Win A Chocolate Week Chocolate Stash!

Chocolate Stash

Chocolate Week starts on Monday and what better way to celebrate than with a competition!

The week is a celebration of all things chocolate and culminates with The Chocolate Show at Olympia on 17th-19th October. I’ll be doing a tasting on Friday 17th, so do come along and say hello!

But if you can’t get there, you can still celebrate Chocolate Week by entering our simple Twitter competition for a chance to win the stash of chocolate pictured above. To enter all you need do is follow @Chocablog on Twitter and retweet a link to this page to enter!

This is a Twitter based competition, but if you’re not on Twitter already, it only takes a minute to sign up.

To enter, just follow Chocablog (so we can let you know if you win!) then retweet a link to this page.

You can click this link to tweet now if you’re logged in to Twitter.

This competition is open worldwide. One entry per household only.

The competition will close at 12 noon GMT on Thursday 16th October 2014, and a winner will be picked at random and notified by direct message on Twitter.

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Laurent Gerbaud, The New Face Of Belgian Chocolate

Laurent Gerbaud Brussels

Belgian chocolate has something of an image problem.

A few years ago it was – in the minds of most British consumers – a synonym for excellence and the height of chocolate luxury. But times and tastes are changing and people are becoming more aware of what’s in their food and where it comes from.

Today, the phrase “Belgian Chocolate” is just as likely to evoke an image of a cheap, mass produced confection made in a large industrial factory. Most Belgian chocolate is produced by two of the biggest chocolate companies in the word. Barry Callebaut and Belcolade churn out thousands of tons chocolate made with the cheapest possible beans every day. It’s cheap to use, and the flavour reflects that.

But there are a new wave of chocolate makers and chocolatiers in Belgium who are determined to do things differently. Laurent Gerbaud is one of them, and we were lucky enough to spend an afternoon with him, tasting, making chocolates and sharing a delicious savoury chocolate lunch.

Laurent Gerbaud Brussels

Gerbaud’s workshop and shop is located in Rue Ravenstein, a stone’s throw from Place de Grand Sablon, where many of Belgium’s chocolatiers have their shops. But rather than the traditional old fashioned chocolate shop Brussels is famous for, Gerbaud’s shop is bright and modern with a comfortable cafe area to sit and enjoy a hot chocolate.

Laurent Gerbaud Brussels

Unlike most Belgian chocolatiers, Gerbaud primarily uses couverture chocolate Italy’s Domori.

Domori is one of the most expensive chocolates you can buy, but you really do get what you pay for. The difference in flavour between the chocolate Gerbaud uses and the cheap, bulk couverture some other chocolatiers use is night and day. That’s something we would discover in our chocolate tasting, but before we got to that, we had the chance to make some chocolates ourselves!

We were to make our own little chocolate mendiants to take home. Simple squares of chocolat, decorated with fruit & nuts.

We had an array of wonderful dried fruit & nuts to choose from and were working with Gerbaud’s house blend; a mix of Domori Madagascar, Ecuador and Peru origin chocolate. This is a chocolate with a full, well rounded and gently fruity flavour.

Laurent Gerbaud Brussels

We took turns to fill our moulds with tempered chocolate, scrape the excess chocolate away and decorate each square with our own selection of fruit & nuts. But with only a couple of minutes to work with before the tempered chocolate sets, we had to work fast!

I was very happy with my results. They looked and tasted great and I only made a small mess!

Laurent Gerbaud Brussels

After chocolate making, we turned our attention to a tasting. Laurent cleverly started us off tasting a low-end West African Forastero chocolate – the kind you might find in mass produced Belgian chocolates. The consensus in the room was that it was Ok, but not very interesting.

Laurent Gerbaud Brussels

We then tasted a range of origin chocolate couvertures and some of Laurent’s own creations. They were all unique and wonderful in their own way, but the real eye-opener was coming back around to try the first (bulk) chocolate again. We all found it bitter, dry and unpleasant having tried the better chocolate. This was a great example of why it’s always a good idea to different chocolates at the same time. Not only does it allow you to make a direct comparison, but as long as you don’t overdo it, the palate becomes more receptive to the more subtle flavour notes after having tasted a few different chocolates.

Following our tasting, Laurent and his team prepared an amazing lunch. Each course was made with chocolate and some of the flavours we had used in our own creations.

Laurent Gerbaud Brussels

My favourites were this fois gras with chocolate balasamic, pistachio and barberries, and the dessert; a wonderfully refreshing yuzu sorbet with orangette and more of that delicious Domori chocolate.

Laurent Gerbaud Brussels

Our visit to Laurent Gerbaud was fun, educational and very, very tasty. It’s something I would recommend to any chocolate lover. For me, this experience alone would be enough to jump on a Eurostar and spend a day or two in Brussels.

Thanks to VisitFlanders for organising our trip to Brussels and making our afternoon with Laurent Gerbaud possible.

Laurent Gerbaud Chocolatier
2D Rue Ravenstein, 100 Bruxelles, Belgium
Tel: 0032 (0)2 511 1602
Open daily: 10:30am – 7:30pm. Groups & Workshops should be booked in advance.

