Monday, July 31, 2006

God and Chocolate Icecream

Check this out:

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

Women in Chocolate

Attended a fantastic seminar today – Women in Business. I thought it was put on by a long-standing professional organisation that I just hadn’t heard of yet. I was duly impressed when I discovered it was actually a Landmark SELP project. Kudos to Jackie for putting it all together. The speakers were varied and brilliant. I had planned on going before I discovered Claire Burnett, from Chococo, was speaking. She was, of course, my favourite. And though I was probably biased by the subject matter her passion for her topic was uncontainable. I did have to find her during the break and explain that I wasn’t stalking her, though I had seen her in London a few weeks before and down in the shop just last weekend.

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

William Curley chocolates

As compensation for not returning to Chococo before leaving Dorset (I know, it wasn't really on the way home!), we detoured into Richmond to visit William Curley.

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

Chocolates by the Seaside

When I realised how close the hotel was to Swanage I just had to go and visit Chococo. Sad to see they don't have all of their range at once, but it does make sense. That's what happens when you make all the chocolates yourself! I did get to try the raspberry truffle I'd been eyeing off on the menu that came with the box I bought a few weeks ago. So delicious...

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!)

A weekend of decadence (of course, including chocolate)

This weekend I stayed the Summer Lodge. Rated by Harpers as one of the Top 10 hotels in the UK (and Top 100 in the World). I think the subscript is “privately owned”. You kind of get an idea of why, when within minutes of booking online they call to ask if you would prefer “feather or foam pillows” and if you would prefer “blankets or a quilt”. Arriving after dark you turn into a drive lined with trees glowing with fairy lights. Supper shall be taken in the drawing room – where Jane Austen’s Emma was filmed. Only a few weeks ago I was at Chatsworth House, where Pride and Prejudice was filmed. I almost feel like I’m doing the Jane Austen tour of England.

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 can't eat the chocolate I used to anymore

I was handed a free Kit Kat Chunky peanut butter bar a few weeks ago, at Hammersmith tube station. It is still sitting in the fridge. I used to really like the Kit Kat Chunky caramel bar, and I have nothing against the mix of chocolate and peanut butter… I just appear to have totally disassociated myself from enjoying the mainstream supermarket brands. Even the Cadbury vending machines in the stations do nothing for me. Not even when I’m hungry! This realisation is a little astonishing, and it definitely happened slowly. Just a few months ago I would bite into Cadbury’s if someone offered me a bar. Now…

I’ll probably always eat Smarties though… And chocolate éclairs.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Chocolate taster boxes

Hmm, I was at a BBQ today and one of the guests brought along a Hotel Chocolat taster box. Though it’s quite a large taster box, I was very good and only had two (was trying to be polite, and share with the other guests, though there were still quite a few chocolates in the box when I left!). I think I was the only guest who requested to look at the guide to what they were (wanted to make an informed decision!). I had a blueberry bombe (in white chocolate) and a cherry something-or-other. Well, they are no L’Artisan or La Maison… but not bad chocolates. I have had them before and found the quality of the box to be somewhat mixed… It is fun I guess, trying a new mix every month.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Another Chocolate Tour...

What a fun day! It fortunately didn’t get too hot for my group, walking between the chocolate stores. I definitely need to make more of a point of the variations in the tour - with it being summer and all... So I have:

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

Hard work making Chocolate sometimes..

When the sun is shining outside at least!

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

"Hey - Chocolate Lady!"

This is how I was greeted by the students at the Speakers' Bank Citigroup final. "It's chocolate Jen!" "Did you bring us any chocolate?"

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

The chocolate box is empty!

Devastation! Something about the lightness of the Chococo chocolate centres that makes them feel simulatenously decadent and... fun. I still prefer L’Artisan’s mint to Chococo's and also like L'Artisan's regular champagne truffle better, but Chococo has an incredible and delicious selection that I definitely want to try all of…

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

Chocolate Warning!

As seen on a sign outside a gift store:

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...)

More Chococo chocolates

The Chilli is divine! The pink fizz, a champagne and strawberry truffle was one of the most delightful taste experiences I’ve had for some time. The Rum Totty, a combination of rum soaked raisins in a dark ganache enrobed in milk chocolate? Soooo good……

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Chococo chocolates are delicious!

The prize winning ginger really is worthy of accolades… The Chococo chocolates are made from fresh Dorset cream and their centres are much lighter and fluffier than the chocolates made by other favourite chocolatiers. Which is nice for variety. While at a glance they could be the Belgian chocolates that are imported and marked up to give the impression of luxury – though not actually being that spectacular – the Chococo range is made in Dorset from El Rey couveture. You can tell the difference.

I’m trying to prolong the enjoyment… there are still more to try! I’ll be back…

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Chocolate & Luxury

Mmm... today I chose not to spend all day enjoying a beautiful English sunshine-y day outside, and headed to the Conde Nast Luxury Travel Fair. L'Artisan du Chocolat were giving short talks and tastings - their tobacco chocolate is such a strange (and addictive) experience. We wandered around the various stalls and chatted with some of the salespeople, picking up some lovely brochures for cruises and skiing holidays and cookery courses... mmm... those ones are high on the list. Had a test of the British Airways Club & First Class beds (First is definitely better, but I will accept Club ;-) ).

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

More chocolate pictures

The need for chocolate photos was becoming urgent; so a studio was hired and we headed to Brixton. The piles of truffles were so pretty, and the smell of melted chocolate filled the room as we attempted to create an avalanche of flowing chocolate... I was very good and only ate two!

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!