“Put ‘eat chocolate’ at the top of your list of things to do today. That way, at least you’ll get one thing done.”
If you’ve seen my #feedfeed on Instagram of late or any of my recent posts on the blog, then you’ll be forgiven for thinking that it reads more like “The Chocolate Diaries.”
I do have a valid reason people – it’s Chocolate Week here in the U.K., no better reason to celebrate and indulge all love for all things cocoa!
Among the many events happening across the country, from tastings, talks and demos to chocolate-themed meals, afternoon teas and libations (there’s even chocolate-beer on offer), the star of the show is the Chocolate Show at Olympia, London (16-18th October). Fellow chocoholic Anika and I went along for the gala evening last night and selflessly tried everything on offer, to bring you a scrummy taste of the main highlights…
So we started the evening at the dessert bar co-hosted by Valrhona chocolate and Belle Époque patisserie, two great cocoa masterminds who’ve come together to create this stunning lineup of pastries, launching exclusively at the show – if you miss them here (or you know, you want seconds), you can soon find them at Selfridges too. We had our eye on the Guanaja 1502 (centre, left) – layers of rich 70% chocolate in the purest form – Guanaja cream, Guanaja sponge, Guanaja mousse, Guanaja crunch and a surprise spurt of salt caramel, to have as you like!
Next, we found our way to meet master chocolatier Paul A Young, who was whipping up his famous fudgy brownies. There was nothing quite like tucking into these while they were warm and fresh out of the oven, oozing gooey goodness at the core! If you make it to the show, do look out for Paul on the main stage where he’ll be showcasing his chocolate recipes live – definitely a great DIY hack for your next night in!
We indulged in Choctails’s artisanal truffles, created from cocktail recipes. Peach bellini chocolates could just be the next best thing after… peach bellinis?
Speaking of novel ideas, how lovely is Cambridge-based Chocolat Chocolat’s concept of a chocolate bouquet? I know I’d much rather receive one of these than flowers any day of the week.
We also loved meeting the organic bean-to-bar producer, Blanxart – they can trace their roots back to 1954, Barcelona! Their laminated “Cats Tongue” chocolates (inspired by the eponymous German nursery rhyme) were quite quirky, while the dark chocolate-filled hazelnut praline cones were just gorgeous…
One of the best parts of the show for me, was meeting chocolatiers from world-over, like Ika Chocolate from Tel Aviv, who have brought with them their delicate assortment of pralines infused with mediterranean flavours and herbs like the earthy Za-atar.
I was so pleased to finally try Claudio Pistocchi’s Tortapistocchi from Florence too, having heard much about this magical chocolate pie made with up to six types of dark chocolate, very little cocoa powder and cream, and with not a trace of eggs, butter, sugar or flour! What’s more, there are no preservatives or additives used, yet the torte remains fresh in the fridge for up to four months! Magical.
Hand-crafted chocolates from Italian artisan Giovanna’ Choco Passion seriously impressed too, from chocolates sculpted into cameras, phones and a workman’s tools, to chocolate bags and shoes. As the saying goes after all, “shoes and chocolates have a lot in common – the more you have the happier you are.”
Other Italian delights included Venchi‘s richly creamy chocolate spread…
… And THE chocolatier, Aneesh Popat’s water ganaches. Aneesh’s unique approach is to pair fine chocolates with water, fruit purées, Indian spices, nuts and herbs – rather than butter or thick cream – yielding distinctive flavours enhanced by a smooth, melt-in-your-mouth texture. Not to mention that the process reduces calories by 40-50% compared to your average truffles!
But if we’re on the subject of healthier chocolates, I must share the most deliciously healthy discovery of the evening: raw truffles by Sweet Virtues, packed with superfoods from baobob and chia seeds to maqui berries (imported from Chile), and naturally sweetened with coconut blossom nectar, which is not only low-ranking on the glycemic index but also boasts a low fructose content!
Sweet Virtues’ whimsical chocolate angel (extreme right, below) was definitely a star at the fashion show, as was Aneesh Popat’s Goodess of the Sea (extreme left). We couldn’t take our eyes of Fat Duck’s chocolate-frilled dress either… You can catch a sight of this captivating chocolate couture on the catwalk every evening at 5pm, inspired by the theme “Once Upon a Time In The Land of Chocolate.” We were also treated to a special performance by Charlie Bucket and Willie Wonka, who made a theatrical appearance from the iconic Great Glass Elevator…
Right, I believe in chocolate for breakfast so I’m now going to go dig into the sweet stash of goodies kindly gifted to us last night! If you do make it to show, do let’s compare notes – would love to hear what you found best!