APRIL 1999

Whoopie Pies

Mousse au Chocolat

Mocha Caramels

Chocolate Rice Pudding

Sweet Spot


Hi! My name is Stephanie Zonis, and welcome to the April, 1999 edition of "For Chocolate Lovers Only". Each month you'll find great recipes, tips, and recommendations on where to find chocolate specialties.

Chocolate Recommendation of the Month: It is the purpose of this feature to try to introduce outstanding chocolates to you, the reader. With that in mind, I am very pleased to tell you about Chocolaterie Bernard C., purveyors of small chocolates, chocolate cigars, truffles, sauces, couverture bars, chocolate drops, and more. There are a vast number of chocolate companies out there these days, but I must tell you that I find these chocolates exceptional. The small chocolates from Chocolaterie Bernard C. are available with 47 different centers; an additional 20 centers make appearances at special times of the year. There are assortments, molded chocolates, and gift boxes (some made of chocolate) for any occasion; you'll definitely find something that appeals visually to you, and the great taste of these chocolates will appeal to anyone.

Chocolaterie Bernard C. has 37 locations in the U.S. and Canada. If there isn't one near you, check out their website at: www.bernardcchocolate.com, or call (800)526-6553 to order. If you'd like to get Mom some special chocolates for Mother's Day--or if you'd like to get terrific chocolates for any reason--this is a good company to remember.

Special Feature: A Food Lover's Guide to London. Contrary to anything you've heard, it is quite possible to eat very well in London these days. It is an excellent idea (and often a necessity) to reserve ahead, especially during tourist season; if you don't like crowds, consider eating at some of the more popular or trendy places for lunch, when there may be fewer people. Londoners tend to eat at slightly later hours than many Americans. This is an expensive city, but many places offer specials for lunch or dinner. Some establishments in the UK do not accept credit cards, and many will not accept traveller's checks (even in pounds sterling) for amounts higher than your purchase. The following is a highly subjective listing of some good places to eat or buy edibles, in no particular order:

-The River Cafe (Thames Wharf, Rainville Road, phone: 0171 381 8824). Polished but friendly service is provided by an efficient and busy young staff in this low-key place. Recommended dishes: faraona in padella (pan-roasted guineafowl stuffed with prosciutto, sage, and lemon); chocolate nemesis. This is one place that lives up to all of the rave reviews it's received. The menu here changes twice daily. This restaurant can become noisy, but you'll be too busy savoring your food to notice. Reserve early. Please do not miss the opportunity to eat here.

-Alastair Little (49 Frith St., phone: 0171 734 5183). Very small, almost home-like, and still upscale without being pretentious. A polite and unobtrusive staff, and some super food. Recommended dishes: the best Italian field mushroom risotto in the universe (no, that's not their name for it--just my commentary); blinis with smoked back salmon and sour cream; ballotine of foie gras; baked cod, shrimp, and saffron veloute with mash; creme brulee; chocolate marquis with ginger sauce. Reserve early at this wonderful place.

-Hilaire (68 Old Brompton Rd., phone: 0171 584 8993). Quietly classy and small. A gracious attitude prevails here, especially toward those dining by themselves. Recommended dishes: chestnut, ham, and lentil soup; crostini of mushrooms with pigeon, rocket, and truffle oil.

-Wiz (123A Clarendon Rd., phone: 0171 229 1500). Funky but pleasant surroundings, the menu here is based on tapas from all over the world. Order from one region or several, or let the chef select for you. Recommended dishes: baked Reblochon en croute with apple jelly; white bean & rosemary puree. Hard to find due to obscure window signs, but a great concept, and when the dishes work (not all of them do), they are very good.

-Brasserie St. Quentin (243 Brompton Rd., phone: 0171 581 5131). A pleasant bistro atmosphere, service at a relaxed pace, and non-fussy French food. Recommended dishes: salade St. Quentin; terrine de foie gras. Popular locally.

-Clarke's (124 Kensington Church St., phone: 0171 221 9225). Set dinner menu (no choice), but a modest selection of dishes at lunch. Recommended dish: Gascon style apple, pear, and prune tart with creme fraiche. I love the little gourmet shop of the same name (it's right next door); you must not leave without some of their chocolate truffles, which may just be worth a trip to London all by themselves.

-Cafe Dacquise (20 Thurloe St., phone: 0171 589 6117). Continental and Polish food. Nothing fancy, but the food is restorative and filling--and often lower-priced than in many other places. Very home-like.

-Harvey Nichols (109-125 Knightsbridge, phone: 0171 235 5000). Harrod's may have the name in food halls in London, but Harvey Nichols doesn't have the constant mobs of people--and it's just a short walk away. Nice selections of packaged goods, cheeses, breads, meats, produce, pastries, chocolates, teas, etc., on the fifth floor. Also a well-reputed restaurant, which I haven't tried.

-Fortnum & Mason, Ltd. (181 Piccadilly, phone: 0171 734 8040). Afternoon tea? Certainly, you can take it here. But you must check out the floor devoted to foods. Get some Picos de Europa (the best bleu I've ever eaten) at the cheese counter, scout around to find a pastry or two to savor, then head for the chocolate counter--good bets are Pierre Marcolini and Slitti. Preserves, packaged goods, and much more--and a helpful staff to boot.

-Neal's Yard Dairy (17 Short's Gardens, phone: 0171 379 7646). A small shop crammed full of British Isles cheeses, other delicacies, knowledgeable staff, and, often, customers. These are real cheeses, not the ersatz nonsense found too often in the US, and many are produced by small manufacturers. The staff are passionate about these products; if you find that funny, it's only because you haven't tried any of their cheeses yet. Go!

-Books for Cooks (4 Blenheim Crescent, phone: 0171 221 1992). A mecca for cookbook lovers and collectors, this cheerful shop also features lunch, coffee, and cakes from their test kitchen. Great, non-hurried atmosphere. These people care about food, and that in itself is enough reason to go.

-Fileric (57 Old Brompton Rd., phone: 0171 584 2967). The best single item I tried at this caterer's/delicatessen/pastry shop was "L'Etoile", layers of chocolate sponge cake with a whipped ganache filling. Rich, chocolatey, light, and delicious. Other pastries weren't as good.

-Patisserie Valerie (several locations, including 215 Brompton Rd. (Knightsbridge) and 44 Old Compton St. (Soho)). Popular locally. Lots of gorgeous-looking pastries, but by far the best I tried was a giant cream puff filled with whipped cream, with a coffee glaze on top. I never saw a name attached to this pastry; I just pointed and they understood--the language of love at work!

-Rococo Chocolates (321 Kings Rd., phone: 071 352 5857). Chocolate bars, small chocolates, pastilles, and much more are featured at this charming little shop. Make sure you try the truffles and Rococo's 60% dark chocolate bar. Valrhona bars are sold here, too, as are organic, artisanal bars flavored with wild mint leaves, pink peppercorns, or Earl Grey tea, among others. An important stop on any London chocolate tour.

-The Chocolate Society (36 Elizabeth St., phone: 0171 259 9222). What will grab your attention first here? Will it be the truffles piled high in large bowls, or the small chocolates sitting quietly in their display cases and calling your name? Whatever it is, the friendly staff here will calm your chocolate cravings. Valrhona is used as the couverture for their small chocolates. Ice cream in summer and hot chocolate in winter, too.

Do you have a comment, question or suggestion? I'd like your input into this column. You can reach me at: sdziadwm@nac.net; please specify that you're writing regarding "For Chocolate Lovers Only". Thank you!