Friday, December 29, 2006
I just spent Christmas in the Lake District where my Chocolate Chip Cookies appeared to go down rather well. (For the recipe go to http://www.chocolateecstasytours.com and sign up for the newsletter.) I also made some oatmeal and raisin cookies too. the cookie supply ran dangerously low so I improvised in the cottage kitchen and made some Christmas Cookies - nutmeg, raisin and orange.
One of my Christmas presents was the Chocolate recipe book from Green and Blacks. As soon as we returned to a full kitchen I headed to Tesco for inspiration (having spent some time poring over it beforehand). I saw the beetroot in the vegetable section (would you believe the organic beetroot is cheaper than the regular kind?) and decided I had to try to make beetroot cake. I first saw chocolate beetroot cake at Chatswood House but I didn't buy it, and then I saw the recipe in this book.
It is such an easy cake to make, you don't need to cream butter and sugar, or whip eggs. Though I guess you do need to process the beetroot to mush and melt the chocolate with butter. I was going to take a picture but I couldn't remember where I left my camera (in my handbag!) until after it was already cooked and cut.
I hope you all had a nice chocolatey Christmas!
Monday, December 18, 2006
Sunday, December 17, 2006
Now that I'm all grown up I like Christmas pudding more - though still mainly for the brandy butter. I went searching on the internet for a chocolate Christmas pudding recipe. Though in November I was so organised and made my recipe for the December newsletter I decided last week that I would try and make a chocolate Christmas pudding instead. So the newsletter has been delayed because today has been the first day I have been able to make it. Actually, I started last night. I've never made any kind of steamed pudding before and didn't realise it is supposed to stand in the dish overnight. So I finally took it off the boil at about midnight (did you know they have to boil for 1 3/4 hours? The tedium. Fortunately I was simultaneously making several batches of biscotti.
The final unveiling occured at midday today. The bowl was not quite right, but the pudding still tasted good. A quick trip to the supermarket in the afternoon to get some milk because I was going to make custard. Then I decided brandy butter would be easier, so the milk is still sitting in the fridge. I wouldn't normally use milk for anything but custard is so precarious to make from scratch I decided I better not risk using rice milk or a similar substitute.
Here is the pudding and the recipe can be found in the December newsletter which I will send out tomorrow. I took the picture before I had any cream or anything else pretty to decorate it, so please excuse its nakedness.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
I confess, I took some chocolate with me to St Petersburg. I had no idea if Russian knew anything about chocolate. Whether you could get any good chocolate. I wasn't going to risk it.
We walked past Grand Hotel Europe and saw they had "Europe's finest afternoon tea". As we had eaten a very late (and large) breakfast and booked to go to the ballet that evening, we decided afternoon tea might be better than dinner. On the mezzanine we discovered now only a selection of cakes (which, incidentally, the ones we tried weren't that great) but CHOCOLATE! The hotel has begun making their own selection. We tried 13 of their 15 (I don't like praline that much) and totally fell in with their green apple and madras curry. I also really liked both of their cassis chocolates. And the banana and vodka pepper was nice too!
Sunday, December 10, 2006
Got to, off to dinner. More later on the Russian chocolate discoveries.
Friday, December 08, 2006
Just be cold. That’s where it went into hibernation. Still over an hour to go on the flight. I didn’t know how to pass the time. I’m such a geek. I don’t take books travelling, I take my laptop.
Anyway, am in Russia now so will enjoy being in Russia and write more on my return! (Yes, I found chocolate!)
Monday, December 04, 2006
Sunday, December 03, 2006
Whilst not all the range that I would have liked to have sampled were available yesterday the fig and orange marmalade truffle was just lovely. Not too orangey. One or two left to try still…
The brownies from Maby’s are also worth trying if you happen to be in Stow.
Monday, November 27, 2006
I am grateful people never arrive on time because I still had my dressing gown over my dress to protect me from blending the dips! I kind of invited lots of people, rather casually, not really sure who might turn up, and not remembering to invite everyone (sorry!). Funny how those parties always end up the most fun. To be honest, I think most people came because I promised them food and cake! Well, I delivered, and the bonus fountain seemed a pleasant surprise and kept the party kicking until well after 2am (love that chocolate stuff! OK, so all the bottles of champers on the "bar" may have helped too).
I finally went to bed about 3.30am, leaving my brother and a couple of his mates and the mess, and more chocolate… Though we made quite a dent on the 2.5kg, I’ll be making more cakes and things soon I think, with this stock I will have to!
