There are very few people in this world who don’t like chocolate. I look at those people with pity, probably much like people look at me when I say I don’t like sweets (yes, I’ve never eaten Haribo or wine gums).
This week has seen Chocolate Week in the UK with many restaurants offering special chocolate menus chocolate afternoon teas and even some chocolate-making classes. To round of this cocoa celebration, Salon du Chocolat, a yearly chocolate show made its début in London at Olympia National Hall in Kensington.
As might be expected, this meant three days of chocolate tastings, demonstrations and classes, and complete chocolate overload. As might not be expected, this involved a chocolate fashion show.
Now, I was sceptical. First of all, chocolate sometimes doesn’t look very attractive. I had a conversation with a friend just the other day about the practice of smearing chocolate sauce in an ‘artistic way’ on dessert plates. He had had hysterics whilst out dining with his girlfriend and her family because it just looked like… well, I’m sure you don’t need a great imagination to determine that.
Secondly, how does one wear something that melts with body heat? I did have a fleeting fantasy of women coated in the stuff, in a purposefully ‘dirty’ way, but my vision was hardly PG.
As it turned out, there was a fair amount of artistic licence. Each model wore garments that were made of more than chocolate, even if there was a fair amount of chocolate coating (how they solved the melting problem remains a mystery).
I must admit there was something fairly perverse about watching very skinny women parade around in chocolate, but in retrospect, it would be even more perverse if they were humongous.
Reservations aside, the girls looked gorgeous and maybe just a little lickable. The creativity that had gone into the costumes was fantastic and included not only a cupcake princess but a steampunk-inspired outfit.
The range of chocolate and chocolatey products available at the show was impressive. Here are a just a few shout-outs for some of the brilliant things I sampled.
Iain Burnett: The Highland Chocolatier – Velvet Truffle
This is a fresh cream chocolate truffle without a shell and is soooo smooth it could be described as – cliché ahoy – velvet! This creation is guaranteed to unleash a lot of endorphins. For anyone who has tried Japanese ‘nama chocolate’, the taste and texture will be immediately familiar – that’s because Iain spent some time out in Japan and was inspired by these godly creations. They’ve won an Academy of Chocolate Gold Award in 2011 and were finalists in the International Chocolate Awards 2012. Watch this space – nama chocolate is going to take over the world!
Melange Chocolate – Raspberry-Rosemary Chocolate Bar
Rosemary goes well with sweet flavours. I love to eat it with butternut squash for example. So why, oh why, has it not been added to chocolate more often? And why not contrast it with the tangy-sharpness of raspberry? Well, Melange Chocolate are geniuses for this one.
Lauden Chocolate – Marc de Champagne and Passion Fruit Chocolates
No preservatives or artificial flavours, these chocolates hit you with pure flavours that are purely overwhelming in depth and subtlety. The Passion Fruit chocolate won Gold at the Great Taste Awards 2010 and I can understand why (I don’t even like passion fruit)!
Ernst Knam – Salted Caramels
It may be hard to go wrong with salted caramels but equally it’s hard to make salted caramels that stand out from the swathes swamping the market. Ernst Knam managed it with these dangerously addictive little numbers. I just destroyed £5 worth of expensive chocolate in under 5 minutes. Such a shame. But so worth it. I think salted caramel should be illegal.
There were so many traders that this list is definitely not exclusive. Just check out the variety of temptations out below. If you want to visit Salon du Chocolat, make an excuse to go travelling as the fair is touring the world, with dates set for various locations in France, but also Seoul, Tokyo and Lima. More info on their website.