Chocolate Week starts tomorrow. The busiest week in any chocoholic’s calendar. I have already resigned myself to the fact that I will not be able to do as much as I would like to.
Two great chocolate makers got in their main events in advance of Chocolate Week, yet still managed to run these events – their book launches - on the same Thursday evening. Luckily the times were staggered so I was fortunate enough to be able to make it to both. I would have hated to miss either.
First up was William Curley, many-times-winner of the UK’s Best Chocolatier. William, along with his wife, fellow patissier, Suze, is a consummate professional and perfectionist. His chocolate and patisserie always look like pieces of art, polished and gorgeous, every single one. As William said on the evening, this is as much to his credit, as that of his team, a lovely group of people who always look after the Chocolate Tour guests beautifully. Yesterday I was chatting with Lucie, one of his top chefs who has been with him for four and a half years, and she said that the best thing about working for William is that there is always more to learn.
William’s book was released earlier in the year in Japanese (Suze is Japanese) and now we can all share in its detail and incredible photography in the English version. I don’t actually have the book (yet!), but having a quick flick through on the night it appears he has revealed all the secrets of his award-winning desserts. I don’t think it’ll stop people coming to his boutique when they see how many steps go into creating each one. I hope that there are enough recipes for lesser-talented home cooks to make deliciousness too! Certainly each step is very detailed should you want to have an attempt at something more elaborate (the tart below, perhaps?).
I tasted almost all of the desserts there (four, I think?) and was transported to heaven by this particular salted caramel, praline, raspberry and chocolate tart (all of my favourite things together and it WORKED).
Too soon, we had to excuse ourselves to get across town to the Valrhona book launch.
I describe Valrhona as the largest of the truly fine chocolate makers (not to say that some of the larger chocolate companies don’t also make some fine chocolate). The distinguishing factor is that everything Valrhona makes is of superior quality, and you’ll see it on many a Michelin menu. It is also the brand that made me truly fall in love with fine chocolate. I could eat Manjari (a 64% dark chocolate using a blend of beans, including ones from Madagascar) every single day of my life and be a very happy girl.
The rooms at Claridge’s devoted to this launch were mostly filled with what looked like male patisserie chefs, enjoying what is probably a rare night off from their 13-15 hour days. There was certainly some talent in this room, including the incredible Pierre Herme, who makes the best Mille Feuille I have ever tasted. (Unfortunately only available in Paris and Tokyo.)
Valrhona’s book is also dedicated to cooking with chocolate. I couldn’t even get my hands on one of these but I saw it tucked under the arms of some lucky folk and it is a hefty-looking tome. They are referring to it as an Encyclopedia and it has been contributed to by some outstanding pastry chefs, so this is another one I would like to collect for the shelves of my new flat.
Around the edge of the second room were some of the Claridge’s patisserie chefs (there are 15 in total), standing guard behind tables of chocolate desserts, all recipes taken from the book. My favourite was one that a guest referred to as a “posh Twix”: shortbread biscuit, chewy, slightly salted caramel, enrobed in chocolate and decorated with slivered almonds.
I’m not sure how Chocolate Week is going to top these two events filled with incredible chocolate desserts, but I’m looking forward to finding out! I’m running two special Belgravia Tours & Teas this week (one on Friday afternoon at 2pm and one on Sunday 16th at 11am). We start at William Curley and visit Peggy Porschen for cakes, Pierre Herme for macarons, Rococo for more chocolate and finish with a Chocolate Afternoon tea at a Knightsbridge hotel. Five joyful hours of total indulgence. There are a few tickets left here. I hope to see you!
Whether you make it on a tour or not, I wish you a wonderful Chocolate Week!