Archive for the ‘food’ Category

Luisa’s bean-to-bar craft chocolate

January 18, 2020

dsilIt is not every day I visit a bean-to-bar chocolate maker, craft beer brewery and a coffee roastery all in one day.

I was on my way to Sneinton Market, an area of Nottingham I had not visited before, to find Blend, a coffee shop.

Sneinton Market fairly easy to find, head off straight down the street from Wired. The further I walked down the street the seedier it became.

Google Maps says five minutes, more like ten minutes. Though I did pop in Bookwise on the way. Never miss up the opportunity to look in a second hand bookshop.

Steinton Market something of a disappointment. I was expecting a vibrant market something like Trinity Market in Hull. I was also expecting fruit and vegetable stalls. But no, revamped units, now let to small businesses and start ups by the local council. A good idea. Though nearly everything appeared to be closed. And the area was dead, literally no one about.

And that was how I happened upon Luisa’s bean-to-bar craft chocolate, the jewel in the crown of Sneinton Market.

I popped in, but at a delicate process. I am asked can I pop back? No problem. I am off to Blend coffee shop, I will return a little later.

Sneinton Market is three rows of long low outbuildings. In the second row I find a craft brewery. I pop in. Not open to visitors, but I walk in anyway. I buy a can of expensive IPA, only a choice of two. I don’t like cans, I prefer beer in bottles.

In the third row I find Stewarts of Trent Bridge, a coffee roastery. Again I pop in. I am kindly shown around, not that there is a lot to see apart from a Probat coffee roaster.

Then to Blend, a coffee shop, the retail outlet for the coffee roastery. Something of a disappointment as a coffee shop, and an abysmal failure if to showcase the coffee roastery.

It is then back to Luisa’s. An interesting conversation on chocolate ensued.

I had tasted samples earlier. Another taste. Each one better than before. In essence it is wow. Mind blowing chocolate. I have never before tasted such exquisite chocolate, though I have yet to try Bullion or Bare Bones from The Steam Yard. One fruity, maybe cherry like, another more citrus. Mind blowing flavours. The last one I tried, as I hold it in my mouth, the flavour intensifies.

These are not added flavours, these are the intrinsic flavours of the chocolate. This is what chocolate should taste like, not like Cadbury’s.

A coffee analogy, coffee does not taste like the vile tasting undrinkable coffee served in Costa or Starbuck’s.

Speciality coffee has more flavour notes than red wine, chocolate more flavour notes than specialty coffee.

Why is the chocolate expensive? Why is red wine more expensive than plonk? Why does specialty coffee attract a higher price than catering supply commodity coffee?

We pay for quality. Wine from a vineyard, a chateau, a year, attracts a higher price than wine in a carton, the vineyard or chateau on the label.

The terroir affects what grows, what we drink, what we eat.

Commodity coffee, commodity chocolate, is quite literally that, a commodity, the price determined on commodity markets.

Fairtrade attracts a tiny premium, barely worth the efforts, a marketing scam to make Middle Class shoppers feel good, but maintains farmers in poverty as there is no incentive for them to improve.

Direct trade, coffee roasteries are prepared to pay a premium for quality, they work in partnership with the growers to help improve quality.

The same is now happening in chocolate, single origin, direct trade, relationships with the farmers and growers.

After becoming an apprentice, I embarked on a journey of chocolate discovery. The whole experience of making chocolate from the raw cocoa bean to chocolate was captivating. It was fascinating to learn that each cacao bean has a completely different taste profile dependent on the terroir (soil, temperature, humidity, flora & fauna) and good farming practices. All these conditions plus the way the cacao bean is fermented plays an integral part in the end taste of the chocolate we eat and enjoy. Creating super premium chocolate is ‘all about the bean’. Without super premium beans to start, we can’t do our magic.

Bean-to bar starts at the farm.

Chocolate is rooted in the terroir, bean-to-bar chocolate makers have their fingers figuratively if not literally in the soil.

