Archive for the ‘Chocolate’ Category

Christmas, Chocolate & Harbour Views

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013

Chocolate and Christmas are synonymous, which is why the opening of the Chocolate Lounge in Ramsgate Royal Harbour is particularly fortuitous. Just as the sun was setting over the Harbour we took a stroll down to the Marina where the yachts and boats were lit up with Christmas lights, to check out this new addition to Ramsgate’s culinary scene.  Clareys Chocolate lounge is built into the Arches. It is a spacious room complete with comfortable sofas and Chandeliers. They serve a selection of Chocolate goodies including Handmade Artisan Chocolate and “Cake Pops” (truffle cakes on a stick dipped in chocolate) an interesting new trend and a fun alternative to cupcakes. They also do a selection of more traditional Cakes, serve Afternoon Tea and organize chocolate related activities. They have a late license, so you can add some alcohol to your coffee or hot chocolate well into the early hours too or you can book their mobile bar and tour the harbour.

This is an excellent use of the arch space and is possibly the only chocolate lounge in Thanet.  If there is an other please let me know.  Regardless I will be returning to this one to chill out and indulge in more chocolate goodness. Does White Chocolate and Cranberry count as one of my five a day?  Yeah I think it does!

Wishing all our readers a Very Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year.

UPDATE 27/12/13 : Returned to try the Hot Chocolate with marshmallows and cream and the Cake Pops, see new pictures above.

The hot chocolate was simply delicious, it’s the best one I have tasted.  The Cake Pops were very good too, you can buy them to eat in or to take away.

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The Chocolate Festival – Christmas Treats!

Sunday, December 9th, 2012

Bah! Humbug! I so nearly didn’t go to the conveniently timed pre christmas Chocolate Festival in London this year… but I am so glad I did. There is such a great selection of stalls and the festival is just full of quality chocolate goods and fun ideas for Christmas presents. I had been gauging how busy it was via my Twitter feed and thought it would be too much of a pain to battle my way through the crowds as this Festival seems to be an example of being spoilt by success. Maybe they will get more space next year based on just how popular an event this has become.  Fortunately I did manage to find a quiet time on the Sunday – I am not saying when exactly as that might spoil it for me next year.

As it was quieter I was able to chat with probably one of the busiest and well known Chocolatiers in the business Paul A Young.  Pauls session in the Chocolate Cookery Theatre was on Saturday so I was very surprised to spot him manning the stand on the Sunday, he was there just prior to making a tour of his London shops – it’s a hard life being a Chocolatier!  We spoke about the success of the festival and he told me that Saturday had been the busiest day that the festival had ever had. One of the reasons I think that this festival works so well is that it provides access to both new innovations and to some of the UKs world class Chocolatiers.  William Curley also had a stand and Duffy’s were there too, however I couldn’t get near their stand as it was busy even during the quiet time!

I tried a few samples as I worked my way around the stalls -  the highlights were Paul Wayne Gregory’s stand where they were pushing his new salted caramel flavour lollipops, a divine idea and Artisain du Chocolat where I tried their honeycomb and gingerbread chocolates, which are a tasty new seasonal addition.

Another stand that caught my eye was the rather glamorous looking Herzog one, showcasing Chocolatier Pâtissier Sven Herzogs wares. I was also rather impressed by the Chocmotif stand. I like the idea of chocolate greetings cards and they have a great selection, just think off all the paper Christmas cards you throw out after Christmas, isn’t eating them a much better idea?

Yes, Christmas is definitely a great time for Chocolate and like the Chocmotif cards, it’s not just for Christmas.

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Chocolate Unwrapped 2011

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

Another Year. Another Chocolate Week.

We finished the week with a visit to Chocolate Unwrapped at Vinopolis.  This is its third year and it’s been getting bigger by the year. Vinopolis is an excellent venue for this type of event, nice high ceilings to keep the temperature down and lots of room for growth.


The first person we spotted as we walked in was Paul Wayne Gregory. He was keen to tell us that he now has a boxed selection of his chocolates that is entirely made up of award winners.  We also had some more of Duffys Chocolate (their chocolate was used in both the chocolate dinners I went to during Chocolate Week at The Providores and Almeida).

I tried to find Lauden Chocolates (one of my favorites), but if they were there I missed them. I did spot a tweet from them saying they had such a good day on the Saturday that they had sold out, so perhaps they didn’t managed to restock for the Sunday session.  Matcha Chocolat another favorite from last year was also no where to be seen.   However Chocolate Unwrapped for me is all about discovering something new.  This year my discovery was Pacari Ecuadorian Organic Chocolate bars, specifically the Raw Chocolate with Salt & Nibs (70% Cacao) and Lemongrass (60% Cacao) – this is seriously grown up chocolate.

