This weekend was the inaugural occurrence of the Oxford Chocolate Festival. Chocolate is just about my favourite thing on the planet, so with the event taking place practically on my doorstep I just had to go along.
The fact that the admission was free was always going to help...
The festival was held on Broad Street, right in the middle of the city of Oxford. Pretty easy to get to, and in a pedestrian area as well.
Those businesses that turned up though put on a reasonable display and variety of goods and demonstrations for the attendees.
One of the more interesting stands was the one operated by Chocolution. With a talk on how to make chocolate from scratch, lots of unusual products (like chocolate filled, decorated hen's eggs, cacao pods and so on), and an entertaining spokesperson, they were definitely the stand-out business of the event.
One of the bigger stands was held by Co Couture, a Belfast based company that operate out of a little boutique in the city. Having flown over that morning with all their gear, the folk manning the stand were understandably tired, but still up for a good chat about the business and their wares.
As well as all the chocolate stalls, there were a couple of other food stalls, notably a churros stand, a Mexican food stall and a wonderful continental bakery.
The absence that I felt was the biggest loss to the event was Montezuma's. Like I say, I wasn't there today, so it may just have been that they were only scheduled to turn up on the Sunday. They are one of Britain's more recognizable gourmet brands though - and deservedly so. I think they are the best UK chocolate manufacturer. While their chocolate is readily available at most supermarkets, I always find a trip down to their shop in Spitalfields Market, London to be an absolute treat. Their butterscotch 54% bar sits at number three on my list of best bars.
There were a few other chocolatiers present I haven't mentioned, but you might get a wee glimpse of what else there was if I show you what I bought!
From Damian Allsop's stand, I just had to have one of his salted caramels in dark chocolate - salted caramels are the absolute pinnacle of chocolate heaven. No picture of this one - I ate it before I got home. They really can not be beaten. If I'd had a few hundred pounds to spare, I'd have been very interested to try more of his range. He's a ganache specialist, employing unusual techniques, removing cream and butter from his recipes to give a fresher, cleaner taste to the chocolate. Check him out.
The other pictured delights are a bar of 83% Ecuadorian chocolate from Red Star Chocolate (who make one of the most delicious milk chocolate bars I've ever tried), a passion fruit ganache from Paul Wayne Gregory and finally a 69% signature bar from Co Couture which is so delicately designed (even featuring a little gold leaf in one corner) I hardly want to eat the thing!
- Bits and pieces...