complex flavor notes, including in the ranges of sweet, fruity, tangy, woody, nutty, and bitter. And these various nuances can play off one another in wonderful and sometimes surprising ways. And let's not forget, of course, that individually, both cheese and dark chocolate are considered to be "feel-good" foods because both have been shown to light up the brain's reward center. Accordingly, to enjoy them together would tend to present the prospect of even greater pleasure.

Although this combo is already well-known and well-loved in some parts of the world, including Indonesia, Colombia, and Ecuador, it's still something of a well-kept secret in the U.S. If it's new to you and you're looking for inspiration, we recommend starting with dark chocolate with a high cocoa content. Generally speaking, the higher the cocoa content, the lower the dairy. That offers a more intense flavor experience while also affecting a greater contrast to whatever dairy-rich cheese you pair it with. As for the fancy cheese that you should be pairing with your dark chocolate, you can't go wrong with a high-quality wedge of parmesan.

Why parmesan pairs so well with dark chocolate

Many kinds of cheese go well with dark chocolate, but a wedge of fancy parmesan — i.e. one that has not been pre-shredded — is the perfect complement. Both offer a tender but satisfying bite and a mostly smooth mouthfeel. However, dark chocolate melts silkily on the tongue whereas parmesan cheese hardly melts at all thanks to its low moisture content and those dazzling tiny crystals that form thanks to the inevitable separation of fat from protein molecules, which occurs as these two constituent elements break down during the aging process.

Tasting one after the other highlights that contrast, especially when taking a bite of the cheese first followed by placing a bit of dark chocolate on the tongue and allowing it to soften into liquid. Tasting them in this order also tricks the tongue into better perceiving the pleasingly bitter notes in the chocolate — the ones that you may hear described as tannic, woodsy, or redolent of freshly roasted coffee beans. After the lingering flavors fade, if you follow up with another bite of parmesan, you should be better able to better appreciate the cheese's nutty sweetness.

Finally, while a good parmesan won't taste overtly salty on its own, when paired with dark chocolate's mild sweetness, its high sodium content comes through, offering a tingling contrast. Of course, if you're a fan of chocolate salted caramel, you already know what we mean!