We had a quick chat with Paul A Young and on the recommendation of a friend I also bought some of his very distinctive Pumpkin flavoured chocolates.

We were brave enough (or was that foolish enough) to  try some chocolate wine too – it was an interesting novelty, but didn’t really work for me.

The event seemed to have more of an International vibe this year, lots of French accents around.  We also visited stands from Hungry, Switzerland and Italy.

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Easter Chocolate Festival @ Southbank Centre – Hot Chocolate!

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

It’s Easter (well almost), so chocolate indulgence is a compulsory activity. Who needs boring shop bought Easter Eggs when you have the Chocolate Festival at the Southbank Centre.

The sun was out in force today but not enough to melt the chocolate fortunately.   As you would expect there was lots of Easter Eggs on display.  I photographed some of the prettiest ones and the largest one too, which apparently gets broken up and recycled after the event! – Chocolate is just so versatile ;)

This festival is growing but it’s not as large or as well attended yet as Chocolate Unwrapped.  The live chocolate themed demonstrations were free today. However they were very busy and it was definitely too hot to sit in a marquee, so I focused on the stalls outside.  Interesting ones included Miki’s a very artistic chocolate company who produce handcrafted Japanese inspired fair-trade organic chocolates. They make a lot of their own moulds, including Kamen (mask) shaped ones (photographed above).  Another stand I was drawn to was the Alice in Wonderland inspired Lucky’s -  I could not resist the Humpty Dumpty eggs, with creamy filing in the shell. I bought a couple of the chestnut puree ones,  hopefully I can keep Humpty safe until Easter.

Artisan du chocolat were there too, they had English Breakfast Eggs on display – white, dark and milk chocolate eggs flavoured with bacon, mushrooms and tomato. I was a bit dubious and would have liked to have tried them, but alas there were no samples. I did however try their fresh Moroccan Mint chocolates instead which were excellent.

Chocolate inspired drinks were also available at Chocy Woccy’s.  Snickers, Mars and Bounty milkshakes and some delicious sounding cocktails too, made with a lovely selection of ingredients, like Chilli, Mint, Vodka, Bailey’s, Rum, Butterscotch, Schnapps, Coffee liquor and Chocolate.

Another interesting find was the Cafe On stall which had a wonderful range of Loretta Liu’s macarons. They really had their act together using a small portable fridge to keep the macarons cool.  So okay, macarons are not chocolate but I was glad they were part of the festival.  I bought a few and will update this post later with my thoughts on them.  Timeout included them in its list of Londons best Macarons and put them in the illustrious company of Ladurée and Pierre Hermé, so I am really looking forward to trying them out.

:) HAPPY EASTER from No Expert :)

 

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UPDATE : Macaron Tasting – I finished off the Loretta Liu macarons today. They were all light, sweet and chewy. The Mango flavoured one I enjoyed the most. I found the Green Tea one was too strong and the Cointreau Vanilla one too subtle. I had trouble recognising the flavours for the remaining ones.  One of the Pink ones, which I believe was the Lychee Martini, was overly sweet. I guess you find the flavours you like and stick to them. Cafe On certainly have enough flavours to choose from. For my palette based on a selection of 5 macarons, I would give them 6 out 10. I still prefer Ladurée though, but they are double the price.

Chocolate Unwrapped at Vinopolis

Sunday, October 17th, 2010

It’s a change of venue for the Chocolate Unwrapped show this year.  Last year it was at the Mayfair Hotel, this year it moved to the rather more interesting Vinopolis.  The new venue though did not work as well for the lectures. Paul A Young‘s talks  for example were averaging about 90 attendees instead of the expected 30.  Fortunately he warned us about the over attendance and we got in early enough to get front row seats. His talk was suitably entertaining,  I was especially amused by the story that his mother still buys him Quality Street for Christmas.

The Chocolate Art work was fun, especially the gorilla. Thorntons Eiffel Tower was hideous though.

There were lots of new stands this year.  Matcha Chocolat with their tea and chocolate combinations were especially interesting.  All the chocolates and the brownie we had from Paul A Young were really good, I even found his new Marmite chocolate unoffensive. I loved William Curley’s Cinnamon Milk Chocolate.

