I’ve been a bit of an absentee blogger of late, largely due to extreme tiredness, which is not conducive to exciting cooking. One of the reasons for this is probably the Global Corporate Challenge, which I am currently participating in through work. It’s a walking challenge, where teams of seven wear pedometers for 4 months, enter their numbers online daily, and try to walk a distance that is equivalent to around the world. Or something along those lines. The fun part is that they have this map of the world and a route which you follow, and you don’t know where you are going until you get there.
My workplace has three teams, two of which are in my Divisions. I’m captain of one team (5 West Girl Power!), and it is therefore my job to keep us motivated. I’m doing this by bringing in healthy energy snacks, providing random historical information about the locations we are in, organising team photos with us all dressed up with feather boas and brightly coloured costumes, and, when I can’t think of anything better to do, organising things that might contribute to our step count.
Things like a chocolate walk. Because spending two hours ambling around the centre of Melbourne eating a lot of chocolate is *totally* in the spirit of this challenge!
Admittedly, we didn’t just walk around eating chocolate. Most of us walked from our respective houses into the city, collecting more team-mates as we went. I started in Coburg, so that was a reasonably hefty trip (about 9 km, not counting random meandering around the city because we were early), but it was almost a relay – I met one team-mate for brunch in Brunswick (she walked from Moonee Ponds), another joined us for coffee, then we met with more team-mates to walk to Parkville, where we collected another team-mate, before dropping off the first team-mate at the Vic Markets to head home (she was busy in the afternoon), and then meandering through the city until it was time for our Chocoholic Tour.
So it probably wasn’t entirely calorie-neutral.
We had chosen the Chocolate Treats Walk, which mostly stayed within one block in the city (still 3000 steps, though – we checked! Constantly!) (We also jiggled up and down a lot to get more steps at all the stops, but hey, it’s all part of the program!). I can highly recommend this tour – you definitely get as much chocolate as you can cope with (more than, for some), and there are discounts at some stores. It’s very good value. I’ve been on a few of these tours, with a few different tour guides. I think my favourite is still the woman who loves Melbourne’s history and architecture, because I don’t know much about that (though I recall others on that tour being miffed because she didn’t talk enough about chocolate).
Today’s tourguide was a schoolteacher-turned-chocolatière, so she knew her chocolatey stuff and also kept us in line with much head-counting to ensure that we hadn’t wandered off like little Prep students. (She also spoke sternly to those of us who bobbed up and down and wanted to go a-wandering during headcounts. Which would be my lot, because we couldn’t stop moving! But she was very nice about it and we tried to settle down.).
First stop was Haighs, a South Australian company founded in 1915. She started by giving us milk and dark chocolate buttons as she discussed the history of chocolate in Australia and told us about the Daintree Estate, Australia’s first cocoa farm, which is just beginning to produce chocolate. We kept quiet and ate our chocolate. The milk chocolate was surprisingly good – very rich and creamy. I’m usually a dark chocolate fan, but I actually found the dark chocolate insipid in comparison.
Our guide then gave us each a piece of coffee crunch and a champagne truffle. I really dislike coffee, so I was surprised to like this one – it was milk chocolate again, with just a tiramisu-like hint of coffee, a fair bit of creaminess and a really nice crunch to it. The champagne truffle was also in milk chocolate (such a good choice), and was extremely rich and sweet, but delicious. There were too many chocolates, so our guide offered us truffles as rewards for answering questions about what she had told us – my team all scored truffles, and we put one aside for a team-member who had had to cancel at the last minute, too late to get her money back.
We were then let loose to buy chocolate, which we duly did (Andrew scored peppermint frogs, and the relay-team team-mate some almond crunch. Honeycomb was also on special, so I got some of that, and we moved on to our next stop, Koko Blacks.
I love Koko Blacks. Their raspberry purée chocolate is basically the best chocolate I have ever had, though their cassis and passionfruit are not far behind, and I have a yen for their chocolate-enrobed glacé orange slices, too. At Koko Blacks, the chocolatier talked to us about tempering and making truffles, while my team-mates and I jiggled up and down in the back trying to hear him over the busker just outside in the mall. I did hear enough to earn a truffle for my absent team-mate, however.
We tasted grand marnier truffles, which were absolutely to die for – orangey and very alcoholic and really melt-in-the-mouth – and some Bailey’s ganache, which I liked much more than I expected to – it was toffee like and had quite a kick to it. The ganache was actually a filling without a shell (we ate it out of spoons). Then we went into the shop to buy chocolates for ourselves, our spouses and our absent team-mate, and I made all my team-mates buy raspberry chocolates, because nobody *ever* regrets buying those raspberry chocolates. Ever. (Well, one might regret only buying one of them…)
We then got distracted by the Babushka shop and the toy shop, and had to be hauled out of them by the tour-guide (probably just as well, though I was bonding with the lady at the Babushka shop on the subject of Eurovision and how brilliant Russia was), to go to the old post office and Cacao.
Cacao is awesome. Almost as awesome as Koko Blacks, with bonus bright, bright colourful chocolates. Our guide told us all about using chocolate transfers, and we were given Gianduja chocolate, which was good but not inspiring, and Chocolate Shots, which were totally and utterly inspiring and basically my favourite thing on the tour. I have no idea what the chocolate shot is made of, but it is incredible – it tastes like pure melted dark chocolate, but it is much more liquid than melted chocolate, and really hot. It was served in shot glasses and is unbelievably rich. We stopped jiggling up and down on our toes to look at each other with slightly-glazed, chocolate-fueled astonishment.
Fortunately, our next stop was T2, a gourmet Tea shop, but before we were allowed to go in there, we had to eat more chocolate! Our guide had little packets of Chocolatier chocolates and another chocolate that I sadly can’t remember the name of – just a nice, good-quality dark chocolate wafer of Australian origin. By this point, most of us were just putting the chocolate away for later…
The tea man fed us a red chocolate mint tea, which tasted basically like strong peppermint tea that might once have imagined a cacao plant, and dark chocolate tea, that tasted like black tea and I didn’t care for at all, and finally a mixture of Russian Apple Tea and Fruit and Berry Tea, which tasted a lot like a really good hot fruit drink, and I liked very much.
We all admired the tea-pots, and I bought a couple of very silly little tea infusers made of silicone formed into the shape of fruit on long stems. And some of the minty tea for Andrew and fruit drink for me.
And then it was on to our last stop, Hairy Little Sista for churros with more chocolate. My team-mates were beginning to be rather desperate for something savoury by this point (especially the ones who had not taken my advice about having a proper *savoury* lunch/brunch beforehand), but the churros were the sweetest thing yet, and probably my least favourite thing on the tour – they were deliciously cinnamony, but rather heavy, and the chocolate sauce was more like a syrup. Rather a pity to end on that note, though the café itself was lovely and warm and had a nice ambience.
And then we sat around the table, plotting our next outing. Will it be a Ghost Tour? Will it be a progressive dinner, since so many of us live in the same area? Will it be a Bollywood dance workshop (if we can find one)? Only time will tell.
Maybe we will go on another chocolate walk. After all, I got 22,000 steps out of that one. And the day isn’t (quite) over!
This time last year…Recipe: Lemony Garlicky Fractal Broccoli with Pasta Review: Apples for Jam, by Tessa Kiros New Pet! Sourdough Bread: A Life-Cycle Recipe: Spiced Pear Upside-Down Gingerbread Cake