To the joy of their chocoholic members, clubs are beginning to feature better quality.
As members and guests develop greater food savvy, their chocolate preferences follow suit.
“I’ve seen a shift toward higher quality and artisanal chocolates industry-wide,” says Stephanie Laico, Executive Pastry Chef at Miramont Country Club, Bryan, Texas. “Members are more informed about what chocolate is actually made of, where the cacao beans come from, and what flavor profiles they should expect from different regions.”
Miramont responds to this increased insight by offering an array of chocolate treats.
“Warm chocolate cake, tiramisu made with ganache, and hand-rolled truffles [click for recipe] are our most popular,” says Laico.
The pastry chefs at Biltmore Forest Country Club (Asheville, N.C.) and The Greenbrier (White Sulphur Springs, W. Va.) have also seen a rise in chocolate appreciation among members and guests.
“Members expect better ingredients,” says Mark Pavao, Executive Pastry Chef at Biltmore Forest CC. “This applies to everything from brownies to truffles.”
“Chocolate is becoming like coffee,” says Jean-Francois Suteau, Executive Pastry Chef at The Greenbrier. “There is an ever-increasing number of options—from local to organic to artisanal to infused.”
While The Greenbrier’s chocolate desserts tend to focus on classic, comfort-style preparations, Suteau finds creative ways to pique interest.
In 2014, The Greenbrier deviated from its annual gingerbread display in favor of a chocolate version that was engineered, crafted and constructed by Suteau and his pastry team. It featured 1,000 pounds of chocolate and took three months to build.
“Chocolate is magical,” says Suteau, who was named the U.S. Chocolate Master at the World Chocolate Masters’ competition in 2013. “To create displays like this, it takes patience and experience.
“Much like bread, you can’t rush chocolate,” he continues. “That’s where most people fail and get frustrated with it. They want to go faster than chocolate—and that doesn’t work.”
Miramont’s Laico echoes Suteau’s sentiment.
“Learning about chocolate was one of the most valuable things I absorbed from culinary school,” she says. “It comes down to adaptability.”
In the hands of an expert, the chocolate possibilities are endless—and the results are nearly always pleasing.
“Chocolate is featured in various fashions on our menu for several reasons—but most importantly, it’s because chocolate carries a very particular sense of comfort and nostalgia,” says Laico.
Because chocolate flavor profiles vary greatly, educating service staff has been really important for Miramont, she continues.
Laico also likes to tie in a personal story about how she discovered or uses the chocolate.
“When a dessert menu is presented, our service staff is well-prepared with the knowledge to explain and really sell a dish,” she says. “Having a personal story about the chef is a little extra touch that members enjoy.”