Monday 21 September 2009

Paul A. Young

I have to admit, when I was invited to a bloggers' tasting at Paul A. Young in Islington, I was hesitant. I'm not a huge fan of chocolate, and I can usually take it or leave it as I prefer salty snacks. In the end, I decided to go as I figured that if anyone could change my mind, this was the man to do so as his chocolate is so highly regarded.

The shop is small, decorated in purple and it smelled deliciously of warm chocolate. After a quick lesson on how to taste chocolate (minimal chewing, some deep breathing, letting it melt on the tongue), we cracked on with the tasting. We tasted chocolate of different cocoa percentages from three main chocolate producers; Valrhona, Amedei and Michel Cluizel. Interestingly, I learned that cocoa butter is the most epensive ingredient in chocolate making. Also, chocolate from beans grown on the Ivory Coast have a slight hint of coconut about it, whereas Madagascan chocolate is more fruity. The more fermented the cocoa beans are, the more sour tang you get from tasting it.

The first chocolate to kick us off was one of my favourites; 40% Valrhona Jivara milk chocolate. It was wonderfully rich with hints of caramel and had a slight malty flavour to it. On the other end of the spectrum, I physically recoiled and screwed my face up on tasting the 100% manjari pate Madagascan Valrhona; it was over-whelmingly strong (as one might expect from 100%) but also sour to the point of bitter. Other attendees liked it though. Another favourite of mine was the 75% Amedei 9, made from cocoa beans from 9 different plantations. This had a velvet-like mouthfeel, and the smoky yet balanced flavours lingered pleasantly.

By this point, I had realised that Paul is an extremely passionate man, and puts a lot of thought into his chocolates. He refuses to use any machinery, tempering his chocolate on marble instead and all the chocolates he makes are made using high-quality ingredients. There are no hydrogenated fats used (...don't get him started on palm oil...) nor glucose syrups. The truffles he makes, each and every one by hand, will only last 7 days. You've got to really admire someone who goes to all that trouble, when others get away with using machines.

At the end of the evening, Paul gave us some of his truffles to try. We started off with this seasonal truffle, port & Stilton. He had wanted to just use Stilton, but discovered that the mould growing on the cheese tended to make the truffles explode, and had to add port to prevent this from happening. It was no great loss to add the port, as I felt they went very well together. I really enjoyed this, it was startling and made you sit up and pay attention. Next, we had one of Paul's award-winning sea-salted caramels. After my first bite into it, I fell in love. It was stunning. I wanted to be alone with it. Lastly, a Marmite truffle was scoffed up easily too. I had expected it's innards to be thick and viscous, but they were pleasantly light. As a Marmite lover, this went down all too easily.

After a quick tour round the kitchen, we were on our way, armed with a goody bag. I stepped into the night with a glow about me and a bounce in my step; glad to have discovered something that I had previously thought lost to me.

Paul A. Young

33 Camden Passage
N1 8EA

Tel/Fax: 020 7424 5750


Manuel said...

"I wanted to be alone with it"

heh...that's how I feel about mini twisters and monster munch....

sounds like a wondrous lace....

ginandcrumpets said...

Drooling now. Must have Marmite flavoured chocolate.

Anonymous said...

I've ventured in there before but got all bewildered about the choice on display. Your pics have tempted me to go back, but not sure about Marmite (I'm a hater...)

Helen @ World Foodie Guide said...

I tried some of his chocolates at Taste of London a few months ago. But Marmite chocolate? I love Marmite, but have to taste this in order to decide (I like spaghetti with Marmite though!)

Unknown said...

I went to a tasting here as well and although I was already a chocolate lover it really gave me an appreciation of all the work that Paul A Young puts into his chocolates. Really amazing.

Anonymous said...

I keep missing the Paul A Young tastings! There always seems to be a clash.

I am such a fan of his chocolates, he's a true artisan. He did gorgeous chocolate roses for Valentine's day and I love popping in for the amazing hot chocolate with spices. As for his sea salted caramels. DROOOL.

Looks like a great night.

Helen said...

I am so SO gutted I missed this. SO GUTTED! Salty caramel is my weakness so I wanted to try that plus the famous marmite truffle. Did I mention I was gutted?!

Naomi Knill said...

I agree that it was a fatnastic night. Paul is so knowledgeable and passionate about chocolate. I love the fact that he makes everything by hand - no artificial flavours or preservatives.

I was definitely on a chocolate 'high' when I left (and had what can only be described as a chocolate hangover the next day!).

Chocolate Reviews said...

I've just given Paul's chocolates and ganaches a good review and was amazed by the range of flavours. Simply awesome.

I'm now considering moving to London to be closer to the source of such chocolate merriment.