In my last post, rounding up the new recipes I tried in October, I promised you one more blast from the past; indeed, the time to tell you about the food adventures I embarked on last month has finally come. As more and more people start speaking the “C” word that marks the beginning of the festive season, and I stubbornly refuse to join in the gift shopping frenzy until December’s well under way, I have two delectable treats that begin with “C” to share with you. Whether you’re a sweet tooth or a fan of happy hours and classy drinks, I hope you’ll find inspiration for a weekend of eating and drinking fun.
A “C” Word You Can Eat: Chocolatey Treats at Salon du Chocolat
Some opportunities only come once in a lifetime. Getting hold of a couple of free tickets to the first London edition of Salon du Chocolat, and finding out that it was taking place a mere twenty-minute walk away from home, felt almost too good to be true (*), and my partner and I were quick to jump at the chance, fearing it would vanish in thin air if we hesitated one second too long.
I was excited like a kid at the thought of attending one of Atelier des Chefs‘s chocolate making classes, but alas, they were all fully booked when we got to the Olympia. I had to make do with snapping a few pictures, feeling pangs of jealousy for those who were there, tinkering with meltd chocolate and filling what looked like very well deserved goodie bags.
Planning our visit required some serious prioritising skills, as many tastings and demonstrations were running at the same time. Looking for some Sunday afternoon fun, we chose to attend Seventy %‘s chocolate tasting workshop: an entertaining session, which taught us how to identify the different flavour notes that chocolate holds as its best kept secret, and only releases to the patient and devout.
We experienced a few of the exercises that Seventy % propose at their chocolate tasting courses, and were most impressed by how different savouring chocolate is from mindlessly munching on a bar. The first and hardest challenge was keeping a piece of chocolate at arm’s length, drawing it closer with painstakingly slow gestures, and letting it melt in our mouths instead of chewing it away. An exercise of willpower that most chocolate fiends would find hard to master: no wonder the name of the session was “Slow Chocolate”.
Chocolate samples, I had loads. You just can’t go to a chocolate salon and turn a blind eye to the freebies, can you? Not all of the beauties in the pictures got in my belly, though: I’m not sure I’d have survived the chocolate coma!
(*) To be fair, my childhood home in Italy is also a twenty-minute walk away from the local exhibition centre. Too bad that the most impressive event it hosts every year is the regional agriculture and tractor fair. Ah, country life, how I miss you – not.
A “C” Word You Can Drink: Champagne Tasting at the Cumberland Hotel
Speaking of once-in-a-lifetime experiences, here’s another one. Drinking champagne’s a rare enough occurrence in my fairly unglamorous life – fancy attending a bar launch where champagne is completely free. If you’d forecasted it one month ago, I’d have laughed right in your face; and yet, it really happened. I really dressed up in my best evening outfit, and really dragged my shattered after-work self to the launch of the Cumberland Hotel‘s new Momentus Bar. Judging from the speed at which said after-work self regained its daytime energy and chattiness, the waiters offering to top up my glass when it was still more than half full were no dream, either.
It was a lovely evening, full of laughter, and catch ups with blogger friends and new acquaintances; all in the stylish setting of Momentus, a champagne bar right in the heart of Mayfair, with a sleek decor dominated by white furniture and flashing violet lights. I always feel that hotel bars are a little hit and miss, but this one had such a vibrant atmosphere, I could have easily believed I was attending a happy hour in one of Central London’s more established clubs. Indeed, I was more than a little puzzled to see guests checking in at the reception desk on my way out!
As for that free-flowing Moet & Chandon champagne, I had enough glasses to forget how to take proper pictures, but not too many to miss my unforgiving 7am alarm the next day. Enough to dare blind-tasting a canapé that proved to contain blue cheese, my food nemesis (cue a couple mandatory swigs of champagne to wash away the taste); not too many to miss out on the other delicacies on offer. My favourites were the smooth cream cheese and salmon snacks, and the superb variety of chocolate truffles, so wide I had to go for seconds, thirds and fourths to taste them all. I’m still regretting the last-minute attack of cowardice that kept me away from the oyster bar, as I may well have given away my only chance to ever try fresh oysters: here’s to hoping that the future has more champagne surprises in store, so I can right this wrong, and decide whether to side with oyster lovers or loathers once and for all.