ChocoVino Brings Valentine Favorites to L.I. Aquarium


A dessert sampling for the upcoming ChocoVino event at the Long Island Aquarium and Exhibition Center in Riverhead.

By Rachel Bosworth

Chocolate and red wine are hallmarks for February, the sweetest month of the year as holidays would have you believe, and with a wine region growing in prominence, the Long Island Aquarium and Exhibition Center uses both as the centerpiece of its Valentine’s Day celebration: ChocoVino.

The five-course wine pairing dinner has a uniquely sweet twist: chocolate is incorporated into each dish, offering sweet and savory flavors for your palate. “The menu is meticulously selected by our chef and the wines are carefully selected by the sommelier at Raphael Winery,” says aquarium spokesperson Darlene Puntillo.

Even the descriptions of the dishes are cute, with indulgent ingredients being coupled up, kissed, and married to one another, with a number of aphrodisiacs mixed into the indulgent menu.

The menu includes mixed grain salad with Hass avocado, cucumbers, hearts of palm, Roma tomatoes and crispy sweet potato chips with a vanilla bean and cocoa vinaigrette; lightly fried New Orleans crawfish egg roll with Sriracha and white chocolate sauce; pan-seared Australian lamb chop with a white bean cocoa cassoulet and chocolate mint sauce; and pan-seared cocoa nib crusted filet mignon with dark chocolate demi-glace served with lobster tail with a decadent white chocolate and thyme butter, Yukon potatoes whipped with white chocolate, and seasonal vegetables.

For a sweet finish, a trio including a white chocolate smothered cheesecake pop, rainbow cookie in milk chocolate, and
fresh strawberry dipped in dark chocolate will be served with a raspberry sauce made with Ralphael Winery’s own semi-sweet dessert wine, the 2012 Portico. This lightly spiced wine will also accompany this final course.

Vegetarians may enjoy a slightly modified menu with items like fried kale and vegetable dumplings, braised daikon radish scallop and beet risotto-style farro, pan-fried black bean cake, Aztec chocolate and mushroom stuffing, and more in place of meat options.

Raphael Winery is located on the North Fork in Peconic. Winemaker Anthony Nappa enhances the Petrocelli family’s centuries old family tradition of making old world wines in a new world region. With Mr. Nappa’s tasting notes on the menu, guests will experience food and wine as it is meant to be: together.

Diners will begin with a light bodied white blend and transition into a Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot. As each dish and glass of wine are meant to complement each other, couples will experience how both the food and wine bring out the flavor profiles of each.

Celebrating love isn’t just for couples though at ChocoVino. Gal pals and buddies can enjoy it too, says Ms. Puntillo. “We actually have many groups of friends that come, but we also offer tables for two,” she said.

Grab a date or a foodie friend, and start celebrating Valentine’s Day early on the East End. ChocoVino will take place on Friday, February 10 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $195 per couple, and all guests must be 21 and over. For an extra special occasion, take advantage of Hyatt Place’s Sweetheart Sleepover, featuring an overnight stay at the waterfront hotels, two tickets to the event, breakfast, and more. The package begins at $384.

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