Tad Lombardo’s top five oddball chocolate combos
Tad Lombardo creates some of Australia’s finest hand-crafted chocolates in a tiny one-man choco-lab in the heart of the Prahran Market. His award-winning Cioccolato Lombardo range often takes inspiration from the fresh produce at the market, where shoppers can watch the chocolatier at work making glossy pralines, intricate edible sculptures and bars.
Some new flavour experiments are greater than the sum of their parts, becoming instant favourites among market shoppers. As we slide into chocolate season, with Valentine’s Day rolling into Easter, Tad reflects on his top five oddball chocolate pairings, starting with his “least weird” and finishing at number five with a combination that will never happen in his chocolate shop again.
Pretzels dipped in chocolate is one of my favourite pairings so I wanted to create a chocolate to replicate this. Enter the toasted sourdough bread chocolate bar. The bar has a crunchy texture similar how chocolate would have been in the late 1800s. The texture and flavours in the sourdough coupled with the chocolate are reminiscent of a bygone era. I love the looks of curiosity on my customer’s faces when they try to understand how sourdough bread could be in the chocolate. I make these bars in milk or dark chocolate, but personally I think it works better in milk chocolate.
This sounds awful but it actually works very well. I made a ganache with sage and its aromatic earthiness contrasts well with the sweetness and richness of dark chocolate (right).
The sweetness in the chocolate helps balance the acidity in the vinegar and the flavours marry perfectly (right). The better quality vinegar, the better the flavour. First I create a reduction of red wine vinegar with some sugar to make a syrup. which is then incorporated into a ganache.
In mid 2015, we had our first annual Truffle Festival at the Prahran Market. The organisers asked me if it would be possible to create a chocolate that had truffle as an ingredient. The short answer was yes, but I was not convinced that it would actually work. I then consulted with my friend and mushroom expert, Damian Pike and the process of trial and error began. I made a dark chocolate hand-dipped praline using truffle from New South Wales (right). The truffle lovers at the Festival loved it and I sold out. The earthy flavours in the truffle balanced very well with a 60 per cent dark chocolate.
I made garlic chocolates for another festival and again everyone enjoyed them, but to be completely honest, I violated rule number oe of a professional kitchen – a chef must taste everything before it leaves his/her kitchen. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t bring myself to try the garlic chocolates (right). I then vowed never to make anything that I did not like. There are some things that should never be mixed with chocolate – garlic is one of them!
Find Cioccolato Lombardo at shop 97, Prahran Market, 163 Commercial Road, South Yarra, 9826 2092