Thursday, April 06, 2006

More Chocolate in Melbourne: Triumphs and Disappointments

Enthusiasm for chocolate is mounting in Melbourne. In the few months that I've been here, the city's established chocolatiers have received some major media coverage (it's not online but see the January 21, 2006, article from the Epicure section of The Age,"Top Five... Shops for Chocolate Lovers"), several new shops have sprung up, and the public taste for high-quality, high-cacao-content confections is noticeably increasing. Since my last review of "Chocolate in Melbourne", I have been quietly checking up on the new order.

The first of these new ventures that I tried was a mismanaged ticky-tack attempt to capitalize on the global chocolate market by serving unimpressive desserts and libations made with corner-cutting ingredients; the best thing I can do for this business located in one of the Central Business District's shopping centers is not mention its (unimaginative) name. Things went delightfully up from there, though. With the convenience of a borrowed car, I made my way to suburban Canterbury to find the fledgling chocolate shop Xocolatl (123 Mailing Rd, Canterbury, 03-9836-3100). The flavors were subtle, the proprietors and their staff were very knowledgeable, and the day I stopped in the local newspaper was buzzing around (even if only to sell advertising space). My most recent discovery came today when I was wandering aimlessly around Fitzroy with the vague idea of bringing home ingredients for my next chocolate tasting. I walked into a place called Chocolateria San Churro on Brunswick Street. The offerings include several flavors of hot chocolate, a case full of truffles, and of course Spanish churros (fried sticks of dough which are meant to be dipped into chocolate). The traditional chocolate served with churros is a half liquid/half-pudding hot drink that, when emulsified correctly, is a gloopy goodness that you slurp down directly from the cup when you're not dunking a churro into it. At this new chocolateria, the process has been rather Anglosized: hot chocolate is distinctly served as a beverage, while the churros are accompanied by small dishes of thick, unambiguous dipping sauce. And, though I haven't yet gotten up early enough on a Saturday morning to try them, another batch of artisanal chocolates (uncovered by the Melbourne food blog, Tomato) has appeared at the Prahran Market.

The Melbourne chocolate world is currently awash in new flavors, new techniques, and the general acceptance of chile as a hot chocolate flavoring. Not yet widely available are different brands of couverture chocolate. I set out for the Food Hall at David Jones today hoping to bring home a block of Valrhona like the ones I remember from Whole Foods in New York (cut into rough pieces and, just like Parmesan cheese, priced by weight). Instead, what I found was an international array of varied but consistently high-priced candy bars and prepackaged chocolate gifts. When I asked the white-clad shop attendant in the old-fashioned confectionery department if they carried any other products for home chefs, she led me toward the counter and pointed to a few assorted white, milk, and dark bits of Lindt chocolate. "You can use that for cooking," she instructed me. Yes, I can, but I don't want to. I settled on two thin 75-gram bars of Valrhona Guanaja.

I resolutely refuse to reveal the obscene price that I paid.


Blogger plum said...

Hi Emily - delighted to read about your chocolate adventures here in Melbourne! The only place I've bought Valrhona in bulk is at Simon Johnson in Fitzroy. (The toorak store only sells the 1 kg Noir Gastronomie block for somewhere between forty and fifty dollars). Fitzroy has a wider range of bulk chocolate primarily for the trade, but I've always found them helpful. The 5kg bags used to be quite affordable, but now I'm looking at a 20kg bag for $300. Which is reasonable on a per kilo basis, but 20 kg??? Perhaps we can split one!

6:48 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Haalo said...

Hi Emily
Essential Ingredient in Prahran Market also has a large range of chocolate.

6:21 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Family owned business - Colefax Chocolates on Ramsay Street in Haberfield, Sydney is the best chocolate shop in the world!!! You must try their chocolates they are just divine. My husband and I have travelled quite extensively and we can't find better chocolate. Cat

6:55 PM GMT-5  

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