An elegant hand sips sweet notes of cocoa, nutmeg, vanilla…

Recently, the integration of a set of savory ingredients into my baking has opened the door into a new, intriguing and broader cooking niche.

A warm and savory roasted spice melange secured one end of the spectrum of a plated dessert this past Valentine’s Day. On the other end was a simple, house made creme fraiche. Both were tethered to a 72%-chocolate flourless torte, the spicy-cool juxtaposition that popped each deeply succulent bite.

I was both chef de cuisine and pastry chef for a wine dinner hosted by new Brookside Inn owners Liane and Rich Cabot. The Brookside, a B&B located in Carlton in the heart of Oregon’s wine country, partnered with winemaker Thomas Houseman of Anne Amie Vineyards, whose specialty is Pinot noir. This dinner christened their ownership.

Anne Amie’s Tudor Hall Solera Port was paired with my Spiced Flourless Chocolate Torte. The “fermentation of their barrel-aged dessert wine was arrested by fortification of a brandy of Pinot noir.”

The tastes of cloves,  nutmeg, vanilla and cocoa in the port aligned swimmingly with my spice blend of star anise, black peppercorns, cardamom and cinnamon. So, if a way to enhance the richness of a dark, silky chocolate torte existed, this was it. The final garnish was a candied hazelnut.

I love experimentation and pushing both sweet and savory flavor profiles in warm, even earthy directions… which allows me to circle back to my new niche.

My cooking partner, Paul Caloca, and I have a deep love for the exquisite ingredients inherent in Oregon – hazelnuts, white and black truffles, Dungeness crab, local salmon and other coastal seafood and crustaceans. Our niche are dinners of the highest quality, sustainable West Coast ingredients made more deeply flavorful using our own propriety spice blends, gentle roasting and smoking techniques, and partnering with Oregon and Washington vintners.

How unexpectedly spicy life can be…