It’s 11 am and I’m at recently opened Boutique le Chocolat in City Walk 2. I’m slightly late, not because of traffic or getting lost which is my usual reason for being late, but actually because of the Willy Wonka like chocolate vending machine outside and also the window display full of white chocolate houses, a stunning display which grabbed my attention.
Outside the shop there’s a ‘bean to bar’ experience designed to demonstrate the process through which the humble cacao bean undergoes before transforming into a bar of chocolate. Start at one end and insert 20/AED then stand back and watch the process unravel before you. Finally, once the ‘show’ has finished pick up your bar of chocolate and enjoy. As for the window display I’m mesmerized by a whole display of wintery white chocolate houses. White chocolate is my favourite of all time (blame my mum, I think I was one of the original ‘Milky Bar kids’) so I’m naturally drawn to this display.
Inside the shop, which is full of exquisite chocolate, more of that later, I make my way to the chocolate demonstration area where I meet Chef Fatima. To be honest, I’ve seen her photo on plenty of Instagram feeds of late, plus we featured her work recently in FoodeMag dxb, so actually it feels like I’m greeting an old friend rather than someone I’ve never met before.
I’m here for a personal chocolate masterclass and I’m excited to start!
“The 12-step chocolate program: NEVER BE MORE THAN 12 STEPS AWAY FROM CHOCOLATE!”
Lined up in front of me are nine glass jars, each filled with little buttons of chocolate. Fatima explains that before we make the chocolate bars, we are going to get an understanding of what I like and what I don’t by a tasting! I’m fully up for that as Fatima takes me through a tasting one by one. The tasting is curated by Fatima, I had expected to start from the least chocolatey (white) and to end at the darkest, but Fatima tells me that’s not the way it will be. Instead she takes me through the tasting moving between one spectrum to the other with ease.
How to taste Chocolate :
First we look at the chocolate, then we smell it, to be honest I’m recovering from a cold so my sense of smell is not that brilliant, or maybe it’s because the whole shop smells of chocolate so my senses are already filled with chocolate aroma. Tasting however is a different matter, whilst I can’t smell too well, I seem to have reasonable taste buds. The first sample is heavenly and tastes of caramel, I immediately love this one, it has some of the taste references which transport me back to eating a Caramac bar as a kid and as we discuss this, I can feel that I’m physically smiling, I love how memories can do that to you. As I explain what I can taste, Fatima turns over the information card, which indeed says I should be tasting caramel. One down, more to go! As we move along the line different taste profiles develop, three bars all with the same cacao percentage, look, taste and feel differently in the mouth. They range from tasting acidic though to smokey (it’s from Dubai) finally a little earthy. Fatima explains that the beans take on the characteristics and tastes in a similar way to coffee beans, location, soil, altitude, position in the sun or shade etc can all have an affect on taste.
The most expensive chocolate during the tasting is single origin from a single plantation. Single origin, single estate usually means lower yield cacoa beans which means they cost more to purchase, perhaps an additional 30% premium. I can appreciate the attention that goes into this sort of production and, like single origin, single lot micro coffee, you can almost taste the love and attention that’s gone into the initial production. As if tasting and learning about different chocolate was enough, if you choose the premium package, you get to choose your own personal blend of chocolate at the end of the tasting. The chocolate is then expertly moulded into four personalised 100g chocolate bars. I decide, with Fatima’s advice, on a mixture of two different milk chocolates along with some salted caramel sprinkles to add to the overall taste.
Personalised Chocolate Bars
Next we’re onto the fun part. I select two different types of milk chocolate and then the work begins. Not for me, I’m standing and watching whilst Fatima skillfully melts the chocolate (in a microwave) which surprises me. She slow brings the two chocolates up to the right temperature, it’s quite a slow process as she gives the chocolate small blasts of heat, brings out the bowl stirs then repeats and finally towards the end she starts monitoring the temperature carefully.
When the chocolate is melted and at the right point it’s tipped onto the marble slab where it cools slightly and is then returned to the bowl, brought back up to a set temperature and then it’s ready to pour into the moulds. I’m intrigued as my chocolate melting at home is much quicker and usually results in a quick run to the shop to get more chocolate, usually because I’ve brought the chocolate up to melting temperature too quickly and burnt it.
The chocolate is expertly poured into four 100g moulds and when Fatima is sure there are no bubbles she adds some salted caramel crispy coated balls to finish the customization of my bars. I’m hoping that next time I do this there are some other additions such as dehydrated raspberries, fruit & nuts etc.
The final part of the process is to pick some wrappers and to choose some wording for each bar. I’ve seen photos with people writing cute messages etc, I just choose to put my blog name and a simple wrapper. When the chocolate is set Fatima will hand wrap the chocolate bars and personalize them with the wrappers which is a great touch.
Throughout this entire process we chat about all things chocolate, it seems that most people prefer the darker chocolate not only because of the hype about health benefits but also because of the taste (sorry it’s just not for me). I should also point out that Fatima does not waste one single bit of chocolate, nor does she make a mess whilst doing the tempering, both of which I never seem to be able to achieve usually ending up really sticky and with chocolate smeared everywhere.
“May your life be filled, as mine has been, with love and laughter; and remember, when things are rough all you need is … Chocolate.”
I’m like a kid in a candy eerrrr Chocolate shop!
Whilst the chocolate is setting, it takes about thirty minutes or so, I take a wander around the shop and am impressed about the variety of differently chocolate available. From gift baskets, individual bars and right down to individual chocolates there is absolutely something for everyone. My personal favorite out of everything I tried was a dark chocolate filled with Matcha tea and raspberry, such a delightful combination. The intensity of raspberry perfectly offset the bitter dark chocolate it was encased in.
For fun quirky gifts look for the cholate shoes, or even chocolate lipsticks! For festive, there are hand made Christmas Trees and Santas etc. For those who love designer goods there was a whole stand of Cavalli branded chocolates and spreads. For chocolate aficionados there are chocolate shaving tools, gold coated truffles and even a waiting/tasting room for large platters etc.