Tag: Chocolate

Chocolate Week Part III: Alexeeva and Jones

“What you see before you, my friend, is the result of a lifetime of chocolate.”
― Katharine Hepburn

Best saved for last, kittens!

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This is another Portobello Road find, which Jeff and I literally stumbled across on a side street while trying to avoid tourists. A charming young man was standing outside the shop with samples, and it would have been rude to turn him down. After which it would have been rude not to go in and buy something because, ducklings, this store is incredible.

Alexeeva and Jones is a self described ‘salon du chocolat’ which brings some of the world’s top chocolatiers into one place. The shop occupies some prime real estate on Westbourne Grove in Notting Hill and each chocolatier’s work is beautifully presented to an admiring public. Without doubt these stunners are some of the most visually gorgeous foods I’ve ever seen and photos don’t do them justice, but here are a few anyway.

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This woman is an utter delight. She’s served me both times I’ve been in (the second time, obviously, to purchase goodies for our Christmas stockings). She is so unabashedly enthusiastic about her work, and is one of the most genuinely friendly salespeople I’ve ever come across in my life. Between personal recommendations, descriptions of the various chocolatiers’ signature styles and flavors, and being generous with the samples, she’s the girl you want waiting upon you while you browse.
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So, when you come to visit me in London, after we’ve bought you some tweed, we’ll recover our equilibrium by choosing some of the strangest and loveliest confectionery available. May I personally recommend the sea salt caramel with mango and coriander? You’d think it would be awful, but it’s just the nicest thing imaginable.
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Chocolate Week II: The Chocolate Festival

“The greatest tragedies were written by the Greeks and Shakespeare…neither knew chocolate.”
― Sandra Boynton

One of the joys of living south of the river (and I don’t mean that sarcastically, it’s seriously awesome down here) is the south bank of the Thames. It’s got theatres (hi, Globe!), markets, wharfs, museums, more history than you can shake a stick at, and a steady stream of interesting events. The Southbank Centre itself is a major London hub and is constantly putting on nifty events. One such was the Chocolate Festival in mid-December.

It was a great outdoor market sort of affair, with stalls upon stalls of independent growers, importers, craftsmen, and bakers (this was where we lost out cronut innocence) lined up offering their goods to public nibbling. What, I ask you is not to like?! Everything from cocao nibs to chocolate beer was represented and absolutely all of it looked just as gorgeous as it tasted.

I’m going to mostly shut up from this point and let you soak in the goodness.

Just one row of stalls.
Just one row of stalls.
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I find cake pops a bit too precocious…but I would eat these in a heartbeat.
Hm...what are those flavors, you ask?
Hm…what are those flavors, you ask?
Awesome!
Awesome!
This company creates the most gorgeous concoctions, with flowers, gold and silver, and anything else you can think of.
This company creates the most gorgeous concoctions, with flowers, gold and silver, and anything else you can think of.
Nuts, bolts, scissors, pipes, wirecutters, irons...all made of chocolate! Easily the most impressive stall.
Nuts, bolts, scissors, pipes, wirecutters, irons…all made of chocolate! Easily the most impressive stall I saw.

Chocolate Week Part I: The Chocolate Museum

“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”
― Charles M. Schulz

Chocolate has played a significant role in our social lives lately, so brace yourselves for a week of it here on Small Dog Cocoa Beans Lovers and Consumers, Inc. First stop on our tour of goodness, the Chocolate Museum in Brixton.

Frankly on its face it a bit…dinky. It’s not the museum’s fault. It’s a tiny, tiny two room independent establishment with about three display cases and a few wall displays of historic artifacts relating to the history of chocolate in Britain.

A couple centuries of British chocolate pots.
A couple centuries of British chocolate pots.
Tools of the chocolatier trade.
Tools of the chocolatier trade.

Which is a fascinating subject! Chocolate and coffee houses were places of major political and social unrest and discourse, particularly in the 17th and 18th centuries. It’s rise as a sweet beverage (instead of its original state as a bitter, odd tasting thing drunk by the people of the New World) coincided directly with the rise of sugar…and therefore the slave trade – which Britain played a major role in both spreading and ending. Cadbury’s supported troops in the First World War with supplies (including chocolate of course), and in World War II converted part of their factory to to making airplane parts. Also during WWII chocolate was deemed an “essential food item” (truth!) and its manufacture and distrubution was carefully monitored, which it became a major black market item until rationing for it ended.  While not on the level of Belgian, German, and Swiss chocolatiers, British candymakers are responsible for a lot of the popular appeal and commercial availability of chocolate. John Cadbury is the man responsible for inventing the method responsible for the creation of solid chocolate bars – for which humanity should be duly grateful.

In other words, yeah! Topic deserving of a museum! A museum with more than a couple of rooms.

Chocolate consumption around the globe, which is pretty interesting!
Chocolate consumption around the globe, which is pretty interesting!

But despite the seemingly limited setting, the Chocolate Museum has quite a few things going for it. First of all it puts on a number of chocolate making workshops and themed events throughout the year. Secondly it stocks some genuinely stellar chocolate items from artisan and free-trade growers and makers.

It was at one such event that Jeff and I made the museum’s acquaintance. Their Christmas Fair to be precise. Along with their wares, on display for nibbling, other artisans were invited to pair their offerings with the chocolates. Wine, beer, coffee, tea, cheese, breads, cured meats, and honey were prominent, but Jeff and I got distracted by a woman selling funky Italian, naturally made sodas.

Hi Jeff!
Hi Jeff!

We came away with lots of chocolate bars (ginger and lime for him, cardamon and nutmeg for me), and a hunk of farmhouse cheddar that was scrumptious. I’ll definitely be heading back to the Chocolate Museum, even though I’ve seen it in its entirety, for two reasons. First of all because I’ve not found cardamon flavored chocolate anywhere else that didn’t cost me an arm and a leg. Secondly because I believe strongly in supporting small museums dedicated to telling narrowly focused historical narratives.