Friday, November 24, 2006
I was treated to chocolate cake by the lead trainer after we finished. We debated whether the quality of the local Literary Café’s chocolate cake might only disspoint me but I was so desperate for chocolate by the end of this long day that if I was going to eat sugar it had to be with chocolate. It was a very satisfying cake. Moist and made with cocoa, just like the quick cakes I used to make when I was younger. A comforting, nostaligic treat.
Tonight I’m being taken for a surprise dinner… as long there is chocolate somewhere on the menu! :-D
Saturday, November 11, 2006
I had been counting down the days to last night's dinner in the Library at Sketch. I went with my foodie friend Kevin and his fiance and Kevin's friend Matt who runs a very cool cookery school for everyone: www.undergroundcatering.com
The lack of chocolate in the five dessert selections was made up for by the petit fours to follow: a white chocolate and chartreuse ever-so-light whipped ganache, a piece of milk mendiant bark, with pistachio, hazelnut and dried fruit, an incredible milk chocolate case with a passionfruit and salted caramel centre; and a (non-chocolate) rhubarb jelly square. I could have eaten a plate of the passionfruit chocolates. The five desserts were also very good. The first course of my taster menu was divine too: a beetroot and raspberry coulis with coco beans.
Thursday, November 02, 2006
Monday, October 30, 2006
Sunday, October 29, 2006
Despite being the last weekend in October, Edinburgh is actually not too cold. It is only in the last two weeks that I have finally acknowledged that summer is indeed over, by beginning to wear boots instead of sandals and coats over my skirts and sleeveless tops. Even this far up North I still haven’t had to don gloves or even a scarf. And have incredibly poor circulation and I do not cope well with the cold.
Sorry, back to the chocolate. Well, I had already heard about La Plaisir du Chocolat and so made a target of finding it as soon as possible. We had a lunch date and upon seeing the enormous selection (especially the range of cakes!) we realised we would have to return. So I bought just one cake to take away as I hadn’t had breakfast and in this case felt it was appropriate to begin with dessert because it was already after noon. Raspberry ganache. So incredibly rich that I am not sure how anyone could eat one slice to themselves in one day, let alone in one sitting. Very very yummy. Thick, thick layers of quality ganache interspersed with thin layers of sponge cake and raspberry. I suppose it was a raspberry jam but a quality one.
I discovered Coco of Bruntsfield by chance on the way to lunch and was forced to wait until after eating to go and in and explore. Coco specialises in bar infusions and hot chocolates. They also make two truffles and praline balls. The lovely Rebecca, originally from Sydney let us sample whatever we liked. The rose and peppercorn was great. As is the dark with cinnamon and cardamom and dried cranberries that I took away. You can sit and have hot chocolate at the little bar inside and a short walk away can view their kitchens (though they weren’t open yesterday so we could only peer through at spice jars and barren marble slabs. Coco has been nominated for Independent Retailer of the Year awards. Results are out this week!
I then returned to La Plaisir to get a take-away bag of about 25 of their 40+ chocolates. A little chocolate-weary from the ganache cake (which I didn’t even finish!) I will wait to try these. Though being made with fresh ingredients I only have a week to do so….
Friday, October 27, 2006
Thursday, October 26, 2006
Saturday, October 21, 2006
I've been too busy trying fine chocolate this week to write (oh, and working a bit too!).
I have just finished the second of the two luxury chocolate tours and am now relaxing on the couch, laptop on lap (hmmm...) completely buzzed from all of the chocolate. Now, in general chocolate shouldn't really have this much of an effect on your biochemistry, but when you consider just how much I have consumed in the past three days, well, over 300 compounds are having some effect. :-)
So, how much chocolate have I eaten?
Well, I didn't go to that many of the chocolate events this week but I spent all of today and all of Thursday touring London's best chocolate stores sampling lots at each. Thursday's tour was followed by the chocolate soiree, a 3 course chocolate extravaganza at Volupte lounge with Burlesque dancers and a musical trio playing show tunes.
Last night I went to a presentation by Damien Allsop, the former chocolatier from Melt. He makes very cool chocolates with a water-based ganache (ganache is the soft chocolate centre of the best kind of chocolate, made from warm cream and chocolate mixed together). So, no cream, though he does add some clarified (ie. flavourless) butter to help maintain the creamier texture. The main reason for not using the cream is to keep the flavour as pure to the original chocolate flavour as possible. It was a very delicious evening, we tasted squares of pure chocolate, he made a water based chocolate mousse and we tried some ganache chocolates he'd "prepared earlier". It was really interesting to learn all the science-y stuff behind chocolate making.
