Worth the wait? Willie’s Cacao Chocolate!

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I can still remember sitting in my first year flat at uni watching a program about a eccentric English guy who’s ambition it was to make the best chocolate in the world. He travelled to Venezuela in search of the finest cacao beans and his brand ‘Willes Cacao” was born. My flat mates and I really enjoyed the program and I remember laughing at him putting chocolate into every recipe he made (although now I’m with him on that one!). I saw his brand in a store not long after but being on a student budget and preferring to save my money for shots and lager I never tried any and forgot all about the program. So it was a lovely blast from the blast to find a bar in my flavourly box delivered this month! A 50g Ginger & Lime Cuban Baracoa 65%.

Fast forward 6 years and I now consider myself a bit of a chocolate connoisseur ;). Having worked in a high end chocolate shop for nearly 2 years I have tried lots of different chocolates and can even recognize some single origin chocolate just by tasting. So here is my review of Willies Cacao!

Appearance – The packaging is a lovely box with an expensive looking design but in my opinion a bit excessive for a 50g bar. Willie’s Cacao logo is engraved on the chocolate and looks premium. Good shine to the chocolate and no bloom at all.

Aroma –  (Best to smell your choccie just after you snap it) The ginger overpowers any aroma of the chocolate at first but then you do get a rich, fruity chocolate smell coming through.

Snap – Good Snap, especially considering the thickness of the chocolate bar.

Taste  – (when tasting dark chocolate it is always best to take a piece and let it melt in your mouth to taste it properly. This may sound really pretentious and over the top but by doing this the cocoa butter melts in your mouth and lets you taste all the amazing flavours. If you just guzzle it down dark chocolate can just taste bitter and flavourless).

Really smooth obviously high quality chocolate. A very fruity chocolate which tastes of berries initially then the lime oil comes in followed by the ginger. The aftertaste left is the fiery ginger and the chocolate has a really good finish.

Overall – I’m happy to say I’m not disappointed at all. Delicious chocolate that works well with the ginger and lime pairing without being over powered. The rest of his range is on my to try list!

Dans Le Noir?

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Well first of all apologies for the lack of posting this week. I have started a new job and been full of cold so the evenings have been spent eating chocolate feeling sorry for myself. Normal service to resume from now on!

Alphabet dating continued this weekend and it was my turn to choose the ‘D’ date. I went for a restaurant I’d heard about called Dans Le Noir.  It is no ordinary restaurant and fits in with ‘D’ perfectly as you ‘dine in the dark’, and dark means dark! It is totally pitch black and you cannot see your hand in front of your face. The waiting staff are all blind or partially sighted and in a role reversal guide you through the experience.

You have a seat in the bar where you choose out of 4 menus, Vegetarian, fish, meat or ‘surprise’. We went for the surprise with a cocktail. Our guide and waitress Winnie (who was amazing) then came and met us and brought us into the restaurant. To find your table you have to put your hand on her shoulder and she guides you to your table. It is definitely a nerve wracking as you genuinely can not see a thing, but once you are sat down, although your eyes do not adjust you definitely do and I felt very relaxed. We shared a table with another couple that were half way through their meal. This added to the experience as we really enjoyed the conversation and it is fun to chat to people having no idea what they look like!

I’m not going to describe the food into much detail as it will ruin the surprise for anyone planning on visiting the restaurant but it was all lovely, with some unusual surprises. It is however a massive challenge to eat! I tried my best with the cutlery but used my hands more, and even that was difficult!

At the end of the meal you are guided out of the restaurant and back to the ‘lit lounge’ were you are shown pictures of the meal you just had. I think we guessed about 40% of the meal correctly (the pudding and cocktail are by far the easiest to guess). We then had coffees in the lounge and both agreed we had a fantastic time. I was massively surprised at how much I enjoyed the experience as I thought it would be interesting but not something I would like to repeat, however I would definitely go back again!

