Christmas Chocolate Choices

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Time for some chocolate indulgence

 

Christmas is such a great time for some chocolate indulgence, for something a bit different and a bit more indulgent than a Wispa. And I don’t mean two Wispas! Here’s some to be considering:

 

The Chocolatier Water Ganaches

 

First up, order anything from The Chocolatier. I love what they are doing, truly delicious flavours, and a really passionate family affair. I met Aneesh and his family at their stand at Cake International where MGG and I worked through quite a few products and flavours, and came home carrying rather a lot of purchases! For something different I would try the Chocolate Peanut Butter, the Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel and any of the water ganaches. You won’t be disappointed!

 

J Chocolate Rugoso

 

For “simple” chocolate then I’d recommend J.Cocoa for true bean to bar production of some very tasty chocolate bars. I really love the 70% Rugoso Dark Chocolate, this has beautiful, smooth flavours to it. I also love James’ story, he started this as a hobby, is still making this in a shed in the garden and used to be a fishmonger. I don’t know how good he was as a fishmonger, but he’s making amazing chocolate.

 

artisan chocolate making kit

 

If they fancy themselves as a chocolatier, then maybe start them off with a chocolate making kit from Full of It Craft Chocolate. With two different kits, these come with raw cacao butter and raw cacao powder, either from Peru or Ecuador. All the instructions are there, and they can add their own choice of flavourings. Could be a great activity on Christmas Day afternoon, after the turkey and all the other excitement.

 

Rococo Roald Dahl Chocolate

 

I love Rococo, and I love the link up they’ve done as part of the Roald Dahl 100 celebrations. Each bar draws inspiration from different characters, from James with his giant peach, through to Mr Twit’s Beardy Breakfast Bar. These could make great stocking fillers for kids, big and small.

 

Chocolate Avocado

 

Chocolate certainly doesn’t have to be serious, and so this one is a bit of fun. Avocado has certainly been having a moment, and so perhaps you can pretend that you’re being healthy whilst indulging in this chocolate avocado. I might send it to MFL as he loathes avocado but loves chocolate.

 

Craft Chocolat Subscription

 

For a gift that keeps on giving for a bit longer than just Christmas Day, then how about a craft chocolate subscription from Cocoa Runners? Three bars of the finest craft chocolate will arrive every month, along with tasting notes so you really get the most out of the experience. Definitely one for the chocolate connoisseur.

 

Organic Trinidad Sipping Chocolate

 

Maybe they might like their chocolate on the hot side? Hot chocolate forms part of our Christmas traditions, and this sipping chocolate from Luxury Fine Foods would definitely make a very indulgent grown up hot chocolate. Made using single origin organic cacoa beans from Trinidad, this melts beautifully into warm milk and will make a great indulgence on a cold night.

Of course these are all lovely, and I think most people would be very happy to receive any of them. But there’s still room for a Terry’s chocolate orange in every stocking on Christmas morning, possibly even a Cadbury’s selection box. Although I think we might be having a Toblerone boycott going on. What chocolate is part of your family traditions at Christmas?

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Treat yourself to great Christmas chocolate first

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It’s really getting to peak gift buying season, but just before the madness of Black Friday and Cyber Monday sets in, then I’d treat yourself to some great chocolate to settle down with whilst you do the shopping.

 

Dark Winter Flavours

 

Now, I’ve written several times about how much I love Amelia Rope’s chocolate, and I could certainly be very happy with the Dark Winter Flavours Duo. Dark Raspberry and Dark Sea Salt, sounds perfect to me!

 

Gold Frankincense & Myrrh

 

But if you wanted to get into the Christmas spirit, then for me it would have to Rococo’s Gold, Frankincense and Myrhh bar. Dark chocolate with the precious oils plus some sweet orange oil to balance it up, and then the visual impact of some gold leaf.

No, if that’s not a treat, I don’t know what is!

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What chocolate are you hoping for this Easter?

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I love Easter. I mean, what’s not to love, especially when it’s this late in the Spring? I’m hoping for lovely weather and my cherry tree to be in full bloom.

And for there to be chocolate. Good chocolate. Any of these really…

 

The Ultimate Egg from Fortnum & Mason - a fabulous Easter gift for a food lover

 

If you’re going to go big, then this has to be the one, the Ultimate Egg from Fortnum & Mason. It’s a bit of a cheat, as it’s actually five eggs. Five chocolate eggs. If you’re not sure what kind of chocolate you like best (or like them all) then this could be for you as each egg is a different type, from white through to dark. Sounds like bliss to me!

 

Stroppy Teenager Egg from Rococo

 

I love Rococo anyway, they can do no wrong in my eyes. But I really love this Stroppy Teenager Egg. There’s no pink, no cute bunnies, no bows, just great chocolate plus praline and also salted caramel ganache eggs. It’s almost too good to be wasted on stroppy teenagers!

