Chocolate Unwrapped 2011

Another Year. Another Chocolate Week.

We finished the week with a visit to Chocolate Unwrapped at Vinopolis.  This is its third year and it’s been getting bigger by the year. Vinopolis is an excellent venue for this type of event, nice high ceilings to keep the temperature down and lots of room for growth.

The first person we spotted as we walked in was Paul Wayne Gregory. He was keen to tell us that he now has a boxed selection of his chocolates that is entirely made up of award winners.  We also had some more of Duffys Chocolate (their chocolate was used in both the chocolate dinners I went to during Chocolate Week at The Providores and Almeida).

I tried to find Lauden Chocolates (one of my favorites), but if they were there I missed them. I did spot a tweet from them saying they had such a good day on the Saturday that they had sold out, so perhaps they didn’t managed to restock for the Sunday session.  Matcha Chocolat another favorite from last year was also no where to be seen.   However Chocolate Unwrapped for me is all about discovering something new.  This year my discovery was Pacari Ecuadorian Organic Chocolate bars, specifically the Raw Chocolate with Salt & Nibs (70% Cacao) and Lemongrass (60% Cacao) – this is seriously grown up chocolate.

We had a quick chat with Paul A Young and on the recommendation of a friend I also bought some of his very distinctive Pumpkin flavoured chocolates.

We were brave enough (or was that foolish enough) to  try some chocolate wine too – it was an interesting novelty, but didn’t really work for me.

The event seemed to have more of an International vibe this year, lots of French accents around.  We also visited stands from Hungry, Switzerland and Italy.


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Foodies Festival @ Hampton Court

Spent most of bank holiday Sunday at the Foodies Festival in Hampton Court.  They are set up at  different locations throughout the year.  There is going to be one in Edinburgh for example during the Edinburgh Festival in August. Foodies focuses on seasonal food and drink, specialty and local produce and local restaurant talent.

The weather was good, always a real bonus at this type of event. The show itself is not as big or as well attended as Taste, but I have to admit I prefer this one. Very few queues,  space to see what you want to see, easy access to tables and chairs.

We attended several sessions at the Chefs Theatre, including  the one from Gary Lee of The Ivy, who made a real point of stating that he was not a celebrity chef.  The highlight here though, had to be Katie & Giancarlo Caldesi of Caffe Caldesi. Katie had been on Saturday Kitchen the previous day and there was some hilarity as she compared cooking with James Martin to cooking with her husband. The BBC missed a trick not having them both on together. They are a great double act.

There were unfortunately not too many top restaurant stands.  Benares was the most high profile one. However there were some very good small stands.  They included Lauden, one of my favorite chocolatiers, Doughmasters who made lovely club sandwiches using bread that was baked while you wait (not something you see often) and a stand selling Whoopie Pies – the trend following on from Cup Cakes,  I had a maple syrup one, delicious.

On the drinks front, Joe Wadsack at the Cordorniu wine presentation was very good. He is a real raconteur. The El Dorado Rum tasting was fun and the champagne supplied by Eminent Wines (pictured), much to my surprise, really cut through a spicy Jamaican Pattie I had just eaten. So yes maybe good Champagne does go with everything.

Will definitely try and do this event again next year.


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Chocolate Unwrapped at the May Fair Hotel

To start celebrating chocolate week, I went with my favourite chocolatier to Chocolate Unwrapped at the May Fair Hotel.


We spend a couple of hours at this event, sampling the wares of a few interesting chocolatiers. There was a display of chocolate art and a number of stands. The exhibitors ranged from the lower end of the scale, i.e., high street brands like Thorntons and  Hotel Chocolat, right up to the high end bespoke chocolatiers like Paul A Young.

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Chocolates can be a bit like wine, once you have tasted the really good stuff there is no going back, or to quote Michel Roux “Once you have discovered the pleasure, richness, complexity and taste sensations of fine chocolate, you will never look at chocolate in the same way”. So sorry Thorntons we walked right passed your stand.

From what we could see, there were two real standouts, they were both relative newcomers in the field.

The first was Paul Wayne Gregory a former sous chef who also gave one of the talks, he is definitely going places with 9 of the chocolates in his selection being award winners. PWG is at the top of his game, he currently provides chocolates to Michelin star chef Gary Rhodes, and his latest addition a rum chocolate is stunning.

Update: I have just tried another one of his chocolates – called “Space Dust”, superb!.

PWGs slogan – Indulgence is everything

The other standout was based in Leeds of all places, they were Lauden Chocolates who presented their selection in very simple but elegant transparent boxes. However the presentation alone would not have sold me on them, if they had not got the taste right. Like PWG, they are all about intense flavours, that really work with the chocolate.

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As part of my chocolate indulgence weekend I also managed to squeeze in a chocolate martini at 5th View.

Chocolate Martini at 5th View

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