Wednesday, August 15, 2007

a delicious BBQ - with chocolate

My friend turned 40 last week. He had a BBQ on Saturday and we went to help him celebrate, not just because his partner is such a fantastic cook. After devouring platefulls of delicious savoury food - barbequed salmon, chargrilled holoumi wrapped in red pepper (a surprise bite of chilli hidden in each parcel) and so much more, the desserts were brought out. Later in the evening we counted: a full ten options for dessert. Not bad given there were less than thirty people left at the time they were unveiled. Of these, three were chocolate: tart, mousse and flourless cake (the actual birthday cake). Every single dessert was homemade, except the icecream. Very impressive for a new mum. I wonder if this explains baby's sweet temperament?

Perfect weather, delicious food, great company. A very relaxing weekend. Well, relaxing Saturday, the weather turned for worse on Sunday and there were chores to do...

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Chocolate and Cherry Fondant at the Gate

Dad made a flying visit through London last night so we took him to the Gate, reputedly London's best vegetarian restaurant. Despite my familiarity with the "cuisine" of the little town I spent most of my school years, where my parents still live, I was shocked to explain what hommous and falafel were to him. If I inherited my passion for good food from either parent I thought it was more likely to be him. Now I know it's neither. They both enjoy food, but generally care little about what it is. Though it was my father's insistence on home-grown, made from scratch food and my mother's compliance with fairly regular baking that gave me my love for ingredients and creating I guess.

It's been a while since we ate at the Gate and last time I was a little disappointed with the quality overall, which perhaps explains why the booking I made was a little unnecessary afterall. If you, too, have stayed away based on previous disappointing visits then on the back of our delicious meal last night I urge you to give it another go. It's still not guaranteed every dish will be delicious but some are divine and the worst is just good so a safe bet really. The arancini and the cheese and onion tart were fantastic. The dessert list offered myriad options I would have liked to have tried, unfortunately not the same for my father who was only sold on the chocolate and cherry fondant with creme fraiche. So we both had it. Of course I had to ask first what chocolate it was made from. Usually with a fondant it is less important than, say, with a tart or a mousse when the dessert is ruined by lesser quality chocolate. It was made with Callebaut. Our server got extra points for saying that Valhrona was his favourite though. It's nice to know people working in food know enough about food to know the difference.

It was divine and I'm glad I didn't opt for sharing. Properly soft sponge breaking to reveal warm, melting chocolateness and the surprise of a cherry soaked in kirsch with every other mouthfull (it only took me about eight bites I should add!). The Gate has won me back.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Menier Chocolate Factory and the curse of the Monmouth coffee

Can you tell I have just finished reading Harry Potter?

The Menier Chocolate Factory is not actually anything chocolatey now, it's a theatre and restaurant (so, I guess a little bit chocolatey). For the last few years kind people have been letting me know about it. I thought I should at least visit. I took advantage of the new office relocation and my last lunch in my role at SpeakersBank. The food was actually really, really good. We all had burgers (veggie for me) accompanied by possibly the nicest chunky chips I've had in a long time. I love it when a restaurant knows which type of potatoes to use for which dish.

My (now ex) boss has been so excited about the move because it brings him closer to Monmouth coffee, his favourite caffiene company. For me, one addiction is enough. I haven't drunk coffee in about two and a half years, though not because I don't like it, I just don't need to be hooked on anything else. I agreed to try Monmouth coffee as the boss had welcomed my introduction to better chocolate, and accepted that I would buy the chocolate brownies for us from the Flour Power City stall. Also because I always want to try any food or drink someone raves about.

He was right. It was really good. Delicious, in fact. But, never again. I quite enjoyed the buzz in the afternoon. Totally happy to stay late making sure everything was sorted, I was so wired. I started to get a little tired of feeling jumpy by the evening though. And this morning my heart was still racing. I can handle a LOT of dark chocolate, and it does give me a slight buzz if I over indulge, but nothing compared to this. Made me realise that the caffeine in coffee really is a totally different ball game to whatever chocolate may contain.