 

Rococo Almost Like the Real Thing - real eggs filled with praline

 

And I’m sorry for featuring two things from Rococo (told you I loved them), but who could resist something that’s like the real thing but better? I just want to fill my fridge with boxes of these real eggs filled with praline. Though imagine bit hard to whip up a Victoria sponge with!

 

Montezuma Super Thick Half Dark Half Milk Egg

 

Can’t decide what sort of chocolate you like best? I’d go for the Super Thick Half Dark and Half Milk Truffle Egg. With truffles. Wow, Montezuma’s still know how to spoil us!

 

Moo Free Dairy Free Hunnycomb Easter Egg

 

Need a chocolate egg but need it to be tasty but free from? Well, it looks like Moo Free might be for you. I love the Bunnycomb Egg, ticks the boxes for taste and is gluten free, dairy free and vegan, so everyone can be happy.

 

Humpty Dumpty from the Fairy Tale Gourmet

 

For something lovely and a little different then I love the Humpty Dumpty from Fairy Tale Gourmet. How gorgeous are these? And that’s just the good looks, wait till you see the flavour choices! I want the Earl of Peanuttle, but any of them would be welcome. I think these are a bit different, as the shells are filled which you don’t see very often. I fancy a whole wall of these!

Go on, get the choccies in! With so much choice there is no excuse for dull Easter egg selection.

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Probably the cutest chocolates I’ve seen for Mother’s Day

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I love Rococo, and would always be happy to get anything from them. But just how darn adorable is this?

 

The Cat That Got The Cream - beautiful chocolates from Rococo make a perfect gift for a food lover

 

And I’m not even a cat person, but I just think it’s so cute. This is the Cat That Got the Cream box, filled with 12 ganache chocolates. I wouldn’t know which flavour to start with, but marc de champagne with popping candy sounds interesting, or even the Irish coffee white chocolate ganache.

One thing I’d know for sure: I wouldn’t be sharing them!

There is a dog version too, but it’s not half as cute!

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How will you celebrate Chocolate Week?

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I may have mentioned before that I am rather fond of chocolate, and do a reasonable amount of “testing”. So a whole week devoted to chocolate in all its variety is probably right up my street. Here’s a few things I might want to think about doing:

 

Amelia Rope White Edition 3

 

* I have three favourite chocolate companies that I would quite happily offer to test for on a regular basis! Amelia Rope got me loving white chocolate again, Artisan du Chocolat held a fabulous tasting that I was at and Rococo have been responsible for a few detours along Marylebone High Street.

 

The Boutique Chocolate Hotel

 

* I could consider booking into The Chocolate Boutique Hotel in Bournemouth. I lived in Bournemouth for a number of years, and it seems to have improved a lot since I left. It certainly never had a fashionable Soho quarter, which is where this hotel is. All named in suitably chocolate style, there’s chocolate on the menu every day, and you could even have a chocolate fountain of your own in your room. There are chocolate weekends to enjoy, so even if it’s awful British weather outside, you can enjoy chocolate treats inside.

 

Champneys Forest Mere

 

* For the lowest calorie version of chocolate, then I’d book in for the Chocolate Wrapper treatment at Champneys. This smells just like a Terry’s Chocolate Orange, and leaves you with lovely soft skin. I’m very lucky in that I’ve stayed at all of the Champneys resorts for work over the years but if I had a choice then it would have to be Forest Mere. Feels like a fabulous liner afloat in the middle of an enchanted forest. And that was before the Chocolate Wrapper! Blissful escape.

How ever you choose to enjoy your chocolate this week, choose great chocolate from great people and take a moment to really enjoy it.

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Curling up with hot chocolate

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The weather outside truly is frightful, and there can be nothing better than being curled up inside, preferably next to an open fire, with a mug of something really warm. And as it is so cold perhaps it’s a great time for an indulgent mug of hot chocolate, with or without all the marshmallow madness. Here’s a few to consider stocking up on, maybe even consider giving away to loved ones:

 

Rococo Hot Chocolate

 

I love Rococo, and any trip to Marylebone High Street, whilst sadly infrequent, always means a detour and an indulgence. So if I was going to send someone a gift that I really wished I could keep for myself, it would be their organic drinking chocolate. Made only from dark chocolate flakes and cocoa powder, this is for a serious chocolate lover. Like me.

 

Spiced Mandarin Hot Chocolate from Montezuma's

 

For something a little different, then I’d love to try the Spiced Mandarin Drinking Chocolate from Montezuma’s. Not only delicious sounding, but the pouch packaging makes it a great gift for posting, or if you’re travelling, either with a gift for want to have something delicious to drink with you. There are some other great flavours too, like Chilli or Mint, so bound to be something to suit.

