Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Cocoa a go-go

So, this post isn't directly related to Mexican food but it is about chocolate. You might have heard of a liquid lunch, but yesterday, mine consisted mostly of a free tasting hosted by Artisan du Chocolat in celebration of the UK's 6th National Chocolate Week.

We're all familiar with the major chocolate brands, but the UK is actually chock-full of independent high-quality chocolatiers producing incredibly elegant and not overly rich chocolate. L'Artisan is a fine example and, unlike many of their competitors, they grind their own cocoa beans (in Kent of all places) to produce an array of mouth-watering chocolate goodies.

Yesterday, along with a number of others (funnily enough, all women) in their chocolateria at Selfridges, I sampled 8 of their luxury bars plus their trademark liquid salted caramels, a favourite of Gordon Ramsey. If you think all cocoa beans taste the same, think again; from the fruity floral undertones of Madagascar to the distinctive smokiness of Java, the 'origin' bars each have a unique flavour and tone. In addition to this range, there are several coffee and tea infused bars and a fusion of other spices, herbs and flowers. We got to sample the Tonka bar, an unsual spice, apparently popular in Mexico but banned in the USA because it contains coumarin, which can be lethal in large doses. All the bars retail for £2.50 and there is a huge array of tantalising truffles, drinking chocolate and other 'novelty' items to burn a hole in your pocket.

I must admit I came away feeling a little sick; high percentage cocoa chocolate (all their bars are 72%) is much more lethal than your standard dairy milk! Probably a good thing, otherwise I would be a much larger (and poorer) woman.

Artisan du Chocolat
0845 270 6996
Stores: Selfridges, Notting Hill and Chelsea plus their Borough Market stall
The factory is located in Ashford, Kent and does offer chocolate tasting tours as well as an atelier pick-up

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