I’m well aware I’m repeating myself here, but I find it hard to think of many better weeks to combine than that of chocolate and cocktail. Last year I succeeded in throwing myself headlong into all revelries, ricocheting between events in a devastating whirlwind of sugar fuelled drunkenness. It also happened to coincided with a split from the boy. Yes, it was a bit messy. It was also ridiculous, exhilarating fun.
I played it very differently this year, remaining calm and collected throughout. There’s one thing I refused to compromise on, and that was to finish the weeks in style with the showstopper of chocolate nirvana that is Chocolate Unwrapped. Past years this has been held in vault like Vinopolis, this year, bigger and better, it’s been moved to Covent Garden and the slightly less atmospheric London Film Museum. What hasn’t changed is the completely brilliant line up of choclatiers and bean to bar producers exhibiting, from huge commercial stars Lindt and Valrhona to those completely new to me like Naive. What stood out amongst the many stalls was the not only the high quality of the chocolate, as I was accustomed to expect, but the stunning packaging, from austere simplicity to flamboyant extravagance, attention to detail was outstanding. I also noticed an increase in spreads as a sideline from some of my favourites, mostly combinations of chocolate and nuts, posh Nutella if you will. I won’t bore you with too many details but here are some of my favourites from the show.
I was thrilled to see newcomer to the show Demarquette, sadly I was late to their stand and so missed out on their gorgeous sounding Imperial China, White Monkey Jasmine Tea volumised ganache chocolate, but they had plenty of their nutkeepers caramels and brownies to keep me happy. I WILL try those new ganaches soon though….
As much as I adore William Curley and his sophisticated ganaches, I’d love to see something new from him. The ganaches may be near perfection, but each to me just seems simply like a flavour variation on the same recipe.
Iain Burnett is a new name to me but I found myself quickly won over by pretty chocolates and a stunningly smooth and indulgent fresh cream Velvet Truffle.
Amadei. You don’t need me to tell you this stuff is good.
Lauden’s beautiful fresh chocolates are as utterly delicious as they are pretty.
Akesson make quite possibly the smoothest tasting bars I’ve tried, they also produce some incredible peppercorns and spices which they combine to wonderful effect in one of their bars.
Chococo make vibrantly flavoured fresh chocolates in equally eyecatching packaging. I find myself drawn to some of their more unnusual novelty items for Christmas.
C-Amaro was one of the producers that really caught my attention at last years show, the Italian bars, unashamedly intense. It was great to see they’d sold out of many of these by the time I arrived. They were also selling jars of spreads, to nibble on bread at the show, and also to take away, sadly the pistachio one I coveted was no more.
Friis Holm bars were first introduced to me by Richard of Chocolate and Love a couple of years ago, and I still stand by the fascinating complexity of their chocolate, the guy is dedicated and passionate and continues to produce some outstanding and interesting chocolate.
Another absolutely brilliant bean to bar producer, is Hungarian Rózsavölgyi Csokolade. They manage to process the beans in such a way as to really convey the essence of the bean and terroir astonishingly well. The bars themselves are particularly beautiful and pleasingly thin, I adore the packaging too, especially the bunny!
Damian Allsop was there with is water based ganaches, the idea being that with nothing other than water added to the chocolate, the flavours are untainted and the result purer.
Betty’s stood out with a rather beautiful range of retro boxes filled with traditional style chocolates.
Chocolate Naive are a tiny bean to bar set up in Lithuania with a quirky ethos steeped in chocolate obsession, the chocolate I tried stood out as intensely fruity though the texture was grainy, I’m told this is a work in progress with a little work needed on the conching. The bars are supremely glossy with a little unicycle emblem that is echoed simply on an austere paper sleeve.
I discovered Patissier Herzog on various markets on the Southbank and was particularly taken with their unusual pairing of wine with chocolate within luscious truffles, they also make use of plenty of other interesting fruit and spice matches.
The Melt stall is always a fabulous rainbow of colours and the chocolates never fail to live up to the promise of appearance, new flavours include a hedgerow inspired range of truffles for Autumn, a collaberation with Mark Hix .
I love Rococo’s fresh chocolates and stunning hand painted figurines, packaging is English Eccentric in full bloom.
You know I love Lucky’s, I can’t resist their unique little chocolate enrobed cakes and Alice in Wonderland obsession. I popped by for a chat and to see if they had anything new. Oh yes, teeny tiny jars of cake, cute and indulgent with their spot on packaging, what’s not to love?! They were one of many trialling different spreads, here we had a posh, dark chocolate Nutella and a sweet salted caramel that they’re urging you to try with cheese…..I think they’d better send me some to try, don’t you?!
Paul A Young. Again, need I say more?
I’m a massive sucker for Duffy’s chocolate bars, he’s one of only two proper bean to bar producers in the UK and he ROCKS. I’m a huge fan of his mellow Panama and intense Honduras bars, his milk bar with cocoa nibs and oak smoked salt is thoroughly addictive too. He had two new bars at the show; a Venezualen as 72% and 55%, I’m not usually a massive milk chocolate fan, however it was the 55% that stood out to me as it was so rich and treacly, wonderful!
I was delighted to discover good friend Jen had a stand with her Chocolate Ecstasy Tours, and it seems she’s branched out into some really well made and sourced beauty products too!
I was absolutely GUTTED that Boutique Aromatique had to pull out at the last minute, I was really excited to catch up with founder Shelly Preston and try her beautiful chocolates again. Oh well, there’s always next year…..
A HUGE thankyou to Kate and her team at Nudge PR for orchestrating another chocolate packed and wonderful Chocolate Unwrapped.
A rather fitting end to Chocolate Week….?