Friday, May 26, 2006

Where the chefs eat...

I went for drinks at Cocoon last night, it has the best cocktail menu I’ve seen in a long time (no, I didn’t try any of the chocolate ones…). The rain was relelentlessly pelting down (I thought this was supposed to be summer, England?!) so we stayed quite a while and saw Ainsley Harriot come in. Now I know that I am definitely going to go back there to eat too. Wise to eat where the chefs eat!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Oops, I got chocolate on the keys

I’m currently at my laptop in Oxford eating chocolate (hmmm… de ja vu…). I generally have had a minimum focus on eating chocolate these last few days as I’m actually here for a speaking course: Holographic Presentation. As I’m getting more involved in teaching public speaking in schools I thought it would be wise to improve my own public speaking skills! If you’re interested in becoming a better speaker I can thoroughly recommend this course. Most of the topics for our learning we choose ourselves so even though I’m no eating chocolate I’ve been talking about it lots!

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

Vegetarian Chocolate

Mildred’s Vegetarian restaurant in Soho have been serving up sensational vegetarian food for years. Waiting times for a table are long at this reasonably priced, friendly eatery. I’m guessing the Chocolate and Prune pudding is good because we were told there was none left when we went to order it. Fortunately the special: a vegan maple, pecan and chocolate mousse was available, and divine. The chef at Mildred’s specialises in vegan desserts, the kind that you wouldn’t know were vegan unless you were told. Yum

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

Chocolate Tasting

Last night I attended another of Seventy Percent’s monthly chocolate tastings. I learn more every time I go. This time I paid particular attention to my favourites of the selection: Amedei’s Chuao and Valrhona’s Ampamakia. Tryi it! Just as in the tours, it’s interesting to note that only about 60% of the attendees are female. And I don’t think the men are there because they think will meet women! Though it might seem more women like chocolate than men, there has to be something in the fact that most, if not all, of the world famous chocolatiers are men…

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Chocolate Birthday Surprise

Last Saturday a group booked a chocolate tour as a surprise birthday present for a friend. It was such a fun day! It was so cool to see the surprise on the birthday girl’s face and it was great fun to lead a group that were already all friends – and even more fun introducing people to the fantastic chocolate you get to taste! I remembered to start a testimonial book – rather than collecting comments on separate pieces of paper. You can read some of the comments I’ve typed up on the main site here.

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

Shiny, Happy, Chocolate People

It’s true: people who work with chocolate are the loveliest people in the world. How could they not be? Sugar is a mood enhancer in itself, but chocolate has phenylethyamines which also improve mood.

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.