Dans Le Noir gets 4 Fletchie stars ****

Canvas by Michael Riemenschneider

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Alphabet dating continued last night and it was Neils turn to pick the ‘C’ date. I was told to dress smart/casual and we headed to London. A short walk from Oxford street and we arrived at Canvas by Michael Riemenschmeider. It is a newly opened restaurant (January this year), which has already received rave reviews for the excellent food and interesting take on a tasting menu. The idea is you can pick your own tasting menu, the number of courses and the dishes.  We went for the 7 course menu for £70 per person. You are spoilt for choice with the menu, so it took us a while to decide but in the end we went for the following dishes (Apologies for the picture quality – or lack of it!).

Amuse Bouche – Cheese muffin with smoked bacon and warm brussel sprout soup with parmesan foam.

The muffin was amazing! (I am going to try and make similar myself) and the brussel sprout soup tasted better than it sounds!

Cheese muffin with smoked bacon.

Cheese muffin with smoked bacon.

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Brussel sprout with parmesan foam.

Scallop with cucumber – Horseradish & Yogurt – radish

I have never tried raw scallops before so I was a little concerned I would find them overpowering when they came out cold. I thought they tasted lovely though and worked well with the pickled cucumber and horseradish.

Scallops with cucumber, horseradish, yogurt and radish.

Scallops with cucumber, horseradish, yogurt and radish.

Langoustine with pearl barley, veal and jus crustace.

This was my favourite dish. The pearl barley with veal had an amazing earthy flavour, which complemented the langoustine perfectly. The picture does it not justice at all it was incredible!

Langoustine with pearl barley, veal and jus crustace.

Langoustine with pearl barley, veal and jus crustace.

Cod with lentils, pancetta and spatzle.

This was a contender for Neils favourite dish! The cod was great and the lentils and bacon complemented it with a subtle salty taste.

Cod with lentils, pancetta and spatzle.

Cod with lentils, pancetta and spatzle.

Pork hock and belly with apple and cider.

Although this was maybe the least attractive of the dishes (the belly does look a bit like a fish finger) it was by no means the least tasty. The pork was tender and very flavoursome.

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Pork, hock and belly with apple and cider.

Beef with carrots and pomme puree.

Top quality ingredients prepared to perfection.

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Beef with carrots and pomme puree.

 Pre dessert – mandarin and red pepper mousse.

This is the only part of the menu that didn’t work for me. The slightly bitter red pepper mousse totally overpowered the mandarin mousse, which was a lot more pleasant to taste.

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Pre dessert – mandarin and red pepper mousse.

Lemon with caramel, cream and olive oil.

Light, fresh and gorgeous.

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Lemon with caramel, cream and olive oil.

Chocolate 7 ways with pineapple and coconut.

I loved this but Neil found it a bit rich. Definitely one for the more hardcore chocolate fans!

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Chocolate 7 ways with pineapple and coconut.

Petit fours.

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Petit fours.

I would definitely recommend this restaurant! The food was excellent and the portions were a perfect size so you could enjoy the full menu. There is a nice cosy ambience and the staff are friendly and attentive. I will definitely be visiting again!

Canvas gets 4 Fletchie stars ****

The Scotch Whisky Experience and Amber Restaurant

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Now I love a drink and if I’m honest, I’m not that fussy. Wine, beer, spirits, liqueurs bring them my way and I’ll happily knock them back! My ability to handle shots of alcohol that surely no one likes (Tequila and Sambuca spring to mind) is one of my finer qualities (some might say my finest). However there is one chink in the armour, one drink I cannot get along with and that is whisky. So heading to the Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh with 3 people who feel pretty much the same way may seem an odd choice to spend an afternoon but we had sound reasoning. Most people don’t like the taste of strong drinks such as wine and coffee the first time they try them. You persevere though and they end up being (in my case) your favourites!  So going in with an open mind and hoping to leave nearly born whisky enthusiasts we headed to the end of the Royal Mile where the whisky shop, experience and restaurant is located.

