Posts Tagged ‘foie gras’

63 Degrees of Deliciousness

Saturday, December 7th, 2013

I, Jessica Davies, am a very lucky girl. For many reasons really, but on Saturday night my good fortune was highlighted, underlined, set off in fireworks, and served on a plate by a singing penguin in a suit. I was taken out for dinner at one of Manchester’s top restaurants, 63 Degrees, for delicious French food and wine. I felt like I had been transported back to Paris as I read the menu and saw all of my favourite words – foie gras, vin blanc, et chocolat. Trop bon.

Matt had tried to go to 63 Degrees when he had been in Manchester a few weeks ago, however he hadn’t been able to get a table. So some forward planning and gentle prodding from a nagging Virgo meant we scored a table at the ridiculously early time of 5.45pm. Thankfully it is dark in Manchester by 4 o’clock so stomaches start grumbling much earlier. Plus we were running late so by the time we were seated it was an acceptable dining hour.

The restaurant is run by the Moreau family with Eric, a very handsome and very French-looking chef, out the back working his magic in the kitchen. We were served by a young waiter who was… well… a frenchman. Confident and ready to tell his clientele who was in charge, he kept our wine glasses filled and he briefly allowed me the pleasure of speaking French to him. Briefly.

I talked Matt into sharing the foie gras entrée – two rounds of rich foie gras served with a crunchy brioche and fruity fig compote. It took me straight back to Christmas last year eating excessive amounts of foie gras and drinking cheap wine with friends in Paris – only this was the fancy-afied version and definitely not cheap. It was just delicious. I want more.

Continuing along this theme of my morally challenging meat-eating tendencies, over previous weeks I had been thinking about the delicious small birds (quails, pigeons, spatchcock) that I ate in France so when I saw pigeon on the menu I couldn’t go past it. The dainty roasted bird was served with cabbage and mushrooms with a creamy, buttery sauce. I would have liked the skin to be a bit crisper but the flavours were moreish and warming. Matt’s lamb was the winner though – juicy and tender, it melted in your mouth and was perfectly accompanied by a sweet potato mash.

Pigeon rôti avec petit chou

Pigeon rôti avec petit chou

Of course I was waiting anxiously for the dessert and was extremely concerned by the fact that there were TWO chocolate items on the menu. How was I supposed to choose? But then angels sang and glitter fell from the ceiling as Matt suggested we share the fondant chocolat et caramel and the poire chocolat. It was like winning the lottery twice.

The chocolate and caramel fondant was served with a chestnut cream and ice cream. The fondant oozed as it should and was deliciously dark but quite sweet due to the caramel. I would have preferred a plain chocolate fondant but I wasn’t about to send it back.

Fondant chocolat et caramel avec glace marron

Fondant chocolat et caramel avec glace marron

Then there was the chocolate sphere – served as a hard-cased chocolate ball, our smooth waiter friend poured a hot chocolate sauce over the top, melting the ball and revealing rounds of poached pear inside. What remained was essentially rich, dark chocolate soup with pieces of pear. HOLY MOLY.

Sphère chocolat avec poire

Sphère chocolat avec poire

I starred at it for awhile, unable to accept that I was allowed to eat it. And eat it I did – I think I may have defended the chocolate and pear delight with my spoon and not allowed Matt to have a very fair share… I ended the evening at 63 Degrees a very happy girl on an extreme chocolate high (my preferred state of being.)

I am very pleased to have found another restaurant in Manchester that delivers gastronomic experiences that take me to my happy place. I still have a long list of restaurants that I want to try and my experience at 63 Degrees has kicked my foodie taste-buds back into action. Thanks, Matt.

Chocolate Land

Monday, October 24th, 2011

We all know that if I was sentenced to death and I was allowed one final meal before my beheading, it would consist predominantly of chocolate. Chocolate cake, chocolate biscuits, chocolate sauce, chocolate ice cream, chocolate chocolate… I’d probably ask for muesli and yoghurt as well, and lots of really good cheese, but I would leave enough room to gorge myself on chocolate so that I ended up killing myself with cacao overload rather than having my head removed.

