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posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 11:02pm on 18/10/2015 under , ,
One of the highlights of going to the Chocolate Show today was a panel called "Judging the Judges".

The award winners of a raft of major chocolate awards were announced this weekend at the show; this panel was intended as a light-hearted way of letting some award-winning chocolatiers get their revenge by reviewing chocolate created by the people doing the judges. The confections were all created fairly last-minutely - not works of long love and labor the way the real competition's entries are.

I learned that chocolate competition judges
* recalibrate their palate periodically by tasting the same non-competition chocolate they started with and comparing their current tasting notes for it with what they noted at the start of the day
* they refresh their palate by eating little cubes of plain, unsalted polenta
* when judging the World Chocolate Awards, a jury has to taste and assess about 80 chocolates over about 8 hours, every day
* A judge I spoke with longed for salty foods at the end of a day of judging.

Particularly wonderful comments, by chocolatiers, assessing the real judges' creations:
* "This chocolate tastes like three things I put in my mouth by accident."
* "It's an idea. It should have stayed as an idea."
* Host: "What was your favorite part of this chocolate?" Chocolatier: "The polenta." (palate refresher afterward)
* Host: "What was your favorite chocolate from the tasting?" Chocolatier (likely the same one): "The breadstick."
* "This has a particular blandness which is hard to achieve." (an actual judge from the audience)
* An anti-Belgian chocolate chocolatier from Belgium: "We use Belgian chocolate for biscuits, not for production."

In an interesting moment of historicity, the session's host told us that Nutella originated as a Napoleonic war product. (Instead of the WWII product that it is.) There's a very long tradition of people assuming/arguing things are older than they actually are. It was nice to document one in the wild.
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posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 04:29pm on 22/10/2014 under , ,
We celebrated Chocolate Week with [livejournal.com profile] taldragon and [livejournal.com profile] lazyknight by having dinner at one of the only restaurants in London doing anything other than afternoon tea in its honor. I had fairly high expectations of it thanks to having had a wonderfully sumptuous meal earlier in the year at its upscale sibling, Galvin La Chapelle.

Chocolate and toddlers... )

I would highly recommend the Bistrot especially for tall parents who are frustrated by how low changing facilities usually are. They not only have them (armpit-high on me), but beautifully clean high chairs and an erstwhile free meal for the under-eights. (No guarantees as to when it's for.) And the food really was pretty good overall, if clearly - based on our sampling - more worth ordering the full-priced mains than the prix fixe if what you're after are the tastiest dishes. But the prix fixe is good value, and a welcome option.
owlfish: (Feast)
Location: 18 Almeida Street in Islington, about a 10 minute's walk north of Angel. London.

For Chocolate Week, Almeida, a restaurant, coordinated with Paul A. Young, chocolatier, to create a three course menu for the second year running. We went with [livejournal.com profile] cwjat who, as it happens, is allergic to chocolate and so ordered off of the regular menu.

Richly chocolatey, with a really nice bit of pork belly.... )

Service was helpful and good-natured, if stretched a little thin at peak service times. The kitchen's clearly doing good things, if not reliably so; but it's hard to tell with a special one-off collaborative menu, not refined over months or years of operation. The Chocolate Week menu was a good idea, but the results were more a work in progress than a polished work of art.

Alas, this proved true of my other attempt at a Chocolate Weke event. The Orangery at Kensington Palace promised a week of chocolate-themed afternoon tea, but failed to live up to its advertised Sunday opening hours; it was closed for a private event.
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posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 10:48am on 13/10/2009 under , , , ,
This was a one-off dinner, each course orchestrated by a different chef or chocolatier, in honor of the overlap of Chocolate Week in the UK and London's inaugural Restaurant Week. As a result of all the different agendas and personalities involved, it was only a coherent meal to the degree that each dish involved chocolate. To a degree, they were more in competition with each other than they were in harmony. As a result, I'll write about each dish separately.