We started off with lunch at the Amber restaurant which is upstairs. This really is a hidden gem!  Even if you don’t go to do the experience its worth popping up to the restaurant as its a quiet haven from the hoards of tourists and also an absolute bargain with 4 courses for £27. The friendly waitress came over and rattled off the menu. We all momentarily panicked thinking we had to remember and pick what we wanted but actually it was a tapas style serving of traditional Scottish food so you get to try a little bit of everything (my favourite type of meal).

The starter was smoked salmon and cream cheese on sourdough, ham hock terrine and a black pudding bon bon. The salmon and ham were very well prepared and yummy but the bon bon was the real star of the show! Served warm it was full of flavour, soft and crumbly and almost melted in your mouth.

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The main course was, beef, lamb and a monkfish soup. The beef was incredibly succulent and tender and the sweet potato it was served with was not overly mashed with just the right amount of seasoning.  The lamb itself was nice but unfortunately it came with a massive amount of fat. The potato stack was a little bland and could of done with a good sprinkle of seasoning between the layers.  The monkfish chowder was creamy and flavoursome. I would have liked a little more fish in it though as my portion seemed to contain more potato then fish.

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The dessert was a vanilla panna cotta with poached rhubarb and lemon sorbet. On paper this sounds like an odd mish mash of flavours but in reality they worked really well together. The rhubarb was stewed so it was still firm with a strong rhubarb flavour and not a horrible mush. The vanilla panna cotta was creamy and smooth whilst the lemon sorbet had a lovely but subtle lemon flavour with no bitterness.

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Then came the main event, the whisky and cheese.

The brie was nice although it had a slight cabbage taste. The whisky .. well I would love to give you a description of the floral and fruity notes of this beautiful drink but being honest all I could taste was a strong and constant burn as I tried not to gag. Not to be deterred though we still had the whisky tour to go on which part of consisted of finding the right whisky for your palate.

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The tour is really good fun. You start off on a little ride which takes you around the process of whisky making. In a nut shell barley is fermented in water, then left to age in oak caskets and then distilled. One fact I thought was very sweet is 2% of whisky yield is lost by the fumes evaporating and this is called ‘the angels share.’  After the ride is finished you go into a tasting room and listen to a talk on whisky. They tell you about how whiskies from different regions have different flavour profiles.

Highlands – Floral tones like vanilla

Lowlands – Citrusy tones like grapefruit

Speyside – Fruity tones like banana

Islay – Smokey or earthy tones.

Blend – A blend can be a mix of 15 – 50 different types of whiskies. It is a difficult art to master as blends are often branded and need to be consistent, and the different malts making up the blend will vary from year to year. The Master Blender makes the blend and checks them all to ensure a consistent product  (mostly by smell rather than taste).

After talking through the flavour profiles you get to choose and try the whisky you think you will enjoy the most. I chose a malt from the highlands which is meant to have hints of vanilla in the hope that may counter act the gag inducing burn. Whisky tasting attempt number two didn’t go any better than whisky tasting number one.  It may have hints of vanilla I’m not sure but as my throat was burning and I was trying not to be sick it was quite hard to pick up any delicate tasting notes.

The ride and tasting room on the Scotch Whisky experience.

The ride and tasting room on the Scotch Whisky experience.

The next room is incredible! It is the collection on which the whisky experience is founded on and is very impressive. Claive Vidiz collected over 3500 bottles of whisky and the overall worth must be astronomical (we did ask but one of the clauses in the contact when he sold the whisky collection was the selling price would remain a secret). They are mostly unopened but I don’t blame him for not drinking them!

A very small part of the collection!

A very small part of the collection!

The whisky experience is great fun but unfortunately none of us have been converted into whisky lovers, if anything it has intensified my dislike!  If you do have a spare afternoon in Edinburgh though, I would definitely recommend it and if you are a whisky fan you will be in heaven.

Fletchie Stars 3 out of 5 ***