Luisa Vicinanza-Bedi has her fingers in the soil, she works in partnership with three female cacao farmers in Colombia.

She is also working in partnership with Future Food at University of Nottingham to analyse the bacteria that form part of the fermentation of cacao beans to better understand how the flavours are produced.


  • cocoa mass – sugar – vanilla
  • cocoa mass – cocoa butter – sugar – vanilla

The purists will not allow vanilla, others say ok if enhances the quality of the chocolate. A moot point.

Always check the list of ingredients.

Quality chocolate will be bean-to-bar. Anything that is not bean-to-bar paying a lot of money for someone to buy in chocolate and turn into bars.

Always check the list of ingredients when buying what pertains to be quality chocolate. Is it bean-to-bar, direct trade?  Have cheap additives been added?

Soy destroys rain forests, likely to be gmo, most probably unless organic, sprayed with glyphosate. It could be worse. it could be palm oil. Green and Black chocolate is padded out with palm oil. Emulsifiers are used instead of cocoa butter. Why, because it is cheaper.

EU permits emulsifiers, USA does not.

Chocolate, high quality single origin bean-to bar chocolate has many subtle flavours, no quality chocolate maker would dream of adding additives. This would be like adding syrups to a good coffee.

And never been taken in by a  black Great Taste award. It gets plastered on everything. It is absolutely no guarantee of quality. It may be on a quality product, but as likely not.

On display Cacao, a Standart clone instead of coffee culture chocolate.

I suggested talk to Ideas on Paper to stock.


December 27, 2019

A chain eatery, thus my expectations were low, and they were not exceeded.

I was only there because Madame Waffle opposite closed and a friend had said the coffee was good (I think she was taking the piss).

Soulless as would expect from a chain eatery.

Cappuccino ordered. Served with chocolate on top.

Why oh why does no one know do not put chocolate on top of a cappuccino? Not unless trying to disguise that is crap coffee. At the very least ask. And a good coffee shop would not dream of asking as would not wish to insult their clientele.

Cappuccino taken back.

Next attempt, oddly in a different cup, not good, cheap catering supply coffee.

A young fellow asked how was my drink? I said not good, very poor compared with Madame Waffle where can get an excellent cup of coffee. He scowled and walked off. Why ask if do not wish to be told the truth?

It was then to Coffee Aroma for a decent cup of coffee.


December 27, 2019

A greasy spoon cafe with pleasant decor.

Location is wrong for two reasons.

  • On a corner of a busy junction, no outside seating, if there was too polluted.
  • Within spitting distance of two greasy spoon cafes, two corporate chains serving disgusting undrinkable coffee.

Bread sourced from Iceland.

Coffee sourced from LavAzza. .

Layout poor, too much space devoted to their serving counter reducing the seating area.

Ambience not pleasant, mainly due to poor layout and hard surfaces, very noisy, impossible to relax.

LavAzza therefore my expectations were low, and they were not exceeded. Cappuccino with chocolate dumped on top sent back, second coffee undrinkable. All the classic mistakes, including coffee scalding hot.

Why oh why does no one know do not put chocolate on top of a cappuccino? Not unless trying to disguise that is crap coffee. At the very least ask. And a good coffee shop would not dream of asking as would not wish to insult their clientele.

No water brought to the table, nor could I see water on display to help oneself to.

The norm in Athens, as soon as sit down, ice cold water brought to the table. It is called service.

Ibriks on display. For show? To my surprise they served Turkish coffee. Though the bed of sand not large enough. I did not try.

Poor use of social media. Facebook, a message box pops up even though may have no wish to post a message. If do, lack the courtesy to reply.

Maybe would have got away with opening a greasy spoon cafe serving undrinkable coffee ten years ago, not now, the world has moved on, and if wish to drink undrinkable coffee have the corporate chains, two of which Caffe Nero and Costa are located nearby.