Friday, October 13, 2006
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Sunday, October 08, 2006
I meant to start with a 5K race, especially as I was supposed to be in Glasgow this weekend. But then I wasn't needed in Glasgow and Jonny couldn't run because of the operation on his foot two months ago, so I took his chip and shirt and ran for the wrong side of the river. Given I only decided to run 10 days ago I figured it was better I was running for the enemy: my time would likely increase the average on that side! The results aren't out yet...
After a bath and a nap it seemed the only appropriate way to celebrate was with chocolate cake. So I made one. And it is good. The recipe is going in this month's newsletter, it's not mine, but I thought I better test it first (tough job this one!).
Friday, October 06, 2006
Thursday, October 05, 2006
Oh, this chocolate fondant was actually chocolate and orange fondant which almost put me off (I overdosed on Terry's chocolate oranges as a kid and will not go out of my way to eat orange flavoured chocolate). The orange was subtle and the pudding was good, though almost a little bit like it had been boiled? Just not quite the texture I was expecting.
Until the next chocolate fondant, I shall return to work.
Sunday, October 01, 2006
Friday, September 29, 2006
Two chocolate tours in four days. And yes, I still like chocolate. My brother and father are visiting, they arrived after the public tour so I just bought some chocolate for them to try. My dad doesn’t leave until the 15th so hopefully he will get to come on the tour on the 14th. Both of my brothers, my father and my mother all love chocolate. Perhaps not to my extreme, but close. What choice did I have, in this family of chocoholics (though they'd probably never call themselves that, but watch them devour any in sight, or watch what they order from the dessert menu). Yep, definite chocolate lovers.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Sunday, September 24, 2006
Thursday, September 21, 2006
Ooh, very exciting news for the people booked for this Saturday's tour. As I was organising things this evening La Maison told me that their second-in-charge from the kitchens in Paris will be leading the tasting in La Maison. This is a treat.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
As we strolled around Chanel, Gucci and Hermes, I commented that it was surprising we had not happened across a fine chocolaterie in a place of such expensive tastes. Two seconds later a patisserie appeared with a cabinet full of chocolat. Still satiated by my mollauex I chose only 3 from their selection – to eat later.
Hours later at the airport I decided to replenish supplies of Valhrona (French chocolate is unsurprisingly cheaper in France, even in the airport). And after a supper of bread it seemed sensible to taste the earlier purchases. Jasmine, Pear and Mandarin. The pear ganache was unlike any pear flavoured chocolate I have ever tasted, almost as though you were biting into the stewed fruit itself. If you are ever in Monte Carlo, I don’t know if the patisserie had a name, but it is only a two minute walk from Zara, at the rear of the building that houses the cinema. Enjoy!
Sunday, September 17, 2006
We chose a selection of chocolates, ignoring the pralines and the “sugar-free” (I don’t believe eating artificial sweetners can be good for you). Canet molds their chocolates into flat square tablets, which is better for experiencing the taste fully (hitting all the taste buds at the same time). They were all pretty incredible but the stand out of the group was the buttered salted caramel, which is a combination I am always a sucker for. Other pretty incredible tastes in their repertoire were earl grey tea and vanilla.
On the day the Daily Mail identifies me as a chocolate expert, it seems only appropriate that I choose the intense chocolate dessert from the Michelin Star restaurant near Grasse that we had pre-booked before we even learned of the article. La Bastide St Antoine is set in gorgeous grounds with olive trees over 100 years old, and a stunning pool and hot tub. The kitchen of 2 starred restaurant is overseen by chef, Jacques Chibois. With my love of food, one of my favourite things is to look at menus. If you don’t share my appreciation I can be a rather frustrating person to walk down a restaurant street with, it’s a slow amble at best. Even in quality restaurants in English speaking countries chefs often appear to thrive on finding ingredients or cooking methods that don’t give away what the dish actually is. In a gourmet restaurant in a foreign country this dilemma was magnified further. Not eating meat narrowed down the necessary explanations but I still felt so helpless relying entirely on the maitre’d’s translations. So although I couldn’t totally remember what I’d ordered, it all tasted pretty spectacular. Langouistine to start and sea bream as a main. Both delicate and delicious. Though I preferred the overall experience that we had at Summer Lodge in July, the main courses were definitely superior in their quality and combination of ingredients.