Six courses, all with chocolate, and a restaurant... )

In conclusion: I have no incentive to go back to the Amba Restaurant again. It disappointed me in a variety of ways, especially for a place which pretensions to fine dining. The dinner, however, had real highlights. It was an encouragement to use chocolate nibs regularly as, effectively a spice. I would love to learn more about cooking with chocolate pulp. And as a sampler of the restaurant, Launceston Place, the chicken & foie gras dish was a compelling invitation to try it out. All in all, a very mixed meal which would have worked better with better coordination, but was fundamentally a good idea.
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posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 12:56pm on 31/10/2008 under ,
Back when it was Chocolate Week, C. and I went to a chocolate and cheese pairing workstop at with Paul A. Young and his eponymous chocolate shop. I've eyed this even a time or two in the past when it's been offered, but it was always booked up before I stood a chance at it.

About a dozen of us gathered in the closed shop at 7 pm, with a champagne truffle to greet us in lieu of actual champagne which the chocolatier thought might distract our palate for the cheese. Once gathered, we proceeding downstairs to the kitchen; he mentioned that people rarely get to see it, but it was actually my second visit to it, the last time with [livejournal.com profile] haggisthesecond. On the central stainless steel and marble tabletops, a selection of large chunks and small wheels of cheese were gathered, airing for the previous three hours and ready to eat. Chocolates were lined up in small boxes. Equipped with a glass of water, plain crackers for palate-cleansing, a pen, and informative sheets of paper, we began.

The cheeses, the chocolates... )

But I can still clearly remember the fluffy, happy taste of Michel Cluizel 64% with Cerney 10 day, and the after-dinner port richness and elegance of Lincolnshire Poacher with 68% Nyangbo Ghanian chocolate.

So yes - chocolate and cheese. Worth matching carefully, and worth eating together.
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Location: 8-14 Mandeville Place, London, near Bond Street Station

It was the chocolate martini which lifted the tea from very nice to completely decadent. I'm not certain I've ever had champagne, a martini, or any other alcoholic confection with afternoon tea. This one was the way I wish all martinis were: smooth, rich, with a subtle hint of fruit in the form of pulped strawberries. It may more accurately have been a cocktail; it had chocolate syrup in it, but I can't remember if gin or vermouth made an appearance. The martini was one of a choice of four, an optional extra in the Mandeville Hotel's chocolate week contribution.

A chocolate-themed afternoon tea, with photo... )

You too can eat the Mandeville Hotel's chocolate-themed tea. It's available through Saturday this week.

Thanks you to [livejournal.com profile] flickgc for organizing, and, as well, to [livejournal.com profile] coth, [livejournal.com profile] bohemiancoast, [livejournal.com profile] easterbunny, and [livejournal.com profile] fjm for the delightful company.
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posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 10:13am on 13/10/2008 under ,
Dear People in the UK,

Happy Chocolate Week! It starts today and lasts through Sunday.

Even if you can't attend any of the events, you maybe interested in some of the offers available with print-outable coupons. London is disproportionately represented, but there are chocolate shops in many other parts of the country offering events and coupons too.
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posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 11:35pm on 21/10/2007 under , , ,
Tuesday - Rococo organized an hour's talk at the Natural History Museum, a visit to Britain's oldest cocoa pod. It was brought back as part of a collection of Jamaican plants, part of Sir Hans Sloane's systematics collection. Linnaeus, when Sloane was old, worked through Sloane's collection as part of his systematization work. The curators were chatty and friendly. One had made photocopies for us of Sloane's report on the cocoa plant, description and drawings from the sample. She apologized for bits of Latin at the end of each passage.

Friday - I visited Paul A. Young's new shop, his second, opened in an outside shop at the Royal Exchange, right by Bank. It's all antique dark wood and high shelves, a tight spiral staircase at the back, presumably leading to storage, a vintage Victorian shop at heart. Paul himself was manning the shop, which only opened this past Monday. As usual, I gave in to a selection of truffles.

