Sunday, June 24, 2007

Taste London Festival

I'm just about able to move again. A long rest was required after a day of concerted eating (and drinking). Soup, fish, beer, wine, port, sherry, cheese, beef, potatoes, scallops, ice cream, chutney, oil, bread, fruit, chocolate, juice and more. A delicious day.

I have the nicest man in the world. Despite my insistence that I was ok with going on my own, he magnanimously accompanied me in this feast of culinary delights.

My absolute favourite dish we tried was the Seared scallop, black polenta emulsion from Club Gascon.

The most delicate salmon I've ever tasted came from One-O-One in their "Confit of Norwegian salmon and scallop mi-cuit truffle potato mousseline, foie gras jus roti". Delicious.

Cocoa Loco were here too so I got to pick up some of their white chocolate brownies. I don't think I'll be trying them today though!

Sorry for the lack of pictures! (Next year...)

Friday, June 22, 2007

I love Turtle bags

Does anyone else ever feel like their brain starts to turn to mush when they start wading through Outlook?

I was talking to a friend today and he has now (on the advice of someone else) made it a rule not to check his email until after 12noon. A pretty good plan, I think. I doubt I could do it. But I do think I should perhaps shut Outlook completely between 10 and 12, or something like that. And Gmail, Yahoo, Facebook... All of these glorious "timesavers".

What are turtle bags, you ask? My friend bought me two for Christmas and they are fabulous. Though it seems that I always forget them on the days the staff member on checkout remembers to ask if I have brought my own bags and I am certain that each bag counts as two of the plastic ones for all their capacity - I want green clubcard points.

I'm researching suppliers for some environmentally friendly bags to give people who come on the tour. I know they don't look so luxurious but it's nice to be able to do our bit when we can. Any recommendations welcome!

Still hoping to make the Taste festival this weekend. My poor, equally food fanatical friend was ill today so we cancelled our adventure. Fingers crossed to go on Sunday...

Monday, June 18, 2007

Whole Foods Chocolate Department

Valrhona, Pralus, Dagoba, Michel Cluizel, El Rey and more. Heaven. Whole Foods is my new favourite place.

I actually took these pictures the Friday after it opened, nearly two weeks ago now. But it's been an interesting ten days so this is the first opportunity I've made to post them. I spent over an hour (and a lot of money) in there Friday and again on Saturday.

They also have a big range of raw chocolate bars, which I have now tried three of. I went back on Friday last week because I just had to have more of the ciabatta which is the best version of the bread I have ever tried. When I went to the super food aisle to buy more of my preferred bar they were all out - I guess the raw food chocolate bar (Valfonte?) is everybody's favourite.

It'll be great when everything is priced properly (!). Other must-buys are cheese (some of my market favourites are available here, the 5 year old gouda is treacly and an addictve chocolate alternative); fig balsamic vinegar; the four cheese bread; and any of the bulk buy foods - they all work out cheaper than buying them pre-packaged (even cheaper than Tesco and others). All the pastry products (brownies etc) are made with either Valrhona or Callebaut. Hooray, another place to buy quality treats and one that's open 8am to 10pm Mon-Sat and less than that on Sunday.

The chocolate counter:

This is the best value chocolate you will find in a store for large quantities, a little awkward for eating but perfectly tasty for doing so!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Chocolate chunk cookies

I had a craving for chocolate cookies all day on Monday so I stopped at M&S on my way home to get some eggs (forgot them in the big shop on Sunday) and started creating when I got home.

100g butter
75g sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
220g flour
1 tbs cocoa
100g dark chocolate (good quality)
100g white chocolate (good quality)

Put oven on to pre-heat at 180 C

I melted the dark choc and butter in a bowl above a saucepan of simmering water (not touching the water).

Whilst that was melting I whisked up the egg with the sugar and vanilla.

