Posts Tagged ‘chocolate’

Weekly Reading: Londonist Posts

Bactrian Camels at the Budapest ZooAs you read this (well, if you’re reading this when I posted it) I’m on my way to New York. I’ll likely be offline for the weekend, but I’ll be back in London Monday and I’m sure I’ll have plenty to report.

But as is current Friday custom around here, check out my Londonist posts for this week:

  • Bactrian Burglars in Bishopsgate: Have you seen Brian the camel?
  • Richmond Park Cull: No Other Option? A new cause for London’s animal lovers — save the deer!
  • Lewisham is Seeing Spots: Measles outbreak due to low vaccination rates.
  • Grape Case Quashed: A man pulls a silly suit on Marks & Spencer and loses.
  • Lessons Learned: Melt Chocolate Master Class: More on the chocolate class from Wednesday, plus the recipe for the chocolate martini. (This link may not work as I couldn’t check it, since it hadn’t been posted when I wrote this post. It should work, but if it doesn’t, you may have to scroll through or just wait for me to post the right link later. Sorry if it causes any trouble.)

Photo of a Bactrian camel from the Budapest Zoo, July 2007. Brian looks substantially different, but it’s the closest thing I have.

Melt Chocolate Master Class at Cookbook Cafe

Table of Chocolate at Cookbook Cafe

Last night, I finally got to take the Melt Chocolate Master Class at cookbook cafe that I tried to take last month.

There were 11 of us in the group, set up in a small area of the restaurant just to the left of the open cooking area. It was a bit distracting at times, when wafts of just-cooked fish would come over, but otherwise the space worked well, with three rows of chairs set up, a table full of chocolates and a drink-mixing station set up behind us.

We were offered champagne when we arrived, and the £35 class started about 10 minutes late because one of the attendants was a bit off schedule. Keith Hurdman from Notting Hill chocolate shop Melt led the class and took us on a worldwide tour of chocolates, starting with some French and Venezuelan white chocolate, moving to Belgian, Swiss and French milk chocolates and then giving us a variety of dark chocolates, too. We learned about different cocoa beans and growing regions, why organic chocolate isn’t always the best option, and how Chef Hurdman comes up with some of the flavors for his confections: “What grows together, goes together,” he says.

My favorites were a slightly crunchy hazelnut-filled chocolate, a chocolate truffle with a creamy soft chocolate center that tasted like rich hot chocolate, and the jasmine chocolate.

Though I was disappointed that there wasn’t any hands-on chocolate making — I thought we would be learning ow to make truffles from the description I read of the classs — we did learn to make some delicious chocolate martinis from the Intercontinenal Hotel’s bar manager and mixologist, Joel, who also taught us how to make our rose petal martinis on Valentine’s day. I feel inspired to start stocking a bar and making some cocktails. I would definitely love to have that chocolate martini again.

My favorite aspect of the class was that Keith and Joel were both really open to taking questions, and in such a small class, plenty of people were happy to chime in and ask about the topics they wanted to learn more about. We also got to take a whole goody bag of chocolates home. Not that we really needed any more — we were all totally stuffed.

Drink Mixing Station at Cookbook Cafe

Taste East at Spitalfields Market

Saturday, we went to check out Spitalfields Market‘s “Taste East” event. Unfortunately, we ate breakfast before we went to the market — I wish we had been hungrier because there were quite a few tempting food stands.The market was a neat, modern space, with shops and restaurants creating its outer walls and a large, covered courtyard to house the stands. There were bands, acrobats, people on stilts dressed up as chefs and cooking demonstrations, making for a lively event. And there were also some artists with work on display. Some were clearly more talented than others, and I almost bought something from one artist. I may check out her work again.

What did we buy? I spent 40 pence on a delicious piece of watermelon licorice, which seemed to actually be a piece of green licorice around a pink taffy center. Whatever it was, I wish I had bought more to take home. I don’t even remember what the vendor’s name was… something to research.

We also got some white tea, which ended up being weaker than expected when we brewed some this morning, and some chocolate truffles (delicious) and spiced drinking chocolate (haven’t tried it yet). I was hoping to buy some cheese, too, but there wasn’t a very large selection.

When the stands started closing up, we went to Canteen to get some tea and biscuits. A much needed rest. And before we left, we made sure to take a picture of the most shocking booth, which was still open — which just had an array of whole animals, including fish, rabbits and pigeons. Question: Who is eating pigeons?

Dead Animals at Spitalfields Market

Britishism: Chocolate Buttons

Chocolate Buttons

Though this stems more from a misunderstanding, chocolate buttons still makes me smile. The first I heard of them, Evan and I were having crepes at Crepe Affaire with his coworkers, and they said something about chocolate buttons in their dessert crepes. I gave them a quizzical look and said, “You call chocolate chips chocolate buttons?” It just sounded so charming.

Turns out chocolate buttons are different from chocolate chips. They’re essentially what we’d call molding chocolate — those flat pieces you melt to make other chocolates — and Cadbury sells them as a snack.

