Sunday, September 13, 2009

Cocoadance: still feeling Peaky

Much as I love the Peak District, traipsing over the Cat and Fiddle pass in the name of research has become rather old cat. The deadline for my book chapter about the food of the area looms early next week, though, so barring last-minute dashes to oatcake makers, I won't be back for a while. As finales go, yesterday's visit to Castleton chocolatiers Cocoadance was pretty tasty. 

David Golubows and Bridget Joyce run their business from a National Trust farmhouse under Mam Tor, halfway up the old, precarious road to Manchester. They've been making chocolates for about 15 years and they understand the industry, and their customers, well. Several of their truffles, including one which includes a generous splash of Thornbridge Brewery's bestselling pale ale, have won Great Taste Awards, but they also do a nice line in safe, friendly moulded shapes made with creamy Belgian couverture. 

There are exceptions to the old cliche that food people are nice people, but not in Castleton. Bridget and David are open and patient, and their Chocolate Experience workshops, held in their mini production facility, offer a rundown of chocolate history followed by a chance to get extremely sticky while wearing very camp cloth hats. 

When we arrived with five other students, they'd already done the hard work: vats of tempered dark, milk and white chocolate stood ready for dipping, piping and moulding, with a selection of liquorice allsorts, strawberries, fudge chunks, marshmallows and other sweet bits ready for making into our own chocs. Inspired by a recent visit by a hen party, David demonstrated how to make bondage jelly babies, but we stuck to – what else? – a graffiti-style Hale and Hearty plaque, plain chocolate fish studded with crystallised ginger and rough-looking but delicious milk chocolate truffles.

I'm working on a feature about Chocolate Week (October 12-18) at the moment, and there's a lot of very posh chocolate in the house, as well as the slightly cock-eyed stuff made from good-quality but easy-to-like milk choc we brought home over the hills yesterday. I've also got a copy of world-beating chocolatier Paul A Young's new book, Adventures With Chocolate, in which he lovingly recalls ripping the paper off a classic box of Thorntons. If he's got room for both delicate 66% Caribbean dark and sweet Belgian milk in his life, then so have I.   

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