There were some novelties too.  Like Chocri, who let you play chocolatier, choosing toppings and having your name on the bar and the Lebanese company Patchi, who seemed to focus on very ornate packaging for special occasions like weddings, baby showers and embassy do’s – kinda OTT Ferrier Roche!.  Thorntons were there too this year, showing yet again just how big a gap there is between the mass market chocolatiers and the artisan chocolatiers.

This event is definately in the diary again for next year.

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Almeida – Chocolate Week 2010

Sunday, October 17th, 2010

I have been looking forward to returning to Almeida for Chocolate week, based mainly on my experience last year.  I have had drinks, lunch and several dinners at Almeida since then.  I do rate this place as a good choice  for eating or drinking at any time of the year, however it does seem to manage to raise its game during Chocolate week.

Head Chef, Alan Jones has teamed up again this year with chocolatier Paul A Young, to create the Chocolate Menu.

We started with Chocolate Martini’s (not on the drinks menu, so made to order), a  good start to this themed occasion. The Truffle and Honey Risotto was well received, very rich. The main courses of Halibut and Pork Belly were more subtle, although the Pork Belly recipe last year may have had the edge.  We tried a different Portuguese wine this year (Crasto, Douro, 2005), which worked well with the Chocolate theme, and switched our dessert wine choice on the Sommieliers recommendation to a bottle of Maury, Mas Amiel Vintage, Roussillon, France, 2007. Which I certainly enjoyed with the Ported plums roasted with orange in dark chocolate consomme and Paul A Youngs sea salted caramel.

The service although friendly was flawed,  staff were weak on ingredients in the dishes, and  our coffee arriving before we had finished dessert is a real no no, when you are trying to have a relaxing evening.

So although the meal was good, it did not quite reach the heights of last years.

Marks out of 10

Food 6.5

Service 5

Ambience 6.8

Almeida on Urbanspoon

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Chocolate & Cocktail matching at Le Méridien

Friday, October 15th, 2010

I thought it was bad planning to have both Cocktail Week and Chocolate Week at the same time, but  it does present the opportunity to match cocktails with specific chocolates.  Chocolate Ecstasy Tours organised such an event in the new cocktail bar (Longitude 0°8′) in Le Méridien Piccadilly.

The matching was a bit hit and miss, but on the whole good fun and an excellent concept.  We had a total of 7 cocktails and lots of canapes, which made this a very good deal. There was also the goodie bag with  a selection of chocolate samples from Melt, Chocolate and Love and Paul A Young (who was among the Chocolatiers in attendance).

Chocablog, who were lucky enough to be involved in “helping out” during the preparation stage for this event, have a great post on it – love the photographs, see :-

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Confessions of a Chocolaholic Afternoon Tea at the Hilton

Sunday, August 8th, 2010

Overindulged at the “Confessions of a Chocaholic Afternoon Tea at the Hilton”  in the Podium Restaurant on the ground floor of the Park Lane Hilton.


This afternoon tea is good value for money, compared to a lot of the hotel based afternoon tea options in London (£29.50 including a glass of champagne).

The three tier cake stand used looks great and I was impressed by the chocolate selection, even the gold sprinkled base was made out of chocolate.  There is so much here, making the pretty take away handbags a must.  The Tea selection was also interesting and extensive.

The open sandwiches were beautifully presented, tasty and fresh. The chocolate spread with Chocolate Chip scones was also a nice touch. Not so keen on the cup cakes though which were rather ordinary.

The let down was more on the service side, which although friendly, was really slow. It was hard getting attention and it was nearly a hour before we started!  I am also not sure that “I did not have time to bring the extra sandwiches is a particularly good excuse” in a hotel of this calibre.

The room was pleasant enough but had rather bad acoustics and the use of live and canned music really did not work.

Marks out of 10

Food 5.7

Service 3.8

Ambience 4

Podium Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

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Almeida – not just for chocoholics

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

In celebration of chocolate week, Almeida has joined forces with chocolatier Paul A Young to create a unique three course “chocolate” menu.  Each dish being combined with a complementary chocolate. So basically instead of wine matching, it’s chocolate matching!.

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The whole concept of a chocolate menu seemed a bit of a gimmick, so I was pleasantly surprised just how serious this food was.

The meal began well with a very nice goats cheese appetizer/canapé.

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Then I had a stunning foie gras dish (described as pan fried foie gras, chocolate and orange – 64% Dominican Republic chocolate with a balance of sweetness and a delicate nutty, smoky taste.) I thought this dish was very subtle with great flavour combinations.

