We treated ourselves to a night at Orphans Kitchen on Saturday night. And when I say treated I say it because we LOVE this place. There are so many new eateries in Auckland, it is a constant challenge not to run out of the office for breakfast/lunch/dinner/coffee every time the weekly Denizen arrives in your inbox with yet another new and notable. I know, life is hard in Auckland!
So unless you have enough disposable income to justify going out 5 times a week to get through everything there is on offer, you have to make some tough decisions. As foodies we love trying new things and feel the pressure to make the most of Aucklands new offerings. And that is why I say it feels like a real treat when we go back to Orphans Kitchen, again.
It has everything we love in a good restaurant. A small menu with simple yet surprising dishes. A warm and friendly atmosphere with people that are there to enjoy themselves and not just appear like they are. Amazing service that is welcoming, casual and attentive all at the same time. Awesome wine list. Nice smelling hand wash. And homemade bread with your meal. Tick! Oh and the bread is rolled with kawakawa and served with truffle butter. Double tick!
We would argue that Orphans is another ambassador of 'honest food'. Or as they call it 'unadulterated food'. Not trying to create an end product that is so far from what it started life out as that it becomes unrecognisable. Instead making the most of the ingredient itself and working on showcasing its best qualities. Similar to what we do with our chocolate. We don't use cream in our chocolates because we want to make the most of the amazing flavours that are present in the chocolate we select. We don't want to cover it up. This always means that a high quality product must be used to start with, because there's no hiding.
We are toying with the idea of going for their breakfast, that we have heard such good things about, which should give us our fix of trying something different AND a return visit to the Orphans Kitchen. Although I'll have to check if wine is served with breakfast?!
We had a great weekend chatting to people about chocolate at the market. It was interesting to see so many people 'resisting the urge' to try our chocolate because of their belief that chocolate is in some way bad for them. But the truth is that chocolate can be good for you! Hurrah! Obviously this statement is purely based on the superior quality 70% chocolate that we use in all of our products as we know exactly what goes into it and we cannot be held accountable for the healthiness of other chocolate products :)
So what are the benefits of a regular square of high quality 70% chocolate or two per day? The following are statements made based purely on internet research. There are quite a few other supposed benefits but these seem to be the most commonly cited:
- Chocolate is high in antioxidants
- Chocolate is rich in minerals such as Fibre, Iron and Magnesium
- Chocolate reduces the risk of heart disease
- Chocolate can help people to deal with stress and anxiety
- Chocolate is good for the brain
- The flavonols in dark chocolate can protect the skin against sun damage, although you would have to eat way too much to protect your skin fully (especially with NZ sun so you better still slip slop slap and wrap!)
- Chocolate contains phenylethylamine (PEA), which is the same chemical that your brain creates when you fall in love, otherwise known as feel-good endorphins. Great as a romance inducer!
We're not saying load up on huge amounts of chocolate every day. We believe in everything in moderation. Except certain things, like fizzy drinks. These should just be banned! At the end of the day, chocolate is the ultimate comfort food and we take great comfort in knowing that our chocolate puts a smile on people's faces. We see it as good for the soul, and much more than that when we know it has come from fair trade sustainable sources like ours. The raw cacao starts it's journey by being cared for by trained farmers who are fairly paid and rewarded. And then the skillful chocolatier has put time and care into making something that is truly delicious and beautiful, because they love what they do. Yes I'm talking about our Nico.
Have a square or two of our chocolate after dinner and savour them. Or as a little afternoon pick me up to keep you going til home time, and best of all don't feel bad about it!
It has been a very busy couple of weeks for us at HC. It’s no easy feat starting your own business, but it’s chocolate, so whenever things get tough we know how to pick ourselves up! It’s a very exciting time for us as we have just received our Honest Chocolat packaging and have wrapped our first chocolate bars. We feel like proud parents!
This weekend we will be launching our product at the La Cigale Market in Parnell. Where could be better for our Nico to sell his French chocolates?! We have made many visits to the market ourselves since living in Auckland. It is the closest thing we have found to remind us of living in France. There’s nothing like a fresh baguette with Comté cheese or a pain au chocolat with a black coffee when you’re feeling homesick (even if you are British!)
This weekend we will be selling 6 different flavours of our chocolate tablets: Pistachio and Citron; Toasted Buckwheat; 70% Cacao; Blueberry and Raspberry; Feijoa and Coriander Seed; Marlborough Sea Salt. All our tablets are made with amazing Original Beans 70% chocolate.
We will also be selling 8 different flavours of our hand crafted chocolate bonbons. These are Toasted Fennel Seed; Salted Caramel; Raspberry and Ginger; Coffee Bean; Coconut and Lime; Cardamom and Blood Orange; 70% Water Ganache; Lychee and Rosewater. We are offering these packaged up in our small but perfectly formed gift boxes of six. We are working on larger gift box options currently, so hope to be able to also offer these soon. All our bonbons are made with a ganache centre that includes no dairy. We believe this showcases the taste of the chocolate and its quality.