We lingered at La Bastide this morning, having a quick dip in the, uh, “refreshing” pool before heading up into the hills. Given the indulgence of the night before it seemed only appropriate that we start Sunday with more chocolate. I admit, this is almost true. By the time we stopped at a patisserie for our first meal of the day it was already 2pm (hotel snacks don't count, right?). Another cabinet of chocolates greeted us as we entered. Though we also bought a savoury sample from l’boulangerie, I chose several chocolates to take away. Tired, by now, of asking what they were flavoured by I randomly pointed at four chocolates. Amongst the group was an incredible cassis. It is so frustrating when you are already miles from the store before you taste the chocolate. Cest la vie.
Friday, September 15, 2006
We hardly had to step too far from our hotel overlooking the stormy sea to find a little tea house with a glass patisserie cabinet filled with pastries and chocolate covered decadence. I was good and ordered salad to start. Then, a selection of chocolate delights: an opera and a chocolate raspberry tart. It makes such a difference when the chocolate is of good quality. My favourite thing about France: it is unheard of that even in an ordinary café would they serve food with anything but the best quality ingredients.
Tomorrow we dine at a Michelin starred restaurant in Grasse (the town where they make a lot of the world's perfume, I'm informed). I can't wait!
My drone about my tiredness actually made me momentarily forget the incredibly exciting news that I received this afternoon – I’m going to be in the Daily Mail on Saturday! How exciting! Unfortunately I’ll be in France so I can’t rush out to the local corner store and buy up all the copies. Hopefully my brother will do it for me.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Monday, September 11, 2006
Thursday, September 07, 2006
Then must also taste good too. The sticky chocolate pudding made by something-or-other farms (I'll find out!) Farms is fantastic. It tastes like my mother could have made it – and only 20 minutes in the oven. Now I am the favourite sister (ok, I am the only sister so I can say this with some certainty at least!) .
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Monday, September 04, 2006
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
He is my fellow foodie friend – though with considerably more experience and intensity in his quest to review the Michelin starred restaurants of Europe.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
What I love most about Waitrose is their chocolate section. Far from Asda that doesn't even stock Lindt, Waitrose has chocolate bars from Valhrona, Michel Cluizel and Rococo - amongst others.
In a plan to begin the chocolate education of friends I bought a bar of Michel Cluizel's blue lined variety (I don't have it with me and I've forgotten the country of origin!). We ended up having Haagen Daaz and Thai Bananas that I made for dinner so the chocolate got laid aside. But I opened it yesterday. Recently I've been enjoying my chocolate more in baked goods or in truffles and filled chocolates. I had actually forgotten just how delicious quality chocolate is on its own - how much flavour is in the chocolate that comes entirely from the bean, no difference in the processing whatsoever. It is this kind of chocolate that I really can manage to stop after just a small amount. I'm looking forward to attending another Seventy Percent tasting next week. So I can be reminded again of the variations in pure chocolate. Yum.
Sunday, August 13, 2006
The upside to having odd, inconsistent weather is that it is ideal for baking! Dani has something of a peanut butter addiction, and had an idea that if peanut butter flapjacks hadn’t been invented then I would know how to do it. Of course, good old google knows all and managed to spur forth a suggestion. I also remembered a choc-chip cookie recipe that had peanut butter in it too.
“Which one should we make…? Or should we just make both?”
So, make both we did. And both were delicious. We put both dark and white chocolate chunks in the cookies (proper chocolate, of course). I think, if I made them again, I’d put milk into the mix too. Why not?
I arrived back in London loaded with the foil wrapped goodies, I might be eating these all week...
Friday, August 11, 2006
Monday, August 07, 2006
I went to the market to get some of my favourite chocolates to send back to Australia - some for the friend I was meeting Sunday night, and some for her to give to my Holly. Then went for a picnic in Richmond park.
The chocolates became a chocolate blob. Well, I don't think it was quite that severe, but certainly separating them will be a challenge. Still, it (not "they" anymore) will still taste good and there was no chance to buy fresh ones.
So girls, I hope you enjoy them! And next opportunity I'll send you more!
Saturday, August 05, 2006
Thursday, August 03, 2006
Finally have all the ingredients to make chocolate whisky gateau for dinner party tomorrow eve. Think I better start making it now!
