Photos by Patricia Laudencia
People say that chocolate always makes everything better — but what happens when said chocolate doesn’t come in the form of a dessert?
As a certified chocoholic myself, I was slightly surprised when Kelly Go, managing director of Auro Chocolate, told us that the chocolate bar crawl we’d be participating in that afternoon wouldn’t involve any sugary treats. When we gathered at our first stop in Poblacion at 5 p.m., Kelly explained that the crawl was meant to be a “pre-game” of sorts, lasting long enough so that we’d still have time for a night out with friends in the area afterwards.
Operated by Fat Girls Day Out, the Auro Chocolate Bar Crawl aims to showcase locally made chocolate-infused savory dishes and (alcoholic) drinks. Auro co-founder Mark Ocampo mentioned that the crawl was designed “to bring everybody together to enjoy chocolate in a new way.”
Auro Chocolate is known for its innovation. The globally recognized, Davao-based chocolatiers pride themselves on their bean-to-bar chocolate sourced from farming communities in Davao. Offerings include different variations of dark chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate, and more. There’s even one with Arabica coffee.
Their chocolate used in real, non-dessert food, on the other hand, tells a whole other story. Below are the stops we made during the crawl at the different joints around Poblacion in Makati.
We began our gastronomic adventure at Khao Khai Thai Chicken, a newly opened joint along Ebro Street. Sitting among its kitschy posters and decor, we tasted offerings from the crawl’s special menu, including their green mangoes with chocolate bagoong (77% chocolate!). Think bagoong, but with the tablea taste of champorado. It was paired with the Bangkok Fire, a rum-based drink with 64% dark chocolate on the rim that balanced out the burning feeling that goes down your throat after taking a swig.
As the afternoon progressed, so did the heavy rains. That didn’t stop us from making our way to the other side of Poblacion where we ducked into Lampara, a Neo-Filipino restaurant with mint green interiors that were as cozy as they were modern. Here they served a slow-cooked pork belly on a bun, topped with cacao nibs. Chef Alphonse Sotero told us that the pork was cooked for almost two days, and oh, how that paid off. We were advised to take a sip of the Jim Beam Negroni (infused with chocolate, we were told) before biting into the oh-so-tender pork belly.
Stop number three was Polilya where we tried Mexican mole, a pre-Hispanic sauce that’s a mixture of dried chilis, chocolate and five or six different types of nuts. Head chef Luis de Terry advised us to “go deep in the mole. Crush it, lick the plates — that’s what you’re supposed to do.” Served atop a chicken dumpling and a piece of tempura, the chocolate was integrated well into the sauce. The mole was complemented by a margarita made with local citrus fruits and topped with white chocolate shavings, which chef Luis said was meant to bind all the flavors together.
Pour it up: Each stop on the crawl paired alcohol with savory treats.
Next up on the crawl itinerary: Alamat Filipino Pub & Deli, known for its locally crafted beers and reinvented pulutan. Here, we got to taste a meat option — the Tiyula sa Itum, braised rib finger in burnt coconut and Auro tablea and ensaladang Adlai and talong and Auro cacao nibs. They also have a vegetarian option which is the pinais rice crisp and pinakbet salsa tossed in Auro Dark Chocolate Vinaigrette with Laing. To wash it down, they served the cleverly named Auro Plata, a cocktail of gin, white rum, pandan, cacao liquor and chocolate sauce.
Dog days over: We ended the night with a Chocolate Chili Cheese Dog at Pedro Tap House.
We ended the pre-game at Pedro Tap House, where we sampled the Auro Midnight Stout — the Pedro Brewcrafters Space Out Coffee Stout poured into a glass with a splash of Bourbon and 55% Auro Dark Chocolate. Think of it as a milkshake-like concoction that went well with the grease of their food offering — the Auro Chocolate Chili Cheese Dog.
Visit aurochocolate.com/barcrawl to reserve a slot. They only accept 30 people per day.