Valentine’s Day is around the corner and our thoughts turn to romance….and our grand love affair with chocolate. At île de païn we use only the highest quality grand cru chocolate. This precious ingredient is respectfully transformed into a range of intoxicating confections, cakes and rich, hot chocolate beverages that stimulate all the senses.
The Mayan and Aztec civilizations considered cacao to be an aphrodisiac food. Its potent qualities were so prized that beans were used as currency. At one point King Montezuma was said to have a store of over 900 million beans. In later years European royals expressed their ardour with gifts of chocolate mixed with precious amber. The first Valentine’s Day confectionary was created in 1861 by Richard Cadbury. He presented assorted candies in a heart shaped box. Chocolate and sweet confections are now wholeheartedly linked to Valentine’s Day and gifted as an expression of love for our sweethearts.
We’ve got chemistry
Swedish botanist, Carl Linnaeus named the cacao plant, Theobroma Cacao, or “Food of the Gods”. What are the components of this heavenly food that are of such appeal to us?
Chocolate contains minute traces of several psychoactive chemicals that are known to stimulate the brain. These include our familiar friend, caffeine, theobromine which increases heart rate and arousal and anandamide, a neurotransmitter whose name comes from the Sanskrit – “ananda”, meaning “joy, bliss, delight”. These chemicals appear in tiny amounts and are unlikely to affect us greatly, however they have their part to play in chocolate’s seductive appeal.
The feel good factor
What is far more likely to affect us is the experience of eating chcolate. It tastes and smells delicious of course. The sensation of smooth creaminess and that melt-in-your-mouth feeling stimulates the touch receptors on the tongue, which our brain translates as pleasure.
We also associate chocolate with life’s positive and affirming experiences such as social occasions, reward, treats, celebration and romance. Our brain’s key pleasure chemical, dopamine, is released when anticipating and enjoying pleasurable experiences on both an innate, biological level as well as an associative, experiential level.
In it’s raw form, cacao is intensely bitter. It was consumed as a drink known as xoclatl by the Maya and Aztecs. What transformed this challenging drink into the confection we so love today was the addition of sugars and fats in a certain proportion. Nature provides each of these components singly; sugar in fruit, and fats in nuts for example. The combination we adore in chocolate provides a fat and sugar ratio that is very similar to that of milk, and specifically human milk. It may be therefore that in eating chocolate our body also “remembers” our first experience of love, bonding and nourishment.
Addicted to love
Ignite passion with a selection of delicious chocolate patisserie and sweet confections available at île de paīn this Valentine’s Day…and everyday. Our rich chocolate mousse cake is made with 65% Maracaibo chocolate and is a great option for those sensitive to gluten. A heart-stopping red velvet cake is layered with passion fruit cream and topped with an exquisite red chocolate laquer veneer. Salted caramels offer a sophisticated combination of creamy caramel balanced with a spike of salt, enveloped in 70% guanjana chocolate with a light dusting of cocoa. Hearts will melt on tasting our almond shortbread cookies, fresh strawberry vanilla choux and croissant hearts with chocolate crème patissiere.
Our relationship with chocolate takes place on many levels; primal, physical, chemical, sensory and associative. In our culture, chocolate is perceived as a romantic gift. Romance leads to pairing, pairing to offspring and ultimately the survival of our species. It seems we are hardwired to love chocolate; a potent food indeed!
île de paīn – passionate about good food