The market is saturated. If opening these days have to serve quality coffee, quality food, otherwise on a hiding to nothing. Source coffee from local roasteries Stokes or Seven Districts but God forbid not from Lincoln Tea and Coffee, cakes and bread from a local bakery.

Bricked-up windows opened up have improved a red-brick Victorian building, but why the grief and hassle by the local council, three months delay for a resolution? If going to give grief give for the garish entrance out of character with the building not the windows. The same council with not a clue what constitutes good town centre design, the town centre trashed, ugly buildings, binge drinking bars.

Lincoln Christmas farmers market

December 21, 2019

Held Castle Hill, a dismal Christmas farmers market, a pale shadow of when I last visited the farmers market in the summer of last year or Easter this year.

Sadly it seems to be following the ad hoc farmers market held in the High Street which became smaller and smaller and finally died.

Contrast with Guildford Christmas farmers packed with Christmas shoppers.

I managed to pick up cheese from two different stalls, and raw milk unpasteurised milk from the same stalls.

I regret I did not shop in Redhill Farm shop in Bailgate, when I passed by it was busy, later when I passed by it was closed.

Paste Thai Contemporary Cuisine

December 18, 2019

We could find nowhere to eat, eventually settled on Paste Thai Contemporary Cuisine.

The exterior belies the interior, open and airy.

Attentive staff, maybe a little too attentive.

For starter we each had chicken and mushroom soup, though menu said chicken or mushroom, a few vegetables, with added coconut.

Main dishes, sweet and sour chicken and a deep fried crispy chicken with a sauce. I preferred the crispy chicken without the sauce as it changed the texture and taste. Both served with rice.

Ice cream with coconut for dessert.

Food was good, though maybe more suited to an evening meal than lunchtime.

Ο Μπαμπάς

December 3, 2019

Although very tired, nearing midnight and had wanted an early night, I decided to head to Duente for a craft beer. When I have passed by in the past told they have craft beer. No craft beer.

I try Little Tree, too late, already closed.

I then headed for the craft beer bar Ο Μπαμπάς that I found a few days previous.

I sat outside as a warm evening. It would be nice if they cleaned the tables though were cleaned when my order taken.

Nightmare using internet, access through a third party which appeared to be nothing but a trawl for personal data. I complained, they relented and gave me password for their wifi router.

Excellent craft beer but at 7 euros for a small bottle expensive.

I found by heading down the side of Acropolis Museum, on past Coco-Mat and keep going. On my way back, a different route along a busy main road.

As I pass a bar on a corner, red strip lighting, a man sat outside comes to life, tries to drag me in, tells me it is free. I decline his insistent offer, if for no other reason sounds dodgy. Blinds down the window, I peek through the gap, bar empty, a large circular bar, no one there but scantily dressed women around the bar.

A brothel?

Snack bar outside Thisio Metro Station

December 3, 2019

Outside Thisio Metro station, a little snack bar next to Coffee Island. Food is always excellent, though coffee not good, but if drinking cheap crap coffee why pay Coffee Island?

I have eaten here before but could not remember what.

I had a spinach pie without the cheese, followed by a cappuccino and flapjack.

Spinach pie and flapjack excellent, coffee undrinkable. But what to expect at 1-40 euros for a cappuccino? I only had out of curiosity.

Dinner with a view

December 1, 2019

A change from Plaka, dinner with a view.

Kik Project

December 1, 2019

On my return from Exarchia Square I passed an interesting bar.

Kik Project, craft beer, lunch and coffee.

I stopped and had a craft beer.

The guy behind the bar told me of other bars with craft beer.

He kindly offered to write for me, but no time to follow through his offer.

Occasional live music.

autonomous market Exarchia Square

December 1, 2019

This once excellent informal famers marrket now a pale shadow of what it once was.

Exarchia Square has been taken over by drug dealers. Now a very dangerous area.