Chocolate Nirvana: East meets West
Chocolate may not naturally spring to mind when you think of oriental cuisine, but in the hands of Britain’s best Chocolatiers Far Eastern flavours have provided a wealth of inspiration.
Master Chocolatier Marc Demarquette was born in London in 1972 to a French father and Chinese mother, so his ability to blend Far Eastern and Western flavours is truly second nature. His Limited Edition ‘Orient Collection’ draws on his roots and ancestry to stunning effect.
Presented are seven unique ganache flavours made and enrobed with Ben Tre single origin Trinitario cacao grown on the banks of the Mekong River in South Vietnam. Both the number ‘7’ and the shape of the chocolates were carefully chosen for their significance in oriental culture, with the former being considered lucky and symbolizing togetherness and the rectangular shape expressing longevity and prosperity.
The ganache collection includes a pleasingly fresh Jasmine and Matcha Green Tea, smoky Szechuan Peppercorn, Pure Ben Tre, aromatic Ginger and Galangal, nutty Coconut and Sesame and zesty Lemongrass and Lime and Mixed Citrus.
Suzue Curley, the Japanese wife of Chocolatier William Curley, is an award-winning pâtissier in her own right. She worked at The Savoy and Claridges before co-founding the William Curley boutiques in Richmond and Belgravia. Her exotic influence can clearly be discerned in their Green Tea Cakes, White Chocolate with Miso ice cream and adventurous Apricot and Wasabi chocolates.
Meanwhile Japanese Head Chocolatier Chika Watanabe at Melt in Notting Hill has pioneered Yuzu Ganache. (Yuzu is a sour citrus fruit originating in East Asia that was introduced to Japan during the Tang Dynasty. It is often used in Chinese, Korean and Japanese cuisine.)
A leading light in this endeavour is former biologist turned artisan Chocolatier Katie Christoffers. Since launching her company Matcha Chocolat in March 2010, Christoffers has picked up a grand total of 8 Golds from the Great Taste Awards, and has won the greatest number of awards within the combined chocolate categories for truffles and filled chocolates.
Matcha specialize in creating fresh handmade chocolates made with rare teas, fruits, flowers and spices from around the world. Their Award Winner’s Selection features 16 freshly made chocolates including Jasmine Pearls, a dark chocolate ganache infused with jasmine pearls tea that deservedly picked up an Academy of Chocolate 2011 Silver and Great Taste 2011 Gold Award. You also get to sample their beautiful Jasmine Silver Needles, a white chocolate ganache infused with Chinese jasmine tea.
We hope to have inspired you to try the flavours of the Orient. All that remains is for us to wish you x n nián kuái lé, or Happy Chinese New Year.
China’s World Chocolate Wonderland has opened in Shanghai’s Himalaya Art Museum. On display are some 200 pieces of chocolate art.
Highlights include a replica of Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s Terracotta Warriors crafted entirely from chocolate, a traditional Chinese dragon and a flowing chocolate recreation of Shanghai’s Huangpu River.
Tina Zheng, Manager of the Beijing Artsource Group that is behind this chocoholic fantasy, explains that the project attempts to “blend Western and Eastern cultures to make a clever and creative combination.” Shanghai is the second stop for this travelling chocolate spectacular. Its debut show was held in Beijing in January 2010 and attracted almost half a million visitors in 73 days.
Shanghai’s chocolate theme park will remain open until 19 February 2012, although there are rumours that it will travel on to Hong Kong.
The All Singing and Dancing Chocolate Factory
Hollywood film director Sam Mendes has been signed up to direct the new West End musical version of ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ at the London Palladium. Rehearsals are due to start early in 2013.
Olivier award-winning designer Mark Thompson has reportedly already started work on the production, which Peter Darling is set to choreograph. This will be the first time Roald Dahl’s novel will be staged as a musical. There have been two film versions, the first was made in 1971 and starred Gene Wilder as factory-owner Willy Wonka. More recently Tim Burton created a version starring Johnny Depp. We are secretly hoping they cast eccentric chocolate maker Willie Harcourt-Cooze as Willy Wonka in the new stage production. Now that would be a Golden Ticket worth buying!
Globe-trotting for Chocoholics
With the Christmas festivities over and the prospect of sleet and snow ahead, it’s not surprising that January traditionally leaves us Brits hankering for holidays abroad. For intrepid chocoholics, Connoisseur Chocolate Tours could be just the ticket.
Their 2012 programme includes three trips led by chocolate expert Martin Christy that explore the finest chocolate and cacao in Europe and South America. ‘Chocolate Masters of the Lower Rhône’ (24-28 May) focuses on the craft of origin chocolate production in the region around Lyon and includes guided factory tours of Bonnat, Pralus and Morin. ‘Chocolatiers of Florence and Tuscany’ (20-24 September) features a visit to famous Chocolatiers Luca Mannori and Andrea Bianchani. Finally ‘Ecuadorian Chocolate Odyssey’ (10-22 November) explores the country’s coastal cacao heartland to the original source of cacao in the Upper Amazon.
If one of your resolutions was to become a fine chocolate connoisseur, this beats buying a book any day.
Slow Chocolate: taste workshop – 16 Feb 2012
‘Slow Chocolate’ is whole new approach to eating chocolate and the the art of chocolate appreciation. Fine chocolate is fast becoming as sophisticated as wine, yet we are conditioned to eat chocolate as a sweet snack with little chance of noticing its finer points. Seventy%’s six hour day course is suitable for beginners and connoisseurs alike. Using fun and engaging games and taste experiments they will awaken your chocolate senses. Their superb modern London venue will put you in the right mood and help them take you on a journey of the senses.
£100 per person, 11.00am-4.30pm, Thurs 16 Feb 2012
9 Adam Street, London WC2N 6AA