Any would-be gourmand can do the wine-and-chocolate thing. Delicious? Sure, but it’s been done to death. And you’d have to be living under a rock not to notice that craft brew is the new wine.
Across the country and here in Florida, too, small brewing operations are popping up all over. Many are using fresh, creative and (in some cases) organic ingredients to truly 'craft' small batches of incredibly delicious, malty, or hoppy nectar. You can pair these great beers with anything from spicy Thai food to juicy cheeseburgers to gourmet chocolate.
Wonka dreams realized: the delicacies of Kissimmee's Chocolate Kingdom. — Photo courtesy of Chocolate Kingdom
So why not spend a foodie-licious day in Orlando exploring the history of one of the world’s most sensual confections early on, then bring some along for a tour and impromptu pairing at the city’s award-winning organic brewery?
Where to Get the Chocolate
Down in Kissimmee, the exquisite bean that was once the exclusive domain of the Mesoamerican gods is the center of a new Orlando-area attraction: Chocolate Kingdom, which opened earlier this year. Etymologists trace the origin of the word “chocolate” to the Aztec “xocoatl” and for centuries cacao was so valuable it was even used as currency.
On the Chocolate Kingdom tour, visitors get a taste, literal and figurative, of the confection's history. — Photo courtesy of Chocolate Kingdom
At Chocolate Kingdom, tour-goers will spend the better part of an hour on a walk through the candy’s history, which includes a fascinating look at the old-school machinery once used in its production. Along the way – and with a cute back story to keep the littlest attendees engaged beyond the promise of sweet treats – you’ll visit a greenhouse with live cacao trees, a “river” of chocolate, enjoy some samples and learn a great deal about the chocolate's evolution and production. And as Chocolate Kingdom is an arm of the Schakolad Chocolate Factory empire, its wares are top-notch.
At the tour’s end visitors can pay an extra $5 to make their very own custom bar. All manner of mix-ins (bacon, anyone?) are available. Be sure to take some to go – best to bring a small cooler to keep your spoils intact – because you’re going to need it later when you head downtown for a visit to Orlando Brewing.
Where to Find the Beer Tour
Brewery tours at Orlando Brewing, a certified organic operation, are free, running six evenings a week at 6:00 p.m. and the taproom has myriad offerings for the beer lover (and a few non-beer options, as well. Once you’ve taken a spin ‘round its inner workings and consulted with expert staffers, you’ll know which of its many varieties pair best with your booty from Chocolate Kingdom. Which of Orlando Brewing's beers pair best with chocolate? You make the call. — Photo courtesy of Orlando Brewing
In fact, the Blackwater Dry Porter is actually brewed with organic roasted malts which imbue moderate chocolate and coffee flavors to the beer in its own right. Worried about bringing in snacks? Don’t. Orlando Brewing doesn’t serve food – though they do bring in food trucks for regular events. Customers are welcome to order in grub from an array of neighboring businesses for pairing with beer, darts and friendly conversation. The latter two come free of charge.