For my next course I went with the pork (braised suckling pig, creamed savoy – with Paul A Young’s Ras el hanout spiced chocolate), again it was a dish that was beautifully complimented by the almost savory chocolate sauce.  We even asked the waiter for the recipe and to his credit he went out of his way to get it for us.

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One of my chocoholic companions decided to forgo the main course and have two desserts instead. No problem, they just provided him with a “jumbo” sized dessert as the main course. For the rest of us, there was a choice between two desserts. A chocolate souffle that was not so well received and a stunning dessert called Chocolate 3 ways, which included some lovely fudge.

Normal Size Dessert - Chocolate 3 Ways

Normal Size Dessert - Chocolate 3 ways

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Jumbo sized dessert

On the wine front to match the chocolate theme, we went for a rather nice Portuguese red.

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2006 Duas Quintas Branco, Ram os Pinto, Douro, Portugal

The only low mark here related to the wine service where the waitress kept overfilling glasses, which meant that the wine was not evenly distributed and forced us to get a second bottle to make up the short fall. (We would have gone for a second bottle anyway, but would have preferred to do it in our own time).

We then finished the meal with coffee and petits fours.

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The layout  is very well designed with a distinct bar area and a dinning area that consists almost entirely of round tables. I love round tables in a restaurant, they work so well for both groups of two (both dinners can face into the room) and groups of 6 (much more sociable as you can have cross table conversations with everyone). The acoustics were also very good, we could not hear anything from the neighbouring tables.

The bar is worth a visit on it’s own, we mainly indulged in yummy Chocolate Martinis, but there are some other cocktails on the menu that are worth trying. One of the champagne cocktails, “The Morgan” (Morgan’s Spiced rum, gomme syrup, cranberry juice and champagne) was very nice too.

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Chocolate Martini at the Almeida

The restaurant has 2 AA Rosettes, which it certainly merits. It is also off course an ideal pre-theatre venue for the Almeida Theatre. I certainly plan to return, even without Chocolate week.

Marks out of 10

Food 7.5

Service 6.5

Ambience 7

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Chocolate Unwrapped at the May Fair Hotel

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

To start celebrating chocolate week, I went with my favourite chocolatier to Chocolate Unwrapped at the May Fair Hotel.

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We spend a couple of hours at this event, sampling the wares of a few interesting chocolatiers. There was a display of chocolate art and a number of stands. The exhibitors ranged from the lower end of the scale, i.e., high street brands like Thorntons and  Hotel Chocolat, right up to the high end bespoke chocolatiers like Paul A Young.

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Chocolates can be a bit like wine, once you have tasted the really good stuff there is no going back, or to quote Michel Roux “Once you have discovered the pleasure, richness, complexity and taste sensations of fine chocolate, you will never look at chocolate in the same way”. So sorry Thorntons we walked right passed your stand.

From what we could see, there were two real standouts, they were both relative newcomers in the field.

The first was Paul Wayne Gregory a former sous chef who also gave one of the talks, he is definitely going places with 9 of the chocolates in his selection being award winners. PWG is at the top of his game, he currently provides chocolates to Michelin star chef Gary Rhodes, and his latest addition a rum chocolate is stunning.

Update: I have just tried another one of his chocolates – called “Space Dust”, superb!.

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PWGs slogan - Indulgence is everything

The other standout was based in Leeds of all places, they were Lauden Chocolates who presented their selection in very simple but elegant transparent boxes. However the presentation alone would not have sold me on them, if they had not got the taste right. Like PWG, they are all about intense flavours, that really work with the chocolate.

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As part of my chocolate indulgence weekend I also managed to squeeze in a chocolate martini at 5th View.

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Chocolate Martini at 5th View

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Where to indulge in Coffee, Tea and Cakes

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

Unless you are in an area that specialises in Tea Shops, its often hard to find good venues to relax with a coffee or tea and eat cake. Why go to the big chains like Starbucks, when you have alternatives.

London

If you really want to go up market and have Afternoon Tea somewhere grand, like The Athenaeum or  The Berkeley, then great, but if you are looking for something cheaper, then here are a few options.

County Hall Bakery

Patisserie Valerie

Patisserie Valerie

New York

Actually the Starbucks I have been to in New York are a lot better than London. I had an amazing piece of Cognac and Pumpkin cheese cake in one on the Upper East Side, but for something more unique try:-

Paris

Pretty much the home of the pâtisserie, so you are spoilt for choice, however for an inexpensive option, try:-

or for a not so inexpensive option, visit Ladurée.

Off topic, but also worth mentioning is The Chocolate Consultancy – Parisian Chocolatiers Map showing  locations of some really good Chocolatiers in Paris.