“Chilli Chocolate is *so* yesterday”
Guest Post by Alex McMeekin
How could I resist an evening of chocolate tasting from the master chocolatier Paul A. Young and Port tasting to boot, from fine portmaker, Churchill’s?
Churchill’s is a tapas style restaurant, situated in Greek Street, Soho and unusually offers flights of Port to go with the food; and this particular evening was a first testing of matching Port to chocolate. It’s run by Johnny Graham and his son Max, who have been making Port for many years; Johnny makes the Port and Max runs the restaurant. Johnny explained that many of the Ports that we would be tasting are indeed ready for drinking now, but would continue to age well for another 20 years. Port making is not a short-term business and Johnny is making wines today that won’t be at their peak for another 40 years; that takes skill, commitment and patience! His knowledge shone through as he explained what we were tasting, and I was fascinated. Churchill’s deserves a place amongst the finest of Portmakers in my view.
Paul A. Young has established himself as the finest chocolatier in London, having started his career working as a pastry chef for Marco Pierre-White. He is renowned for his sense of adventure and his marmite truffles have reached legendary status. He has two shops, one in nearby Wardour Street and the other in Camden Passage. I had tried his chocolate before at one of the many London food festivals and was already impressed by the skill and imagination used.
We started the evening with a dry white Port, served chilled. The chocolate that accompanied this was Honey & Roasted Almond Caramel. White Port isn’t particularly fashionable these days and is much under-rated; it’s a fantastic summer drink when served chilled. Churchill’s is going someway to break the traditional views of how Port should be drunk (and the image of it being consumed heartily by rotund red nosed older white men in gentlemen’s Clubs!)
The next Port, LBV, was the start of the red ports, and was beautifully matched to the next chocolate which was a peanut butter and raspberry truffle. This was a revelation for me as a fairly traditional hater of peanut butter in any form. Paul’s rendition was sublime, and I regretted my initial expectation.
We went on to try a 20 year old Tawny with a Cigar Leaf Caramel. This was the chocolate that Paul said would replace the chilli chocolate craze! Paul’s outlook on chilli chocolate was that everyone was doing it in varying degrees of success or failure and there had to be a more subtle alternative available to create that sensation of heat on the palate. The cigar leaf is what does that, and doesn’t hit you in the face in the same way that chilli can do. The aroma and aftertaste is much more delicate and complex. Paired with Tawny Port produced a feeling of immense well-being, although I did feel like I now might be allowed into the afore-mentioned gentleman’s club!
These are now all available in Churchill’s along with the selected Ports.
We were fortunate enough to be able to sample some of Paul’s other confections including different types of chocolate bar and the famous Marmite truffle. True to form this is a choice that the consumer makes based on their love of Marmite or not! I love it, so it was an easy choice for me and it didn’t disappoint; which is why it is a perennial favourite in Paul’s shops. If you are hovering over whether to try it or not, then you’re already half way there and I urge you to go for it!
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