Last Tuesday, I was at the Speciality and Fine Food Fair in London, in particular, paying a lot of attention to the Chocolate Fair. One of the newly touted products is coconut water by various companies and frankly gets the big thumbs down for taste, which to me seemed like stale coconut. I love coconut (both the flesh and the milk) but this in no way captures that taste. On a brighter note, Maui and Sons have also brought out ‘Coconut Chips’; a snack size packet of coconut pieces that have been lightly roasted to help keep them crisp. They make a two versions: one plain, the other dipped in dark chocolate, both are delicious and moreish.
Hidden amongst the plethora of chocolate stands all vying for attention is Zotter Chocolate, still to me the greatest chocolatier of them all. Unlike one self-proclaimed chocolatier doing poor demonstrations at the fair, Zotter truly is a magician. Here is a link to a blog post I wrote back in 2008 which will go some small way to explain. Zotter has created a layering method in order to differentiate the various flavours. First the coating melts and afterwards the filling, so that aromatic synergies blossom out in different phases. We sampled a Tequila with Salt and Lemon and as usual it delivers on its promises.
Another chocolatier worth checking out is Amelia Rope; a serial entrepreneur and amongst those many threads competed twice in the television programme ‘Master Chef’, which I think clearly helped to focus her creative efforts towards a foodie product. In 2007, she set up her chocolate company and went through the stop and start stumbles many businesses do to become a rising star in the world of chocolate bars and truffle making. We tasted her Pale Lemon and Sea Salt Caramel Truffle (A sea salt, soft caramel with a splash of organic lemon oil blended in, surrounded by a cocoa dusted milk chocolate shell), and eating them was a delicious experience. We also took a bar home of her Pale Lime & Sea Salt chocolate which again was great quality chocolate with flavours that are balanced so they work, though at £5.60 a bar I find it harder to justify the price compared to the truffles which cost £15 but would make a great accompaniment to after dinner coffee.
We walk, talked and spoke to lots of passionate food producers but the were one or two that stood out for me.
I must give a special mention to the Charles Kobernus who imports liquorice (licorice) from around the world and visiting his site All Things Liquorice is fascinating. For some reason, this particular ingredient is either loved or hated in Britain and I suspect it’s the same in the US, and yet it is much loved throughout Holland and Scandinavia. Perhaps the decline in the love affair between the public and liquorice happened as the manufacturers lessened the real licorice content? It has been my experience that people don’t need to be gourmet chefs to eventually realise what their taste buds are telling them.
Recently, there has been a slow but steady resurgence for liquorice in the food world, Celebrity chefs have started to introduce liquorice back onto their menus. Indeed, Charles confessed he has supplied Nigela Lawson for her recent TV series. After tasting many samples, Charles very kindly gave me a box of Zouts which is an excellent continental salty hard liquorice, that comes from Belgium and is made by Joris. Whilst it is saltier than say Pontefract Cakes, the liquorice content and quality is top draw. I promised myself I would be creating a liquorice flavoured dessert in the near future.
I wrote an article a few years back extolling the virtues of Dutch cheese which I have reposted on my Old Blog posts site and at the show I chanced upon a Dutch Gouda I had heard of but previously not tasted called Beemster.
In 1612, Dutch engineers, using a system of dykes and windmills, drained the marshes and bogs of the Beemster polder and converted the land into pastures. The polder is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Nourished by sea water, the clay soil left behind is nutrient and mineral rich,with a distinctive slate blue color. This terroir yields grasses that are more fertile and thicker and longer than others, giving the milk produced here an especially sweet and creamy quality.
In particular I loved the Beemster XO which is aged for over 26 months. As the cheese matures it develops tyrosine crystals (people often mistake this for salt crystals) from the amino acids giving a pleasing grainy quality and multiple flavour points to the cheese. You often see this in quality mature hard cheeses like old Gouda, Parmesan, Paski Sir and others.