Friday, October 9, 2009

Delicious diversions

As usual, I am blogging when I should be doing something else.  But really, if I didn't procrastinate in this way, how would you lovely people know what is happening in this tiny corner of the world?

Food is definitely all over the radar for the moment.

So, first to get this out of the way: chocolate bars.  There is a little Delhaize (a type of grocery store) on the way to Boyfriend's mom's house.  We had to stop there the other day to pick up something or other, but all I was really interested by was their chocolate nook.  I walked away with these three.

Café-Tasse are based in Brussels, and make 'degustation' chocolate, meaning it's chocolate for eating, relatively unadulterated by other things save for some spices or tea with the chocolate.  The quality of their chocolate is okay, but for the price they ask, I feel they really should be conching the chocolate longer.  (Conching is the process that really affects whether or not there will be a smooth mouthfeel for the chocolate.  Longer conching results in smaller, better emulsified particles = smoother mouthfeel.)  The candied lemon peel bits in this were delightfully tart, however after having had a few varieties of their bars over the years, I'm always left feeling like this company has the right idea, but not the right means to execute the idea correctly in the world of gourmet tasting chocolates.

The name describes my sentiments after tasting it.  "Nuts, this bar kind of equals fail."  It's essentially a Snickers, but with roasted hazlenuts instead of peanuts.  Very unexciting, with the flavour of the roasted hazlenut not complimenting the caramel nearly as well as a peanut does.  Given my disappointment, after a bite or two I stuck it in the freezer to liven things up with a better chew another time when I was craving sugar and ok with absolute mediocrity.

I've been curious for some time about the filled Côte d'Or bars, since Nougatti wasn't half-bad (and is also a Côte d'Or product, along with Zero bars.)  This was awful.  Artificial super-sweet awful.  The filling is not at all creamy, in fact you can peel the chocolate off the sides of the filling and it will remain completely in-tact.  It's firmer than playdoh.  That alone made me too scared to read the label to know what I'd just ingested.  Maybe it was stale, but it'll be awhile before I dare trying another filled bar from Côte d'Or.

So why is it I take such an interest in chocolate, particularly when so much of it seems to disappoint me? Well... this is the kind of stuff I enjoy, both on personal and professional levels.

Truffles I made for Valentine's orders, 2009.  Clockwise from top-left they are: cappuccino, maple-walnut, chai, blueberry wine, raspberry, and mexican spiced (infused with chili, cinnamon, etc.)

In fact, though I enjoy getting to know the junk-market wherever I go (like candy bars,) my interest and work lies more in the realm of fine-chocolate, and I can say that my standards when it comes to 'fine chocolate' are in fact, very, very high.  I go out of my way to taste anything that comes with repute in the world, as well as to try the little guys who seem to know what they're doing but haven't been lauded yet too.  I've had the chance to work and learn alongside some amazing pastry chefs and chocolatiers, and this is something I love to do, and was doing professionally before leaving Toronto.  Not everyone gets the chance to be paid to do what they love, and I am very grateful that I've had that chance.  My plan, (once I figure out where in the world I want to build a life,) is to be my own boss; running an establishment that serves up some high-grade sweets.

Here in Belgium I'm trying to continue my professional development.  I'm learning a little more about how the markets work and about cultural preferences for taste.  I should manage to squeeze in a professional course at a world-recognized chocolate institution before my visa runs out, and next week is definitely exciting for me since I'll attend both the Salon de l'Alimentation (food expo) in Brussels, and the Salon du Chocolat Professionel (chocolat expo) in Paris.  !!!  I'm terribly excited to sit down for hours and hours of lectures about sourcing chocolate, fair trade issues, market conditions and so on.  Glee!

In fact.. this is actually what I'm supposed to be working on right now...  I'm supposed to be finding the hotel in Paris and planning the itinerary for the weekend.  I suppose I should go and do that.

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