Still, I had pictures of little buttons in my head instead of the more familiar little chips, and thought they’d be especially cute in a cookie.

The Chocolate Bar at Harrods

Yesterday, Evan had a day off. He worked all weekend, so it was a much-welcome break. And we decided to go out and enjoy ourselves.

We started by attempting to have lunch at Amaya. They stop taking orders at 2:15. We got there at 2:25. So we walked around Belgravia for a bit and ended up at Harrods. I’d never been in the store before, and if there’s ever a store where you think you could get anything you want, that would be it. It’s like 100 or so smaller stores just mashed into one giant building.

We’d heard good things about the Chocolate Bar, so we stopped in for lunch (they have sandwiches, too). We got sandwiches that came with chips and salad, and we also had an orange hot chocolate, which was quite delicious. And we got strawberries and chocolate for dessert — it ended up being a mini fondue, and it came with marshmallows, too. I left the marshmallows to Evan, since I’ve never been a fan, but the strawberries were good, as was the chocolate. They even brought us spoons to finish off the chocolate if we wanted — boy, do they know their clientele!

Also exciting were their chocolate mixing vats and pipeline, marked “Hot Chocolate,” that runs to their bar. We had visions of chocolate kegstand initiation rites for new employees.

We left with a chocolate chip cookie in tow, which ended up being disappointing — while there were some interesting aspects to our lunch, and I’d recommend popping in for a hot chocolate, I don’t think the Chocolate Bar would be on my recommendation list. I’m going to stick to testing out the amazing boutique chocolate shops around the city.

A Valentine’s Day Date at Cookbook Cafe

Cookbook Cafe

Last night, Evan and I went out to Cookbook Cafe to learn to mix drinks, dance salsa and have a nice dinner. Unfortunately, the salsa portion of the evening had been canceled and nobody had told us or put up a message on their website, but they adjusted the price accordingly, and we enjoyed the rest of what the evening had to offer.

First, I’d been to the cafe at lunch and liked its chic but relaxed atmosphere, market table overflowing with food and friendly service. We got all of that last night, plus a little lesson on making a rose petal martini, which I wrote up for Londonist (“Lessons Learned: Making a Seductive Martini“). The restaurant was pretty empty, which was surprising since of course it was Valentine’s Day and they had a really fun-sounding offer with all the activities and dinner, though it was a bit pricey. I think they need to step up their marketing. They also need to follow through on what they do advertise, as I had the problem with the chocolate class earlier in the month, too.

Still, we had plenty to eat, with all the salads and simple appetizers on the market table, an “oyster cappuccino,” which Evan tried — it involved some sort of frothy oyster soup in a little cup. For the main course, Evan had lamb and I had mushroom ravioli, and for dessert we had chocolate fondue as well as other little cakes, cookies and fruit salad from another free-reign sort of table.

Our biggest regret: We should have made ourselves another martini with the mixology master, since that was fun, though over quite quickly. All in all, though, a very nice Valentine’s Day.

Lunch at Cookbook Cafe

Cookbook CafeToday I wandered down the street looking for a nice lunch at a cute little cafe I’d walked by a few times before — Cookbook Cafe. Once I realized it was in the Intercontinental, though, I got a bit worried that it would be too pricey or too stuffy or that I would just feel like a bit of a fool. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Walking through the clean and elegant lobby, bar area and cafe area, with its leather seats, shiny tables and small, square pieces of artwork, I stopped to check out the lobby menus. Not bad, but not a huge selection. I figured if the restaurant wasn’t going to work out, I could settle for a sandwich or some sort of snack out there. There prices were more than what I’d normally spend on lunch — 10 to 20 pounds — but it was a nice, soothing environment where I could at least pull my laptop out and get some work done while sitting in a comfortable spot.

When I got to the restaurant, I asked about the menu. It turns out that it’s just as affordable, if not more so than the lobby. And the market table was calling my name. I haven’t encountered too many market tables in restaurants before, but they seem to be the higher-class cousin of the salad bar. No sneeze guard. No regularly shaped and spaced slots. Just an abundance of fresh breads, salads, cheeses and more, laid out on a nice, big, wooden table. For 12 pounds, my meal also included some delicious pumpkin parmesan soup and dessert.

Market Table, Cookbook CafeThe service was also very friendly. My waiter was a very friendly hotel/hospitality management student from China who has been in London for two years now. The restaurant wasn’t very full, and it had a quiet, soothing atmosphere, with lots of clean lines and soft music. It would be a great place for a business meeting, and unsurprisingly, the rest of their clientele was in suits.

And now that I found the Cafe’s website, I have found out they have a “Chocolate Master Class.” Their description: “You will be starting with a glass of bubbles, Keith will demonstrate some tips and tricks, you will be tasting various chocolates and then you can make your own box of your signature truffles. To finish the sweetness off, our mixologist and bar manager Joel will teach you how to make the most seductive Chocolate Swirl Martini.” OK, I’m sold. Next class is on February 6 if anyone wants to join me.