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
This cake better be good! Full report to follow…
Ooh, it just started raining. Nice timing!
Monday, July 31, 2006
What Nic Askew is doing is brilliant. I love the first 5 minutes of this video in particular. The references to being chocolate ice cream are a bit silly. But he gets credit for mentioning chocolate!
Friday, July 28, 2006
Met loads of fantastic people at the seminar, all in different stages of setting up their own businesses. After 3 days of eating really well I was definitely on some kind of trippy sugar buzz after starting the day with biscuits and then sampling Chococo’s chocolates Claire had brought with her. Oh, how I love them.
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Arriving with just 5 minutes until closing time, the warm weather and bustle of traffic suggested they weren't ready to close just yet. Lucky, because I didn't want to rush this. After trekking here twice only to find they weren't open, especially last week in the sweltering heat, I was going to savour this.
We decided it prudent to sample almost all of the filled chocolates and truffles. And for good measure, a brownie as well. First, the brownie: well, though the valhrona creation was tsaty, it was not, under any definition I've heard, a brownie. Yes, it had walnuts in it, but it was neither fudgy, dense, nor crisp. Still. it made a very nice, light mini-cake.
Of the truffles the standout was the cassis. And of the filled chocolates the raspberry and the Japanese one (sorry - I forgot what it was called!).
All the pastries looked so delicious. And the icecreams looked amazing! Sea salted caramel! Have to go back...
Monday, July 24, 2006
The lovely staff raved about the hot cross bun chocolate. Seemed so cruel when there wasn't one there to try. :-) It's nice to visit another chocolate store where the chocolatiers themselves are in the building.
Their bars are also delicious. Being a fan of berries and chocolate the dark bar with cherries, blackcurrants and blueberries caught my eye, and was as delightful as it promised.
I wish I lived closer... (Though, for the sake of my waistline, it's probably better I don't. Whilst this chocolate is better for you, too much of anything isn't good for you!) One of the nicest qualities of the Chococo chocolates is that the taste is so perfect that you couldn't possibly eat more than 5 in one sitting. So a large box of 25 will nicely last you the week! (If you don't share, and you probably won't want to!)
What I love most about this year is I’m finally travelling to see more of England. Massively underrated as a choice of holiday destinations, I love this country. Culture, history, green fields and old stone wherever you look. There is something magical about driving along winding country roads edged by handcut stone walls or thick green hedges, having to slow down and ease along the edge in order to allow two cars to pass in opposite directions.
Back to the lodge: The room. Wow. Flat screen TV on the wall, drawing table, DVD player, teddy bear, chaise lounge… The bathroom was phenomenal. An enormous room lined with mirrors and sparkly blue tiles. A free standing bath in the centre of the room, two sinks, a large shower area with a huge plate in the ceiling that the water cascaded from. The toilet was discretely tucked in the corner behind swinging doors. The walls lined with padded blue material, clearly in case you let the award winning sommelier ply you with too many wines, so you can pass out comfortably. This theory is surely confirmed by the phone available within arms reach.
I want to return to eat again in the restaurant. There were options that were just so frustrating not to be able to try. They fortunately offer a dessert plate, unfortunately this did not include the coconut soufflé. It did, however, include a valhrona chocolate orange fondant, which, though divine, was topped by the tiramisu and apricot pannacotta.
Thursday, July 20, 2006
I’ll probably always eat Smarties though… And chocolate éclairs.
Monday, July 17, 2006
Sunday, July 16, 2006
Last night I saw Jacqueline Gold, the CEO of Ann Summers, speak. An inspirational lady. She got involved in the business at 19, when the turnover was around £86,000 and was pivotal in bringing it to the targeted £1,550,000 it’s due to hit this year. There are too few female entrepreneurs and successful business figureheads, and even less when she began. Also, you have to love the business she is in! All about fun and freedom!
I wonder if they sell Chocolate…
Saturday, July 15, 2006
I went to Islington briefly to visit Paul Young today. It must be tough for these chocolatiers working 7 days a week, while the sun is shining outside. He’s got a huge range of ice cream flavours in store every day. I didn’t try one but the flavours are all so tempting – white chocolate and raspberry, chocolate brownie… The main reason I popped by was to find out the name of that chocolate store I should have gone to in Paris and didn’t. A wonderful man named Dan said he might be able to find it for me this weekend…
I love getting ready for a chocolate tour, packing the bags with Chocolate lover treats…
Friday, July 07, 2006
Fortunately the schools that I'd helped to train had come with the most students to support their representative - which meant they got to take home a load of chocolate as a prize - so I was off the hook. Even if it wasn't real chocolate...
