Original Beans, Esmeraldas Milk 42% with Fleur de Sel

Let’s start with the most important message of the post: Don’t buy it! It’s not worth its price. OK, maybe it sounds slightly too definitive and aggressive. Better said: Try if you want but personally I was terribly disappointed by this chocolate.

I paid double the price of best chocolates available in a normal German supermarket and brought home this elegant and biodegradable package. The chocolate is from organic farming and allegedly won prizes like ‘Academy of Chocolate Gold’ and ‘Great Taste Gold’, both in 2011. Well, I have the impression that the stars of Turkish and Italian hotels fall from the sky. Maybe the gold prizes for chocolate too.

The product was quite unenjoyable, there was no taste of fleur de sel that I could recognize and the consistence resembled more chocolate-like products of some post-Soviet republics than real chocolate.

All I really loved about this chocolate is the refined package full of information provoking your curiosity and phantasy… at least until you open it and try the content.

Some positive message: If you like chocolate with fleur de sel, better choice will be the Slovenian version ‘Solnce’ from the famous Piranske Soline, which produce one of the best sea salt in Europe (http://www.soline.si/capacities/solnce/piran_salt).

Pinotage, Neethlingshof Estate, Stellenbosch, South Africa

People who enjoy writing usually enjoy reading too. This way I found myself reading  ‘My weekly wine’, an awesome blog by Alison Sussex. She writes about wine as I do and it is due to her post provoking my curiosity that I decided to buy this wine. Thank you, Alison!

I don’t drink South African wine very often. This has nothing to do with quality but it’s much more about availability. The latter is also the reason why I took a bottle of Pinotage instead of Shiraz recommended by Alison, even though I hadn’t had very good experiences with the first variety.

On the bottle, the producer wrote ‘Offering robust cherry fruit and plummy flavours’ but fortunately this wine is much more than the omnipresent combination of cherry, red berries, chocolate and so on. This kind of boring description appears nowadays on every second red and very often has nothing to do with the real taste of the content. It seems to sell well. I have no other explanation.

Anyway, this is probably not the best Pinotage available in South Africa but still a very enjoyable wine, which elegantly accompanied my traditional Italian meal: chicken with marsala (pollo con la marsala), fried carrots (carote fritte) and fried fennel (fritto di finocchi). I wrote ‘traditional’ because all these simple recipes come from the celebrated cooking book by Pellegrino Artusi: ‘La Scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangiar bene’ (first edition in 1891).

I liked this Pinotage because it reminded me of Slovenian reds from the Karst region. There was something mineral and vegetal too, not only cherries. The acidity was pleasant and decent enough to convince me that it must be about the terroir itself and not mistakes in the production process.

Taste is something personal and actively shaped. It has much to do with our experiences, memories, culture and life style. Pleasure often comes from placing a new experience into the complex systems of what we already know and love. We compare, complete and connect things. And so did I drinking the 2008 Neethlingshof’s Pinotage. I was thinking about all South Africa means to me. This red did his job very well 🙂

For Alison’s post about Neethingshof’s wine check: http://myweeklywine.com/2012/08/10/taste-my-terroir/

Is la Fée Dragée expected to make good pastry?

We live in times of industrially produced food and the very label ‘home-made’ seems to automatically rise the value of a product. It is due to the conviction that the quality follows the traditional not-industrial production process. Of course, this may be true in many cases, but there is no causal determinism per se. Home-made stuff can be disgusting too, low in quality, unhealthy and so on.

Last weekend we had our parents here. So for Sunday morning some nice breakfast out was on the schedule.  And there was that interesting café close to our place. We’ve heard the name very often, in fact always in a positive context. The very concept of the café was tempting: named after the Fée Dragée (German: Zuckerfee) from Tchaikovsky’s ballet ‘Nutcracker’, it promised fantastic sweets and pastry.

Indeed, this place proved to be very cozy and popular. In the very end, it is situated in Prenzlauer Berg, one of the liveliest parts of Berlin. I liked the original concept and the snug interior decoration. Known for its chocolates, it offers also breakfast and you can believe it is an awesome one watching the full café every Saturday and Sunday morning. On some Internet websites we found out that they prepare their bread, baguettes croissants and other pastries on their own. Well, this is the problem. The flavor could be described at best as non-existent. Unfortunately there is some taste, mainly of badly prepared, not enough backed dough. And all this you get after having waited quite a lot on breakfast, which is not too difficult to prepare. Well, as a gesture of good will, I assume they prepared it right after our order, without having some ingredients ready before.

They may offer good cakes and chocolate, I cannot judge them since I have not tried all their stuff, but backing is not their strength… or they just had a bad day.

We mentioned to the waitress that the bread, croissants and muffins do not taste particularly good. All she told us was: ‘But they are home-made’… What a logic!