This is a place for fellow chocolate tragics to gather but good grief, where does one begin?
Chocolate has been my closest friend since I was old enough to eat solid food. My fascination for it has never waned and if I could eat only one food for the rest of my life then it would be chocolate. I’ll take it in all its glorious forms but I despise any sort of substitute that masquerades as chocolate and I include white chocolate in that mix. Sorry, I know there are lots of white chocolate lovers out there but let’s face it, it’s confectionery rather than chocolate.
There is nothing to match entering a chocolate salon in Europe, inhaling the seductive smell and losing oneself for a while feasting with the eyes. Some are akin to jewellery salons, they treat their product with such quiet reverence and similarly high prices…phew, sometimes all I can do is window shop.
I’m very lucky to travel overseas frequently. I have been travelling regularly for thirty years working in the travel industry and more recently to meet overseas publishers, readers and the constant research that I do for new books. And I need regular fixes of chocolate when I’m on the move; I love the Parisian chocolate shops most of all but recent trips have included frequenting hallowed haunts in Switzerland and Belgium.
I’m extremely partial to chocolate in liquid form, namely hot chocolate – which I’ll just as happily drink in high summer, much to the dismay of waiters. I don’t believe in seasons for chocolate and I also don’t believe in the powder or, heaven forbid, water based variety that some cafes both at home and overseas have the audacity to serve. This is why I rarely order hot chocolate outside of very good cafes in Europe or Melbourne because to me a hot chocolate is pure melted chocolate stirred into hot milk. There is no powder or water involved in my chocolate fantasy! In Brussels I was given a tall glass of steaming milk and a pot of super high quality dark chocolate buttons that I tipped into the glass of milk and stirred for several sexy moments. A memorable experience before even the first sip.
France, particularly Paris, does hold my gold star for the best hot chocolate. It used to be the George V Hotel that got my vote but my recent favourite hot chocolate was enjoyed at Les Deux Magots in Saint-Germain des Prés on the Left Bank. It was midday in July, everyone was drinking a chilled white or rosé wine and I was the lone hot choc customer but it was worth the stares of disdain and the high price tag. Truly scrumptious! I’m assured Angelina’s on the Rue de Rivoli can eclipse it, so I’ll give that a whirl next visit…if I can stand the queue for this infamous salon de thé.
But for me the most exquisite way to take my chocolate in a convenient hit is in a rich, chewy chocolat macaron. I’ve been obsessed with macarons for years and was not happy but determined to queue with the happy horde for my ‘large’ macaron or two from Ladurée, which seemed to be the main source for these treats. But I do now believe that Pierre Hermé – though not boxed quite as amazingly – does offer the best individual chocolate macaron on the planet. Next time you’re in Paris, make a beeline.
Closer to home. For Australian chocolate desperadoes who aren’t sure when they’ll next be overseas, you need to find your closest Haigh’s retailer. Okay, I’m biased, I’m South Australian, and I know many of you will howl Koko Black and similar at me, but Haigh’s has been around since the early part of the last century making absolutely exquisite chocolates and in the European style. It knows what it’s doing and quality is assured. Haigh’s has stores in SA, VIC and NSW.
In terms of flavour I personally love the Cadbury’s chocolate from New Zealand. It has a far creamier, richer flavour than my tastebuds experience with Australian made Cadbury’s and in my opinion much closer to the chocolate I grew up eating in England. I’m sure it has something to do with the milk or perhaps temperature it needs to be stored at. I’m all ears.
But chocolate is a personal obsession and we all have our different likes and dislikes. For instance, I’m not keen on chocolate and orange together and yet it is a classic combination for most people; meanwhile a rich, complex chocolate and coffee combo can send me into raptures but doesn’t thrill others. Coffee, I’ll admit is my newer obsession to go with chocolate.
For the everyday chocolate re-stock when I’m dashing into and out of the supermarket, I’ll buy either a Green & Black’s plain dark chocolate block or the Cadbury’s 70% Intense – either plain or toffee chips.
We can start to share some recipes, favourite haunts, new products, best chocolate experiences here.
I’ll look forward to hearing from fellow lovers.
Yours in the dark stuff. F
Make sure to check out my recipes section for some of my favourite chocolate inspired dishes!