Top Pick Of The Week

December 20, 2005

. .

Chocolat Moderne
They’re pretty, they taste divine, and they pair with wine—there’s an extensive wine and spirits list on the website that you can use for a Chocolat Moderne and wine tasting party. What better way to spend New Year’s Eve?

Chocolat Moderne:
Pairing Chocolate & Wine

Don’t think of this recommendation of Chocolat Moderne as “too late for the holidays” (you can still get it shipped for Christmas). Think of it as a great New Year’s Eve activity (more about that in a minute)...or your first box of gourmet chocolate for the new year...or plan ahead for Valentine’s Day.

In addition to being delicious, Chocolat Moderne is a connoisseur’s party-in-a-box: you can match each piece with a recommended wine or spirit and have quite a memorable chocolate and wine pairing event. But let us begin at the beginning.

Inspired by a display of antique chocolate molds at a market in Brussels, Joan Coukos left a career as an international investment banker to become a chocolatier. With no extensive culinary background—she studied with chocolatiers before launching her business—from the onset she has turned out a collection that ranks among the best in the country. And, she continues to innovate each year.

Chocolat Moderne is very modern indeed, not just in its delectable flavors but in its approach to recommending wines for its chocolates. While most chocolatiers are mum on the subject or are very limited in their suggestions, citing one or two options to go with their chocolates, Ms. Coukos retained a wine expert to match each piece in her collection with the appropriate libation. In a perfect world, this is as it should be, since different nuts, fruits and spices, plus dark, milk, and white chocolate, all have flavor qualities that match with different wines and spirits. 

Thus, if you are, as we are, a dévotée of La Dolce Grapefruit, Chocolat Moderne’s grapefruit caramel, you are advised to bring out the Vintage Port. But Caramel Caresse, a pear and Poire William caramel, is better enjoyed with a Bas Armagnac. When nibbling on Havana Heat, a 64% Madagascan chocolate with habañero pepper, do so with a fruity, fortified dessert wine like Mas Amiel Maury. Madeleine Marron, chestnut purée with dark Haitian rum in a ganache of dark and milk chocolates, requests a medium dry sherry.

Does this sound like too much fuss?  Only if you’re not into it. Then, just enjoy eating the chocolates. If you are into wine and think it would be fun to try matching wines with chocolates, it’s a heck of a good time—and one of the ways we’re going to entertain our guests this New Year’s Eve.

Of course, you don’t need a national holiday to enjoy a few chocolates after dinner with a glass of something spirited. Try it on a regular basis to see how you enjoy the concept. The list of matches on the company’s website includes both luxury and affordable pairings for each bonbon, and THE NIBBLE™ has developed an extensive general pairing chart. You don’t need to stage a connoisseur event: just pour yourself one glass of dessert wine. And, we hasten to reaffirm: Chocolat Moderne is not just for wine lovers: it’s a perfect choice for anyone who appreciates fine chocolate.

Style & Substance

Chocolat Moderne combines two styles of chocolate making. The backbone of Ms. Coukos’ technique is the Belgian style, which emphasizes shell molding, stronger flavors, and soft centers. The delivery method is the American Nouvelle style, which concentrates on darker chocolate and exotic flavor combinations, such as macadamia nut praline with passionfruit-cardamom caramel. Snake Charmer is dark and rich, seasoned mildly with exotic sweet spices. Rhapsody in Green’s arpeggio is barely tart apples; a touch of Calvados sings of the Normandy coast.

All flavors are forward and easily distinguishable, usually with a strong presence on the palate. Everything is in perfect balance: despite some bold flavor combinations, nothing is over-the-top. If you have ever enjoyed fine chocolates but were unable to identify the flavors of the centers, you will not have this quandary with Chocolat Moderne...and you will realize that this achievement is the chocolatier’s skill.

Each piece is paired with the regional cacao that shows off the center flavor to its best advantage. Chocolat Moderne focuses on dark chocolate—there is no milk chocolate collection. However, the flavors are so beautifully balanced that people who have traditionally preferred milk chocolate may discover that they do enjoy dark chocolate!

Ms. Coukos takes on every style of bonbon. Whether you fancy velvety ganache, gooey caramel, or crunchy praline, you’ve met your chocolatier. She prefers Valrhona couverture in the semisweet range. The base chocolate for each piece varies—generally among a 64% Madagascan, a 66% Caribbean, and a 72% Venezuelan. This meticulous matching shows how clearly she understands the importance of properly pairing the enrobing chocolate with its center ingredients to achieve the most balanced flavor.

All of the pieces are delicious. We’ve mentioned some of our favorites, but to bring the signature bright coral chocolate box to life, here are a few more:

  • Raspberry Rendez-Vous has a layer of fresh raspberry jam atop a dark chocolate ganache that melts with explosive flavor.
  • Parlez Pistache is a pistachio praline combined with a white chocolate ganache, with rice crisps added for a crunchier texture. This piece is an eye-opening sensation, among the few pistachio pralines on the market, and perhaps one of the best pralines of any kind.
  • Praline lovers will also flip for Baklava, a walnut praline seasoned with baklava spices and orange zest to achieve an exquisite similarity to its namesake.
Petit Bonbons
Petit Bonbons, above, are smaller than regular
chocolates, for those who want a tinier taste. Below, Tropic of Cocoa single origin ganaches.

