Oriol Balaguer, Spain’s rising star pastry chef? I’m not sure about that, as Spain is one tough market to lead, but he sure does make good chocolates! One can only imagine the sleepless nights he and his team have trying to figure out how to decorate the damn mold for his many different flavours!
You see, he only uses 1 mold, the cocoa bean shape, and trust me, trying to come up with different decorations to make each one unique is a pain in the butt. This was my first time tasting his stuff in Barcelona, having only had his chocolates in Japan. At Calle Morales in Barca lies his kitchen and though he was on holiday, his chef prepared the following for me:
Custom Selection of the most interesting chocolates
18 piece collection
Paradigma de Chocolate – 8 Textures of Chocolate Cake
Monastrell, the name of the Spanish grape variety grown in this region as well as the name for what was the best meal I had during my time in Spain. Ok, Restaurante Monastrell and La Taberna del Gourmet next to it were responsible for 2 of my best meals, but they are both owned by Chef Maria Jose, who is renown for her usage of saffron. It is here that she sat with us and gave us a little lesson on saffron and its magical qualities that have changed how I use and approach saffron.
Gerry from Artisan du Chocolat was a pastry chef before going wonkers on chocolate, and he keeps his stash of pastry molds up high above one of the walk-ins. Imagine the delight when I found old skool copper canele molds up there!
Now, at Pages on Shaftesbury avenue in London, these molds cost an upwards of 6 pounds a piece, crazy high prices for molds, which makes it an investment outside my budget. However, these babies were mine for a weekend of chocolatey fun.
The year is 2552, and we are celebrating Songkran, the Thai New Year at the Buddhapadipa Temple in Wimbledon. The Thai calender, similarly to the Nepalese one, counts the years from the date that Buddha was born, just like Christian countries count the dates from Christ’s birth. Songkran coincides with the Vernal Equinox, which is more than I can understand of our mysterious universe and the more mysterious ancients who managed to somehow figure these things out.
We are celebrating Songkran, the Thai New Year, on Easter Sunday in London. Songkran is after all based on the Vernal Equinox, similar to Easter, so we are all connected more deeply than we think. Astronomical reasons aside, our main aim for coming to the Wat Thai was to eat the most authentic, unadulterated-to-the-western-palate Thai food we can find outside of Thailand.
The most interesting chocolatier besides Artisan du Chocolat (I am biased…of course!) was Emanuel Andren of Sweden. His chocolates, though terribly expensive, had flavours like Sea Buckthorn, Elderberry and Zino Platinum Cigar which are new, refreshing and interesting. I did not get to taste them though as they were too expensive at 1000+ yen a pop and a box of them means blowing the whole budget there. However, this guy deserves credit for pushing the edge.
So what do you do after night falls in Shinjuku? In our case, just dinner and a quick walkabout, but still, Shinjuku at night proffers out her sights and sounds to those willing to explore her underbelly. Continue reading →
Another acclaimed patisserie just outside the centre of Tokyo beckoned and amidst the confusion of figuring out the damn Chuo Line at Shinjuku station, I found myself at Nishi-Ogikubo station and quite bloody lost. Thank the heavens for googlemaps and the iphone, as it was quite a trek away from the station.
Hideki Kawamura is the Chef/Owner of the curiously named A Tes Soushaits! Bless him, for you can look into the kitchens from his delightful shop. Busy pastry cooks scuttered around as Chef Kawamura talked business outside, first with a bunch of French guys and their translator, and later on, a middle aged man in a ‘power-suit’ to whom the Chef seems to owe a debt of gratitude to.
In a failed attempt at anonymity, I drew suspicious stares from a pudgy, what-looks-to-be Sous Chef in the kitchen. I’d have done the same had a dodgy looking chinese guy who speaks English, carries a camera and asks so many damn annoying questions about their seasonal cakes walked into my shop.
However, the Chef was full of graciousness and figured I was here to visit and tasted and whilst occupied with his benefactor, gave me a smile and acknowledging wink before disappearing into a back office. I pray to god he has a girlfriend.