A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Yael Rose’s upcoming Chocolate Festivals, so I thought I’d share some photos of the actual events. I went along to the South Bank Festival on the 8th & 9th April, and Chocablog writer Simon took his camera along to the Oxford festival on 2nd April.
Yael has stepped up the festivals this year, with more events, more stalls and a brand new website, and these are events that need to be in every chocolate lover’s diary.
Oxford Chocolate Festival
The weekend of April 2nd & 3rd saw the first ever Oxford Chocolate festival, so naturally I had to head up there to have a look. While there may not have been as many stalls as one might expect at a London event (partly due to a number of the usual stallholders having other commitments) everyone who was there reported brisk trade. A good number of stallholders were selling out of certain products within a few hours of opening – no doubt helped by the fact that Mothering Sunday was imminent! The Spring weather held good, and anyone who has been to Oxford knows that it truly is a beautiful city when the sun shines.
Alongside a few familiar faces (Damien Allsop, CoCouture, Phillip Maes) I met Kieran from The Chocolution – a raw chocolate maker who was very busy selling chocolate making kits and ingredients as well as cacao beans and nibs. Mrs Sheardown was in charge of the Red Star stall (Duffy was in France, winning more motor racing trophies) and Martin Christie (and family!) were being mobbed for their ‘taste challenge’. Organiser Yael Rose was (as ever) in fine spirits and very happy with the turnout for the day. I can only imagine that the next Oxford Chocolate Festival will be considerably better populated once word gets out about how well those who were there did over the weekend.
South Bank Chocolate Festival
The South Bank Festival took place in glorious weather April 8th – 10th. In fact, the weather was a little too glorious for some, with many stallholders having issues with the heat and direct sunlight. Luckily, most seemed to get through this by retreating into their stalls to escape the direct sunlight.
The weather did bring out the crowds though, and the festival was packed with chocolate lovers and casual visitors, particularly on the Saturday. There looked to be a few people rapidly running out of stock on Saturday afternoon, which shows how popular this event is around Easter. According to their own blog, Original Beans seem to have done particualrly well.
I also took time to go to a couple of the demos that were happening throughout the weekend. The first was given by the amazing William Curley who made a toasted sesame ganache, followed by amazing chocolate cakes with orange sauce and ice cream. I was hugely impressed, not just by the talk (and the cake), but by William’s ability to silence a group of rowdy teenage girls simply by threatening to withdraw cake-rights.
The second talk I attended was by Bill McCarrick of Sir Hans Sloane. Bill’s someone else I have huge admiration for, and I’ve been lucky enough to get to know recently through working on the Academy of Chocolate Awards. He talked a little about how chocolate is made, how Sir Hans Sloane make their own chocolate from liquor, and handed out samples of liquor and cocoa butter. Then he demonstrated how easy it is to create your own chocolate ribbons – thin strips of striped milk & white chocolate, curved around to look almost like bows.
The highlight of this talk was the peanut butter filled mini eggs that were handed out though. I think they were probably my favourite Easter eggs of the year so far, with the filling being so smooth and light that it resembled (to me, at least) cookie dough. Wonderful stuff.
So once again, I thoroughly enjoyed the chocolate festival. Yael does an amazing job organising these events, and the fact that she manages to organise three of them in different cities on consecutive weekends is even more impressive. So if you didn’t make it to Oxford or The South Bank, you can still visit the Brighton festival on 16th & 17th April.
And for those at the other end of the country, there’s also an unrelated chocolate festival in Rabmsbottom, Lancashire that we hear is worth a visit!