Monday, January 11, 2010

Divine Divine Divine Chocolate Cocktails

It was a couple of months ago now that I crossed paths with Mathilde Of Mathilde's cuisine and she mentioned a Divine chocolate cocktail evening that she had revently attended. "um, sorry, a what cocktail evening?!". Thankfully she informed me that they had mentioned having another one and if they did she would tell them to invite me. Phew.

Mathilde is a girl of her word. Last December I was cordially invites to attend a Divine Chocolate Cocktail evening. Now, anyone who has been on a chocolate tour will know I prefer to eat my chocolate than drink it, and I was on unfortunately on antibiotics this particular evening. But I had to try at least one (and then a LOT of the chocolate truffles). There were two cocktails on offer and I opted for the berry version over the coffee option, and it really was Divine. I was so tempted to drink more. It somehow managed just the right blend of chocolate with the fruit and the alcohol to be easy to drink but still chocolatey enough to know there was chocolate in it. Slightly reminiscent of the icy chocolate drink L'Artisan make in the Summer (and actually a little like the one from Godiva too, though Artisan may be upset for me including them both in the same sentence!). Apparently the Sanderson is going to keep them on their menu. Hooray. I'll definitely be back in the Summer.

I had obviously heard of Divine before this evening but I had never made a special effort to taste their chocolate or learn more. It's my understanding that really fine quality chocolate requires a close relationship with the grower where they do get paid a premium for making the effort to grow quality beans. Therefore, I patted myself on the back for choosing superb chocolate where the farmers did get paid enough too. The reality is not everyone will choose to spend as much on chocolate as I do and it is fantastic that there is a company that is going to extended lengths to make sure that everyone who helps to get the chocolate in our hands is justly compensated for their efforts. What surprised me particularly in tasting the truffles made by David, Divine's account manger but also a former chef, was just how good they were. Incredibly moreish. A little secret I learnt that evening was that some other chocolate companies that sell bars in our supermarkets add cocoa back into their blend because they believe people expect the bitterness in 70% chocolate. Divine don't do this and thus have a smoother tasting chocolate that's pretty darn good for a high street brand. The people in the company are pretty lovely too. Not to mention you can eat it and feel good about helping the families who helped to produce it.

Earl Grey and White Chocolate with a dash of Tequila.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Goodbye 2009

I will remember it mostly as the year of eating. Ah...

I set a goal at the beginning of the year to eat in at least three Michelin starred restaurants. During two weeks in September I ate in six.

Never let it be said that goals cannot be achieved!

I haven't worked out yet what the total for the year is. It truly was an amazing year of eating. I was quick to learn that Michelin did not necessarily mean delicious, nor did lack of mean that it wouldn't be a fabulous meal. The Michelin mission was punctuated in October with the ultimate pilgrimage El Bulli. No, I still haven't blogged about it (I will), but it was an incredible experience that I am still thanking the lovely Trissa in Sydney for allowing me to go in her place.

Petit Fours at El Bulli: Just for 2 of us. I've been carrying this picture on my BlackBerry and showing anyone and everyone. Being presented with this (17 different types of chocolate!) was a definite highlight of 2010 ;-) .

I've been pretty irregular at blogging this year, ditto for newsletters to people who have signed up at Chocolate Ecstasy Tours. I would love to do more of both in 2010 but I know better than to make promises about that! I will be making resolutions, but one of the things I have learnt in the last few years is to focus on doing fewer things well, and then move onto the other stuff.

2009 was a year I went to the cinema just once, but I managed the ballet, concerts, theatre, comedy, opera, a music festival, Wimbledon, the polo and lots of eating. How cultured.

2009 was also a year I attended 4 Weddings, and a Funeral. There was a second funeral, but I didn't make it to the other hemisphere for that one.

All but one of those five events was family-centred. Strange for me, when it seems that as I get older, and especially living so far from my immediate family, it is friends, and extended relatives, who are stepping into the breach of my immediate family's physical distance. I feel so fortunate to have so many amazing relationships here in London. It is most definitely home.

I am very much looking forward to visiting my immediate family, and my other home again in just four weeks. It's especially exciting as this will also be my first full week off since November 2008. Working full time and running tours on many weekend days, and fitting in emails and bookkeeping around all that... it's been a long, but incredibly satisfying year.

Apart from the weddings in Bahrain and Serbia and a long weekend in Morocco, the only travel I managed in 2009 was with work (to be fair, these were lovely trips to Scotland, Ireland, Jersey and Spain). 2010 will be the year I travel more (she says, ambitiously). I am starting with this break in Oz in February and over Easter I'm heading to Madagascar to visit Chocolate Plantations. (Excited!)

2009 was definitely a year of change. The end of a relationship, moving house and postcode, resignation for a new job for 2010... I'm blessed to be able to walk away from all of that with excellent friendships. And I am looking forward to more adventures in 2010!

On the business side, there are four exciting things planned for Chocolate Ecstasy Tours this year:

1. A BRAND NEW website for Complete with new logos! The site will be live by Easter (hopefully sooner!)

2. The first International Chocolate Ecstasy Tour! In November I'll be organising a trip to Grenada and St Lucia. We'll visit plantations and factories and also have free time for the beach and mountains. If you're interested in joining me please email me at tours [at]

3. Blind Chocolate Tasting as a Charity Fundraiser for Sense UK. To be held in May/June. More details to come!

4. A new walking tour in the Notting Hill area. I'm hoping this will get off the ground (well, on the ground!) in March. Watch this space...

In other exciting news I have finally set up a Facebook Fan page for Chocolate Ecstasy Tours. I'd love it if you joined!

Wishing you a year full of love, joy, good health, laughter, adventures and great chocolate!