I poured the melted chocolate into the egg (it had been off the heat for a while before I did this) and stirred till completely mixed together. I sifted in the flour and cocoa and stirred until it was properly combined, then added the chopped white chocolate so it looked like this:

I spooned the chocolate mixture onto a greased and lined tray and baked for ten minutes. They were very chocolatey, but a little dry. I think they really would have benefited from a spoonful of milk. But still delicious!

Sunday, June 03, 2007

More chocolate discoveries - Choc Star and Cocoa Loco

After wandering around the flat in something of a daze, speaking simultaneously to my brothers and father via Skype and a mobile on speakerphone (the wonders of technology) I finally showered and decided to head to Clapham to have lunch with the brother that lives in London. After we were fed delicious, wholesome organic food at Breads Etc, we went to the Common to sit. On this day the sun remembered again that it was Spring in London and bathed us in gorgeous warmth that quickly dried any tears and its glow made it easier to be grateful for his life.

Leaving Stephen I decided to do what I love most, and what I knew would distract, if not cheer me, for a while. Earlier in the morning I'd flicked open the paper to read about a food festival in East London. Not sure how I hadn't heard of it earlier. Already being on the Northern line I decided to lose myself in sights and smells and tastes of fresh, local produce.

Fortunately for my bank account my retail therapy is always food, rather than clothes. I spent so long meandering and chatting to stall-holders that most of the stalls had closed by the time I reached the end. Sadly dropped a bottle of oak-smoked olive oil I bought from Casa de 'Oli and its thin neck snapped. Whilst I cried quite a lot on Friday, it was a day I really wasn't going to cry over spilt oil.

I was delighted to encounter the van Choc Star and its fabulous owner, Petra. I had been meaning to get to Brick Lane for months to check out her van, and was so pleased to discover her here. Always fun to talk chocolate with fellow chocolate lovers. Petra treated me to one of her chocolate guiness cupcakes, slathered with addictive cream cheese frosting which really was the icing on this cake (sorry, terrible, terrible puns in this post - I'm sorry. I would say I will stop being cheesy but I realise this just adds to my pathetic prose).

Absolutely spoilt this Friday by also managing to catch Rory from Cocoa Loco, just before he completely packed up. I'm sure I slowed him down but he was very gracious about it and kindly discounted his brownies for me which I have since eaten (and gone to heaven over) and gave me some truffles which he said has suffered a bit in the warmth but they still looked and tasted fantastic to me! I chose the deeply dark brownies, now I know I must also try all their other treats. I thought I might go back again during the weekend but time slipped away from me. Fortunately I had enough chocolate to get me through!

The Cocoa Loco brownie at home later:

Mmm... chocolate truffle from Cocoa Loco

My Uncle Claude

Claude in 1963

The two of us in 2005.

This is Claude and my cousin Nicci, just a few weeks ago. He could walk fine by himself but having no daughters of his own and no nieces either, I think he enjoyed our affection. We all loved him very much. None of us grew up in the UK, so only came to know him as adults. I remember being shocked at how witty and aware he was of everything going on in the world. He was still overseeing the business every day. He was a truly remarkable man and I am glad to have known him.

Friday, June 01, 2007

chocolate that melts in your mouth

My uncle died yesterday. My great uncle, actually. I still... don't really believe it's true. I was planning on visiting him tomorrow. I called and spoke to him yesterday morning, to ask if he fancied visitors. He said "not this Saturday if you don't mind". He hasn't been well and said he was lying down most of the time so he didn't feel up to having company. A proper English gentleman. You could never visit Uncle Claude unless he was ready with tea and cake, and he always wore a jacket and tie.

(the view from Uncle Claude's house, usually filled with birds of varying descriptions)

The last time we went to visit him I took a few chocolate mendiants we picked up on the way from Miette. He was so pleased that when I learnt the next day it was his birthday I posted him a box of chocolates from L'Artisan du Chocolat. He called me a week later to say thank you. The first thing he said after hello was "I've heard of chocolates that melt in your mouth, but I had never experienced it until now.". I was planning on going there again today to buy another box to post to him.

I'm not really sure what to do with myself now.

I miss him.