I love it when people talk to you on the tube. I guess reading The Alchemist makes an easy conversation starter. Also seems to happen more frequently after 11pm. Interesting that as I headed home following the team drinks after the competition I got into a conversation with a fellow commuter. Interesting because I had just left the coordinator and her husband, who met four years ago because he, in a terribly un-English fashion, started speaking to her on the Bakerloo line. Not that this is the only reason people start speaking... a few weeks ago I met a guy who had cycled all the way from London to South Africa. And a few weeks before that, the woman who - out of the blue - offered me one of her bracelets following our conversation. A twilight moment as I'd walked out of the house wishing I'd had a bracelet that matched this outfit... and this bracelet did.
'Tis almost the weekend...
Thursday, July 06, 2006
Might have to head down to Dorset soon...
Thank you Clare and Andy!
P.S. I’ve never been much of a fan of marzipan, but I have to say, I am now converted – at least to Chococo’s version!
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
Warning: Chocolate has been known to make clothes shrink.
(Fortunately when you eat good chocolate you don’t need to eat as much to feel satisfied! Though I think my tolerance levels are shifting... Lucky I live near the park...)
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
I’m trying to prolong the enjoyment… there are still more to try! I’ll be back…
Sunday, July 02, 2006
Then, we went to try and find Lloyd Grossman, but got distracted by the food section of the Home & Garden show downstairs... somehow we got stuck amongst those few aisles for hours, sampling olives and oils and seeds and chutneys and sauces... Ladened with purchases (and pretty brochures from upstairs) we reemergenced into the sun when they kicked us out (not allowed to leave via the red carpet we entered on because we waited too long).
I love London. We wandered the streets and settled in to enjoy a few more hours of sun in a park, finally eating some of the foods we'd brought with us. One of the stalls in the Food Fair was Chococo. This is a company I've seen stocked in many stores but not sampled yet. Meeting the owners and discovering the couveture was from El Rey - I was sold instantly. Yet I can't comment on them right now because I'm far too full from delicious tarts and cakes from Popina to even consider opening the box. I promise to update you soon!
Saturday, July 01, 2006
Later in the evening I met with my raw food chef friend and we chatted a little more about our plans for a raw chocolate meal. I'm so excited! Peter does amazing things with raw food. If it wasn't my business I would be quite happy just to eat his mega-healthy chocolate creations, they are definitely much nicer than any supermarket brand of chocolate!
Saturday, June 24, 2006
All over the papers. Apparently the amounts are negligible and no one could contract the disease from the bars. I’m looking at the 250g block of Turkish Delight on my brother’s dresser, one of the potentially contaminated blocks. Really, the almost nonexistent possibility of salmonella is far less of a concern to me than the fact that Cadbury’s squeezes out the cocoa butter and replaces it with vegetable fats that
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
In case you're reading this and you have no idea what the tour I mention is referring to: Check out www.ChocolateEcstasyTours.com
Monday, June 19, 2006
Alton Towers has a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ride. We went for the rollercoasters and found the added bonus of this new ride. Meant for kids, it only opens to big people after 3pm. A distinct lack of edible chocolate, but still quite cool. If only these were real.. (I guess they wouldn't be fit for eating...) I love the idea of Willy Wonka's factory. Well, I have my tours I suppose - the next best thing!!
Sunday, June 18, 2006
Thursday, June 15, 2006
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Monday, June 12, 2006
I love farm shops. As obsessed with food as I am, the highlight of my visit to ChatsworthHouse was the farm shop there. They have their own branded chocolate bars, which, though I tried, I couldn’t find out who actually makes them. They do make a chocolate beetroot cake which though it doesn’t taste particularly different I’m sure it MUST be healthier for you! (Let me tell myself that!!)