We will also be selling chocolate coated almonds and quality dry store ingredients such as cocoa nibs; chocolate couverture; cocoa powder and cocoa butter for any keen home chocolatiers or pastry chefs.
The Market is open on Saturdays from 8am to 1pm, and Sundays from 9am to 2pm. It is a great way to start the day before getting on with other weekend activities or for those days when you have nothing planned and just feel like moseying along to see where your mood takes you. Come rain or shine it is always on and has plenty of cover for those wet days when no one knows what to do with themselves. We love the atmosphere of all those foodies in one place. Oh and did I mention there is also an amazing French wine shop?! Double points! We hope to see you there soon…
Do you know what the percentage means on a chocolate bar? To be able to explain this we're going to have to look at some chocolate terminology.
Cacao Mass - is used to describe all products coming from the cacao pod. This includes cocoa butter and cocoa solids.
Cocoa Butter - is the fat content of the cacao pod.
Cocoa Solids - is the dry content of the cacao pod.
When we talk about 70% chocolate it means the total percentage of ingredients by weight that come from the cacao bean (cacao mass). The other 30% is generally made up of sugar, but also sometimes other flavouring ingredients, such as vanilla. The 70% is made up of a mixture of cocoa butter and cocoa solids. Now if you're eating a square of 70% chocolate as part of a healthy diet then it is the cocoa solids that you want. This contains the antioxidants and health properties that researchers talk about when they say chocolate is good for you (to be discussed - this deserves a separate post all together!)
The problem is you won’t find a breakdown of solids versus butter on your packaging. This varying ratio contributes to the difference in flavours when comparing two 70% chocolate bars, but more importantly so does the origin and how the chocolate is processed from bean to bar. So it's not always true that chocolate with a high percentage has to be bitter. Generally a higher percentage correlates with higher quality chocolate, simply because there is less ‘other ingredients’ there to mask the flavour of any low quality beans. There should really only be cacao mass and sugar in a 70% chocolate.
If someone says they don't like dark chocolate we challenge them to try our 70%, because we know it’s not like any other. We use 70% chocolate in all our bars and bonbons because it tastes so damn good! We can also tell you that it contains 61% cocoa solids compared to 9% of cocoa butter. Good for you and delicious?! Oh go on then…
People are becoming more discerning when it comes to reading the ingredients on packaging and more and more manufacturers are highlighting the fact that their product is free of one thing or another. This is usually due to a large number of people having intolerance's or allergies. But there is another ingredient that is often listed as 'free' for a completely different reason, and that is palm oil. It is a type of vegetable oil that is found in almost every other processed food found in the supermarket. It mainly appears in baked goods such as biscuits; confectionery such as chocolate; cosmetics such as shampoo and household cleaning products. Go and have a look in your cupboard and you are guaranteed to have products in there containing palm oil.
So why do we, among many other manufacturers, promote our products as palm oil free? Because 6 years ago we visited Borneo. We went there to climb Mount Kinabalu and camp in the rainforest, like you do on a 6 day mini-break travelling from Auckland to London. Whilst there we learnt many things…
...like getting up at 3am to crawl to the top of a mountain only to have to wait half an hour clinging to the edge of a sharp rock in the freezing darkness with limited amounts of oxygen in the air, just to see the sun rise, probably wasn't a good idea…
...and not to believe the man at the scooter shop that the ride to the tip of Borneo will only take 4 hours when actually it took 7 hours… on a scooter!…
...and, more relevant here, we learnt about the effects of palm oil. The biggest producer of palm oil is Indonesia, closely followed by Malaysia. Did you know Indonesia is the THIRD LARGEST contributor of greenhouse gases after China and the US because of palm oil! Vast areas of primary rain forest in both Indonesia and Malaysia are burned to make clearings for palm oil plantations, not only resulting in huge amounts of pollution and deforestation but also the extinction of species and forcing people from their homes. We visited the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Sabah where they care for orangutans that have been displaced from their homes because of forest clearing. We were told about the most awful treatment of these animals, all in the name of palm oil.
So should we stop buying all products that contain palm oil? Yes that would be great! But highly unrealistic, unless you follow a diet where you only eat food you have personally prepared in a cave over a fire you started by rubbing two sticks together. To start with even the ingredients listed on packaging can be misleading because there are no regulations that require palm oil to be declared! So that chocolate bar that has a sell by date far longer than is naturally possible, that says vegetable oil on the back, is most likely to actually be palm oil. It's used (mainly in mass produced chocolate) as a cheap alternative to cocoa butter. So it’s not real chocolate anyway, in our professional opinion! So the next time you choose a chocolate bar and you have the option to go ‘palm oil free’, don’t just think about the orangutans, but also about the quality of the chocolate you are eating.