Chocolate Unwrapped 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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From Pod to Providores dinner

Chocolate week is now an annual event that I like to make the most of. This year we managed to get a booking for a special dinner at The Providores where for Chocolate Week 2011, Peter Gordon (often called Europe’s father of fusion cuisine) and innovative chocolatier Paul A Young collaborated to create a 6 course menu with chocolate incorporated into each course. Peter and Paul hosted the evening introducing the dishes and entertained us all with food and non food related stories, indeed as the evening progressed and everyone relaxed they evolved into a rather effective double act.

It was a very sociable evening with Paul and Peter working their way around the tables to talk to their guests. The food was stunning with dishes that included Roast duck, prune sauce, wild mushrooms, porcini powder and broad beans with Honduras Indio Rojo, and Smoked eel, sautéed salsify, toasted sourdough crumbs and date chipotle chilli puree with Mangaro chocolate. The smoked eel in particular was a real winner and was matched with a smooth 2007 Richardson Pinot Noir.  Then just when I thought it could not get any better, that dish was eclipsed by the surprising light beef cheeks with roast carmelised quince and smoked chickpea panizza.  The matching New Zealand wines were top notch.  As was the Quinta do Noval Port from Douro that accompanied the Tart of malted Virunga chocolate and sea salted caramel, buffalo ice cream and sesame praline.

This was my first visit to The Providores and it will most definitely not be my last.

Marks out of 10

Food 7.8

Service 7

Ambience 7.8

Providores on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

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Chocolate Unwrapped at Vinopolis

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

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.

 

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What’s coming next?

LONDON

It’s Chocolate week – 11th to 17th October,  so we will be making the most of that.

SYDNEY

There will be more posts from our Australian correspondent.

Post planned will include Bilsons and Tetsuya’s, two restaurants that have been the subject of recent controversy due to losing hats – Chefs Hats are awarded for outstanding restaurants and range from one hat through three hats – both were demoted from 3 hats to 2 hats in the SMH Good Food Guide 2011 Awards –  The Good Food Guide, published by the Fairfax Newspaper Group in Australia, is the Australian guide listing the best places to eat. See Bilson bites back

SINGAPORE

There will also be a post for Iggy’s in Singapore, which is number 26 in the S.Pellegrino World’s Best Restaurants list.

POST COUNT

We have now reached our 200th post count. No plans to slow down.

Almeida – not just for chocoholics

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!.

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.  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.

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
12
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.

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.

 

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