Saturday - C., [livejournal.com profile] taldragon, and two of her friends joined us for a day of chocolating around London. Many of the city's chocolate shops were holding events in honor of Chocolate Week.

William Curley at the new John Lewis foodhall on Oxford Street... )

Sampling at Demarquette... )

Coconut ice cream at Rococo.... )

L'artisan du chocolat - 'For Chocolate and For Country'... )

Tired from a full afternoon of hard chocolate eating, we took our leaves and went home. We may have some chocolate in the house now.

Footnote.... )
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posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 05:25pm on 09/10/2007 under , ,
In southern England? Like chocolate? Next week is Chocolate Week, an annual event featuring loads of chocolate-themed events, free samples, demos, and tours. Most of them are free. Some involve signing up. If you're interested in signing up, do so as soon as possible, as some of the more unusual events are already full. There's all sorts of things this year, from Paul A. Young launching a new chocolate shop right near Bank station to a chocolate-themed tour of the Natural History Museum organized by Rococo.

In honor of the week, Chocolate Ecstasy Tours will be doing another all day chocolate tour of London. I went on it last year with [livejournal.com profile] haggisthesecond and enjoyed it a great deal.

Most - but by no means all - of the events are in London. Most of the others are west of London, from chocolate-themed restaurant menus to samples at the Dorset Food Fair. Chococo is doing another mail-order Chocolate Week-themed box, and Sir Hans Sloane Chocolate & Champagne and L'Artisan du Chocolat are doing factory tours.
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What better way to celebrate Chocolate Week than to go on a tour of most of the top chocolateries the city has to offer? After self-organizing a Toronto chocolate tour, I'd long been meaning to do the same for London. And then I saw the Chocolate Week program offerings - and it included an all-day chocolate tour organized by Chocolate Ecstasy Tours. Best of all, this meant I'd be touring the city's chocolates in the company of other people who are interested in chocolate - the perfect people for comparing tasting notes.

[livejournal.com profile] haggisthesecond, as enthused as I was, joined me in transit, and we both arrived promptly at the start of our Saturday trip, at The Contented Vine in Pimlico. Our group gathered around a table to drink tea and breakfast on buttery, flaky chocolate croissants from Baker and Spice. (Chocolate croissants are almost never chocolatey enough for my tastes; this was no exception, but it was still a fine croissant.) It took us a little while of reorientation to realize that the rest of our fellow chocolate tourists were all from SeventyPercent.com, the organization co-sponsoring the tours. They were there as tourists too - their company day out - and meant we had really well-informed company on our tour 'round the city. How well-informed? Well, they don't just sell chocolate. One of them was a judge for this year's Academy of Chocolate awards and could describe why a given chocolate had won, what particular features it had.

Our breakfast finished, we gathered up our bags of bottled water and the basket of spare tablets of Valrhona and Amedei chocolate (just in case we didn't have enough chocolate...), and headed off on a tour of London and its chocolates.

L'Artisan du Chocolat... )

Paul A. Young... )

Lunch break - we stopped for a refreshing and light lunch at a gastropub near Regent's Street. Salad was exactly what I needed after that much chocolate. Much as it was good - we were hungry and the break was much needed. Chocolate overdose had been briefly a problem after L'Artisan gave us whole truffle after whole truffle. We insisted on pieces of truffle after that at all our stops, just enough for a taste without overwhelming us in quantity.

Rococo... )

The Chocolate Society was meant to be our second hot chocolate stop, but it was already closed.

La Maison du Chocolat... )

Melt... )

Afterwards (Chococo et alia)... )

I didn't set out on the Chocolate Tour in search of a new favorite chocolate shop for London. (I have a favorite in Toronto, but hadn't yet done the research for London.) But based on a lovely, leisurely day of full-city chocolate tourism, I came back most excited by what Paul A. Young is doing up in Islington. The shop isn't just about novelty; it's about trying out what else works well with chocolate. And there really are some remarkable other elses.


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