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World Duty Free Whisky & Chocolate Tasting

World Duty Free Whisky & Chocolate Tasting

I always love meeting people who are as passionate about their own field as I am about chocolate. I also find it hard to resist the offer of free drinks, so when the people at World Duty Free invited me to a whisky and chocolate pairing evening as part of their Whisky Festival, I was never going to refuse.

The evening was hosted by journalist and whisky aficionado Alwynne Gwilt, better known as Miss Whisky, who guided us through the six whiskies we would be tasting, explaining their intricacies for the total whisky noobs in the room (AKA me).

World Duty Free Whisky & Chocolate Tasting

The chocolate side of things was handled by our friend and world class chocolatier Paul Wayne Gregory. He had picked a chocolate match for each, and was on hand to explain his choices.

To say my whisky knowledge is poor would be an understatement. Writing about it, I feel like I’ve been thrown back in time eight years to when I started writing about chocolate. I know that I like it, but I would be completely out of my depth if I were asked to explain the manufacturing process or what gives any given whisky its unique characteristics.

For me, the most interesting part of an evening like this is the opportunity to compare like for like. While I might not be able to identify any particular whisky, having six of them in front of me is the perfect way begin to understand the differences. In that respect, it’s very much like chocolate tasting.

World Duty Free Whisky & Chocolate Tasting

These were the pairings Alwynne and Paul came up with:

  • Jameson Signature Reserve + Salted Caramel
  • Balvenie Triple Cask 12 Year Old + Vanilla Pod Chocolate
  • The Dalmore Valour + Passion Fruit Chocolate
  • Highland Park Harald + Chocolat Madagascar Organic 70%
  • Jack Daniel’s Silver Select + 2 different coffee chocolates
  • Talisker Dark Storm + Cacao Barry Ocoa

For me, it was something of a revelation to see, smell and taste such a wide variety of colours, aromas and flavours in the whiskies. These are the things I certainly wouldn’t have picked up in isolation, and brought back memories of early chocolate tastings, where that side by side comparison was what really made things fall into place for me.

The Dalmore Valour and Passion Fruit chocolate were probably my favourite match. The fruity aroma of the whisky worked perfectly with the chocolate, and the sharpness of the passionfruit cut through the slightly woody flavour of the whisky.

World Duty Free Whisky & Chocolate Tasting

Pairing whisky with chocolate added a whole new dimension to both. The chocolates don’t just complement the whiskies, they change the flavour in different ways. Take a sip, a bite, then another sip and the flavours are entirely new.

What was also surprising to me was that my taste in whisky didn’t necessarily match my taste in chocolate. My favourite of the evening was the intense and smoky Talisker Dark Storm; qualities I don’t usually go for in chocolate. I learned a lot, and most importantly of all, I came away wanting to learn more.

World Duty Free Whisky & Chocolate Tasting

All in all it was an exciting, educational and fun tasting experience.

But the evening didn’t stop there. After having tasted all the whiskies, we each picked our favourites, formed into groups and made our own whisky truffles to take home! We also made rather a lot of a mess, but with me around, that’s to be expected. You’ll see photos of our efforts in the gallery below.

Thanks to World Duty Free for organising this wonderful event and an extra special thank you to Alwynne Gwilt, Paul Wayne Gregory and everyone involved for all the hard work they put into making it such a fun evening.

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Chocolat Madagascar Organic 70%

Chocolat Madagascar Organic 70%

One of the highlights of my chocolate calendar is the Speciality & Fine Food Fair at Olympia every September. This food trade show is always packed with new and unusual foodstuffs and interesting people, but more importantly it incorporates the Speciality Chocolate Fair with over sixty chocolatiers and chocolate makers from around the world.

This year, one of my favourite chocolate brands, Chocolat Madagascar were exhibiting and had a full range of chocolate on show. I loved everything they had on offer, but there was one particular bar that really stood out; this Organic 70% bar.

Chocolat Madagascar Organic 70%

Produced by Chocolaterie Robert, entirely in Madagascar, this bar contains just two ingredients: Organic Madagascan cocoa beans and organic Madagascan cane sugar. Keeping the wealth from the chocolate making process in the country of origin is a huge benefit to the local economy, so this bar is as ethical as it is delicious.

Chocolat Madagascar Organic 70%

How does it taste? In a word: phenomenal. If you’re new to the world of Madagascan cocoa, you might find it hard to believe there are only two ingredients and no added flavours in it.

Open the wrapper and you’re greeted by a most wonderful, warming fruity aroma. To me, it smells like Christmas. What’s more, it looks like a work of art too.

Chocolat Madagascar Organic 70%

The flavour is unlike any bar I’ve tasted. It’s full of raisins and molasses with the typical Madagascan citrus notes almost lurking in the background. I’m sure that part of the flavour comes from the organic sugar, but it works perfectly with the natural fruity notes in the chocolate to produce a unique and wonderful bar.

As it turns out, it’s also great for pairing with drinks. Chocolatier Paul Wayne Gregory chose this chocolate in a Whisky & Chocolate pairing we attended last week and it went down very well indeed!

If there is a downside, it’s that this bar is currently quite difficult to get hold of. Importers HB Ingredients will sell you it in 1Kg blocks, but as far as I know, nobody is currently selling these bars outside of Madagascar.

If and when you do find it, do make sure you go for the “Organic 70%” bar, rather than the “70%” bar. Both are delicious, but this is the one you really want!

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