 

Melt Hot Chocolates

 

Melt is another of those places that might see me stopping by for a quick chocolate stop, particularly the counter at Selfridges. They have new hot chocolates, in both milk and dark chocolate variants, which you could then also spice up with Vanilla or Cinnamon sugars. I would think these would make fantastic gifts with one of each, very attractive and not necessarily something you would buy yourself.

 

Fortnum's Hot Chocolate

 

Now these are ones I might really struggle to give away, as I love how these Fortnum & Mason hot chocolates are packaged. Not only do they look good but they sound amazing too. This one is the Madagascar, made from Malagasy cocoa for a smooth mild drink with subtle hints of red fruit. There are other single origin versions like Sao Tome, or flavoured versions like Rose & Violet or Marshmallow.

 

Jaz and Jule's

 

For something a little unusual from a smaller business, then try Jaz and Jul’s. Handmade and organic using real chocolate flakes and natural flavourings, there are some great flavours to choose from. Gingerbread, Man sounds right up my street, combining delicious chocolate with warming ginger. I like the subtle heat of ginger, but if you need more heat then there is a chilli version too.

So whether for gifts or just keeping great things on standby then hot chocolate has to be one of the benefits of cold weather!

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Easter Chocolate Lovers, your time is almost up!

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Easter Chocolate Lovers, your time is nigh! Great gifts for chocolate food lovers

The countdown is on to Easter, and you can’t have Easter without some good chocolate. So unless you want to be standing in Asda trying to choose between a Smarties or Jellytots Easter egg then you need to get a move on to ensure you have some of the good stuff come Sunday. Here’s the last ordering dates for some fabulous stuff from some of my favourite chocolate companies:

Melt Chocolates – one of my favourites, I normally find it hard to bypass their counter at Selfridges. There are some really cute offerings from them for Easter, but sadly it doesn’t say how long you’ve got to get an order in. Do it today!

Montezumas – go organic and eco with Montezumas, from single eggs in their eco packaging through to fabulous goodie boxes, for sharing or for eating in secret! Again, the website makes no mention of last order dates (when will they ever learn?) Order early, or head into one of their shops.

Rococo – tight, but they usually allow 4 working days, although they do say it gets a bit longer at this time of year. I’d be so happy to find a Praline City Farm waiting for me on Easter Sunday, that it would be worth taking a risk on and ordering today.

Demarquette – if you’re ordering this after 10am today, then I’m afraid you’ve missed the cutoff for First Class Recorded delivery, but you can still order through till 10am on Wednesday with Special Delivery. The chocolate quails eggs are very sweet, and just a mouthful.

Chocolate Trading Co – great source for a huge variety of chocolates, and ordering by 4pm means you can get chocolate the next day with special delivery. There’s chocolate here for everyone from the littlest kids through to the fussiest of adults.

The alternative is to get out and find your local chocolate makers, and support what they’re doing, as this will be such a key time for them. If I can get across there, then I’ll be doing some of my Easter shopping at Bittersweet in Derbyshire, well worth a trip. Or take your Easter bunny on a trip to the Lakes, like this great shot by tristanf on Flickr.

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Valentine’s chocolates with taste

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How to do Valentine's chocolates with taste so that any food lover will fall for your perfect gift

I’m not a huge fan of Valentine’s Day, bit over commercial being the understatement. And I do rather loathe “themed” gifts. But I do love chocolate. So here’s my thoughts on who’s doing what well for the day:

Melt

One of my favourite chocolate companies, I’d be quite happy to give or receive the Love Bar with the Violet & Rose bar. Great chocolate, and great packaging, perfect for slipping in a love note or two!

 

Rococo Chocolates

Marylebone High Street is like food lovers nirvana, and no trip would be complete without popping into Rococo for one or two delicious morsels. For Valentine’s Day I would find it hard to choose: hand-painted chocolate heart, Hot Lips chilli truffles, Venus Nipples, violet creams…the list is endless. For something a little unusual though I would try the Popping Champagne Truffles, which apparently gently explode in the mouth. Enough said.

 

Prestat

I try not to buy Prestat just because the boxes are so beautiful, so thankfully the chocolate inside is pretty darn tasty too. The Jewel Box is pretty, but I think I would rather have a tub of the Prunes in Chocolate. Or maybe that’s not a very romantic choice, but just think how healthy it is!

 

Chococo

Again, more good packaging, and tasty chocolate. I rather like the giant personalised chocolate hearts that they do, and you can also find some dairy free options here as well.

 

Demarquette

Into the territory of true artisan production, I would be happy with most things that can be ordered from here. If you pushed me, then I’d really recommend the Salted Caramel Valentine Hearts. Dark chocolate, if you’re ordering for me, please.

