Chocolate Wishes and Christmas Kisses...
If there's one time of year where we can all step off the scales and indulge, it's Christmas! Out the window go counting calories, eyeing up fat content and swapping our full latte for a skinny one; in come bottles of Baileys, turkeys as big as your head and of course, lashings of luxurious chocolates!
I do not hide the fact that I love chocolate, it was pretty much my staple food in my 20's and 30's and the opening of 'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory' still brings tears of joy to my eyes. But the last couple of years I've been craving chocolate of a different kind. Don't get me wrong, I love good old Cadburys and Galaxy, but I find a really good quality rich chocolate like Godiva or Paul A. Young give me more satisfaction in smaller quantities.
At Christmas I love buying my family and friends really good, sumptuous chocolate. I think it's a real treat to have something to yourself that's so perfect. So for the last couple of weeks I've been sourcing and tasting the best quality chocolates at relatively reasonable prices for the seasonal period; and of course some high end products too! It was quite hard work as you can imagine but I powered through!
So, to save you the hard work of sampling all of those delicious choccies, I've picked the best of the beautiful bunch for you to treat your nearest and dearest!
Charbonnel Et Walker
So this one may be slightly predictable as they have one of the finest reputations in the chocolate world, but it's well deserved as they are one of the best. The French sounding, but utterly British, Charbonnel et Walker was born in 1875 and still retains a premises in Bond Street, London, it's first home.
All year round they produce some of the finest handmade chocolates but Christmas is the time they really come into their own. Their decadent hampers are truly something to behold and contain such treasures as Sea Salt Mini Hearts, Pink Handbag with Milk Chocolate Shoes, Pink Marc de Champagne Truffles, Pink Champagne Truffle Christmas Bauble and even a beautiful bottle of Moet. But make sure this is for someone very special as these hampers start at £100 all the way up to £150.
But if your Christmas budget doesn't quite extend to the
hampers, Charbonnel et Walker have some great luxury boxes as well, such as the Fine Dark Chocolate Bittermints or the Luxury Carousel Truffle Assortment (pictured left), both of which will cost you a mere £48.
I have to admit, Godiva is my guilty pleasure. If I'm shopping in the West End I'll always pop in and have one of their divine hot chocolates; which is basically one of their miniature chocolates melted into milk!
Godiva (named after Lady Godiva) began it's life in Belgium in 1926 in the kitchen of the Draps family (founder Pierre Draps only passed away in 2012 and was still active in the business) and was famous for it's praline chocolate. They still use the same praline recipe today.
At Christmas Godiva create some beautiful boxes as well as other sweet treats and considering how rich and luxurious their chocolate is, it's pretty reasonably priced. For a token gift, the Truffle Box (pictured at the top of the page), containing 6 truffles including Truffle Caramel Sale and Truffle Amere (a rich dark truffle), is perfect. Priced at £12 it's a great gift to show that you're thinking of someone.
If you want to push the boat out a bit then there are gender specific hampers; The Nutcracker for him and The Ballerina for her, which will cost £85 each but present you with gorgeous pieces such as White, Milk and Dark Crispy Chocolate Pearls, Dark Ganache Bar and Christmas Truffles. For those of you more extravagant then the Ultimate Thrill Hamper (pictured left) is for you. Priced at £265 it is bubbling over with insane chocolate delights including a Swarovski Box worth £120!
Never has a chocolate sounded more cute and inviting than the innovative Sweet Theatre. Founder Sally Wood, a theatre producer with a huge sweet tooth, has combined her two loves, theatre and chocolate and created a stunning range based on Shakespeare's leading ladies.
If you fancy something innocent and sweet then the 'Juliet' white chocolate is for you but if the deep layered character of 'Lady Macbeth' is who you identify with then you cannot beat the tempting mix of Orange with a rich dark chocolate. Sweet Theatre has caught the eye of some pretty swanky places and is currently sold at historic department store Fortnum and Mason as well as the fun and fabulous Harvey Nichols. You'll also find Sweet Theatre at the RSC, Shakespeare's Globe and even on Virgin Atlantic!
But Sweet Theatre don't only do delicious chocolate bars (£3.50 for 70g), they also offer chocolate thins, as well as luxurious hot chocolate in Lady Macbeth (Dark Orange), Viola (Dark Mint), Miranda (Milk Sea Salt) and Ophelia (Milk Chocolate).
I spoke to Sally herself and asked her who her favourite leading lady was and without missing a beat expressed that "Espresso dark is my new fave". Or Portia, as she's known!
Sweet Theatre really is a lovely imaginative Christmas gift...or a treat for yourself!
Paul A. Young
Paul A. Young is nothing short of a London institution. As a former pastry chef to Marco Pierre White, Paul specialised in chocolate and opened his first store in Camden Passage, Islington in 2006. He now has 3 stores in the Capital, each handcrafting the chocolates in their own kitchen, and has won numerous awards for his creativity and risk taking recipes.
As a regular shopper at this stunning chocolate boutique, I'm pretty much seduced by any brownie they have to offer, especially a pecan one but at this time of year, Paul A. Young has a great chance to show off his creativity to it's fullest, and he certainly does that.
His famous Mince Pie Brownie (pictured left, £2.95 each or a box of 4 for £11) is back and this time with Ligonberry filling, he also offers the Christmas Pudding Brownie (£5.50), as well as stocking fillers such as Salted Liquorice, Cinder Toffee, Crackling Embers Reindeer tiles and Cocoa Nibs Toffee Tins.
But the real treat has to be the Pink Praline White Chocolate Christmas Tree (pictured right) which at just £12.95 is the perfect seasonal gift or just a treat for the family at home.
I have to admit, the only time I ever set foot in Harrods is at Christmas. Year round I avoid it like the plague for two reasons. Firstly, it is so crammed with tourists that it's impossible to move around the place, and secondly, even if you could move around the place it's impossible to find your way around, it's just so vast and I