Tropic of Cocoa

There are two seasonal presentations: Fall and Winter Wonderland (available September through February) and Spring and Summer R&R (March through September). Each assortment offers some flavors that are exclusive to the season (Pumpkin Pique-Nique and Mon Petit Kumquat for Fall and Winter, for example), as well as flavors from the permanent collection.

For people who like just a tiny taste of chocolate (and we admire your restraint), there are Petit Bonbons: beautiful, bite-size morsels that look exquisite on a dessert plate or the saucer of a coffee cup. For those who want to explore variations in terroir and single origin cacao unadorned by other flavors, the Tropic of Cocoa collection has six ganaches, made with varietals from 33% to 90% cacao.

Bars For Daily Munching

Among our chocolate addictions are Chocolat Moderne’s Bistro Bars. These 70g (2.46 oz) dark chocolate bars are made with three different types of centers:

  • Crunchy pralines—Hazelnut Hysterie, Parlez Pistache and Sesame Samba
  • Soft caramels—Apricot Bask, Banane Flambée, Caramel Caresse, La Dolce Grapefruit, and Madame ‘X‘tasy, an ecstasy of Illy Espresso and Fleur de Sel (we love caramel, so this is our favorite group)
  • Silky ganaches—Havana Heat, Pumpkin Pique-Nique, Raspberry Rendez-Vous, and The Player, a smokey, peaty Single Malt Scotch ganache

The bars are perfect for snacking. They’re scored for “portion control,” and they arrive tied in a bundle with a ribbon—nifty for gifts.

By creating chocolate bars that echo her bonbons, Joan Coukos proves that she is a modern chocolatier not just in flavor innovation but in customer satisfaction. Most of us don’t have the money, the metabolism or the mindset to sit down with a box of luxury chocolates every day. But half of a chocolate bar?  Pourquoi pas!

— Karen Hochman and Peter Rot

FORWARD THIS NIBBLE to your chocolate-loving friends, your wine-collector friends, and to anyone looking for a gift for them.


Boxed Chocolates & Bistro Bars

  • Mixe Célèbre
    12-Piece Gift Box, $32.00
    24-Piece Gift Box, $59.00
  • Clear Gift Boxes
    4-Piece Gift Box, $12.00
    15-Piece Round Box, $32.00
  • Petit Bon Bon Assortments
    8-Piece Box, $14.00
    24-Piece Box, $35.00
  • Bistro Bar Bundle
    5 Bars, $37.50
  • Other options available on the website

To purchase, visit

Learn more about chocolate in these
articles in past issues in THE NIBBLE
monthly magazine:

Read about Pairing chocolate With Wine.

Read about How to Host a Wine &
Chocolate Tasting Party

Learn more about chocolate in our Glossary
of Chocolate Terms

Boxed Assortment
Above, the signature Mixe Célèbre is a welcome gift.
Below, a bundle of Bistro Bars beckons.

Bistro Bars

Must-haves for your next get-together

French Maid Apron Personality Placecards Wine Funnel
French Maid Apron. If you’re going to throw the kind of party where you are in and out of the kitchen all night, don one of these sexy-but-sweet aprons by Jesse Steele. You won’t need to take it off when you mingle with your guests—we can see Bree Van De Kamp wearing hers as she dashes about. Click here for more information. Personality’ Place Card Holders. At your next dinner party, use these playful place card holders to let your guests know who they’re really sitting next to. Click here for more information. Silverplate Wine Funnel. Not only is this funnel a practical way to get wine from the bottle to a decanter, its sleek design makes it a wonderful conversation piece. Click here for more information.


Entertaining by Martha Stewary Williams Sonoma Entertaining Entertaining is Fun
Entertaining, by Martha Stewart. This is the first of Stewart’s guides to entertaining, and it is a must-have for anyone who enjoys throwing parties.The Martha Stewart empire that we know today was launched with the publication of this book. Click here for more information. Entertaining: Inspired Menus For Cooking with Family and Friends (Williams-Sonoma), by George Dolese and Chuck Williams (editor). Williams-Sonoma, a trusted name in tabletop, kitchen and home accessories, presents this guide to throwing a successful party, from perfect cocktail recipes to suggestions for floral arrangements. Click here for more information.  Entertaining is Fun: How to Be a Popular Hostess, by Dorothy Draper. Originally published in 1941, Draper’s advice for throwing a fabulous dinner party is still applicable today. It is packed with charming suggestions on everything from planning a wedding to being prepared for an unexpected guest. Click here for more information.


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ABOUT THE NIBBLE. THE NIBBLE, Great Food Finds, is an online magazine about specialty foods and the gourmet life. It is the only consumer publication and website that focuses on reviewing the best specialty foods and beverages, in every category. The magazine also covers tabletop items, gourmet housewares, and other areas of interest to people who love fine food.

© Copyright 2004-2006 Lifestyle Direct, Inc. All rights reserved. All information contained herein is subject to change at any time without notice. All details must be directly confirmed with manufacturers, service establishments and other third parties. The material in this newsletter may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached, or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of Lifestyle Direct, Inc.