Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Chocolate Bars made by me (and friends)

When we visited friends 10 days ago they had left over Manjari from a chocolate fountain they had at Christmas so we decided to experiment. We melted some and drizzled it on Booja Booja "ice cream". Sooo good. It went hard like a posh, grown-up version of Ice Magic.

While we were eating this we discussed how much we like Paul Young's dark almond rochers and then decided (on a chocolate high) that we should experiment and make our own. There was no almonds in the house so we made a version with hazelnuts (toasted and sprinkled with pink himalaya salt). We made a version with goji berries and brazil nuts too. Not pretty, but delicious. Though if you're using Manjari it's hard to go wrong...

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester

It's twelve hours since we finished our meal and I'm still not remotely hungry. We took the tasting menu last night at Alain Ducasse's restaurant at the Dorchester on Park Lane. It had all the Michelin touches - large tables, comfortable seats, gorgeous fittings, the champagne trolley, a selection of breads offered at regular intervals, two types of butter to enjoy them with, all the extra mini-courses and a little box (this time two small breakfast cakes) to take home. I'm glad I didn't eat much during the day, but I still think I probably ate three days worth of food in one sitting.

All those little extra courses were the highlights really. Especially the cheese puffs to start, the olive bread, the bacon fougasse, the macarons, the chocolates (see below, served on a bar of actual chocolate) and the final palette cleanser of mango marinated in passionfruit topped with a quenelle of white cheese sorbet. It seemed strange to serve the maracons and chocolates as a pre-dessert and then offer the palette cleanser after an already rather palette cleansing dessert of pink grapefruit souffle and sorbet.

The main dessert (pink grapefruit souffle with pink grapefruit sorbet):

Following our request for the bill a trolley of petit fours was wheeled to the table and proffered to us. After eating those divine cheese puffs, a flavoursome amuse bouche, an abundant variety of bread rolls with butter, the first dish of langoustines - bizarrely combined with gem lettuce, skinned tomato, bread crisps, a few green beans and sharp parmesan, this course did nothing for me -, then a seared scallop with apple and quince (again a strange balance of flavours and too sweet), gilt head bream with parsley jelly and parsley sauce and some well-cooked vegetables (I added salt and pepper to this dish which I never do), halibut with an excellent white wine sauce, prawns and greens (this was my favourite of the savoury courses and the only one I would go back to eat again), a plate of four cheeses with accompaniments ( a delicate goat cheese, a dull camembert, an excellent comte and an incredibly salty roquefort almost balanced by its accompaniment of pear chunks macerated in syrup), then all those sweet courses I have already mentioned, you can see why I wanted to turn down the tray of gorgeous minature cakes. Our waitress kindly made us a little bag of the caramels and nougats which I have hidden in my handbag because I can't bear to face yet. Overall the dinner was a great experience. If I was more flush I would consider going back for just the three course menu if it meant I got the lovely extras again. Top Table have 20% off the whole bill at the moment. It helps, but it's still a lot!

The Chocolates before the dessert (these were wonderful, a milk praline and a plain dark ganache made with excellent chocolate):

I have to write a real review now, for tibits on Heddon St, our meal on Friday night (and the best bircher muesli I've ever tried).

Friday, January 23, 2009

Day 1 of the Chocolate Awards

The first day was an interesting one. When these awards began 4 years ago all the judging was done in one day, now it's four. This being the first time I've been able to attend I was impressed with how well it was planned in order to be thorough, broad and objective. We sat at four tables, each with at least five people, and on every table was a head judge and a technical judge (I was the latter on my table - a fabulous group of women!). We each had a judging sheet giving marks out of ten for appearance, execution and mouthfeel and out of 20 for taste, with a total of 50, then we were to agree a separate score for the whole table as a team. Each chocolate entry was presented on a plain white plate and cut into quarters. A whole chocolate was on each plate to help in judging its appearance. Every chocolate was given a random three digit number which was written on the plate and what we used to record our scores and comments.

The reason Day 1 was interesting is that any chocolatier who won even a bronze award had an automatic ticket to Day 2 of judging so the only chocolates we were seeing were new chocolatiers or ones that didn't make the grade last year. It started off well with the plain truffles but, frankly, went down hill from there. Today, however, should be a joy. Unfortunately the downside is that it is harder to show restraint!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

World Chocolate Awards

I'm smiling today. If you're wondering why I'm smiling it's because I am excited about the days ahead. This afternoon I am being a judge at the World Chocolate Awards, then return tomorrow afternoon for round 2. I'm reviewing a restaurant tomorrow night then going along to the chocolate tour on Saturday where I'm looking forward to meeting the fabulous author of the Chocolate Lovers' Club - Carole Matthews. Saturday evening I have a reservation for Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester, mentioned this week as a rising Michelin 3 Star in the 2009 guide. And next Thursday and Friday I'm back judging again, this time bars (today is filled chocolates). Love it.

Last weekend I made chocolates with my friends. Will post pictures soon...