The Chocolate Festival took place in Brighton this weekend and drew crowds despite the somewhat gloomy weather.
Writing about this festival was a dream job for me. I adore chocolate. Not a day goes past without me eating it in one form or another. Chocolate is an integral part of my life. Sometimes I think chocolate IS my life.
Let’s be clear though; when I say chocolate, I am not talking about the heavily processed, sugar-laden bars that most people would think about. I am speaking about the real thing: luscious, dark and rich in cocoa beans, the kind of stuff that will hit your chocolate craving in the face and send it reeling to the ground within seconds.
Eating a Mars bar is like watching Twilight’s moody Kirsten Stewart attempt to be edgy by starring in “On The Road.” It’s OK, but no pleasure is to be derived from it.
Savouring a handmade dark chocolate square is, on the other hand, the equivalent of picking up a copy of “On The Road,” and actually reading Jack Kerouac’s genius prose: an utter delight.
Now that’s out of the way, on to the festival itself.
It took place on New Road in Brighton, next to the Royal Pavilion gardens and the Theatre Royal. Admission was free and quite a few chocolatiers were exhibiting. Among them were: ChocoMe, Stas Partnership, Purbeck ice cream, The Gourmet Chocolate Pizza Company, Duffy’s Red Star Chocolate, The Continental Bakery, Sloe Seduction, Narna’s chocolates and the award-winning Damian Allsop.
I made my way from stall to stall sampling from as many as I could. There was no way I was going to do this without being thorough. A few stalls were not even offering samples as far as I could see which is a bit strange as, surely, making sure people get a taste of your wares IS the point of a festival?! Nobody wants to part with their hard-earned cash if they don’t even know what they are buying.
Especially as the prices were not exactly purse-friendly, although it is to be expected. With chocolate, as with most things, you cannot get quality at a cheap price. It’s like expecting Simon Cowell to promote real music as opposed to manufactured drivel; it’s just not realistic.
I am not going to list everything I tasted as, frankly, there just isn’t enough time but I am going to point out a couple of chocolatiers that I was particularly impressed with.
Duffy’s Red Star Chocolate offered the best milk chocolate I’ve ever tasted. My problem with milk chocolate is that it usually tastes like dairy. When I’m eating chocolate, chocolate is what I want to taste, not milk, otherwise I may as well pour myself a glass of the white stuff.
Duffy’s Star of Peru milk chocolate was smooth and creamy, yet managed to taste incredibly chocolaty. It had aftertastes of hazelnuts and is made of 40% cocoa solids. I was so taken with it that I bought two bars on the spot. I tried Duffy’s other goods too and their chocolate really is first-class, as well as being handmade and organic. I highly recommend checking them out.
The other company I was inspired by was ChocoMe. All of their chocolate is handmade, and you can design and create your very own bar.
Gábor Mészáros, the owner, attended a course for chocolate artisans at the world-renowned chocolate academy of the Belgian Callebaut Company.
He is passionate about chocolate and it is reflected in his lovely crafted products. I couldn’t help but leave the ChocoMe stall with two bars; one of which is now gone, and that in itself speaks volumes.
My last and final purchase was a chocolate gun, some kind of magnum or uzi but I couldn’t possibly say, having zero knowledge about weaponry. All I know is that I saw it and thought that it perfectly illustrated “Death by Chocolate” so I couldn’t leave without it.
If I have any criticisms, it is the fact that the chocolate festival was a little too Easter-related but I suppose that it makes sense on a commercial point of view.
Duffy’s Red Star Chocolate and ChocoMe are my two top picks of the festival but by no means are they the only companies worth checking out. Everyone exhibiting had something to offer to any self-respecting chocolate aficionado.
If you have missed out on this year’s Chocolate Festival, make sure you free a date in your diary for the next one. You will not regret it.