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  • Chocolate — course by course

    A cooking class for chocaholics will fulfill every desire, from the start of the meal to its finish
  • Chocolate's persona typically is pure comfort. When paired with pasta, cheese or bacon, maybe not so much.
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    • If you go
      What: "Chocolate Obsession II," a couples' cooking class with chef Sandy Dowling featuring chocolate in sweet and savory courses; cost is $100 per couple and includes wine and a full dinner.
      Wh...
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      If you go
      What: "Chocolate Obsession II," a couples' cooking class with chef Sandy Dowling featuring chocolate in sweet and savory courses; cost is $100 per couple and includes wine and a full dinner.

      When: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 19.

      Where: The Willows Cooking School, 3347 Old Stage Road, Central Point.

      For information and to register: See www.cookatthewillows.com or call 541-665-3020.
  • Chocolate's persona typically is pure comfort. When paired with pasta, cheese or bacon, maybe not so much.
    "You just can't believe that this would be good," says chef and cooking instructor Sandy Dowling. "You can really get outside your comfort zone."
    Dowling challenges diners to enjoy an entire meal infused with chocolate every year at her Willows Cooking School in Central Point. The concept of savory and sweet courses incorporating chocolate will be repeated March 1 at the ninth annual Oregon Chocolate Festival in Ashland. Home cooks can create their own chocolate entrees for Valentine's Day — or anytime — by starting with obvious complements: chilies, coffee and sea salt.
    "You can do so many things with it," says Dowling. "If I say chocolate to you, do you think of caramel, do you think of raisins, do you think of nuts?"
    Chocolate-covered fruits are an obvious garnish on a salad dressed with chocolatey vinaigrette, says Dowling. Just be sure to use a very mild-flavored lettuce, such as butterhead, skipping bitter greens, she says. Oranges, in particular, are ideal salad-course fodder for chocolate, she adds.
    "Chocolate and orange are always so magical together."
    While sweet potatoes and winter squash handily carry off chocolate, very few vegetables can, says Dowling. But zucchini surprisingly does, she says. Beets, fennel and asparagus are featured on the Chocolate Makers' Dinner menu, crafted by Larks restaurant chef Damon Jones for the chocolate festival.
    Appetizers also can be "tricky" to prepare with chocolate, says Dowling. For the first course of her Feb. 19 class, the chef plans to bake a chocolate-chipotle cookie wafer-thin, sprinkle it with sea salt, then top it with a bit of cheese, maybe Rogue Creamery's chocolate-stout or lavender cheddar.
    "You would not believe how good that tastes," says Dowling. "There's an explosion in your mouth."
    Spice, for good reason, is one of chocolate's best friends. Traditional Mexican recipes, notably molé, are ideal vehicles for unsweetened chocolate, which ancient Aztecs considered not only aphrodisiac but medicinal.
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