Saturday, December 17, 2005

Christmas is a-coming...

It always seems to take me a long time to realise Christmas is approaching. It's December 17th and I still haven't quite grasped it's only a week away. Maybe it's because this year I'm not working in an office with office Christmas parties, or because I haven't watched television in months (though I did watch the final 20 minutes of X Factor with friends tonight) and therefore I've missed all the Christmas advertisements. Or perhaps it's because I cancelled Christmas in my mind this year? Oh, I'm not Dickens' Scrooge, it's just that this year I've chosen to go to spend Christmas with neither family nor a partner, and I think it's unlikely I'll even see any of my family before Christmas... So I haven't been present shopping. Logging on to Amazon just now for a few gifts but I'm far from my parents and niece and nephew and other relatives so there's no massive gift wrapping. And it's just e-cards this year...

My housemate put up a Christmas tree this morning! 'Twas very exciting. I guess I'm writing this now because it is finally sinking in... and I'm quite looking forward to catching a plane to Austria Christmas eve and waking up to my first ever white Christmas and sharing food and laughs with a group of people, some of whom I've never met, none of which I knew this time last year. It will be nice. A true Christmas where it's just about being with wonderful people and relaxing and appreciating (and eating lots of food!). And from Austria I will use Skype to chat to my family in the UK and in a similarly named country, where they will be likely sweltering as they insist on eating the traditional Christmas roast.

I hope there's chocolate at my Christmas. I guess I should take some.

Last night I was at a birthday party. It was catered for in entirely raw food. To be expected at the celebrations of one of the 10 fittest men in the UK. Strange that raw food should be so "natural" yet I could not identify a lot of what I was eating. This is a little disconcerting as I am a food freak and can usually decipher what most dishes I eat are concocted from.

Despite the no meat, wheat, sugar, dairy hor doeuvres there was still chocolate cake for dessert. Sacher torte, in fact (the birthday boy was of German heritage). Actually there was also another chocolate cake but when I heard it was store bought and saw it was being distributed en masse I moved to the fancier looking torte. I have to agree with the birthday boy's brother that it was a little dry, nonetheless still quite delicious. Jam and chocolate cake is a match made in heaven.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Chocolate in the High Street

Last night I attended the opening of a new Hotel Chocolat store in High St Kensington. The people who work for the company are lovely and I admire their rhetoric of quality chocolate and supporting the cocoa farmers. If we don’t it could mean disaster for all of us! Did you know that the quantity of quality cocoa beans is decreasing? The more people accept the easier to grow and harvest poor quality beans the more inclined the farmers will be to grow these crops instead.. meaning decreased availability of real chocolate. The store is very pretty, the staff are lovely and they produce some intriguing chocolate candy options… and I currently am not won over by the quality overall. Put it down to personal preference, but I find the range a little hit and miss. Some delicious, some quite ordinary… I’m sure this must be a personal preference and encourage you to sample for yourself!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Birthday Chocolate

I celebrated my birthday this week. Yes, the whole week! I believe in birthweeks rather than birthdays, I love extending celebrations! Of course, it also falls at Thanksgiving and end of exams for my (dwindling numbers of) studying friends so it makes slightly more of an excuse to carry on celebrating. I celebrated by eating expensive chocolate every evening. And also by hiring a room at the Imperial China in China Town for dinner and karaoke with 40 fabulous friends. It was an entertaining evening! The food was absolutely delicious and the room was gorgeous. Fortunately the staff were more than happy to accommodate my request to bring in trays with the best chocolate brownie in the world that I had ordered from Flour Power and picked up at Borough Market earlier that day. Yes, I realise it might sound a little arrogant to buy and bring my own birthday cake but two of my friends had their birthday on the Sunday so it was with the intention of acknowledging them that I bought the cake (…and because I really wanted to eat brownie for dessert!!). Strangely enough, the third tray disappeared… As long as it was enjoyed that’s ok with me.

Friday, November 04, 2005

An Evening with chocolate connoisseur, Chloe Doutre-Roussel

“We are here to enjoy as many pleasures as possible.”

What a philosophy! I love it. OK, so I may be paraphrasing slightly but the light and enthusiasm that radiated from this wonderful woman was infectious. Yes, I may be biased because it is chocolate that lights her up so much, but this softly-spoken woman really did have a lovely attitude to life. She really does eat ½ kilo (a pound) of chocolate a day. I’m sure that’s why she’s so positive! She only eats high quality chocolate and only bars. Every few days she might have a truffle, but for her that is not really chocolate. And she only has milk or dark. She balances all this chocolate with an otherwise predominately low-fat diet. She loves good fruit and vegetables and almost never has fried foods or other sweets. She says she doesn’t like to because they spoil her appetite for chocolate for too many hours!

