The National Chocolate Week 2014 has, sadly, just finished. Together with it, also the London Chocolate Show 2014 has, even more sadly, just finished. Though I have already got two tickets for next year edition. Why? For 10 good reasons, hidden within the same name of the main character of this Show: C.H.O.C.O.L.A.T.E.S.
1. C – Cocoa.
Cocoa is the essence of chocolate, the frame, the soul. It’s almost the chocolate itself. And it is the main character of this show where chocolate is served in all its forms, textures, shapes and colors.
2. H – Hot!
Chocolate is not just sweet or bitter. It can be spicy hot! This year several sellers were presenting incredible combinations of chocolate with hot chilly, sharp sea salt, tongue-ticking black pepper, Christmasy cinnamon, aromatic rosemary, zingy bergamot, earthy Earl Grey Tea and with many other spices and seasonings. This unusual combinations challenge your perception of flavors and it takes a while to realise what’s going on in your mouth once you have tried a bite of one of those chocolates. Something you MUST try.
3. O – Organic
You don’t come to this festival cause you want to try average chocolates. You want them organic, natural, authentic, flavoursome, rich and healthy. As the Pacari Chocolate that I tried, a premium, single-origin, organic chocolate entirely made in Ecuador. The fig chocolate is my favorite, as it is very unusual but works amazingly. Another delicious raw chocolate I had the luck to taste was at The Raw Chocolate Shop, where I have been explained the importance of the low temperature when producing chocolate in order to preserve the nutrients of Cacao beans. I was also impressed by the texture of the chocolate from Duffy’s: each batch of their chocolate is granite ground for at least 60 hours to allow the cacao flavors to mellow.
4. C – Couture
The Chocolate Show it’s not just a food festival. It’s also a fashion show. And the chocolate dresses from the Chocolate Fashion Show were simply stunning. Looking between leather and wood, the different types of chocolates modeled for these dresses created an incredible coombination both of colors and smells, delighting not just the eyes. I would love to be one of those lucky ones chosen to eat them all at the end of the show!
5. O – Original
In a place like the Chocolate Show there is space even for original experiments like chocolate truffles made with superfood. I had never really appreciated superfood in terms of flavor, even if I drink now an then smoothies made with fruit and some superfoods. But the superfood truffles from Sweet Virtues I tried… ah! Healthy AND delicious: can you ask for more?
6. L – Liquors
Liquors and spirits are part of the show. Mainly chocolate spirits, but also other sweet unusual alcoholic drinks, like Cosy, an aperitif drink that tastes like “french patisserie”. It comes in several flavors including lemon meringue or strawberry tart, and honestly, it is like drinking liquid cakes. I also loved the Café de Parisienne Liqueur (I believe it’s grappa with coffee flavour) from Eberle. I’ve got a bottle and I am looking forward to drinking a sip after dinner tonight.
7. A – Arty
Because coming to the Chocolate Show felt a bit like walking into a Sculpture Gallery. Chocolate sculptures were scattered all over the room, and they included owls, ducks, oysters, dishes, birds, trees, fruit and vegetables and several other subjects. Some sculptures were so realistic that a little kid grabbed and snapped a little piece of one of this sculptures to check if it was wood or chocolate (the kid was pleased to see it was chocolate, the mortified mom was not as happy!).
8. T – Tastings
There is no food show without tastings. And most of the sellers generously offered their products for us to try. From the gooey honey and chocolate bites at Honeybee to the precious hazelnut chocolate at Venchi, from the Lindt Coconut chocolate to the soft and nutty belgian chocolate of Belvas and the almond chocolate bar from Amedei. Walking along the isles of the show has been a real pleasure for the palate, and the tastings also helped deciding what to buy to bring home.
9. E – Educational
The Chocolate show is an unmissable opportunity for those who want to get tips about how to cook an original recipe with chocolate. Famous chocolate chefs are often on stage and share little secrets, cook live original recipes and give you ideas you can then try at home. I attended few demonstrations and the preparation of a Bombay mix chocolate crumble by Aneesh Popat from The Chocolatier was one of those: how would you ever even think to prepare a chocolate crumble with Bombay mix? Well…we wouldn’t, but luckily Mr Popat did, and the result is really interesting. I loved it.
10. S – Senses
As the chocolate expert Sam Smallman from Rococo Chocolates pointed out during his chocolate tasting on Sunday, trying chocolate involves all the 5 senses. While we were savagely grabbing the chocolate bites from the tasting tray and voraciously eating them, Mr Smallman invited us to not even analyse but to enjoy first the piece of chocolate. Look at the chocolate: if it is shiny, it was properly tempered. Touch the chocolate, to feel the texture. Smell the chocolate: never put chocolate in the fridge, as you won’t smell anything if you eat it cold (a good piece of chocolate should be eaten at room temperature to better enjoy the smell). Listen to the chocolate when you break it: if it snaps, it was well tempered. And, finally, eat the chocolate, enjoying the texture and the flavors that it releases while it melts in the mouth.
It was a real pleasure to attend this event and to get to know more about the variegated world of chocolate. Chocolate that keeps evolving like a living creature due to the use of new ingredients, to the development of new techniques, but most importantly due to the creativity of new chocolate lovers, like Martha Collison and Iain Watters from the Great British Bake Off 2014, that cooked on stage with the award winning Chocolatier Will Torrent.
I could keep writing more and more about the Chocolate Show, but as it happens with everything that is pleasant, trying something is better than reading about it. And, as we all know, eating chocolate is not just pleasant: it’s an heavenly experience.