I picked up a magazing on the weekend because on the cover it claimed “Chocolate that’s good for you.” The article quoted all sorts of interesting research which I was already aware of – in moderation good chocolate is good for you. What freaked me out, thouigh, was the box at the bottom of the apge that compared several brands for their “goodness”. The range was almost entirely of confectionairy – not chocolate! OK, allow me to climb on my high horse for a minute here please, a snickers is not real chocolate. It barely contains any resemblance of the good stuff that is in chocolate. If you are eating chocolate for health – but especially for pleasure – stick to quality dark chocolate, where the only ingredients are cocoa solids (or cocoa liquor), cocoa butter, sugar and vanilla. Only exception to this list is soya lecitithin which is just an emulsifier added to make it easier for chefs to use. The less processing that occurs during the chocolate production the more of the health benefits will be achieved. Dagoba, an American brand that can be found in Wholeoods stores in the States and
Saturday, June 10, 2006
Today I went with my friend Joe to take photos of chocolate. OK, he took the photos, and I helped to move the chocolate into a better position. Mmm… chocolate. Pouring massive bags of chocolate buds onto the table… So much chocolate! A happy day… And I managed to keep my white skirt clean! There are more photos to be taken so, dear, oh, dear, we’ll be back again next Wednesday.
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Monday, June 05, 2006
It’s unbelievable how quickly kids open their hearts to you. When we first walked into the building where they sleep and entered one of the bedrooms there appeared to be swarms of them. Entering blowing bubbles gave me instant popularity as they clambered to grasp the soapy spheres from the air. And then, after giving them the opportunity to blow the bubbles themselves I spent the next half an hour crouched amongst a fluxing group of kids ranging from two to twelve, coaxing some of the younger ones to try, ensuring some of the more confident ones let the others have a turn and endeavouring to learn all of their names. I think it was the latter that meant some of the quiet girls felt I was someone to be trusted and caused little Salomi to grab my hand as we walked out to the bus.
After McDonald’s we took them all to the park and finally returned them, filled with sugar, back to the orphanage gates. It felt almost cruel to have shown them a day of colour and laughter and love, to take them back to the grey concrete block which they would awaken to tomorrow, and probably every day after. For these kids cannot be adopted, they have no papers and therefore as far as most of the world is concerned, they don’t exist. I assure you, they exist. In all their sweet innocence, they exist to hold our hands, give us spontaneous kisses, sing to us and cry over scraped knees.
The same story with more photos can be seen at http://www.ballofdirt.com/journeys/12579.html
Saturday, June 03, 2006
Today we go to the first orphanage. This orphanage is privately managed. Until Zest started coming here it didn’t exist at all, which is really heartening. We were given sleep over our coaching session so we will be heading in with only the briefest of briefing. Not normal procedure but because everyone in our group has done a fair amount of coaching before I’m sure we’ll manage fine.
Friday, June 02, 2006
Friday, May 26, 2006
Thursday, May 18, 2006
Oxford is absolutely gorgeous. I wish I could stay a little longer to explore it more. There’s a sensational organic salad bar in the covered market which you MUST eat at if you come here. I’m staying in the Cotswold Lodge on Banbury Road. It has the cutest rooms which would be so nice if you were here for a romantic weekend.
Saturday, May 13, 2006
I’ve started volunteering with Speakers Bank. An amazing organisation that delivers public speaking training to schools and also to adults. Apart from chocolate I am passionate about getting more relevant education into schools. It is so encouraging to be present amongst group of teenagers who have so much passion and the most inspiring visions for the world - how the want to make it a better place. The greatest thing about this program is they have the opportunity to express all of this, and learn the skills that will make them more eloquent in doing so. It gives them more confidence in all areas of their life, and is so necessary that they have this freedom to express who they are, rather than being told what they should be doing. I'm excited.
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
I definitely have to stop eating so much chocolate myself on the tours!! I keep persuading myself it’s important that I have experienced as much of each range as possible… Oh well, lucky no matter how much I eat in one day, I could never tire of eating good quality chocolate!
Monday, May 01, 2006
I met Paul A Young, master chocolatier, today. I only heard about his store during yesterday’s tour and was thrilled to make it up to Angel this morning. The advantage also being that his normally pulsing store was comparatively empty, funnily enough not too many people rise early around Upper Street. Paul decorated his store himself and it’s clear his creativity is not limited to his chocolates. Many of the features were designed by Paul and then hand crafted by artisans. The wood boards have been soaked, rather than treated with chemicals and the spotless store is cleaned only with environmentally friendly Ecover products.
Paul makes all of the chocolates himself by hand downstairs. This means that the product range changes frequently and when something runs out, it runs out. Very frustrating for the local business people who have abandoned all the nearby cafes for their sugar hit and are rushing to Paul’s for one of his amazing brownies or his dairy-free hot chocolates. (You can buy the kit to make them at home too!)
