January 9, 2018
What stood out for me last year?
Happy New Year all! I hope 2018 has begun well for you, and that you are sufficiently far away from the excesses of Christmas to have regained a bit of appetite. You will be hungry after reading my list of the best of 2017.
It was tough year globally, but a fine year for chocolate creativity. Perhaps the two are linked. I am sure we need the comfort and joy of chocolate more than ever. So without more ado, a short round up of things that stood out for me over the past year. There are many more things I loved eating and makers I enjoyed meeting than are included here (the photo above of my Guittard recipe bark from December’s post springs to mind). But I always enjoy top ten lists, so here you are!
Best Dark Chocolate: Winner of best dark bar overall at The International Chocolate Awards, Peruvian chocolate maker Shattell stunned all the judges with their intense and diverse flavours. There were many plain/origin dark bars this year worthy of awards and sure to delight, but if I have to pick one, this is Shattell’s year.
Best Milk Chocolate: Well, strictly speaking I’ve gone off piste here. There were stacks of great milk chocolate bars to choose from. Check the awards lists for those. But when thinking of milk chocolate my wonderful time with Knoops of Rye came to mind. The creation of a great hot chocolate, the alchemy of chocolate and hot milk, is an art. An art that Knoops has deliciously mastered.
Best White Chocolate: Forgive me for repeating myself, but last year’s favourite Friis Holm white chocolate is quite superb. In truth, this stellar chocolate maker could happily top all my best of bar categories. The white chocolate is category defining.
Best Filled Chocolate: Again, impossible to choose one winner, but many of the best are made by this man. Peter Svenningsen has continued to beguile with his purity of approach and flavour. My choice for this year is the brand new addition of a salted caramel which was so perfectly judged I moaned out loud at first taste.
Best Newcomer: I finally managed to taste the two chocolates created by bean to bar maker Beau Cacao at the 2017 Chocolate Show in London. This is an exciting outfit, and certainly one to watch (and taste)!
Best Event: The sixth edition of The International Chocolate Awards was bigger and better than ever. We had the most exceptional number and quality of entries and being on the Grand Jury of this was the ultimate in chocolate taste heaven.
Best Chocolatier: In the light of the incredible global selection we had across 2017 at the awards, I could write you a list of great chocolatiers. But a big impression was made on me in 2017 by genius Belgian, Laurent Gerbaud. He works entirely against Belgian type. This is not a place to find the milky pralines that typify their traditional chocolate. The clean flavours created with a fine selection of carefully chosen couverture are stunning. The Bergamot ganache is one of the finest things I ate in 2017.
Best Venue: The Chocolate Show in London is my essential date each year to catch up with old friends and new tastes in the chocolate community. Above, from left, Laurent Gerbaud (see above), UK bean to bar wonder Duffy Sheardown (see below) and International Chocolate Awards founder Martin Christy.
Best Chocolate Dessert: Dessert, afternoon tea, and in fact all patisserie at The Langham is now in the hands of Andrew Gravett. Given Andrew’s long history with chocolate these are safe hands indeed. The afternoons I have spent at The Langham have been gorgeously indulgent highlights of my year.
Best Experience: Teaching Level 1 Chocolate Tasting at The International Institute of Chocolate Tasting has been fascinating and heart warming. There is an international community of chocolate professionals and enthusiasts around the world wanting to deepen their understanding of the wonder that is cacao. This is always reflected in the fantastic groups of students who I have been privileged to teach. I’m always too busy on those days to take pictures, so instead I am ending with the delicious new coffee bars by Duffy Sheardown, because they were another highlight of this year!
Happy 2018 everyone, and I hope you fill it with delicious chocolate!