Local food: London style

March 17, 2015

Scottish eggs

Scottish eggs

Across the pond this week, in London where there is no shortage of good food. We went to Borough Market yesterday: a feast for every sense. Bustling with artisan vendors, office workers grabbing a quick lunch, and chefs picking up ingredients for their restaurants, the outdoor marketplace has been a central part of the London foodie scene since the 13th century.

What I love is the international celebration of food that is produced close to home and on a small scale: there are no industrial farming practices seen in this place. Signage on most vendors booths pays homage to food raised slowly and without chemicals or inhumane treatment. Methods are explained in detail to curious tourists asking questions about everything from how long the perfect Parmesan cheese is aged to the best way to cut meat from the bone, I’ll let the pictures do the talking from here. As you see the sights: be sure to imagine the accompanying sounds of enthusiastic vendors encouraging you to try a sample, aromas of warm paella, and  feel of 600 year-old cobblestones under feet.

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Forget sugar plums, I tasted some of the most divine chocolate yesterday that I must write about it. Like many discoveries, I stumbled upon this one almost by accident. We were in Scotts Valley, Calif. meeting Joe’s family for a Christmas tree cutting lunch. Our waitress gave us a flyer and told us about the chocolate shop around the corner. After lunch, we followed her directions and found the staircase to a small kitchen:  Chocolate Visions, a tiny, independent chocolate maker. They sell only to retail and private orders. I imagined this off-the-beat, secret location is what it must have been like to get a bottle of Scotch during Prohibition. The Open House is a once-a-year event when they open their doors directly to the public.

Here is a brief excerpt from their website: “Our commitment is to make the finest chocolates and confections that we can. We want to make chocolates that appeal to all five senses. We want to make chocolates that not only have a superb flavor but are visually appealing as well. We want to make chocolates that are emotionally satisfying. We want to make chocolates that are almost too beautiful to eat. We want to make chocolates that are ‘High tech, High touch’; that is, we may use computers to design our chocolates, but we make them all by hand.”

By blending unusual, local ingredients with world class chocolate – E. Guittard, Callebaut or Chocovic – owner Lloyd Martin has created truly unique chocolates such as “Pegasus” – a fine, Belgian bittersweet chocolate blended with Aglianico wine from Paso Robles, and a floral olive oil from Aptos. Wow. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever tasted.

Other notable pieces:

Single Malt Scotch. I wanted to buy a whole box for my Dad, who loves good Scotch, but had to settle for the single piece that came in their “Premier Collection” sampler. In his own words, Lloyd describes it as  “a smoky Single Malt Scotch blended with fine, bittersweet chocolate to produce a ganache center that really astounds.”  He’s right.

In other pieces, they use lavender– grown by Valencia Creek Farm in Aptos, Calif. – olive oil, grown in Santa Cruz, and Fluer de Sel (sea salt) from Big Sur. This is a chocolate loving, local food blogger’s dream.

Framboise: “A blend of Bonny Doon Vineyard’s Framboise and fine Belgian chocolate to make for a small piece of chocolate heaven.”

Taste is just part of it. These pieces of candy are works of art. Each one is “signed” with a gold topping (made of all natural food color) that illustrates the origin. The Rose has an image of a real rose on it. It is infused with Turkish Rose Otto oil.

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To learn more about Chocolate Visions,  and place your own order, you can visit their website at chocolatevision.com or call them at (831)457-2883. Maybe I’ll research sugar plums next Christmas, but this year my dreams are filled with Lloyd’s unique and locally-made chocolates.

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