Gourmet Nantes

This weekend I was lucky enough to be offered a “Chocolate addict workshop”(Thanks to my lovely wife!) in Nantes, run by the great people at “Epicure vous Salue” (https://www.facebook.com/epicurevoussalue/?fref=ts run by Marion, a trained diététicien ) and “Le Gâteau sous la Cerise” (http://www.legateausouslacerise.com/)  managed by Floriane Millet).


I love chocolate, but really know very little about it, and even less about cooking or using it proprerly. Ok, I’d read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl when a child, and loved it, and probably had a more or less permanent chocolate moustache on my lips/face/ and chocolate smeared liberally over my hands/clothes/  when a child/adult/today.

So I entered the shop and said hello to the other participants, (Liz, Thomas and Mary ( who runs a tea shop https://www.facebook.com/Marys-Tea-Room-904536599588888/?fref=ts). We started with a great cup of tea from the store, and settled down on our chairs to listen to the story of chocolate.


For me as a child Chocolate was just “stuff” I gobbled down (what a PIG) and as a child in the UK the big brands were Cadbury’s or Mars, Rowntree, Nestlé , Milka or even a rare bar of Toblerone. Later, as an adult , I would graze the aisles of the supermarket and buy a bar, but the best was probably Green and Black  or Lindt.

Then one day we went to a big store in Lakeside, Essex and I found a “real ” chocolate shop, sadly closed now, but the owner had a whole range of bars of various % chocolates.

But I hadn’t really “understood” the story until yesterday’s fantastic workshop.

Marion and Floriane walked us through the  story of the different varieties of plant (there are 3!) and why chocolate is so expensive (basically the pod is a fruit from a flower with

no perfume, that lasts 48 hrs, and so is rarely pollinated , and when it is very few go onto produce fruits ). A tree produces 6000 flowers, but only 20 pods!. Once the pod has been harvested (you plant a tree and wait 4 years!) then you have to do loads of things to it to get chocolate.

So the pod is very careflully harvested, so as not to damage the tree, and then opened. The inside is spread out and left to ferment, much ike a wine or beer or bread, to develop the flavours, and then dried , either in the sun (best) or an oven (cheapest) to prevent fungal infection and rotting. Then the beans are cleaned, and processed,then roasted and the shell is removed and the inside (a nib) is ground into a paste. There are two components to the paste, solids and butter. At the workshop we got to taste the bean in all its forms, throughout the process, and you’d never believe chocolate came from such a bitter tasting bean.

The chocolate is blended (or not if its a pure single plantation ) and different % of cocoa paste are added and sugar. Then its conched, tempered and finally poured into moulds.

So each step needs skill and hence really good chocolate could be compared to a fine wine, or  tea.


We nibbled our way through the three types of chocolate, white, milk and dark chocolate, testing the varous countries of origin, % of choclate or cocoa butter,  the notes of red fruits or nuts , the acidity or bitterness, and at the end I felt that I’d just scratched the surface of a passion. We climbed up the choco hill from 30% all the way to 100% (wow!) In between we had a fun quiz, and learnt so much, drank cups of tea or water and chatted, cracking jokes, and learnt that Chocolate was a drug( it must be as there was a garden gnome stuck on the ceiling of the shop!)


Then finally we made some chocolate covered cakes , kindly supplied by Floriane. They didn’t last too long!

She had spent the evening before melting the chocolate  and all we had to do was make a mess!WP_20160116_11_48_00_Pro

The time ran like rabbits and at the end, mouth smeared with cholate and new friends made, we bought some stuff and visited the shops of the presenters. A great gift!

After we browsed in Marion’s store and bought some goodies, and visited Floriane’s store for some great ideas, which I’ll use when I try to make Easter eggs. I MUST pop back to both shops and get some equipment ASAP! Why not give it a go yourself?









Twitter feed

This week’s seen a death toll of the rich and famous as the Grim Reaper works off his holiday hangover by taking it out on the rich, famous and seeing off some famous stars from rock n roll, acting and generally having a really good time killing off people’s heros.

Of course, twitter goes crazy, with tweets a plenty. The first thing is the pathos of the situation, when we feel touched by the death of someone we admired, or someone who was our hero, or just someone we’d seen on TV or just admired generally.Or even people you’ve never heard off pop up in the feed and you wonder “who he?” (” http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/45071/title/Renowned-Microscopist-Dies/”)


So I post “oh no, so and so died” and other friend chips in. A collective virtual wake.We hug and comfort each other,  wallow in the past about how we had a crush on him or her, or were always a fan.

Just before all this, strange things circulate, feeds about Norman Wisdom’s death (he died years ago) and then everyone jumps on the fake death bandwagon, and I get a feeds about the death of Malcolm Mclaren , also someone dead for years. Then even more strangely (or not, my sense of humour is “weird ” even by British standards), I jump in with a feed about the death of Mitterand, as a joke on these feeds.

Then I’m tempted to look at the twitter feeds of those famous friends of the recently departed star to see there reaction, as if loss must be cried to all. Lets see what Mick J thinks, (or whoever) about the death of David B (or whoever)

We dont deal with loss of loved ones and so it spills over , like with Lady Diana, when everyone went crazy for a week with grief. When several celebrities die at the end or beginning of the year it sparks a frenzy, until a special numbness hits us, a ‘celebrity death fatigue’ and a famous person dies and we shrug our shoulders and go back to whatever we were doing before, because there is no justice, only death.

Then I realise that the reason I get so many feeds is maths. Those algorithmes for death messages are set up to react to a user responding to a death message. The more you reseond, the more you get. The Gemino curse (Hary potter in the vault touches and object and it replicates, the more you touch, the more it replicates) in real life.