Monday, October 08, 2012

Chocolate Jetsetting: Events This Week in London and New York

Paul A. Young's chief chocolatier (left) with Martin Christy

The long-established UK Chocolate Week starts this Monday, followed a few days later by the energetic New York City Food and Wine Festival.  Those of you lucky enough to be jetsetting back and forth might want to consult Mind the Gap, an insightfully entertaining joint blogging venture from the BBC and Virgin Atlantic Airlines.

And while you're busy converting pounds to kilos, these transatlantic chocolate conversions might come in handy:

Artisan du Chocolat
On display at Artisan du Chocolat
This is the Jacques Torres of the UK.  They started early—in 2000—with French-style ganaches and newfangled transfer sheet designs, got a lot of respect and with it a lot of business, and are now reliably good but just that.  This is a good place to become a late adopter of the chocolate-and-hot-chile combo.

William Curley
Tea time at William Curley
A stately, superb establishment that's part chocolatier (the work of the titular Curley) and part patisserie (overseen by Curley's wife, a dessert chef of Japanese extraction).  There's no exact gothamite translation for what the Curleys are doing but if you combined the East Asian influences of Kee's Chocolates, the offbeat precision of Chocolat Moderne, and the sophisticated parlor decor of Brooklyn's Chocolate Room, you'd come pretty close.  One of the best sweets on offer is the "nostalgia coconut bar"—Brits liken it to an upscale Bounty bar, though Americans are more likely to make the Mounds connection.

Paul A. Young
Young's green pea ganache
Young is a culinary artist and a confectionary mentor to those who work for him.  Again, in my experience (though it's high time I tried some of the newer offerings in the five boroughs) no one in New York is working quite at this level.  The closest I can come up with is chocolate perfectionist Andrew Shotts at Garrison Confections further east in Rhode Island (though Paul A. Young is the bigger of the two operations in this analogy, with several locations in central London).  I liked the Best of British collection when I was there and I'm guessing those confections are still on offer.

Chocomaya, fit for the fair
Despite the name, Chocomaya's couple of retail outlets and products available for sale in London department stores are geared more toward old-fashioned daggy gifts (in the form of molded solid chocolate and flavored bars with decorative packaging) than chocolate's Mesoamerican heritage.  The nearest approximation is Manhattan's Martine's Chocolates, which also sells solid chocolates in the shape of animals, plants, and cultural icons.

Advertised "British chocolate"
Technically, Max Brenner is not a New York chocolatier.  But, technically speaking, Montezuma's "spotted dick," "treacle tart" and other flavors have nothing to do with the Aztec empire.  Like Brenner's "chocolate by the bald man," this "innovative British chocolate" goes for mass appeal with standard ingredients, and the results are somewhere between decent and cloying.

Hotel Chocolat's Rabot Estate
Straight from the estate
Hotel Chocolat is a big business that tries to be all things chocolate to all customers with over 50 stores in the UK and beyond, often carrying different product lines targeted to different audiences.  Though the Soho shop looks like a mock-up of Tiffany's with sparkly chocolate jewel boxes, Rabot Estate, just outside the Borough Market, showcases the company's own intriguing bean-to-bar line (or bean-to-cup at the hot chocolate bar), drawing on cacao from their estate in the Caribbean.  Aesthetically, the place looks like a display for the New York-based Fine & Raw mounted in a Banana Republic window circa 1985.


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12:40 AM GMT-5  
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