Love chocolate, let me count the ways

Filipino excellence and Italian heritage come together to champion sustainability in ‘Chocolate Harvest: Farm-to-Table Degustation’ 

Auro white chocolate cheesecake

With its smooth texture, sweet taste, and powerful effect on the brain that makes us alert and happy, chocolate is among the most popular—if not the most affordable—of the world's finest luxuries. Its base form the cacao is referred to by the Greeks as the “food of the gods” for the reason that it is among the healthiest superfoods containing around 500 compounds. Let's not even mention its rich lore and history, and ability to soothe the heart and soul.

To showcase the gastronomic possibilities of chocolate as well as the world-class quality of Philippine-produced cacao, Solaire collaborated with internationally awarded tree-to-bar chocolate brand Auro for a one-time-only banquet at the Italian steakhouse Finestra.

“Chocolate Harvest: Farm-to-Table Degustation” was initiated by Solaire’s vice president for culinary, Chef Michael Dinges, a staunch sustainability advocate who emphasizes farm-to-table practices to support local farms.

Tonno Al Cacao

Chef Alan Marchetti, chef de cuisine of Finestra, conceptualized and executed a six-course menu inspired by his Italian roots, incorporating in his dishes locally sourced cacao. A marriage between Italian sensibilities and the delectable native cacao from the farm of Arman Agravante in North Cotabato, the degustation was a meaningful social affair that highlighted not only the wonders of chocolate but also how local should be the way to go.

The evening meal delivered on its promise of creativity with a touch of je ne sais quoi, as each part of dinner was a pleasant surprise. 

Coda Di Manzo

The cold starter, Tonno Al Cacao was a refreshing and earthy tuna ceviche with hints of cacao astringency and spice. The pulp and shavings of the cacao were an enjoyable mouthfeel.

Bringing vivid Roman history to attention, the second starter, the oxtail cube vaccinara or the Coda Di Manzo, paired meat with piney refinement.

CACAO LOCO Restaurant manager of Finestra Girald Manuel, Auro co-owners Mark Ocampo and Kelly Go, and Chef Alan Marchetti

Finestra’s specialty being pasta, it was a no-brainer that the third course was going to be good. The Pasta Ripiena or chocolate fagottini, foie gras, and porcini had a tender balance of savory and sweet, accentuated by a delicate nuttiness from the cacao that lingered. Chef Alan admits that this was his favorite among what he served.

The cheesecake with its airy texture and just the right amount of sweetness was so good the only way such deliciousness could exist in the world was if the gods favored humans enough to send us one of their otherworldly delights.

Pasta Ripiena

Next was the Riccola e Cavolfioro, cocoa-crusted amberjack with braised white chocolate, cauliflower, and slow-roasted tomatoes. The light tone of vanilla added to the subtle earthiness of the bed puree where the fish meat, cooked to perfection, lay. 

The main course, Agnello Al Burro Di Cacao e, was lamb tenderloin cooked at a precise temperature while immersed in the dense silkiness of cocoa butter producing a melt-in-your-mouth tenderness. Each bite was bitter-sweet, thanks to the dark chocolate, with a savory aftertaste.

Agnello Al Burro Di Cacao

Ending the feast was the Tris Al Cioccolato, a trio of chocolate exuberance made from various Auro chocolates. Its myriad of taste combinations set fireworks alight, especially the Auro white chocolate cheesecake semifreddo, fresh berries, and dehydrated raspberries. The cheesecake with its airy texture and just the right amount of sweetness was so good the only way such deliciousness could exist in the world was if the gods favored humans enough to send us one of their otherworldly delights. It was a perfect finish to a fantastic supper.

The other two desserts were the Auro dark chocolate 77 percent, salted caramel popcorn, with The Dalmore 15 Years, and fluffy milk, and Auro milk chocolate cake, Finestra olive oil, hazelnut.

Riccola e Cavolfioro

Coinciding with the culinary showcase was the launch of Solaire’s newest signature retail chocolates crafted in partnership with Auro. The unique and limited-edition chocolate bars come in three decadent flavors and cocoa percentages, in particular, Olive Oil and Sea Salt (64 percent dark chocolate), Hazelnut and Mango (42 percent milk chocolate), as well as Calamansi and Basil (32 percent white chocolate).

Book a table at Finestra via or call +632 8888.8888.

Photos by the author