This is also the only place in London where you can buy Amedei in 1kg blocks. The Italian manufacturer produces fine chocolate that will make an incredible difference to the outcome of your own home baking.
With only about 16 different chocolates on sale at any one time, you can actually try them all in one box. I did. My favourite? The raspberry. And they really all are delicious.
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
I did learn that just to be French does not mean the chocolate is fantastic. Still, you are never too far from chocolate that is. It was a delight that even the corner stores stocked several brands of quality dark chocolate. I kept walking past these stores thinking they were specialty chocolate stores as I glanced the massive display of bars.
My suitcase is full of chocolate...
Monday, April 17, 2006
Saturday, April 15, 2006
All guests dressed in white, amidst the 200 year old remains of a sugar mill stamped as having travelled from London centuries ago, we watched the bride and groom exchange vows and rings, to the sound of guitars and a viola. For a moment it felt like we were all alone in the world, and there was nothing except the love between the new couple and their family and friends. I realise this sounds a little syrupy, I guess you had to be there…
We’d all been swimming only an hour or two before the ceremony. I spend longer getting ready for work than I did for this wedding, which was part of what made the day so sweet: the unhurried and accepting pace at which it unfolded. It’s hard to get stressed in St Lucia! The 4 o’clock wedding was followed by hours of drinking, eating (chocolate wedding cake) and dancing, and finally a bonfire down on the beach (without the newlyweds!).
Thursday, April 13, 2006
Another wedding is about to occur… This time my cousin and his gorgeous American girlfriend. This was why they chose St Lucia – it seemed unfair to choose just one of their homes to celebrate the nuptials. There are 37 in total, including the bridal party – 22 in their twenties! This is making for quite a large party in the Caribbean!
Saturday, April 08, 2006
A few more days in Vancouver and I’m off to St Lucia for another wedding (via Miami). Canada is definitely proving better than my encounters in the United States in selling better quality chocolate. I think the Candian teeth are slightly less sweet than their North American neighbours.
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
I went with my brother for dinner at the Botanical in Melbourne. It’s a tradition of ours to have dinner together when we’re in the same city, as we both love good food. I went scourng the internet looking at the menus of the best restaurants in Melbourne, choosing based on what chocolate delights they proffered on their dessert menu. I couldn’t resist the sound of the Valrhona Chocolate Nemesis with Gold Leaf. Having discovered Valhrona was about as diffiult to find in Melbourne as one would imagine it to be in rural China I was quite excited. This is where I became grateful for the shared chocolate passion that runs in our blood, to order this dessert requires a minimum of two people. Served with poached figs and raspberries, balsamic icecream and pouring cream the combination was divine. What a difference it makes to use quality chocolate in the recipe.
Vancouver has sushi that rivals Melbourne. (Maybe better...?) There are several sushi restaurants on every block. We ate at Tsunami on Robson, and while there might be better, we liked it enough to return! If we weren't eating sushi in Tsunami you could find us at Earl's. The salmon in their salad was so far removed from the salmon you get in the UK it seems incredible that they can be named the same food.
We’re off to Big White ski resort tomorrow. Bizarre to think that less than two weeks ago I was soaking up the sun on my parent’ balcony in a bikini, and tomorrow I’ll be wading through snow… Still need the bikini for the hot tub!!
Monday, March 13, 2006
As mine and Holly's friendship was founded on chocolate, cemented with chocolate chip cookies and extended with Cadbury’s. Lindt and late night chocolate pudding, it was only fitting that her wedding cake be chocolate, the bombonerries be chocolate hearts and for there also to be mini chocolate icecreams served from swinging baskets carried by the serving girls. Though we now live half a world away from each other, my beautiful best friend and I still share chocolate recipes and stories. Only now we just can’t make them in the same kitchen. Occasionally she’ll tease me in an email about some amazing chocolate recipe she’s just tried. Lucky for the newsletter readers when she types them up and passes them on to me.
Sunday, February 12, 2006
Cape Town is a truly gorgeous city. As modern as any, with a relaxed pace, stunning residents, fabulous seafood and sun that blazes in the sky almost every day, it would seem. Perfect for cruising in a convertible mini. The sunsets here are incredible.
Monday, January 02, 2006
I wish they sold it in England! Intense Pear! With pear and almond in dark chocolate.
Yum...Chocolate in Austria... they are the second largest consumers of chocolate in the world. And Milka Milka everywhere! Pale purple lining the shelves.