Anyone who’s got a drop of pinoy blood is very much into the Trese animated series on Netflix these days.
Originally a Filipino comic series by Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo, the series (and comics) features traditional Filipino folklore and supernatural creatures we grew up scaring each other with… Think White Lady of Balete Drive, Aswang, Tikbalang, and my sister’s favorite: Tiyanak… all neatly paired with wonderfully written characters like The Kambal (Basilio and Crispin, named after characters from another Filipino classic: the DepEd mandated Noli Me Tangere by Jose Rizal), Captain Guerrero… and of course, the main protagonist (and all around badass) Alexandra Trese.
One of the characters who had significant air time was the Nuno, a Nuno sa Punso. Traditionally they’re cranky hobgoblins known to seek vengeance whenever their dwellings – usually anthills, mounds, large rocks, trees, riverbanks, caves, or backyards – get stepped on or destroyed. To avoid being cursed by these beings, people are made to say “tabi tabi po” (which roughly means “please move aside/let me pass by”) whenever they pass by these kinds of places.
Nuno in the Netflix series deviates from tradition by being the go-to otherworldly creature for the latest chismis (“gossip”) within the supernatural circles… with a seemingly silly obsession for yet another pinoy childhood favorite: The Choc Nut.
Yep… Got Choc Nut, will chismis.
For the benefit of non-pinoys (or people who didn’t grow up with the stuff): Choc Nut is the name of a nutty, crumbly candy bar made from coconut milk, cocoa powder, and crushed peanuts. The brand has been acquired in 2013 by Annie’s Sweets Manufacturing and Packaging Corporation, who made Choc Nut’s rival Hany. I’ve heard many a non-pinoy say that it’s a bit of an acquired taste… but trust the pinay 90s kid in me: Don’t knock ‘til you’ve tried it…
…from a neighborhood sari-sari store…
…after playing piko/tumbang preso/patintero/sipa/luksong baka/Chinese garter (or a combination of/all of them) under the sun.
I digress. After sharing our mutual obsession during a brief online chismis session with wine professional extraordinaire Judd Labarda, we put our heads together to ask a very #batang90s wino question: What would pair well with Choc Nut?
Since there are no books/text that talk about this (I doubt published wine researchers ever gave a thought on Choc Nut pairing), Judd and I decided to conduct an experiment ourselves… and, as there are many potential combinations, we kept it within the following parameters:
- Apply known pairings with similar food, such as Nutella and peanut butter
- As Choc Nut is very affordable, we wanted to at least keep the beverages accessible in terms of availability and price point… So we had to eliminate the fancy, hard to find stuff
- Apply traditional principles of food and beverage pairing, keeping in mind Choc Nut’s flavor profile
- Think outside the box, oddities be damned!
We also decided to divide the experiment between us.
So here’s the first part, which I did.
Disclaimer: Because there’s still an ongoing pandemic, I had to make a very quick run to different parts of Quezon City to get the wines and candy bars in one morning to limit exposure. Also – and this may be because of all the Trese hype – I wasn’t able to find Choc Nut. I found Hany though (and discovered that people have very strong opinions on Hany versus Choc Nut). I decided that the flavor profile was similar enough to use for the experiment.
Also, who knew that Hany came in different sizes now? I decided to stick to using the larger ones – the Hany SP – because it was less crumbly and retained moisture versus the smaller variants.
Drink # 1
The Beverage: Ruppertsberger Gewürztraminer 2017 Hofstück Kabinett, Pfalz
Where to buy it: Brumms Quality Wines Inc.
Price point: Below PHP800
Why: I wanted to see what the “bible” – What to Drink with What You Eat by Dornenburg and Page – had to say about pairing peanut butter. They recommended a Gewürz, but Judd and I decided on a more dialed-down flavor profile and zeroed in on a German iteration… After all, Choc Nut and Hany are a little bit more subtle versus peanut butter.
Observation: The Gewürz brought out the nutty taste of the Hany… Bonus points for the wine having a little hint of carbonation to keep the pairing from being cloying. I loved how the floral flavors of the wine balanced the earthy elements of the Hany.
The Verdict: Yes to this pairing, if the objective is to gorge on as much of the candy as possible. The pairing kept my palate fresh and I found myself reaching for more and more Hany.
Drink # 2
The Beverage: Paul Masson California Madeira
Where to buy it: Unimart or Makati Supermarket Alabang
Price Point: Below PHP350
Why: My top-of-mind dessert drink is normally a sweet fortified wine, and taking into consideration the nutty flavors of the candy, I wanted to go with a Madeira. Madeira is traditionally a “cooked” port with nutty, caramelized flavors originating from the island of Madeira, Portugal. The thing is, when we asked around for a Madeira, we were pointed to stores that supposedly carried the stuff… only to find out it was a fortified wine from Madera, California. Hoping that it did possess similarities with its Portuguese counterpart, I decided to give it a go anyway… Besides, the price point is just perfect for the candy bars.
Observation: Ehrm… It’s not as close to the Madeira characteristics as I’d hoped. It was close enough, but no dice. It did have a long, rich finish which suited Hany well, though… I’d forgotten how long Hany can last in the mouth. There were nutty flavors from the Californian Madera too, which matched Hany’s flavors. However, I didn’t particularly care for the bitterness that came out towards the end after I did the pairing.
The Verdict: It was… ok. I mean, it works if one is in a pinch in terms of price point and availability. It wasn’t my favorite pairing of the bunch, though.
Drink # 3
The Beverage: Offley Tawny Porto
Where to buy it: Unimart or Makati Supermarket Alabang
Price Point: Below PHP900
Why: Weirdly enough – and maybe because I was reading literature on the stuff when Judd and I were deciding on the drinks to pair Choc Nut with – a Tawny Port was the first thing that came to mind. A “basic” Tawny Port has flavors of toasted nuts and cacao powder, so I thought it would be a good match with the candy bar…
Observation: …and boy was it ever. It was a beautiful pairing. The flavors mirrored each other very well, and the texture of the Hany SP held its own with the rich, velvety Tawny Port. It didn’t have that bitterness that existed with the Paul Masson. Granted, it’s the priciest of the bunch, but not completely out of reach… Besides, a well-stored opened bottle of port lasts much longer than still wine (about a month or a little after that), so people could repeat the pairing as much as they’d like.
The Verdict: It’s a wonderful idea for after-dinner drinks and a light dessert. The pairing packs a punch on the palate, so I think it would be too much after a couple of bars and a glass.
Part 2 with Judd on the next!