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I was invited by the lovely Shayna over at Near Say to sample a chocolate menu from Ayza Wine and Chocolate bar in the Lower area of Manhattan. It was sure to be a wonderful evening. Even more wonderful was being able to bring along the boy to see the bloggy side of it all.

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Our first mistake, and I guess this stems from all my Yelp stuff, was that me and BF had dim sum in Chinatown prior to the wine and chocolate event. For Yelp events, I usually have a snack or small plate beforehand so as not to embarrass myself hoarding samples. In this case, pregaming wasn’t the best thing to do. The event, which I thought would be sips of wine with chocolate pairings was in actuality, a chocolate FOOD and wine pairing.

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But BF and I had a nice long walk after dim sum and were able to make some room.

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Ayza, itself, is a romantic joint. It’s dimly lit with soft red lighting throughout. There is also live music. The singer that evening was an amazing vocalist and really bumped up the ambiance with her silky vocal chords.

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We sat at the bar where we imbibed on wonderfully crafted cocktails, courtesy of a fantastic Mistress of Mixology. I had the French Kiss which was a bit of sparkling wine with a kiss of Chambord and a sugared rim. It was a little on the sweet side, but after several sips felt perfectly dainty for the occasion. BF had the D’Lea which I very much enjoyed… noted for next time.

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To start, a beautiful Cheese plate was put between the two of us. I must say, I am a bit of a Cheese FREAK. I love cheese. The BF? He’s willing to try. So, If I ate a cheese and liked it, he followed. The ruffley thing in the center was in fact cheese too and Oh My Goodness! It was so good. There were sweet and thick cubes of guava that made for a nice contrast with the sharp cheeses on the platter. And If guava isn’t your thing, there are strawberries and raisin bread. But I pretty much just wanted to fold copious amounts of ruffley cheese into my mouth.

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So. Classy.

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D’Lea.

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The next course was a White chocolate and Celery Root Puree with warm, fried pita sprinkled with sea salt. The pita, when fried, took on the texture of a freshly fried zeppole and then when dipped generously in the white chocolate and celery root, was savory, sweet, soft and addicting. BF and I were scrapping the bowl clean of any and all traces of white chocolate dipping sauce.

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We also had a steak tare tare that had a spicy kick to it with the addition of some dark chocolate. The flavor profile was a little bit more aggressive than the white chocolate dish and while we did enjoy it, we kept going back to the white chocolate.

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The chef prepared a crab salad of sorts with avocado and citrus elements. I found the crab to be a little on the watery side and really didn’t love this dish. However, the avocado and crispy onions on top were phenomenal! More please!

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We also had seared scallops with a kale chip and perhaps a slice of jicama… or asian pear? I was starting to feel that French kiss and when another one was placed in front of me, all chances of remembering went out the window. The kale chip was so damn good. The scallop was fresh. Tasted like a scallop should taste but needed a harder sear in the pan. I was looking for a certain color on the scallop, but regardless, it tasted just fine.

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The highlight of the evening was the main course. Short rib braised in red wine with a fried Hen of the Woods Mushroom and a cauliflower and truffle smash. This dish, while just a taste, was RICH and hearty and had it been a full plate, would have been way too much for one meal. The Short Rib was tender and succulent and the sauce was reminiscent of a rich and earthy mole sauce. The fried hen of the woods was probably my favorite element of the dish. And lastly, the truffled cauliflower smash wasn’t overly done with truffle and even managed to taste creamy… despite a few bits of cauliflower. It was the perfect amount.

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The Big Finish! Dessert!

What better way to end a chocolate tasting than with a plate of fondue?? Sliced bananas, strawberries, marshmallows, pretzels, short bread and brownies! BF is not a huge chocolate lover, but he really did enjoy the chocolate with the fruit.

Overall, Ayza was a great place. It had a great romantic feel to it and would be the best place to woo that special person you want to date exclusively, or to pop the question. There was talk of this being a great date spot… I definitely agree- but not a first date.

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