It happens unintentionally. Somewhere in the middle of her sentence describing the peach-pit liqueur, creamy brandied marscarpone and poached peaches that went into this second dessert course, I zone out.
Not for any of the usual reasons, like boredom or a wandering mind, but because when Megan Peters is describing her craft, the combination of her gentle cadence and her subject matter is soothing. Soothing in a way that, were she to record herself reading the ingredients and describing her process for her various dessert tasting dinners, people might buy it and play it on loop to lull them to sleep.
It’s a Friday night, and Peters is hosting a four-course dessert dinner at the back of Black Mountain Chocolate where she works. To say the scene is intimate would be an understatement — there are just 12 of us, with two complete strangers sitting maybe a foot away on the other side of one of three small tables.
Before Peters walked over to tell us all that went into this second dish, the two friends were discussing online dating, and though I did my best to avoid listening, our proximity made it impossible to call it eavesdropping rather than just overhearing.
The dimly lit room with tea candles on the tables is where the first step of the chocolate-making process happens at the downtown Winston-Salem boutique factory. Two walls are exposed brick, one of which includes a glass garage door allowing for easy viewing onto Trade Street. The neighbors in the complex — a flashy tattoo parlor and a lounge — aren’t quite ready to open, but there’s a steady flow of people into the front of the chocolate business where Peters’ creations are for sale between the chocolate bars and gelato.
Peters is the 28-year-old pastry consultant and chocolatier for Black Mountain Chocolate, a native of Winston-Salem who studied baking and pastry arts at Wake Tech. She would most aptly be described as one of the area’s most interesting and inventive chefs and one of the city’s younger talents.
With the help of her dad Brent, who owns the place, Peters has already presented an offbeat opener tonight, starting with a sweet corn budino (think pudding) with house “cornflakes” and a blackberry/buttermilk sherbet. The corn was the most prominent flavor, aided by the crunchy cornflakes that added a breakfast-like quality and evened out with the sherbet on top, all served in an adorable little glass jar.
Not what you’d usually expect for a dessert, I think as I read down the menu to see what’s coming and notice the 70 percent chocolate in the third course, a delicious and appropriate foray into the experimental.
When Peters walks away to another table and then back to the kitchen a few rooms away, I ask my tablemates if Peters said something about dates or figs. No, they tell me, it’s peaches, and I wonder where exactly my mind drifted.
Before long, after her dad cleared our bowls, Peters returns with pickled ginger gold apples, meringue sticks that look like mini candy cigarettes, persimmon, a chilly sorghum-apple sorbet and the centerpiece — a long, rectangular soft chocolate. The tasting menu refers to it as a terrine, a word I don’t fully understand even after a quick web search on my phone. There’s a good chance Peters explained it, but her voice carried me off before I could catch the specifics.
Choosing a best among the courses is almost like playing favorites with your children; each is special and rewarding in its own, unique way. But I lean towards the poached peach dish for its taste and combination of unconventional approach yet balanced and reasoned execution. A tablemate says she’s inclined to agree, though my girlfriend favors the third course and rightly so.
But our counterparts at the table point to the peach lavender pate de fruit, one of the four kinds of petit fours in the final course that also included a hard, dark chocolate and blueberry and strawberry cream macarons.
That’s one of the signs of the strengths of Peters’ menus; there isn’t a clear favorite and a strong argument could be made for any component. The best approach really is to consider the affair in full, taking into account the residual smell of chocolate in the room because of the manufacturing that happens here by day alongside the multifaceted approach of the complementary courses Peters dreamed up.
After eight dessert-tasting dinners at Black Mountain Chocolate, Megan Peters is taking an indefinite break but she will be teaching classes at Southern Home & Kitchen (W-S) this fall.