Starward Whisky & Zokoko Chocolate Dinner at Hotel Centennial

Hotel Centennial in Woollahra hosted a special evening for whisky and chocolate lovers at the High Table. Entitled The Goddess and the Grain, the evening was a 5-course dinner prepared by Executive Head Chef Justin North paired with a selection of Starward Whiskies and Zokoko Chocolate.

The event gave diners the opportunity to mingle with the producers, Michelle Morgan of Zokoko and David Vitale of Starward Whisky, learn about their craft and taste a selection of fine chocolates and single malts.

Starward Whisky & Zokoko Chocolate
Starward Whisky and Zokoko Chocolate

Zokoko is a premium artisan chocolate based in Sydney’s lower Blue Mountain at Emu Plains. Their chocolate is made from bean to bar, working directly with growers to source cocoa beans which are then roasted and prepared to enhance the flavour profile offered by its origin.

Starward is a single malt whisky from Melbourne, a whisky that is unique to Australia made from malted barley from around Ballarat and matured in Apera (Australian sherry) casks. Starward is a young whisky, just over 2 years old and is characterised by ripe banana and orchard fruit aromas along with caramel and vanilla. The palate has more fruit evident with toasty caramel, spice and some marzipan. The finish is dry and youthful with spice and fruit.

Chocolate and whisky were included in every course which was matched with a Starward whisky including the New World Projects, where the spirit has been aged in different sized barrels, namely 50L casks, 100L casks and 200L casks.

Starward Whisky & Zokoko Chocolate
Roast Northern Rivers Pork Belly, Choucroute, Confit Pear and Prune Puree

The first course was Roast Northern Rivers Pork Belly with Choucroute, Confit Pear and Prune Purée. The pork belly was salted overnight and the skin left uncovered to dehydrate then caramelised. The pork was then slow-roasted in the oven. Beneath it was a prune purée where the prunes were soaked in Starward whisky then puréed with Zokoko Goddess 70% chocolate. The pear was cooked confit-style in burnt butter and the choucoroute was flavoured with salt, cumin, coriander, star anise and cinnamon cooked with white wine and smoky bacon.

The dish paired well with Starward Malt Whisky (43% ABV), and the orchard fruit and caramel notes complemented the pork and sweet prune purée.

Starward Whisky & Zokoko Chocolate
Cervena Venison, Beetroot and Cocoa Puree, Pedro Ximenez Vinegar, Burnt Butter and Whisky Jus

Next was Cervena Venison, Beetroot and Cocoa Puree, Pedro Ximenez Vinegar, Burnt Butter and Whisky Jus, a sensational dish that sang the praises of produce and technique. Cervena venison comes from New Zealand is farmed in a wild environment. The meat was left out of the fridge for a good few hours to come up to room temperature then caramelised in a hot pan, letting the heat gently penetrate meat. Cooked between rare and medium rare for maximum flavour, the venison was complemented with a heavenly beetroot puree with Pedro Ximenez sherry and Zokoko Tranquilidad 72% chocolate. The venison jus was made with whisky and chocolate and the dish was served with roasted purple cauliflower. The venison melted in the mouth with a sweetness from the meat while the beetroot puree and jus with Pedro Ximenez brought out the sherry notes of the whisky.

The venison was matched with Starward New World Projects 50L Apera Barrel (63.2% ABV). Bottled at cask strength, the whisky had a marked alcohol prickle on the nose along with strong sherry notes. The palate sang with stewed orchard fruit, spice and Christmas cake with a chewy mouthfeel and pronounced oak with a medium to long finish. This is a superb whisky which takes the flagship Starward and enhances the sherry and oak notes due to more contact with the wood.

Starward Whisky & Zokoko Chocolate
Epoisse, Cocoa Puff Pastry, Caramelised Endive and Smoked Creme Fraiche

After such a superb course, the Epoisse, Cocoa Puff Pastry, Caramelised Endive and Smoked Creme Fraiche seemed like a difficult act to follow on paper but that quickly changed when the dish was served. This course was a transition from savoury to sweet which worked very well with a combination of the rich washed rind cheese, the bitterness of the endives, the light and airy cocoa puff pastry from Zokoko Solomon Island 64% with cocoa butter and a sprinkling of cocoa crumble for texture.

The dish was paired with Starward New World Projects 200L Apera Barrel (63.2% ABV) which had a fruity nose, yet weaker in comparison to the 50L cask with  similar alcohol burn. On the palate, the whisky displayed a little roughness lacking in refinement. Although the ABV is similar, it was not as smooth as the 50L Apera cask, less chewy and oaky as expected with a medium to short finish.

Starward Whisky & Zokoko Chocolate
Zokoko Chocolate and Starward Whisky Tasting

A brief intermission had guests moving a private room for a special tasting of  Zokoko Chocolate and Starward Whisky Tasting led by Michelle Morgan.

Starward Whisky & Zokoko Chocolate
Milk Chocolate Goddess and Whisky Zabaglione Trifle, Cocoa Jellies & Coffee Cream

Back to the High Table and it was time for the first dessert, Milk Chocolate Goddess 45%  and Whisky Zabaglione Trifle, Cocoa Jellies & Coffee Cream paired with Starward New World Projects 100L Red Wine Barrel (not shown above). If the sighs of satisfaction echoing around the room were any indication, the dessert with its combination of textures was a hit among diners.

David Vitale explained that the whisky is essentially a Doublewood, aged for 1.5 years in sherry casks and a similar time on red wine casks. At 56.3% ABV, there was little nose burn with sweet, red wine and port-like aromas. Sherry and spice were prominent on the palate, as was the oak. The finish was long and satisfying.

Starward Whisky & Zokoko Chocolate
Zokoko Alto Beni Chocolate Cadeau with Whisky Dulce de Leche

The grand finale of Zokoko Alto Beni 68% Chocolate Cadeau with Whisky Dulce de Leche warrented applause. The chocolate cadeau was a delight to break revealing a soft, delicate Zokoko Alto Beni chocolate mousse with a liquid whisky centre with dulce de leche that had a flavour like salted caramel. It was then left to the light milk sorbet to cleanse the palate.

The dish paired well with Starward New World Projects 100L Apera Barrel (63.1% ABV). Unlike its 200L brother, the whisky retained its fruity and caramel character with a chewy mouthfeel and a medium to long finish.

Starward Whisky & Zokoko Chocolate
L-R: Justin North (Hotel Centennial), Michelle Morgan (Zokoko), David Vitale (Starward)

The Goddess and the Grain dinner prepared by Executive Chef Justin North was a sensory delight, taking diners on a journey of taste and smell, while educating the palate in elegant and comfortable surrounds. Hotel Centennial holds special dinners on the first Thursday of every month. The next dinner is set to be a 5 course culinary tour of France.

The Goddess and the Grain dinner was held on Thursday 4 September 2014 at Hotel Centennial in Woollahra.

Photography © by Gourmantic – Copyright: All rights reserved.

Hotel Centennial 
88 Oxford Street, Woollahra
Phone:+61 2 9362 3838


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About the author

Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati is the Founder/Editor of popular online magazine Gourmantic and Cocktails & Bars, a website dedicated to cocktail culture and the discerning drinker. She is named in Australian Bartender Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential List since 2013, is a member of The Academy responsible for judging the World’s 50 Best Bars. She has also judged the inaugural Australasian Whisky Awards and various national cocktail competitions.