Saturday, March 24, 2007

chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate

So much chocolate news to report. Walking near Oxford Street today I passed near an outlet of Paul’s (bakery and patisserie) and the sign on the pavement was all about chocolate, and their obsession with it. So I decided to see just how well they did chocolate. Now, with several chocolate options on the menu it would not be fair to make a blanket judgement about quality based on one item, but I decided to restrict myself to one, just the same. I chose a piece of their chocolate cake. By the height of it I am guessing it is made with very little flour. It was nice. Great adjective, isn’t it? “Nice.” It was not particularly dense, and not overly chocolatey. Not particularly more-ish, or even a texture that felt like it would placate any chocolate cravings. Just: "nice". [I didn't eat the whole piece.]

I went from there to a meeting with Steve and Martin from Seventypercent. Martin offered me two new chocolate bars to try. Made by an American who buys in cocoa liquor and processes it into chocolate himself. A practice rarely done by small scale chocolatiers, or even by larger ones. The first had the most amazing, fruity smell, but its taste didn’t quite live up to this. Reminiscent of an American candy bar, clearly dark and of higher quality, but lacking something. Martin called it “control” and suggested the conching length needs a little refining. I never knew it took Amedei (the award winning chocolatier) eight years to get a great chocolate bar. The second bar barely had any smell at all, but the taste was far superior to the other. Fruity and notes of caramel, too. While a great chocolate it is not yet one I would hurry to buy again. (I'll find out the name and get back to you!)

After leaving the men I went to Yuatcha, to finally try their chocolates. Their display has expanded since I was last there, and sadly it seems they don’t seem to sell madeleines anymore. Shame, they were good. I asked the women behind the counter where the chocolates were made: “behind the glass screen there”.

“Do you know what chocolate it is made from?”

“The chef buys it in and makes them in there.”

“But do you know what chocolate it is made from?”

A sweet smile and a shake of the head. With titles like “apricot wasabi truffle” I decided I might as well try them anyway. A hefty £8 per 100g. I’m disappointed. While the ganache of the apricot wasabi (noticeably lacking in wasabi) and the raspberry rose) were quite nice, and the chocolates were well constructed and of a nice texture, I feel certain that they did not use chocolate that the other chocolatiers in that prie bracket use. They used a popular brand that, when mixed with good ingredients, make quite good chocolates, but on its own fails to shine. Unfortunately because truffles still often need to be encased in chocolate you still have to bite through chocolate on its own to get to the truffle.

Later that day I stopped in to L’Artisan du Chocolat in Sloane Square. Their Easter display is fabulous and they have created a whole range of mini eggs especially for Easter. These can be bought on their own or inside larger eggs, decorated as boiled eggs or with a fried egg slapped on the side. (Not a real fried egg!) L’Artisan have also recently bought the machines to be able to buy chocolate liquor and process it into chocolate. They have always made their own blends, but now can do so right from the bean. Their first blend is impressive. It tastes strong, but strong of fruit and a hint of smokiness or tobacco. It’s a really powerful chocolate that on its own is really satisfying. This is what their Easter eggs are being made from this year.

So, the weekend begins. I will be near Paul A Young’s today. I haven’t visited in a while, so I may have to pop in and see what he is up to... :-)

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