Chloe is a true chocolate connoissuer. She lives and breathes chocolate and did before she was paid to do so. Fortnum and Mason really are blessed to have someone so knowledgeable as her as their chocolate buyer. And their range of chocolate is beginning to reflect her expertise (although, as she said, she can only change one thing at a time!). She just released her book The Chocolate Connoisseur. I have it and love it. Essential reading for the true chocoholic.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Jenny and the Chocolate Factory

As part of Chocolate Week, I visited the L’Artisan Du Chocolate factory today.

Possibly the happiest day of my life…

The intoxicating smell as you walk in the door… An hour and a half of education in the mastery of chocolate as expert chocolatier, Gerard Coleman, guided a small group of us around his pride and joy…

I would reason that there are few chocolatiers in the world with more passion than Gerard. His immense love for chocolate glowed from him and the product of this devotion is truly some of the best chocolates in the world. This is quality food at its absolute pinnacle. Gerard uses only the best and freshest ingredients in his products and as a result his chocolates reflect a true and realistic shelf life of three weeks. Of course, who would want to keep them that long anyway?

As a fan of business systems (if you are ever thinking of setting up a business you must read E-Myth Revisited) I was supremely impressed with the efficiency and systemetisation of the L’Artisan factory. This is not to say the chocolates are not carefully crafted and made with love, rather that machinery is incorporated to ensure precise measurements and temperatures are used every time to guarantee consistency of flavour and texture. If it wasn’t for Gerard’s pride and obsession for quality that has him at the factory every single day quality testing (tough job that one!) he could very easily let the system create the chocolates.

Thank god for chocolatiers like Gerard.

My day was rounded off by attending a charity Brazilian night. Complete with dance lessons, performances, Capoeira demonstrations, Brazilian finger food and a Chocolate fountain… Unfortunately the nature of how these work means the chocolate itself can’t be made from high quality ingredients, but they do look so pretty!

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Virtual Chocolate

Finally, I join the world of blogging... There's just so much to say about chocolate, I can't keep up with it in my Chocolate Ecstasy newsletter (go to Besides, the newsletter is more about recipes, tips and facts...and I keep getting the urge just to chat about chocolate.

Whenever I travel my priority is to seek the best in chocolate in every location. This is the reason I decided to start my business in London. I figured I couldn't be the only person keen to try the best chocolate of the world - or to get my fix when abroad! I have just spent 2 1/2 weeks in Tampa, Florida. An amazing few weeks. Finding great chocolate outside of city centres can be a challenge and (dare I say it?) especially in America. I do love America and absolutely adored my time in Tampa - perfect weather (we left as it started getting windy!) and gorgeous, incredibly friendly people.

I largely went on a chocolate detox during my "vacation", which was an interesting experience for me. My love of chocolate is confined to quality. If it isn't fantastic chocolate I'm not interested (well... I will try anything chocolate once). One thing I do like about the states is that you can buy pure chocolate without sugar or any other additives in any supermarket. Yes, it's bulk cooking chocolate but it is at least free from nasty additives.

So, after 12 days with only one piece of Tollhouse Baker's Chocolate I finally got to a shopping centre... At this point I was almost delirious at the thought of ending my chocolate abstinence. I decided I'd be able to get some good quality chocolate-something at the Cheesecake Factory. On the way there a man in the Godiva store waved a sign at me through the window that said "Hello, come in for a free sample." Enough said! There I tried a pumpkin cheesecake chocolate. Yummmm.... Bizarre, and delicious. I love trying peculiar chocolates.

Then to the Cheesecake Factory... where I purchased a brownie. I'm almost ashamed to say I couldn't finish it, lucky I have chocoholic friends. Chocolate is always better shared. It was a fine example of a brownie, a little crunchy on top and moist and dense inside with large chunks of dark chocolate...

On a chocolate high that continued to the next day, I discovered Choxico (I think that's what it's called?). Very attractively packaged (always judge things by their covers : ) ... and then always reassess), I tried the dark chocolate with rasberry and lemon biscotti. It was good, if it hadn't been my last day I would have found my way back to the department store to try all the varieties. If you find this chocolate and don't like it, please keep in mind I hadn't had really good chocolate in weeks and this may have affected my standards... (Plus with the strange flavour combination it was hard to judge the quality of the chocolate but it was certainly a sufficient quality for a filled bar.)

Now I'm back in London eagerly awaiting Chocolate Week that begins today!