Somewhat unfortunately, I don’t think I will be committing any significant crimes any time soon so my last supper will have to wait. However, I came fairly close to chocolate death on Saturday afternoon when I attended the 2011 Salon du Chocolat with Tom and our friends Sonia and Guibril.

Salon du chocolat

The Salon du Chocolat awaits

Salon du Chocolat is French for ‘Insane Chocolate Fair’ – a large convention hall filled with row after row of stalls selling chocolate related goods. There were high-end chocolate craftsmen, international chocolate makers, bio/eco/organic brands, local chocolatiers, and a strange assortment of chocolate paraphernalia (jewellery in the shape of chocolates, cooking utensils etc.) This being France, there were also two or three stalls selling foie gras and adding chocolate sauce in order to make it theme appropriate.

Salon du chocolat arc de triomphe

Only Leonidas would make something as tacky as this

The main purpose of the Salon du Chocolat is for retailers to present their products and provide little samples that amaze and entice you, resulting in the purchase of more chocolate than you really need. As you can expect from a chocolate-related event held in Paris, it was very, very busy. There were human traffic jams as everyone fought their way to the next chocolate sample. Of course, we’re talking about FRENCH humans who are incapable of seeing other people and who merely barge their way through, stepping on your feet, walking into you and then blaming you for the collision. I think Sonia and Guibril found my intolerance for the crowds amusing as I would push my way through until I found an empty space and then rest there for a while, calming myself down before tackling another onslaught.

As for the chocolate, I wasn’t overly impressed. There were a LOT of stalls and we did sample a lot of chocolate, however none of it really blew me away. I was judging each chocolaterie on the quality of their plain dark chocolate and I can’t say I really liked any of them. I put this down to two factors:

  1. It was mostly French chocolate, which, in my opinion, isn’t the best in the world. The French are very good at putting chocolate INTO things, however their straight chocolate lacks substance and spark. The Belgians kick French butts at dark chocolate making.
  2. The chocolate that was available for sampling had been handled by so many people before I could put it in my mouth. Gross, but true. The teeny tiny pieces that were on offer had been sitting around in strange temperatures and then chopped up by someone wearing plastic gloves. It was hardly the best tasting conditions and the chocolate suffered for it.
Salon du chocolat chocolate

Lots of chocolate

I may have felt differently had I been allowed to taste entire pieces of chocolate. Some of it was really dreadful though. I had a few pieces that had the texture of soap or were gritty and appeared to be full of sand. Not pleasant at all. On the other hand, the higher-end chocolatiers had some amazing chocolates on display with intriguing fillings and beautiful designs.

I did sample one piece of chocolate that did make me very, very happy – it was a japanese chocolate company called Tokyo Chocolate and the chocolate looked like a bright green worm. It was green tea flavoured with a crunchy wafer on the inside, surrounded by dark chocolate. It was absolutely amazing. I stood there looking dumbfounded for a little while, hoping they would give me the entire bowl to finish. Sadly they didn’t. The other chocolates on offer from Tokyo Chocolate were beautiful – bright shiny surfaces and amazing intricate designs. I want to find out where I can buy their chocolates because green tea is good for you and so I should probably have some more.

For Tom, the highlight of the Salon du Chocolat was the alcohol companies that were also promoting their wares with free samples. The perfect accompaniment to chocolate – a glass of Baileys Irish Cream whizzed together with ice. We spent a fair amount of time standing next to the Baileys stand, taking turns to get more rounds. It made tackling the French human traffic jams more bearable.

Baileys at Salon du chocolat

Thank you, Baileys.

Overall, the Salon du Chocolat proposed the ultimate experience and I think if I had been more willing to buy, I could have gained more enjoyment from it. However, nothing enticed me enough to want to make a purchase, particularly considering I have a box of Willie’s Venezuelan 72% in my kitchen. Now THAT is a death-defying chocolate experience.