Thursday, 16 April 2009

How to turn your wild idea into a reality - the recording.

Last week I went along to Clerkenwell House to speak to a group of 'scanners' about how I got started with Choc Star. Also on the podium were the adorable Bompas & Parr (who, it transpires, have long been fans of Choc Star and the chocolate roadshow) and Sophie Boss of Beyond Chocolate.

There were all kinds of interesting people there with lots of great ideas for projects they wanted to start - but the overriding sentiment seemed to be FEAR. I was asked about my take on the fear factor when starting up and my feeling is that I was more afraid of not doing it than of going for it and making it happen. It was this great, charged, pulsating feeling in my stomach that demanded that I do it - or risk continuing to be the kind of person who forever dwells in unrealised ideas.

And besides, fear is good. It's powerful. I'm terrified right now of the next stage of Choc Star adventuring - but I know that this means I have to do it!

Here is the recording of the night - I'm speaking 2nd.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Chocolate festivities

This was pretty much all I saw of the Chocolate Festival last week as I scooped and sliced and shook and stirred. Betsy and Molly came to help - as did my brother. It was mental - if you put chocolate stalls together, tell everyone about it and insist the sun comes out then the traders really get it in the a good way.

I was delighted to see so much good chocolate around - namely William Curley, Paul Wayne Gregory, the wonderful Deirdre of Co Couture in Belfast and my all time favourite and true master of his art, Damian Allsop. We looked after each other - I released chocolate ice creams: Nutella, triple choc, mint choc chip and organic choc in their general direction whilst they returned the gesture. An eye-popping care package of D.A's best arrived on my counter and saw me through...about an hour or 2 of bliss. How can you get anything more perfect than posh Reese's Pieces? The dark choc and the creamy, textured, salty peanut centre. It feels good for you, nourishing, deserved.

Regulars dropped by - my cycling wild man from the bridge, the architecture student with a penchant for brownie fudge sundaes, the adorable Kumi with a present of freshly picked walnuts, the hot choc fanatic from the apartment block next door and little Leon and his family - whose birthday party we attended way back.

Also came some new visitors - food worshipper and blogger Eat Like A Girl in her gorgeous red shoes, sausage roll enthusiasts (and most other kinds of food I understand) Helen and Lizzie and the elusive Bellaphon accompanied by rampant desire for all things inside the choc-mobile - love his write-up of his Choc Star experience!

Ice cream was the big hit over the weekend but so too were the classic brownie fudge sundaes and the new kids on the scene - the blondie fudge sundaes! Picture this: a brownie made with white chocolate and scented with vanilla. The cocoa butter makes it sunshine yellow and fudgey beyond control. Atop sits a scoop of cool, creamy chocolate ice cream and over all of this is poured our molten chocolate fudge sauce. I ate one each morning before the crowds arrived. I couldn't help myself - it seemed like life or death a little bit.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Choctastic at the Guardian

When I read on Twitter that there was to be a chocolate tasting at the Guardian I was in like Flynn on signing up. All manner of chocolate would be representing its Easterly wares and it sounded like there was a bit of a scramble for the 75 spots allocated. I thought, what with all the egg action going on, it might be good to bring along some ultra fudge brownie alleviate the glut. I sallied forth on the train and strided up York Way in the biscuity late afternoon sun, my brownie cutting knife carefully wrapped so as not to involuntarily expose myself as a Kings Cross blade loon.

En route my eye was caught by this pair of extraordinary pins up ahead - like that of Barbie, replete with 'flesh-coloured' plasticky sheen. They really didn't look real. Who could sport legs like that? I pondered, quickening my pace a tad. Soon enough it dawned on me that somewhere in my distant TV viewing past I'd seen them before. A glance at this woman's profile confirmed it - Su Pollard. I'd only been looking at a terrible pic of her in the paper earlier that day. I approached her and was thrilled to here those raspy, excitable tones. I loved you in Hi-de-Hi! I told her. We chatted about holiday camps and mini-skirts and stage shows, then into the Guardian HQ I went with a 'ta-ra lov' ana birrova wink.

The new building is a great, aspirational space - alll floor to ceiling windows and escalators and viewing zones. I was shown to my set-up room via the horseshoe shaped swoop of chocolate zones. In one room was lovely Henrietta Lovall of The Rare Tea Company, making alchemy of silver tipped leaves and hot water, Andrew of Gonzalez Byass was standing by in another room - oloroso at the ready. Then there was Paul A Young, resplendent behind a table decorated with his wonderful chocs.

Continuing round I came upon Kieron of Mayan Magic who I'd had contact with last year on my tour. More chocolate, more tables - and on to a whole giant boardroom heaving with smashed up Easter eggs - from Godiva, Daylesford Organic, Divine, Thorntons, Lidl, Hotel Chocolat. Fine, very nice. But what really got me going was when we finally arrived at 'my room' - specially reserved for me to perform the important task of cutting up brownies. What a view! I could have stayed in there all evening with maybe the odd dash for supplies. But those fudgey little bites needed to be circulated.

I quite liked being an itinerant producer. I got to float about, waitress style with my tray of joy. They all did seem quite taken by the smashed up eggs, yet when I swooped along there would be this inner ambivalence going on in the choc fans minds. But we've eaten so much already...yet we haven't had any brownies...I don't want to be sick all over this nice could I turn them down though? And on it went until the tray was empty and I had to go back to my gorgeous refuge to replenish.

It was really fun - all types of people from old guard bloggers to new on the scenes. I talked birthday parties with Silverbrow and bicep exercises with Jay Rayner (he's got to come and scoop in the van if he really wants guns to be proud of).

As for the taste of the chocolate, it was a bit of a one man race. I tried a little bit of the rest but how could it ever be any kind of competition when Paul was there with that quality and those flavours?