 

William Curley

Again, fantastic choices to be made. If you wanted to choose something non hearts and flowers, then I would try the chocolate fruit and nut thins or the almond thins. I’d also be very happy to receive a tub of their hot chocolate, which would cheer up any dreary day.

 

Artisan du Chocolat

Another favourite (and yes, Santa did take note) and some great choices. This is probably one of the few places where I’d pick a Valentine’s specific gift, given that it’s been done with such wit and style. The Declaration of Romantic Feelings gift is fantastic, great chocolates, and a way to convey your unspoken feelings for your loved one. They may be too busy with chocolate to respond!

 

If you’re doing more than one gift, and want to add some other shopping to your basket, then John Lewis stock Hotel Chocolat, Chocolate on Chocolate, Ambassadors of London and Charbonnel et Walker; Selfridges have a list as long as your arm including Artisan du Chocolat, Chocolate by Trish, Damian Allsop and Pierre Marcolini; and Waitrose would be a good place to be stopping off on your way home if you’ve forgotten!

Great chocolate photo by Damaged Cupcake on Flickr.

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Finally! A chocolate I will hate!

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You can keep this one!

I love chocolate. Mainly good chocolate, with an occasional guilty lapse into a Mint Aero.

Or a Turkish Delight.

But usually I settle for a small amount of something good. But there is nothing, no amount of wrapping it up in good chocolate, that will convince me to try Marmite’s upcoming Very Peculiar Chocolate. I mean it’s milk chocolate, so not my fave. And it’s Marmite. Which I most definitely do not love.

I’m sure there will be heaps of Marmite lovers finding this in their stocking this Christmas time, which they are welcome to. I’m all up for unusual flavours, but there are other chocolates I’d rather experiment with.  And it’s not even original, as Paul A Young combined Marmite and chocolate some time ago. You can still buy the Marmite truffle, and if I wanted to try something unusual I’d try his Port and Stilton truffle.

I like Melt, and quite often survive shopping at Selfridges propped up by one or two of their truffles. Next time, if I’m feeling adventurous, then I’m going to try the Olive Caramel Bonbon. I can’t quite imagine the combination, but got to admit that black olive tapenade meeting slightly salty caramel wrapped in dark chocolate is a flavour combo to play with. I could skip out of Selfridges and head down Marylebone High Street to Rococo. And given that it’s coming up to  Christmas, then I’d see what the Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh bar had to offer.

Demarquette have beautiful looking chocolates as well, as great flavours. Whilst not in the umami realms of Marmite at all, the Tunisian Bharat is unusual sounding, with notes of Damask Rose and roasted cinnamon. You could even try it yourself at Montezuma’s, with their “Make a Kilo” option. You can combine a whole host of ingredients, but nothing that unusual. You can pep everything up with chilli as one of your options though.

So, happy to keep experimenting, but they can keep the Marmite! Look out for it from 4 October on the Marmite website and selected retailers.

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What do you get a foodie mum?

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I love being a mum, and I love my food. Which probably makes me easy to buy for on Mother’s Day. And it would mean it was easy with me to never fall into the trap of Olay and L’Oreal Mother’s Day advertising (trust me, she’s worth so much more, and no mum wants anti-wrinkle cream. Ever).

Here’s some ideas for gifts for the food and drink loving mum, to show her just how worth it she is!

* There’s got to be fizz, and make it interesting. TheDrinkShop has a great selection, in every shade and to suit every budget, and if you’re going to be super generous then check out Wine Hound. You have to buy a whole case, but could mix wine and champagne, and they have some from more unusual houses in Champagne. And even if mum doesn’t do alcohol, The Alcohol Free Shop offers some very good alternatives.

 

Fabulous chocolates from Rococo

 

* Of course chocolates are traditional, but they don’t have to be old-fashioned. I love the packaging and unusual flavour combinations from Rococo, like the dark chocolate and violet. I adore the fabulously vibrant packaging from Prestat, a long established house with anything but an old fashioned look and feel to it. Have a look at the Marc de Champagne Truffle Collection. Want to go swanky? Check out Melt, which I would say was perfect true foodie territory. How about salted feuillantines or olive caramel bon bons?

* Mum got a savoury tooth, not sweet? How about a cheese gift from Pong? There is a luxury gift box for her, which is the sort of thing I normally avoid, but this is a great collection. Mum can feast on St Eadburgha, Reblochon, organic Cotswold Blue Brie from Simon Weaver and Golden Cross. Add in some fabulous crackers and maybe even some good chutney, and that’s supper sorted out on Mother’s Day!

* For green fingered, grow your own mums, how about a fruit tree? Tree 2 My Door offer some great self-pollinating ones, from apples, to something more unusual like mulberry. Or maybe treat her to something to inspire her growing, like tickets to the Chelsea Flower Show.

So, break out a bit from the norm and make mum’s day!

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